Juventus missed Weston McKennie
Weston McKennie had enjoyed his best run of form in Bianconeri colours since last Autumn before he picked up a knee injury in the defeat against Atalanta.
The American is set to return for the trip to Bologna, and his comeback will be welcomed by Allegri. Juventus missed him in Venice.
Once Juve went 4-4-2 early on, they became more direct in possession and sought to exploit Venice via overlapping full-backs in wide areas. However, while they had relative success down the flanks, they struggled mightily in terms of ball-progression through the centre. Often, a defender, typically Leonardo Bonucci, tried to pick out one of the front men with a long pass only for possession to be lost due to either Morata or Jorge’s lack of support. They could only hold the ball up for so long before being dispossessed.
What Juventus desperately lacked was a dynamic runner from midfield, and that’s exactly what McKennie is. In the Texan’s last appearance against Atalanta, he was excellent at compromising La Dea’s man-orientation through perfectly timed third-man runs to complete his side’s up, back and through passing sequences. McKennie was frequently able to run beyond the forward in possession and receive a lay-off.
This was something they were completely bereft of on Saturday, and it meant Juve struggled to get up the pitch at times. While Locatelli and Rabiot are competent in an attacking sense, both failed to recognise this need that had to be fulfilled by one of them.
From a defensive perspective, there’s no doubting Juventus missed the tenacity of the Duracell bunny-like McKennie. With Rodrigo Betancur on the bench also, the visitors lacked intensity and bite in the middle of the park. There were times, particularly at the start of the second half, where Juve were way too passive and Venezia could combine and penetrate beyond the passive block with worrying ease. This lack of intensity amid Allegri’s cautious instructions means Juventus are rarely able to exert any control over games, and that proved true in Venice.
While McKennie’s presence alone won’t evolve Juve into a high-pressing juggernaut, he undoubtedly has a positive influence out of possession. Against Malmo, Juve were similarly passive, but the persistent Bentancur was able to create chances via high turnovers.