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How Have Juventus Turned Around Their Season?
- Updated: January 22, 2016
When the defending Serie A champions were sitting in 12th place by mid-October, all was doom and gloom.
Boy, have things changed in the Italian top-flight.
Juventus now sit second in the table with 42 points, Paulo Dybala is firing on all cylinders, Paul Pogba was named to the FIFA All-Pro 2015 Starting XI, and last month they secured attacking depth with the extension of Alvaro Morata until 2020.
Before we take a look at how they did it; The Runner Sports will identify the squad’s issues in the beginning of the 15/16 campaign.
Summer Departures and Fall Struggles
The departures of Carlos Tevez to Boca Juniors, Andrea Pirlo to NYCFC and Arturo Vidal to Bayern Munich last summer ultimately had a negative impact at the start of the season.
The Old Lady only won three of their opening 10 Serie A games, resulting in a lot of pressure on Massimiliano Allegri to right the ship. Although injuries to Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio in midfield contributed to their poor form early on, it was Pogba who got the brunt of the blame.
Prior to the start of the season, the France international was chosen to be Juve’s No. 10 and he was presented with the daunting task of living up to the responsibilities that come with it. The first few weeks of the season saw him doing too much with the ball, trying to compensate for his lack of familiarity with his new midfield partners.
Allegri’s new 4-3-3 system also contributed to his No. 10’s poor start to the campaign. When a five-man midfield becomes three, it alters a midfielder’s responsibilities drastically.
The Italian manager’s frequent changing of his system aimed to regain the team’s attack flowing again, but his formation tweak backfired. Pogba now had to do double the work in the engine room in a 4-3-3, which coincided with his desire to razzle and dazzle every time he touched the ball.
In addition to Allegri’s midfield issues, he was also trying to get water from a drying well in terms of consistent strikers. Their addition of Mario Mandzukic from Atletico Madrid this past summer proved to be ineffective at the start of their title defense.
The Croatian was brought in to offer high-intensity pressing, and goal scoring ability in the box to help alleviate the losses of Vidal and Tevez, but instead was just exposed for his lack of technical ability.
Mandzukic’s struggles were also mirrored by Hernanes’s inability to make an impact in midfield. Morata also received the invite to the slump party, and happily accepted. The Spaniard was a huge reason his side went to the Champions League final last year but often flopped when given the opportunity to start over Mandzukic. In fact, Dybala was the only consistent goal scoring threat they had, but we’ll get to more on him later.
So how did the former AC Milan manager turn things around?
The Pieces Fall in Place When Healthy
With Juve beating Udinese 4-0 at the weekend, La Vecchia Signora have won 10 Serie A games in a row and have established themselves as the most in-form team in Italy. Their 1-0 Italian Cup victory over Lazio at midweek also adds to their superb play as of late.
The former AC Milan manager just needed to wait for the pieces to fall into place, all while picking the appropriate starting XI and allowing his tactics to settle into his new-look midfield, something that needed to take time.
The team also needed to wait for Khedira and Marchisio to get back into the fold from injury; two first-team players that are essential. Back in September Allegri remarked on how his team will bounce back when they’re at full-fitness per ESPN FC:
“In my mind Juve will come back to fight at the top of the table. I don’t know if we’ll manage but we have to try to see if we can do it and when everyone is back I will have the opportunity to put out players with more experience.”
Their Improved French Connection
Midfield fitness aside, Allegri has remained confident in Pogba’s abilities and has kept him in the starting XI, ensuring that he found his way back into his preferred 3-5-2 system.
The Frenchmen has now combined his YouTube compilation skills with decisiveness for goals and assists. He has four goals and six helpers across all competitions this season. Earlier this month, I wrote about what to expect from the attacking midfielder in 2016 .
From Palermo Prospect to Juventus Star
When the Italian coach got Dybala from Palermo this past summer, he didn’t think he would be jotting his name on the starting roster sheet 19 times, but with the striker showing brilliance early on, he had no choice.
In fact, he never thought the Argentine forward could well surpass the number of goals his fellow compatriot did last season. Tevez hit the back of the net 20 times last year and Dybala now has 12 goals and seven assists with half a season still left to play. The 22-year-old has certainly shined in the black and white jersey, as seen below:
Despite his great play as of late, Allegri has also made note of how fragile players can be at such a young age per Goal.com:
“Dybala has his entire career ahead of him; he is a very balanced guy and knows what he wants. Paulo has improved a lot but we must not put pressure on him.”
Squawka.com metrics also show just how impressive his season is so far, ranking him as a top three forward in the league:
La Fidanzata d’Italia is set to take on Roma this Sunday in a Serie A showdown. Look for the Turin giants to continue to climb up the Italian table. What a roller coaster of a season.
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