What should Juventus do with Paulo Dybala?

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With reports linking Juventus to moves to up and coming offensive stars like Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa, and Benfica’s Joao Felix, it begs the question: Where does Paulo Dybala fit in Massimiliano Allegri’s plans for next season? La Joya is coming off his worst season in bianconero, and has largely struggled to fit into Allegri’s tactical schemes this year. When he isn’t dropping deep into the midfield, Dybala often finds himself wide on the right looking for time and space.

What his inevitably leads to is the Argentine international picking up the ball far away from the goal, with little possibility to make the most of his creativity in the final third. With Cristiano Ronaldo occupying a central position, Dybala has found it hard to carve out a consistent place for himself in the starting eleven, and will need to adapt moving forward. While his output and overall play suffered immensely, Juventus would be foolish to give up on the 25-year-old at the first sign of adversity, and instead re-think his best position.

After all, Dybala was dubbed the heir to Alessandro Del Piero, and was awarded the number ten jersey with this in mind. In 36 appearances in all competitions this season, the former Palermo man notched 10 goals, and four assists; his worst return since his first season in Serie A back in 2012.

While it would be easy to discard him and sell him to the highest bidder, Juventus should avoid that at all costs, and look to incorporate him more into their setup. Basic economics state that it’s foolish to sell an asset at their lowest value. Following this indifferent season, the only way for the Juventus man is up.

This season Dybala’s role was largely on the periphery of the first team, and he was rarely given the license to dictate play. At times, he cut a frustrated figure and disappeared in games, however, Juventus should not forget about the natural talent he has at his disposal. We’re still talking about a player that scored 19 goals in league play in his first season, and a further 22 last season. In addition, the Juventus board would be suffering from short-term memory loss if they have already forgotten his man-of-the-match displays in the Champions League against Barcelona, and Tottenham.

Given the results-oriented nature at Juventus, Allegri opted not to take any risks, and rather than letting Dybala play through his struggles, the former Milan tactician went with Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi. While both players are crucial pieces to the Juventus machine, neither possess the natural talent Dybala does. Given that they are willing runners, both featured consistently in Juve’s big games, yet fail to offer what Dybala could in the final third. If Juventus are to hit that next level, something they failed to do this season, they will need La Joya playing his best football.

Even though Mandzukic and Bernardeschi are arguably better fits alongside Ronaldo in Allegri’s current setup, the Juventus boss didn’t bother trying any alternatives, and instead trying fitting in a circle in a square peg. When that didn’t work, Dybala was relegated to a bench role, and his struggles continued. Next season, Allegri will either need to change his tactical setup or he will risk wasting Dybala’s talents two years running.

At Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane got the best out of Ronaldo alongside Benzema with Isco behind them pulling the strings in a 4-3-1-2. Allegri should take notes, and use Dybala in similar fashion to the Spaniard. While it is increasingly difficult to incorporate a trequartista into modern tactical schemes, Juventus cannot afford to leave Dybala out of the lineup consistently.

On Dybala’s end, on the other hand, he’ll need to improve. That goes without saying. At times, the former Palermo man looked tuned out of games, and let his frustrations get the better of him. If Fabio Paratici’s words are anything to go by, however, Dybala and Allegri will need to coexist next season, and thrive together once more.

“Of course Dybala will stay. He is a Juve player and it’s obvious he will certainly remain,” said the Juventus sporting director.

Following one of their worst seasons in recent times, Juventus and Allegri will need to go back to the drawing board, and re-evaluate Dybala’s best position. Otherwise, it’ll only be a matter of time before Dybala is moved, and Juventus are back to square one.

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Crucial Summer Ahead for Juventus

After wrapping up their eighth consecutive Scudetto following their 2-1 win over Fiorentina, Juventus will now focus their efforts on addressing the issues plaguing their roster. While the bianconeri added two trophies to their haul this season, they failed in Europe losing to a superior Ajax side over the two ties, and were sent packing in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta. Both defeats spoke volumes of this Juventus side and demonstrated just how fragile the Italian champions are when pressed. Here are three fundamental questions they must answer come summertime if they are to achieve European glory.

