Last season, Juventus were in the UEFA Champions League final. They won Serie A. Now the same Juventus are mired in 15th place in Italy with just five points from six matches. What’s gone wrong? Can the Old Lady recover?
Statistical indicators suggest Juventus are playing better than their results. While Max Allegri’s side have won only a single league match, they have consistently created better scoring opportunities than their opposition. Juventus have attempted nearly double the number of shots as their opponents (119 to 59), and importantly, they’ve attempted far more shots from dangerous positions, near to goal.
To measure a club’s scoring chances created, I use the statistic “expected goals,” which estimates the quality of shooting chances based on location on the pitch, the type of assist pass, the kind of attack leading to the shot, as well as a variety of other factors. A shot from six yards out, assisted by a through-ball following a counterattack, has a much higher “expected goals” value than a shot from 25 yards following some unremarkable possession play.
In the following graphic, Juventus’ shots are marked in white, their opponents’ in blue. The size of the marker represents the estimated expected goals value of the chance. Goals are pink.
(Three of Juventus’ six goals came from either a penalty or an own goal and are not displayed on the map.)
That array of big white squares shows good scoring chances that Juventus have spurned. Paul Pogba has attempted 23 shots, including three characterized as “big chances” which he should have been expected to finish, yet Pogba has just one goal so far.
Last year, from 54 shots and six big chances, Pogba scored eight times. He is an unquestionably skilled finisher, but along with the rest of his Juve teammates, the French midfielder is struggling to convert chances.
Historically, these slumps rarely last. In my database, I looked for teams similar to Juventus who had good expected goals numbers early but lacked the results to match. Pogba and his teammates have created chances estimated at about 10 expected goals while conceding only four expected goals in scoring chances to their opponents. Despite this, Juventus’ goal difference is minus-one, a difference between xG and GD of about seven goals.