Will Juventus qualify for the Champions League?
Juventus have struggled to find any consistency throughout another frustrating season which currently sees them sit in sixth place in Serie A with Lazio in fourth on 48 points, a full seven ahead of Juve. There is no point comparing this season’s Juve with the last one for a number of reasons. Last season, Juve were simply hurt by mismanagement and some rash decisions whether in the choice of players brought in or in terms of the wrong coaching decisions made.
This season the new Bianconeri management did fairly well to offload some undesired players such as Jonathan Zebina and most recently Amauri on loan to Parma. The management parted ways with older players such as Mauro Camoranesi who are passed their best but a good deal of work still needs to be done in order to revive the Bianconeri. The current management’s biggest mistake has been the failure to address Juve’s defensive frailties, in particular the two full-back positions. Frederik Hillesborg Sørensen has yet to turn 19-years-old and has been used as a right-back by coach Luigi Delneri, however, the Danish youngster is obviously an unfinished product and will need time to become both efficient and experienced enough to cover his critical position. Giuseppe Marotta has done great to offload unwanted and older players yet he has failed to address the problem with the full-backs and Sørensen is not the immediate solution.
The left-back position is a mess with Fabio Grosso clearly unfit to cover the position while Giorgio Chiellini has recently been moved to occupy the position but this has greatly weakened Juve’s central defensive partnership which was being built based on a Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci partnership. This cost Juve dearly against Lecce earlier today. The signing of Arsenal’s Armand Traoré on loan proved to be another unsuccessful move, but perhaps injuries have derailed the defender from showing what he is capable of doing.
Another area of concern is the presence of a high number of loan signings, around 8 players in total are on loan with Juve, which shows how desperate Juve are to save on the financial end but also hints the club’s inability to unearth new talent which was a strong point of the Juve management back in the 1990s. How can a club such as Juventus which is supposed to be challenging for titles have 7 to 8 players who are on loan? This could cause instability but also show a lack of ambition. Big name players could be discouraged from joining a club which appears to be in free-fall and where uncertainty with regards to the squad is a year-to-year concern.
One major concern is Juve’s lack of a talented maestro who can create something out of nothing and unlock stingy defensive lines. This becomes even more evident against weaker teams and might explain why the Bianconeri have struggled against the weaker sides in Serie A while doing quite well against the big clubs. This season, Juve have defeated Lazio, Milan and Inter yet lost to Bari, Lecce and Parma. The sent-off players against Lecce and Parma do not explain the whole story because the Bianconeri also failed to win against Bologna and Brescia. Against the weaker sides, faster and talented players are needed yet Juve’s attack is largely static with older bodies such as Luca Toni, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero while the weak defensive line makes the club highly susceptible to counter-attacks as witnessed in matches against the small sides.
Injuries have also played a role in hurting the club with top scorer Fabio Quagliarella sidelined while Gianluigi Buffon missed several months this season. Coach Delneri has also made some questionable decisions during games such as removing Milos Krasic against Lecce after Buffon was sent-off. Why was not the slow and less effective Luca Toni substituted while keeping Krasic who could perhaps create something even if he has been inconsistent since the start of 2011? There are grave concerns with the direction of the club and another season without Champions League football could prove to be a disaster for Juve. Delneri has shown weaknesses when it comes to making impact substitutions and does not seem to be able to get the players back on track, at least from a mental standpoint. The players do not have the proper mental approach and the situation can get worse when the coach does not have a flexible approach with regards to tactics.
Marotta has perhaps been the club’s shining star this season with a number of positive moves made on his end yet he too failed to fix the pressing matter on the defensive end, in particular the full-backs. Coach Delneri appeared to be a solid choice at times yet his in-game decisions such as substitutions and tactical changes have left a lot to be desired on more than one occasion. Delneri is certainly an improvement on the inexperienced Ciro Ferrara and his temporary successor Alberto Zaccheroni but he is still behind some other leading candidates when one considers a high-profile club of the stature of Juventus.
It is too early to judge Juve’s season but anything less than a Champions League spot, meaning a top four finish, will prove to be a failure and will start another summer campaign filled with uncertainty and panic. Will the likes of Krasic re-discover their late 2010 form to help the Bianconeri emerge from this dark spell or will Juve pay the price for not covering their defensive weaknesses? It must be noted the attitude and approach of certain players on the squad have raised questions about how such members of the squad can be given the responsibility of defending the prestigious Bianconeri shirt because they lack some of the club’s most visible historic traits such as sacrificing for the group’s benefit and the fighting spirit.
Feel free to comment below or get in touch on Twitter @RamiSoufi and I will gladly discuss with you Juve’s problems.