Has Juventus Progressed Under Sarri?
After five consecutive trophy-laden years with Allegri, Juventus decided to get rid of him. Despite their continuous dominance in the league, the team failed always to dominate Europe and capture the Champions League trophy that has eluded the Club since 1996. Under Allegri, the Club managed to reach the final of Europe’s elite club competition twice but failed to beat the two big giants from Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Allegri’s exit was not just down to the team’s misses in the Champions League. His style of play never convinced the Old Ladies that he was the right man to move the Club forward.
His replacement, Maurizio Sarri, was viewed as the ideal replacement and the right man for the job. After all, the man Sarri came from obscurity and became famous for his expansive and attacking footballing style called “Sarri-ball,” which transformed Napoli from a mid-table team to a title contender. In Sarri lies a man who is not only a coach but an innovator who receives praise and admiration from present and past great coaches including Pep Guardiola and Arrigo Sacchi
He arrived at Juventus in the summer on the back of a one-year managerial stint In England with Chelsea, where he won the Europa League and also secured Champions League qualification for the London side.
However, his arrival at Juventus has already raised questions about his style of football and how it suits the team. Here is an overview of the positives and negatives of Sarri’s reign at Juventus so far.
Getting the Best Out of Ronaldo
One of the criticisms labeled against Max Allegri last season was his inability to get the best out of the Club’s record signing Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined the Club last season from Juventus.
Ronaldo arrived at the Club with a reputation of a serial winner and goal machine, which was evident in his time at Real Madrid. He left the Spanish giants as their all-time top scorer with 450 goals in 438 appearances.
Ronaldo joined Juventus with four Champions League medals, two league titles, and 5 Ballon d’Or trophies.
Despite the considerable price tag, Ronaldo failed to replicate his form at Real Madrid for Juventus in his first season in Italy.
The Portuguese star only managed to chip in 28 goals in 43 appearances (His lowest goal-scoring season in 10 years). Twenty-one of those goals came in the Serie A with only six coming in the UEFA Champions League.
However, things have changed since Sarri’s arrival despite the pair’s falling out at the beginning of the season. Ronaldo has already bagged 24 goals in 29 games this season. He has scored 20 of those goals in 20 Serie A appearances this season, five behind top scorer Ciro Immobile.
He is also scoring regularly. The midweek Copa Italia Clash with AC Milan saw him score for the 11th game running. He already has 45 shots on target in Serie A this season in comparison to the 62 he managed the entire 2018-2019 campaign. These numbers are a significant increase in his attacking game from last season and a reflection of how Sarri has been able to build the team around him.
His team’s over-dependence on Ronaldo
One common feature of Sarri’s style of play in recent seasons has been his teams’ over-dependency on the team’s key player. That dependency became one of the most significant criticism against his style of play during his Chelsea reign. At Chelsea, Hazard ended the season as the team’s top scorer with 16 goals in the EPL with Pedro coming second with eight goals. This problem has repeated itself at Juventus this season. Getting the best out of Ronaldo has also led to the team’s dependency on him. Ronaldo is the only Juventus player to reach double figures in terms of goals in the Serie A this season. Behind Ronaldo in the Juventus goal-scoring charts are Higuain and Dybala, who are both stuck on five goals each. The lack of goals from the other attackers is a huge concern for Sarri as it shows his team’s struggles upfront without Ronaldo’s influence.
One of the strengths of Allegri’s Juventus team was their ability to stifle the opposition’s attack easily. During his final season, his side conceded just 30 goals all season, conceding an average 0.79 goals per game. In contrast, Sarri’s team has struggled to keep it tight at the back despite the massive recruitments of promising talents Matthijs De Ligt and Merih Demiral. Juventus have conceded 23 goals in Serie A this season. They concede an average of 1.00 goals per game. The pair of Leonardo Bonucci and De Ligt have struggled all season with injuries to Chiellini, and Demiral also a big blow for the defense.
Lack of Creativity in the Midfield
Sarri’s philosophy is built around a strong midfield trio with combined passing and running attributes along with creativity. At Napoli and Chelsea, he trusted Jorginho with the responsibility of controlling the midfield and initiating attacks, which proved to be effective on most occasions. However, his system has failed to yield such results from the Juventus midfield. The build-up from midfield has been slow as a result of much unnecessary short passing, which gives the opposition defense the chance to organize themselves well. Miralem Pjanic has only registered two assists this season with both Matuidi and Khedira registering just 1 assist each all season. The highest assister from midfield is Rodrigo Bentacur (6), who rarely starts games for the Old Ladies. Summer acquisitions Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey have also failed to record an assist between them this season. In all, the Juventus midfield is responsible for just 27 percent of the attacks moving forward.
From all indications, it is clear that Sarri and his side are struggling despite the results they have had this season. He needs to turn things around before he ends up costing Juventus domestic and continental glories.