Sometimes a breakup ends up benefitting all involved. While last season Maurizio Sarri ended up hitting all of his objectives at Chelsea, his departure from the Blues opened up the door to Frank Lampard leading the club’s impressive youth movement- something the former Napoli manager wouldn’t have had the patience to see through.
Sarri ended up landing on his feet at Juventus, a club desperate to play a more attractive style of football and one that would ensure they get the most out of their impressive offensive weapons. But while Sarri’s hire was quite controversial and his debut on Juventus’ bench in an official match was delayed because of a bout of pneumonia, that even led to some wild conspiracy theories, the start to his tenure at Juventus couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
During the recent pre match press conference for the Champions League showdown against Lokomotiv Moscow, Cristiano Ronaldo praised his new manager for implementing a more offensive style than his predecessor- certainly an important endorsement. While Juventus playing a more attractive style has appeased not just Ronaldo but also all the fans who were fed up with Max Allegri, had Sarri also not achieved so many wins in his first 11 matches, he would be under a lot of criticism.
After all Juventus’ motto is “vincere e’ l’unica cosa che conta” (winning is the only thing that matters) so more shots on goal would not spare a manager from heavy criticism or potentially losing their jobs. That is what happened to Gigi Maifredi in the early 90s, he was supposed to be Juventus’ answer to Arrigo Sacchi and the prophet who would move them out of the catenaccio they were known for, but because the results simply weren’t there, he was gone after a year.
Sarri got a truly signature win under his belt before the last international break at San Siro against arch rivals Inter. He has also saved his team’s best performances for the Champions League, the competition he will ultimately be judged upon- Juventus hired him because they believe his style is what works in the competition, and finally winning it would make him into a legend with the club’s fan base.
In addition to obtaining excellent results so far, Sarri has rejuvenated many of Juventus’ players. During his introductory press conference, he mentioned he was intrigued by the idea of working with Douglas Costa and Paulo Dybala. The Brazilian winger looked to be on his way out following some off field issues during the previous season, but prior to his injury, he looked like someone who could even exceed Insigne and Callejon’s impressive performances in the same role at Napoli.
Dybala being on the market last summer was never denied by Juventus- they never hid fact they thought he was more valuable as a plusvalenza because they had doubts on his fit with Ronaldo. But the Argentine international ended up winning the award for Juventus’ best player in the month of September and then scored the two decisive goals in the match against Lokomotiv.
The player that Dybala is competing for playing time with is having a much more improbable revival. Once he returned to Juventus, Gonzalo Higuain couldn’t even get number 9 back despite it being vacant since the bianconeri were hoping to give it to either Romelu Lukaku or Mauro Icardi. While at Chelsea he looked like a completely finished player and someone who was just a financial albatross because of his massive wages, Higuain has been excellent since returning to Turin.
But while with Higuain there was a history with Sarri that could have led an optimistic person to assume this would happen, Juan Cuadrado’s narrative this season has been nothing short of spectacular. Rightfully many Juventus’ fans were very concerned when Joao Cancelo was sold to Manchester City- after all he was often the most creative player on Allegri’s team, was essentially the player the bianconeri thought they signed with Dani Alves and played arguably the scarcest position on the transfer market. While De Sciglio and Danilo wouldn’t be able to come close to matching Cancelo’s production, Cuadrado has been even better than the Portiguese international so far because he hasn’t made so many obvious defensive mistakes.
In addition to Cuadrado, there have been substantial improvements with Miralem Pjanic and Alex Sandro who had been in a funk for the past two seasons. Sarri has also shown more tactical flexibility at Juventus than in his previous stops, he has alternated between the 4 3 3 formation he’s used in last few years with the two strikers in front of a trequartista formation he used at Empoli and at the very beginning of his time at Empoli to get the most of Aaron Ramsey.
In Italy there’s a great saying “Il buongiorno si vede dal mattino”, which translates to “you can tell it will be a good day from the morning”- Sarri has certainly had a great start even though his former club is better off without him, certainly not an easy feat.