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1) Massimiliano Allegri: In or out? 

Since their collapse in Cardiff, Juventus have not been the same, and look a side devoid of an identity. This season much of the same problems persisted. The bianconeri strolled to the Scudetto, barely challenging themselves in the process as their competitors consistently shot themselves in the foot. Frankly, most Serie A tacticians would have won the title with this roster.

What’s more frustrating for Juve is that Allegri has completely failed at instilling a consistent style of play, and largely depends on individual brilliance to see him through. And when all else fails, the Italian champions typically bombard the box with crosses, and hope for Mandzukic or Ronaldo to come through. When opposing sides pressed the bianconeri high, and played without fear, by contrast, Juventus struggled to put three passes together.

When the board meets with Allegri to discuss the past season, they should replay the Ajax and Atalanta games. In both instances, Juventus cowered deep in fear, while the bolder team was rewarded for their self-confidence. If Juve are to win the Champions League, they need a fearless leader, and one thing’s for certain: Allegri is not that. It’s the end of the Allegri era, as we know it.

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2) Project Fix The Defence. 

Since Antonio Conte brought back Juve from consecutive seventh place finishes, the bianconeri’s defence was always their foundation and backbone for success. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini, Juventus possessed arguably the strongest backline in the world, and kept opponents at bay with ease.

However, with Barzagli nearing retirement and Bonucci looking like a shadow of his former self since his controversial return, Juventus’ defence has been a weak point for the side and has held the team back. Factor in Alex Sandro’s continued struggles, and it’s clear to see: Without Chiellini, Juventus are a mess at the back.

Considering Daniele Rugani’s stagnation, and Bonucci’s regular lapses in concentration, it’s time Juventus revamp their defence. First of all, they shouldn’t hesitate to sell Rugani and Alex Sandro as soon as a good offer arrives. The former has been a disaster when called upon, and shirks at the first sight of a physical battle. Alex Sandro, by contrast, has lost most of his pace, and offers close to nothing in the final third.

With Cristian Romero already on his way from Genoa, and Leonardo Spinazzola improving with every week, the state of Juventus’ defence remains decent. However, they will need at least two reinforcements: a centre-back and a left back.

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3) Project Fix the Midfield.

Much like the defence, Juventus’ midfield is in complete disarray, and lacks a true leader. Since dismantling their midfield in 2015 by selling Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, the bianconeri are yet to bolster the midfield sufficiently. At the moment, only Miralem Pjanic and potentially Emre Can are worthy starters, while the others are solid bench options at best.

Even Pjanic and Can, who on their day are world beaters, struggle to impose themselves, and aren’t meant to lead the midfield as seen through the Ajax clashes. Despite Aaron Ramsey’s arrival, Juventus are still lacking one profile in their midfield. A ball-winner capable of maintaining possession. What they would do for a prime Claudio Marchisio again? But Juventus could settle for Lyon’s Tanguy N’Dombele.

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Allegri’s time is up

When Massimiliano Allegri was hired to replace Antonio Conte, many Juventus fans were opposed to such a move. He was met with discontent and his car was pelted with eggs and even spat at by fans lined up to “welcome him” to Juve.

Fast forward to the end of the 2014/15 season and Allegri has turned doubters into believers making himself a hero in the eyes of many Bianconeri fans… So what changed and when was the turning point? There are several factors to consider:

1) First turning point was the 2017 Champions League Final in Cardiff. Whatever happened at half-time has left a mark on certain players with Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci leaving and so forth. Alves would later claim he was “unhappy” at Juve

2) Why would Alves be unhappy? It does seem he was not enjoying his football. He only improved after returning from injury and after being given some freedom to attack on the right flank. Could it be the same story again with another attack-minded right-back in Cancelo? Cancelo seems unhappy too. The same could be said about left-back Alex Sandro who had a remarkable stretch with Juve before everything changed after Cardiff too. Sandro seems disengaged in most games the last 22 months.

3) Could it be Allegri is just allergic to talented players who have the desire to attack and attack more as opposed to track back and focus on defensive duties? This could explain why Allegri has often preferred Mattia de Sciglio over Cancelo?

