Losing to Villarreal midweek was rough for Juventus
The team was outplayed, and Juventus looked relatively lifeless throughout a match that the Yellow Submarine took away from the Old Lady towards the end of the 3-0 affair. Losing to Unai Emery and company by an aggregate score of 4-1 in the Champions League round of 16 was terrible, and so too was the wrath displayed against Salernitana on the succeeding Sunday.
While their last-place Serie A opponent was not anywhere near the category of which trounced Juventus in the UCL, it was three points in the domestic league and a better feeling afterwards than existed in the clubhouse previously. It was reported that Max Allegri held his team accountable to some degree after the midweek loss, and the team spent time together despite wishing to have a day for themselves after the disappointment in Turin.
The team came out and played as though they wanted to dispel any notion that they were not committed to the badge on the shirt. Paulo Dybala likely won’t be on the squad for much longer, but he made his presence felt in this match with the first goal in the fifth minute. Beyond that, Dusan Vlahovic was not to be denied once again, and he doubled Juve’s advantage before the half-hour mark. He might have had one or two more if not for the pride of side fighting to remain in Serie A next season.
Before the match, I stated that the contest could end in a comprehensive Juventus victory and while the Bianconeri won comfortably, they did not crush Salernitana as a top-tier team is expected to – Inter Milan beat them 5-0 a couple of weeks ago. The Old Lady are good, but they are not great anymore and it will take some time for them the reach their mid-2010s apex.
Juventus: The same types of matches in Serie A played over and over again
The problem with Juventus had been witnessed in the leadup to the second leg against Villarreal, and the issue was on display in Sunday’s win. Now, of course, the top teams do not always beat the lower table opposition soundly, no matter in what league we’re talking about.
Bayern sometimes fall to a lesser side; Manchester City slip up here and there, while Paris Saint-Germain do so frequently in Ligue 1. But Juventus too often find themselves in closer matches than they ought to be with clubs that neither have the talent nor the resources of the great Turin outfit.
While some believed that the switch might have been flipped after the Sampdoria victory just days before the reverse UCL tie, it was not to be, which is in an indication of the level this current side is capable of playing at relative to the top sides across Europe. The team snuck by against Empoli, Fiorentina and Spezia before that Sampdoria matchup and have beaten – but not pummeled – Salernitana.
What is needed in Turin are more dynamic minds and feet across the team. There are big names, and those names will continue to be built around. Yet some players may have to depart to speed up the rebuild. Dybala’s time is nearly up, and this is not a terrible thing for either party, as new roads can be trekked down by each side. Arthur Melo could stay or go, but like Adrien Rabiot, I sense that he will be shown the door too. Manuel Locatelli is good but requires different partnerships in the middle of the pitch to best flourish.
Injured names like Weston McKennie and Federico Chiesa will be welcomed additions back into the side, but they will likely find a much-changed outfit next season. Allegri, if he is returned as the boss of Juventus, has a massive job in front of him; trying to transition one of Italy and Europe’s biggest clubs into the next stage of its history while keeping a winning product on the pitch to the standard of the faithful in Turin and across the world.
The team will be able to win matches against the likes or equivalent of the aforementioned Serie A bottom-feeders, but that is not the ambition of this great club.
In the coming matches against the likes of Inter, Cagliari, Bologna and the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final against Fiorentina, this team will have to navigate the ups and downs of Italian football even further. While Inter remain a formidable side, and Fiorentina put up such a good showing in the first leg of their tie, Cagliari and Bologna are near the bottom of the Serie A table. Juventus will have to play up and beyond each of their opponents in the coming weeks to properly shake off the uneasy feeling of dissatisfaction after the painful loss to Villarreal, but the start of April is a good place to begin.