Juventus’ lacklustre performance in a goalless draw on Wednesday at home against Sevilla leaves Max Allegri and his squad with a cloud of media and Tifosi‘s doubt looming over them. Just weeks ago attention was poured over Beppe Marotta for building a European team, with the incoming transfers of Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic, Mehdi Benatia, and Dani Alves boosting an already highly talented and experienced squad. The Old Lady were mentioned in the preseason among the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City as definite contenders for the Champions League trophy. Following the first matchday each of these teams have three points, but Juventus have only one. Is credit due to Sevilla for holding the Bianconeri, or did Allegri and his men waste two what could be crucial points?
Although Juve held Sevilla to zero shots on goal and created plenty of scoring chances, the number of inaccurate passes and giveaways were disappointingly high for a team of Juve’s caliber. Mario Lemina had difficulty finding his rhythm as the point of reference in the midfield, and the BBC–usually reliable passers–also had moments which were questionable at best. The 3-5-2 chosen by Max Allegri was slow and predictable. Kwadwo Asamoah was picked ahead of €32 million man Pjanic, much to the dismay of the Bianconeri faithful.
It is the Champions League, after all. Why start Pjanic against Sassuolo in the Serie A but not in the Champions League?
In truth Asamoah hasn’t played at his highest level as a central midfielder since his days at Udinese. Further wide on the left, Allegri chose to start the experienced Patrice Evra rather than the skillful and attacking option in Alex Sandro. Considering the limited attacking threat of Sevilla and how much better Juve are using the left flank in attack when Alex Sandro plays, perhaps the backlash upon Allegri about his choices is justified.
Nonetheless the players are always subject to equal blame. Sami Khedira missed more than one quality chance, and Paulo Dybala’s roaming hold-up-forward position was not as effective as expected, in part due to the inconsistent passing out of the defense and midfield. Meanwhile most of the times Higuain received the ball he was thirty meters away from goal, not exactly where you want your poacher to be–especially with his back to goal with two defenders on his rear.
In truth, Pipita was unlucky not to have scored the header that rung the crossbar, but had his teammates been able to advance the ball better or had his coach put players on the field that could achieve that feat, then he likely would have found the net. Regardless of which player you choose to analyze, one thing is for certain–Juventus did not have a quality team game against Sevilla.
Moving forward into the weekend, Allegri will be rallying his men to shift their focus from the Champions League to the importance of the tie with Inter. The media and fans will undoubtedly be holding the Sevilla match over the Juventus coach and players as the match approaches. Many players showed their frustration with the scoreline during the game and again in their responses in post match interviews. It will be weighing on each of their shoulders to produce a response against Inter on Sunday.
Last season’s start was no less desirable, and the players were able to come together when necessary to achieve their goals. The Juventus faithful will likely be counting the days until Claudio Marchisio’s return, and the failed attempts to purchase Blaise Matuidi and Axel Witsel this summer are now seeming more relevant.
The approach to create squad balance between the league and Champions League is never an easy task for a coach, and Allegri will be under the microscope more than ever with the players at his disposal to produce on both fronts. Most importantly his player selection cannot afford any mistakes, nor can his choice of formation be wrong. It’s impossible to know what a 4-3-3 would have looked like or how it would have performed Wednesday against Sevilla in comparison with the 3-5-2. Allegri will need to find the formation and player combination that can produce consistently, and it’s still too early in the season to know what that might be. But the weekend’s match against rival Inter will surely be a sign of how well Juventus can react.