4) What about the fate of two attackers: Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala? Mandzukic has played as a left-winger, even at times as a left wing-back, for over a year before returning to central striker following the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. As for Dybala, he’s been used in multiple positions which do not suit his characteristics. Again, imagine Dybala, who is not physically imposing, has been asked to track back!

5) Not only attackers and full-backs are being misused, but also Juve’s most creative midfielder Miralem Pjanic is tasked with tracking back, defending, tackling and other defensive duties instead of saving his energy and turning his focus into creating chances for Juve’s attackers! Who’ll create if Pjanic is too busy tracking back! It sure is not going to be Blaise Matuidi, whose control and first touch leaves a lot to be desired, and it is definitely not Sami Khedira- who’s been injured this season and then had other health problems plus is slower than ever and never was a creative player.

Juve’s other midfielder Emre Can can play as a right-back, centre-back or a defensive midfield but he too is not a creative force. The same applies to Rodrigo Bentancur who is still very young and needs time to mature and find consistency.

6) Initially, Allegri’s football made proper use of rotating players and changing tactics- even in the same match at times. However, this has proven to be a failure the last 22 months with the XI coming out often looking like complete strangers. Top teams build harmony by often using the same XI and of course making the necessary tweaks on a regular basis. Allegri went too far, just have a closer look at certain Serie A match. It proved costly.

7) To make matters worse, Allegri not only rotated players and changed tactics, but he also changed the position of certain players on multiple occasions, and often at the expense of the team’s performances and results. How often have we seen Juan Cuadrado used as a right-back? What about the older, slower Andrea Barzagli also being used as a right-back? What about Alex Sandro used across multiple positions from left-back to left midfielder and even left-winger. And the list goes on.

8) Undefined tactics are also one consequence of Allegri’s constant change. What makes matters worse is coaches- such as the ones of Atletico Madrid (well, for the 2nd half of the game in Madrid) and of Ajax as well as even Young Boys have outsmarted and outfoxed Allegri. Diego Simeone saw how predictable Juve were in the 1st half in Madrid and he simply urged his team on to expose Juve and their tame football.

9) The repetitive mistakes are of grave concern. They could have been more costly yet in Serie A the weak opposition, lack of consistency and other factors have meant Juve a big margin of error to work with. Even last season, Napoli left Turin with a precious 1-0 win yet failed to build on it… Napoli had the momentum yet they bottled it.

10) Allegri’s reputation in big games has taken a hit: against Napoli last season, Juve needed a draw and he seemed intent on settling for a draw, even the 0-0 tie without showing much attacking desire even at home! Eventually he was punished with a 1-0 loss before Napoli gave it all away.

Against Atletico in Madrid, Allegri was pleased with a 0-0 draw as well and aimed to do nothing more than sit back and let Atletico have their way. The outcome was a 0-2 defeat.

He also made mistakes against both Young Boys and Manchester United. Against United in particular, with the score reading 1-0 Juve’s way, he opted for an unnecessary change by bringing on Andrea Barzagli. The outcome was a 1-2 defeat in Turin.

11) Juve’s defensive unit has conceded many times from set-pieces- via both corner kicks and free-kicks. A wise coach would work on those visible weaknesses. Instead Juve conceded against Atleti from a corner-kick followed by a free-kick. Against Ajax, the winning game for the Dutch team came from a corner-kick!

12) Several bad results hinted the future was not going to be all bright: The home defeat versus Man United was the first warning. Yes, Juve put in a good display for 80 minutes, but in football you need to play well and focus for 90 minutes. Allegri’s substitution and the team’s obvious weakness from set-pieces proved costly.

Against Swiss side Young Boys, Juve lost as well. The excuse was the game did not matter, however, in Europe a team must always try to win regardless of how important or unimportant the game is. You send a clear message when you take every game seriously.

Against Atletico in Madrid, Juve’s players and Allegri were outfought, out thought and out played by Atleti’s player and manager Simeone. Allegri was too late to react to Simeone’s changes even though one could sense the game’s momentum had completed shifted towards Atleti’s advantage.

