Two months have come and gone with Maurizio Sarri at the helm in Turin and it’s desperately clear that Juventus’ midfielders are simply not adept to Sarriball. Bar Miralem Pjanic, the bianconeri’s midfielders lack technique and struggle to execute their manager’s footballing philosophy week-in, week-out. The former Napoli tactician’s setup is based on quick interplay between the midfield and attack combined with directness. Until now, we’ve seen shades of this in games against SPAL and Bayer Leverkusen, but not much beyond flashes in the pan.
Make no mistake about it, this ultimately falls on Fabio Paratici’s squad-building skills more than anything else. At the end of the day, Sarri could only do so much with the squad he has at his disposal. Aware of the technical requirements of Sarriball, Paratici opted not to add to Juventus’ midfield depth beyond an injury-prone Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot – a midfielder who barely featured in the entirety of last season.
Given their need for an extended adaptation period, Sarri has been forced to turn to the likes of Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi in the midfield. The reality is, however, that former is on his last legs to put it mildly while the latter lacks the technique required to progress the ball in the final third. While Matuidi is crucial in the pressing and recovery phases of play, build-up play has regularly been slowed down as a result of a poor touch. Considering he plays on the same side as Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s not doing Sarriball any favours.
Moving forward, the former PSG man could be useful off the bench, but lacks the quality to feature as regularly as he is now. In addition to their unbalanced midfield, the way Juventus’ attack was assembled this past summer resembled an accident.
For the entirety of the month of August, Paratici was pushing Paulo Dybala out in favour of Romelu Lukaku while simultaneously failing to sell the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain despite having many offers. In the end, Paratici’s hand was forced and due to Financial Fair Play constraints, he sold the bianconeri’s most promising young forward Moise Kean to Everton for pennies on the dollar with no buy-back clause. Today, Sarri’s left with two want-aways in Dybala and Higuain alongside Ronaldo, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi.
Despite how talented both players are, neither of them were in Paratici’s plans in the first place, highlighting a bigger issue at play here. Remember, Dybala’s been Juve’s best player this season thus far and should have never been on the chopping block – which leads us to another question. What exactly was Paratici trying to do this summer?
In any case, Sarri’s now left with an unbalanced side and is faced with immense pressure to keep producing results all-while trying to instil his footballing philosophy. Tough spot, indeed. Since the international break, Juve have struggled and have started to show signs that their lacklustre summer transfer window may just come back to haunt them.
While they may be in first place in Serie A and in their Champions League group, eight of their ten wins this season in all competitions have been by one-goal margins. Factor in Kalidou Koulibaly’s freak own goal and a last-gasp penalty against Genoa and the table would look very different by now. It’s also important to note that Juventus’ backline doesn’t compare to years past.
As the season wears on and the pressure intensifies, Juve’s failure to address their recurring midfield issues in addition to their incoherent transfer window will arguably cost them silverware. After all, it may just be the wake-up they need after seven years of domestic domination.
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