New Season, Same Old Juve

With Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus this past summer after back to back Champions League triumphs in Madrid, many thought the bianconeri were about to turn a corner in Europe and finally put their past woes behind them. After all, they just signed Mr. Champions League himself in the form of Ronaldo. After failing at the final hurdle against both Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent years, it was clear Juventus were lacking something, and it was evident it wasn’t a player but more so, a winning mentality in Europe.

While it’s strange in itself to criticize Juventus’ winning mentality, seeing as they’ve won the domestic title seven years running and winning is quite literally in the club’s mantra, the Serie A giants are a completely different team in Europe and approach games with more pragmatism.

Rather than setting out to dominate the opposition from the get like they do in Italy, Juventus are patient and tend to rely on their rearguard to provide the backbone for their success. In the past, this is a strategy that has largely worked but when it comes time to make the final leap, they typically fall painfully short. Just yesterday, it costed the side and they squandered a 1-0 lead to Manchester United and ended up losing in the dying embers of the game. After the game, Ronaldo spoke about this issue.

“We dominated the game and had so many chances. We relaxed and we were punished, in this case we just gifted it to them,” said the Portuguese superstar.

Considering the landscape of the modern game, it cames as no surprise that high-flying offences have been the recipe for success in Europe while defences, on the other hand, are but a bonus. Last season, Liverpool made it all the way to the final with a back four of Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold. While there are some good pieces in that backline – namely the first two – it is hardly world class and just goes to show you that Juventus may be overvaluing caution.

The Reds inevitably fell short in the final against Real Madrid, however, it still shows that offence prevails in today’s game as Los Blancos, simply put, are the furthest thing from a defensive team. In fact, the last six Champions League winners (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich) are teams who prioritize being on the front foot.

While in the past, Juventus could have relied on the BBC to see them through games, it is no longer viable. With Buffon in Paris and Barzagli ageing, it’s time for Juve to complete the transition and take off the handbrake in Europe. With Ronaldo spearheading the attack flanked by Dybala and Douglas Costa, the ingredients for progressive football are there. Let’s not also forget midfield maestro Miralem Pjanic and the bianconeri’s high-flying fullback duo fo Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro.

Yesterday’s performance against Manchester United demonstrated just how far behind Europe’s top dogs Juventus are. Up a goal, Real Madrid or Barcelona, for example, would have gone for the jugular and ended the game. Instead, Allegri brought on Andrea Barzagli with under seven minutes to spare and set out to defend. Sensing fear, Mourinho’s men pounced and scored two quick-fire goals, condemning the bianconeri to defeat.

While Juventus had their chances to finish the game, Allegri’s safety-first substitutions were a clear indicator of one thing: Ronaldo or not – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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