13) Even Juve’s greatest win this season, the 3-0 triumph over Atleti to overturn the result and advance to the quarter-finals was also aided by Atletico’s own mistakes, including those of manager Simeone who surprisingly tried to defend a 2-0 lead from the first minute. When Juve were up 2-0, one felt it was too late to even contemplate an Atleti comeback of sorts. They wilted and duly got what they deserve with a 3-0 resounding defeat. Ironically, Juve’s win would serve as their downfall as Ajax’s players and their coach took a hold of the game’s video and surely noticed Atletico offered no fight. Ajax did not sit back in Turin.

14) Other notable Juventus wins are very few to the extent they can be counted on one hand. The 1-0 away win at Old Trafford was a great performance with Juve utterly dominating the first half against Manchester United. The other decent performance was the 2-0 away win over Valencia despite Cristiano Ronaldo receiving a red card in the first half

15) Allegri last season depended heavily on Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain to save him. This season he is counting heavily on Ronaldo. No one can deny how last season Dybala saved Juve time and again earlier in the season and then Higuain as well as Dybala combined to save Juve against Tottenham over the two-legged tie to advance to the quarter-finals to face Real Madrid. Hence, Allegri has not been playing a team’s game but rather relying on individual talents to tip the balance to Juve’s side.

16)  Allegri used to complain about how Barcelona had Lionel Messi and Real had Ronaldo, yet here he is in Ronaldo’s first season not taking proper advantage of the Portuguese star’s presence. While Ronaldo has taken most of the team’s free-kicks this season, that is exactly where one can first claim Allegri is losing the plot. Why would you have Ronaldo take most, if not all, the free-kicks when you have in Pjanic one of the best free-kick takers in both Italy and Europe? And to add to that, you also have Dybala who is very lethal from the right side of the pitch.

Allegri should have integrated Ronaldo in a better and more appropriate way. In addition, the team does not create enough for Ronaldo. Imagine the best finisher in the history of the Champions League is playing for Juve, yet he has been starved of service for majority of the games in Europe due to Allegri’s approach.

17) Just as Allegri’s hiring was a gamble, if Allegri is fired then Juve will simply be taking another gamble though a very necessary one. If the objective is to win Serie A, then there are several managers who could have achieved that with this squad. If the main objective is to compete in Europe, then Allegri’s approach has proven futile on multiple occasions.

18) Fitness and injury excuses have been used as well yet why are several of the the main contenders not complaining or suffering the same way? The likes of Barcelona, who used Messi often and even against weaker sides in La Liga, are still cruising and have made it to the semi-final. Forget about Manchester City who are battling on three fronts and forget Liverpool who are still battling on two fronts, but what about even Ajax, who are also locked in a tight title race with domestic rivals PSV?

19) Of course Allegri is not to blame for everything but why was he so easily convinced of Bonucci’s return? Allegri was the one to leave Bonucci with the crowd when Juve hosted Porto in the Champions League. At the time, Allegri was praised for being brave enough to bench a key starter in an important game. Is there a complicit agreement between management and Allegri to keep him in charge as long as he did not demand much in the market? Above all the signing of Ronaldo must be every manager’s dream and by clear indication coach Allegri had nothing to do with it.

20) With former France and Juve star Zinedine Zidane returning to Real, that took away one more option for Allegri in terms of available jobs. Italy is in the hands of Roberto Mancini while Chelsea are facing a transfer ban, and Manchester City are firmly under Pep Guardiola’s guidance. Barcelona will not be making a coaching change, in particular with everything appearing to be in order at this point. This leaves Arsenal and Manchester United, yet even United seem to have settled for Ole Gunnar Solskjær. This means Allegri senses his options are limited yet also Juve’s options to replace him are limited as well. He perhaps feels a greater sense of security in this ironic situation.

It is highly unlikely to see Juve come to agreement with Jose Mourinho- a coach who appears in decline and whose methods have been questioned regularly in recent years- while Jurgen Klopp seems to be happy in charge of Liverpool.

