Why winning the Coppa Italia would only paper over the cracks at Juventus

Why winning the Coppa Italia would only paper over the cracks at Juventus

By Kaustubh Pandey

2024 has been fairly disastrous for the Bianconeri. Even though January began with their 6-1 win over Salernitana in an earlier round of the Coppa, February was exactly when things simply fell off a cliff. They have, as a result, gone from being title hopefuls to a side that could yet finish fifth in the league even though Champions League qualification has already been secured.

In their last 19 games in all competitions, Juve have won only five times and this run stretches back to January, when they had beaten relegation threatened Sassuolo. In the very next game, they managed to beat Lecce, another side who’s top flight status is not safe by any means. The recent draw against Salernitana, who have already been relegated, was perhaps the tip of the iceberg and Juve were minutes away from handing the Granata their first win of 2024.

Another frustrating feature of the season is the fact that Allegri, even when the title race was well and truly on, constantly admitted that the Old Lady were simply in a battle for the Champions League spots. If not for Italy getting an extra spot for the competition, as part of UEFA’s expansion plans, Juve would now likely be struggling to qualify via the usual route.

And their position in the table is perhaps well deserved too. With Milan having recovered in time for the second half of the season and Bologna riding their momentum under Thiago Motta, Juve seem like a spent force – especially in attack. And the numbers show that, bringing the constant criticism of Allegri’s defensive approach back to the forefront of people’s minds.

While they have conceded the lowest amount of xG in the season (28.3) and they have conceded exactly 28 goals, Juve are fourth for xG generated and it perhaps suggests that they are – as Allegri would like, defence first.

That thought is further accentuated by the fact that they aren’t possession-focused at all. And strikingly enough, they are 12th in the table for average possession in the league and they are worse than Frosinone in that regard and little better than Lecce and Verona.

The fact that they are fifth for touches in the opposition’s box (893) shows that while they don’t like to keep possession, they are fairly direct in getting the ball forward in the final third. Allegri is known for that approach, which is more about the end result than the process.

While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that way of playing football, there is a constant question about whether a system like that is even suiting the players that Juve currently have in their squad. And the answer to that question is no. Not only is it detrimental to the current players, it would also run the risk of hindering the development of Juve’s famed Next Gen players. 

Manuel Locatelli was one of the most technically proficient midfielders in Italy before he moved to Juve. But his development has been stifled. The promise surrounding Fabio Miretti has also faded, with the Italian linked with potential exits from Turin. Matias Soule couldn’t quite make a mark under Allegri last season but he is thriving at Frosinone and has been linked with moves to the Premier League and even tonight’s opponents, Atalanta.

Most prominently, Federico Chiesa has cut a frustrating figure. He has often had to play wing-back in the 3-5-2 shape, thereby impacting his overall contribution.

While he is taking close to three shots per 90 minutes, the Italian hasn’t taken a single shot from inside the six-yard box. Despite that, he has managed to overperform on his xG by a decent margin.

On top of that, there is talk in the Italian media that the relationship between Allegri and Chiesa is deteriorating, leading to major question marks about the ex-Fiorentina star’s future at the club.

Adrien Rabiot had become a symbol of the club last season but his performances have dipped again this year and so has his output in terms of goals and assists. One of his most important traits was to get in the final third and make things happen, but the direct approach this season impacted his numbers too.

It isn’t to say that Rabiot has been bad, but the fact that one of Allegri’s most trusted players has had a dip says everything about the situation. And perhaps, it points towards the fact that the experiment should end.

While Dušan Vlahović has scored 16 league goals this season, he has still come across as a frustrated figure. There are spells across the season when the Serbian hasn’t scored and the ongoing spell is a clear example of that, with the striker having failed to score in any of his last four games.

While he has adapted from playing in a very attacking system at Fiorentina to playing in a more pragmatic system under Allegri, there remains a feeling that Vlahović would be scoring more under a different manager.

There is a chance that Juve do win the Coppa Italia this evening and the aforementioned players go on to have an excellent outing against La Dea. But it is vital to remember that Allegri has always been very good at one-off knockout games. That will not change how the league has panned out and 90 minutes should never be enough to alter the whole perception of the Italian and his approach.

It is fair to say that Allegri helped Juve transition away from a difficult period and without the points deduction, they would have been in the Champions League this season. And Allegri deserves credit for how he handled a complex situation and perhaps, history will be kind to him for making the most out of limited resources. But the club needs something fresh and that can’t be denied either.

(Cover image from IMAGO)

You can follow the Coppa Italia Final on FotMob – with deep stats, xG, and players ratings. Download the free app here.


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