The inter-connectivity of communications in the modern world is quite brilliant. I mean, you can talk to anybody you want at the drop of a hat, order a set of aromatic candles from overseas, and football supporters can create faux rivalries over a tweet. It’s brilliant!
Alessio Tacchinardi’s comments regarding Dusan Vlahovic’s supposed ‘struggles’ at Juventus got a kick out of keyboard-loving Arsenal fans. The Gunners, of course, missed out on Vlahovic in January as he opted to join the Bianconeri, and the Serb’s decision not to pick up the phone when Mikel Arteta and his project came calling has left some utterly resentful towards not only Vlahovic, but Juventus as well.
Is Dusan Vlahovic struggling at Juventus?
So when Tacchinardi said that Juventus “don’t create chances” for Vlahovic and aren’t “putting him in a position to score goals at the moment”, Gooners smelt blood. A personal favourite quoted tweet of mine read: “Arsenal will have had a detailed data-driven presentation that clearly articulated how our system could unlock his potential. Juve had €13m in agent fees. So short-sighted of the player.”
Now, I must admit, what Arteta’s cooking in north London is exciting and I have no doubts that Vlahovic would eventually have scored a bucket-load of goals in the Premier League. But there are no guarantees that the Serb would’ve exploded under Mikel right away. Despite their current fourth-place standing, this Arsenal side have accumulated the sixth-highest xG in the Premier League this season, as well as the 15th-most big chances created (36).
Plus, the premise of Tacchinardi’s argument is categorically false when you take a look at the numbers. Many have been inhibited by Massimiliano Allegri’s inability to facilitate a balanced Juventus attack this term, but Vlahovic hasn’t been one of them. The Serb’s the ideal Allegri number nine, and he’s shown off his efficacy as a target man in most of his Juventus appearances thus far.
Anyway, let’s get down to the numbers. According to FBRef, Vlahovic is averaging more shots on target, a higher npxG (non-penalty expected goals), a similar npxG per shot, and, on average, he’s shooting closer to the goal at Juventus than he was at Fiorentina this season.
However, he is scoring less in Turin compared to Florence but the explanation is simple: penalties, or lack thereof. Discounting five penalties, Vlahovic scored 12 for Fiorentina this season in 1,857 Serie A minutes. In 927 minutes for Juve, he’s scored six times.
So whether it’s Vincenzo Italian’s slick, modern and progressive idea of the game, or Allegri’s pragmatic and dreary iteration, the rate at which Vlahovic scores from open play has barely deviated.
It’d be easy to blame Allegri anytime Vlahovic draws a blank. But, as we’ve already explored, the Serb is getting an ample number of scoring opportunities every game. The player himself must improve also. He can be easily marked one-vs-one, and in games where he was up against an elite man-marker, such as Gleison Bremer and Milan Skriniar, he didn’t get a sniff because he wasn’t comfortable dragging his marker into wide areas, nor does he run the channels with any vigour.
But, overall, Vlahovic has performed well in a difficult function. Both Alvaro Morata and Moise Kean have performed poorly as Juve’s focal point this season, but the 22-year-old from Serbia has made the role his own. He’s just got to be more consistent with typical target man actions.
Vlahovic is currently on a three-game barren run after netting at the death against Bologna, and he certainly didn’t look too pleased when Allegri opted to bring him off in favour of Giorgio Chiellini to see out last Sunday’s win over Venezia. But the striker was all smiles in the week as the manager challenged him to a shooting challenge at Continassa in front of several Juventino. The boss has already confirmed that the striker will start against Genoa on Friday night, where a couple of goals will go a long way to dispelling any murmurs of him struggling in Turin.
Despite his monster price tag and prolificacy in Florence, Vlahovic remains a young forward with plenty to learn. He’s a ruthless finisher, but one who just looks a little bit unsure of himself at the moment. These blips occur, it’s normal. Remember when Harry Kane couldn’t score in August and was just a one-season wonder?
His arrival has markedly aided Juventus, who have qualified for the Champions League with three games to spare. So, many within the club will believe that the gamble they took on signing him in the winter has paid off considering the financial reward that comes with securing a berth in Europe’s premier club competition.
Now it’s time for Juventus to continue their rebuild around their new long-term number nine this summer.