21) Again the focus returns on that Atleti game in Turin. The 3-0 win over Atletico masked all the squad’s visible weaknesses. Ajax were clever enough to know the team’s defensive unit is shaky and would be even worse without Giorgio Chiellini. Had Juve faced a better equipped side, the results may have been much worse. In addition, Juve’s midfield lacks those who can string a few passes together and is not imposing. When Juve lost to Real in Cardiff, the 2nd half showed how the likes of Casemiro can make a difference. Midfield battles win you games, and consequently can cost you games.

22) Allegri does not care to entertain the fans, and he has made that clear more than once- even stating those seeking entertainment ought to go watch a “circus!”

However, there has to be some responsibility towards fans, in particular those who travel from across the world or pay hefty fees in order to watch their beloved team in the stadium. One thing is to entertain and another completely different criteria is being courageous in your approach. Allegri has chosen the cowardly path on multiple occasions. He did so in Madrid yet escaped after Ronaldo’s remarkable hat-trick. He did so again in Amsterdam, showing he did not learn from his mistakes, but this time it did not payoff since Juve exited in the quarter-finals.

Even in Turin, the XI he put on the field seemed disengaged and at times afraid though Juve were expected to prevail due to the experience factor among other things. A coach needs to prepare his team mentally as well. If the players are afraid as Allegri admitted, then he has failed those players at some points.

Perhaps, the biggest thing is that Allegri’s voice is no longer heard in the sense some players are tired of his demands- such as tracking back- while others have simply blocked him out completely in the sense they pretend they are following his instructions yet show little desire to do so during competitive matches.

The odds are stacked against Allegri. He did well till Cardiff in 2017, however, it has been a downhill ride ever since. Around 22 months of unconvincing football culminating with a heartless and toothless performance against Ajax in Turin.

His obsession with winning trophies and avoiding defeat have often led him to a fear of losing games. When he thinks a 0-0 would do such as versus Napoli last season or even against Atleti away and most recently Ajax at home, Allegri would do his best to get the 0-0 even if in his pregame press conferences he would claim otherwise. Allegri would promote attacking the opponent only for the expected to happen during games: Juve sitting back with the aim of getting the 0-0 draw.

Juve got what they deserve but above all it is time for Allegri to leave in May 2019.

Dybala Set to Start Against Ajax

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With Mario Mandzukic out injured, reports suggest that Paulo Dybala could get the start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Bernardeschi. Until now, la Joya has struggled to impose himself on games, and has looked an awkward fit in Allegri’s various formations this season.

Instructed to drop deep to receive the ball, Dybala has often been on the periphery of games, and has largely struggled to impact the proceedings from an unfamiliar deeper role. With the score tied at one all, and going back to the Juventus Stadium, the return leg against Ajax is a great opportunity for Dybala to make a statement, and prove doubters wrong. Recently, there’s been reports linking Dybala with a move away due to his recent struggles; something that he’ll be eager to quash as soon as possible.

Against Ajax, Allegri is reportedly fielding Dybala as the out-and-out striker, a position he’s rarely played this season. When given the opportunity to play closer to the goal, the Argentine international has not disappointed, scoring six goals in ten games. Going up against Matthjis de Ligt won’t be easy, but if anyone has the skill-set to drag him out of position, it’s Dybala. In doing so, the former Palermo man could open up spaces for Ronaldo to attack. In the first leg, de Ligt was a rock at the back, and marshalled Mandzukic wonderfully when necessary.

Moreover, with Emre Can returning, and acting as the shield for the back four, Miralem Pjanic will be given the license to get forward; a luxury he was not afforded in the first leg. With the Bosnian international getting forward to dictate play, Dybala won’t be forced to drop as deep as he normally does, and he’ll be able to make the most of his ability in and around the eighteen-yard box.

When Pjanic is allowed to play in a more advanced role, the team plays noticeably better, as evidenced in the return leg against Atletico Madrid. Against Ajax, expect it to be no different as the former Roma man will look to get forward with more regularity. The importance of Can’s return cannot be emphasized enough, and it will have a massive impact on the team, as well as Dybala’s game as a whole. Rather than being forced to act as the side’s creator, Dybala could focus on hurting Ajax in the final phase.

Mandzukic’s absence, by contrast, will be felt, however, given his recent form it may be for the best. While Mandzukic sacrifices himself for the team, and unselfishly goes into aerial duels, the Croatian has been largely ineffective these past few weeks, and could do with a spell on the sidelines to recover ahead of a crucial stage in the season.

In theory, Mandzukic’s rugged style of play attracts defenders, and opens up space for his teammates – namely Ronaldo. However, if the first leg was anything to go by, Mandzukic struggled immensely to acclimate himself with the pace of the play and frankly isn’t suited to play against Ajax.

Dybala, by contrast, is a far more technical player and could interchange nicely with Ronaldo and Bernardeschi. As a result, it will be difficult for Ajax to cope with Juventus’ attack if there’s no consistent reference point throughout. In addition, the Argentine has proven time and time again that he’s ready for the biggest stage, scoring crucial goals in the Champions League against Barcelona, and Tottenham. Factor in Nicolas Tagliafico’s suspension, and things get harder for the Ajax rearguard playing away from home.

With all to play for in Turin, Allegri is turning to a familiar face in Dybala to help see his side through. While it hasn’t been his best season in bianconero, the quality is still there and it would be foolish to give up on him now. Against Ajax, he will be afforded a massive opportunity to make a statement; an opportunity Dybala cannot squander.

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Juventus Finally Turn To Youth Ahead Of Crucial Stage

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It took a 16 point lead over second-place Napoli for it to happen, but Juventus have finally started giving their homegrown players a chance, and what an impact they’ve had so far. Following a narrow victory over Napoli, the bianconeri essentially wrapped up their eighth consecutive Scudetto, and could definitively pour all their efforts into the Champions League; especially now with Ajax in their way of a semi-final berth.

Prior to their clash against Atletico Madrid, Juventus hosted a relegation threatened Udinese. With their lead at the top secure, Allegri made the most of the opportunity and fielded Moise Kean and Leonardo Spinazzola from the start; two homegrown players. Until now, both players had played a bit-part role since returning to Juventus, and were rumoured to go out on loan to mid-table Serie A sides in the January transfer window to gain experience. In the end, both vetoed any proposed loan moves and opted to fight for their place.

It wouldn’t take long for Kean to make his impact felt in his first start in Serie A action this season, and notched a brace inside forty minutes with two smart finishes. The Italian international would even win the bianconeri a penalty, however, Kean, on a hat-trick, allowed Emre Can to take it. Safe to say, the 19-year-old proved he’s worthy of more minutes moving forward, especially considering the bianconeri’s 18-point cushion at the top. Thus far, the Italian international is averaging a goal every 35 minutes for Juventus, highlighting his instinctive nature in front of goal.

Spinazzola, by contrast, had a very strong outing against the Zebrette playing as a right-wingback. Despite playing on the opposite wing, the former Atalanta man was still able to demonstrate his turn of pace, successfully completing two dribbles in the process. Much like Kean, Spinazzola showed Allegri he’s ready to compete for a starting position, especially considering Alex Sandro’s decline over the last two seasons.

With the Brazilian suspended for the crucial second leg against Atletico Madrid, Allegri rewarded Spinazzola with a starting berth in the biggest game of the season. The Italian international did not let the pressure of the moment get to him, and made the most of his opportunity, tormenting Atletico’s Santiago Arias at will.

Before being subbed off for Dybala in the 67th minute, as Juventus looked for a winner, the 25-year-old was one of the bianconeri’s most impressive players on the night, and showed that Alex Sandro’s place in the starting eleven isn’t as secured as the Brazilian would like to think. After seven loan spells spanning from 2012 to 2018, it’s finally Spinazzola’s time to establish himself as a Juventus regular.

Kean, on the other hand, was given just over ten minutes to make an impact against Atletico, and he did exactly that. Against one of Europe’s elite defences, Kean looked extremely dangerous, pressing their defenders at neck-breaking pace as they tired. After an impressive run behind the Spaniards’ defence, the Italian international almost found the winner but fired his effort just wide with his weak foot. Nonetheless, much like his compatriot, Kean showed Allegri that he can compete at the highest level despite his inexperience and is ready to challenge Mario Mandzukic for more minutes.

Had Kean and Spinazzola not believed in themselves and stayed with the club in January, we could have been looking at a much different Juventus side today. After being forced by the circumstances to play them, Allegri has found further depth in these two homegrown talents. With a crucial stage in the season approaching and Champions League glory in their sights, it’s clear Kean and Spinazzola will only get more minutes to prove their worth, and rightly so. After all, they’ve earned it.

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Stubborn Allegri Costs Juventus Again

Juventus Training Session

With the league just about wrapped up, Juventus travelled to Madrid with massive expectations on their shoulders. Crash out of the Champions League, and their season is effectively over. Despite the magnitude of the clash, the bianconeri looked a broken side at the Wanda Metropolitano and allowed Atletico Madrid to dominate from start to finish. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, this season was supposed to be different for the Italian giants and yet, Juventus arguably put in their worst European performance in six years.

While many of their stars frankly didn’t show up, Massimiliano Allegri will have to shoulder much of the blame for Juve’s most recent European embarrassment. With the score tied at zero, and still all to play for, Diego Simeone acted proactively bringing on Thomas Lemar, Alvaro Morata, and Angel Correa, essentially giving his side the extra push they needed to claim the victory.

Allegri, by contrast, acted timidly both with his starting lineup and in-game substitutions, keeping Joao Cancelo on the bench in favour of Mattia De Sciglio and only introduced Federico Bernardeschi by the time it was too late. Meanwhile, the former Milan tactician had Dybala operating from the right, as if he was a natural winger. Naturally, what transpired throughout the ninety minutes was an unmitigated disaster, culminating in a heavy defeat, which if we’re being honest, could have been much, much worse for Allegri. He’ll will be thanking VAR and Diego Costa.

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Allegri Opting For Caution Against Atletico Madrid

Juventus Training Session

With their crucial Round of 16 clash approaching, it appears Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri will go for pragmatism when the bianconeri take on Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Rather than sticking with his three-pronged attack, the former Milan tactician has reportedly been tinkering with Joao Cancelo at right midfield and Mattia De Sciglio at right back in a 4-4-2 – leaving Paulo Dybala on the bench in the process.

Allegri has opted for caution in the past, and has often used this defensive 4-4-2 in away clashes in the Champions League. With Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira occupying the two central midfield positions, Blaise Matuidi typically shifts wide on the left, blocking the opposition’s right flank.

Up top, the tactician is reportedly going to field Mario Mandzukic alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. While a 4-4-2 would essentially mirror Atletico’s formation and would go a long way in nullifying their offensive firepower, this setup has backfired for Allegri in the past before. Against Real Madrid in the Champions League final, the Italian manager went for a similar formation, with Dani Alves occupying the right wing.

His pragmatism worked initially against the Spanish giants, however, as soon as Zinedine Zidane made some tactical tweaks at half-time, his 4-4-2 and by consequence, Juventus’ European dream, soon fell apart. The bianconeri found themselves consistently on the back foot, and had nothing to show for in the final third.

On Wednesday, Allegri cannot afford a similar performance and must find a way to achieve defensive solidity without sitting too deep and playing too safe. An away goal at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium could go a long way in this tight affair and might prove to be the difference over two legs.  While having players like Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi come off the bench against tired legs could sway the tie, one of them needs to start against Los Colchoneros. 

Considering Mandzukic’s flexibility and ability to play on the left both in the offensive and defensive phases, Allegri should field Dybala alongside Ronaldo. The Argentine has played his best football when deployed in a partnership and has recently developed a blossoming relationship with the Portuguese superstar. Coming off an impressive performance and a thunderbolt of a goal against Frosinone, now would be a good time to provide La Joya continuity. Against a defensively staunch Atletico Madrid side, Juventus will need all the creativity they can get to break their deep block.

With Ronaldo attracting much of the centre-backs’ attention, Dybala will have the license to roam between the lines and could carve out space for himself – either to fire strikes or find a teammate in space. As Ronaldo and Dybala wreck havoc centrally, Mandzukic will have ample opportunities to let his presence be known in the eighteen-yard box going up against Santiago Arias.

As it stands now, Allegri’s reported setup will stifle his side in the final third and will inevitably isolate Ronaldo and Mandzukic – forcing Juve to go wide to Cancelo. Considering Godin’s aerial presence and Jan Oblak’s command of his box, filtering in crosses from the wing – a common Allegri tactic – will fail miserably. With the clash approaching, time will tell if Allegri’s caution will be repaid or whether another European disaster is on the horizon for Juventus.

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Allegri Must Make Amends With Dybala

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With Juventus entering a crucial stretch in their season, Massimiliano Allegri must put aside his differences with Paulo Dybala and find a place for him in his lineup. Immediately. 

When the bianconeri took on Parma last weekend, La Joya was left on the bench and stormed off in frustration after Allegri used his third and final substitute. The former Palermo man has since apologized for his outburst and was constrained to the sidelines once more in Juventus’ most recent win against Sassuolo, coming on in the 83rd minute.

This season, Dybala has seen a change in his role and has typically operated from deeper, as per Allegri’s instructions. The Juventus tactician even went so far as to dub him a “box-to-box” midfielder in a press-conference earlier this season. Adapting to a completely new role, Dybala has experienced some growing pains and has struggled to influence games from the midfield.

All too often, the 25-year-old wanders wide in hopes of carving out space for himself. What this leads to, however, is Dybala getting less touches near the opposition’s goal and far less chances to use his creativity to dictate play.

With Ronaldo occupying the sole striker position, it doesn’t leave much room for the Argentine international in the final third. Factor in Mario Mandzukic’s importance and ability to combine with the former Real Madrid star, and you quickly realize Dybala is an awkward fit in Allegri’s current setup. While the obvious solution would be to field Dybala behind Mandzukic and Ronaldo, it would take away from the Croatian’s aerial threat – something Juventus could ill afford.

Since being fielded on the left wing, Mandzukic has been able to bully the opposition’s fullback and take advantage of the notable height difference to head home crucial goals. Fielding him centrally again would make the former Bayern Munich man face off in the air against centre-backs and would reduce his aerial presence. This season, Mandzukic has been immense for the bianconeri and has established himself as their big-game player, scoring against Napoli, Inter, Milan, Roma and Lazio. Moving him positions at this point in the season would not only be detrimental to his game, but to Juventus’ overall play. So where does all this leave Dybala?

Over the course of his career, the Juventus playmaker has been at his most dangerous playing behind a striker as a trequartista. In this role, he’s capable of playing between the opposition’s lines and play off his teammate. Last year, Dybala scored 22 goals in league play when playing alongside Higuain – something that Allegri should not banish from his memory just yet.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A

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Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

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Time for Allegri to take off the handbrake at Juventus

Last night Juventus put in arguably their worst performance of the Massimiliano Allegri era and still, somehow, walked away with all three points. Throughout the first hour of play, the bianconeri’s midfield trio looked devoid of any ideas moving forward and got pinned back to perfection by Simone Inzaghi’s aggressive setup.  As a result, Juventus’ front-line were starved of any service, until Blaise Matuidi made way for Federico Bernardeschi.

Had it not been for Wojciech Szczesny’s impressive exploits combined with some poor finishing, Allegri’s side could have easily found themselves down three or four. In fact, at one point in the game Lazio outshot Juventus 12 to zero. With a roster as powerful as Juve’s, this is hardly the type of performance you come to expect from the Italian champions. Right now, Juventus are a Ferrari being driven like a Prius.

Without Miralem Pjanic in the lineup, Juventus struggled in the first phase of the buildup and were quite literally pressed off the pitch at times. A superior opponent would have undoubtedly punished Juventus with a couple of goals. With Emre Can deputizing as the side’s regista, the bianconeri were unable to establish a rhythm and rarely got forward. While the German international is a talented midfielder in his own way, last night’s nightmare at the Olimpico highlighted his shortcomings in progressing play under pressure.

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