It’s Derby d’Italia time, and that means we have a chance to cross the divide and check in with our sister site Black White and Read All Over. Sergio Romero (check out his Grab Bag Series, even as a rival fan they’re a great read) was kind enough to stop by and answer my questions about the state of the Bianconeri.
A big thanks to Sergio for his time!
Q: To put it bluntly, what’s gone wrong? Juve might not have been Scudetto favorites back in August, but they were definitely in the conversation, only to sit 7th and have crashed out of the UCL by November. Is this a roster problem, a coach problem, or something else entirely?
A: All of the above. This is a weirdly assembled roster, with a ridiculously long injury list that is managed by a coach who is giving every possible indication of being over the hill. The fun thing about this year’s Juve collapse is that depending on your own personal outlook you could blame it on any factor.
Sure, Max Allegri has underperformed and coached this team in a manner that only seems to accentuate its deficiencies. But it’s impossible to lay all the blame on him when their most talented players - Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa - have played less than 45 minutes combined in the season and has had to shuffle his lineup less on what he wants to do, rather than who he has available. Then again... who knows what Allegri wants to do because he seems to shift strategies in a moments notice and arguably no player has improved since he got here a season ago.
It’s the snake eating its own tail of incompetence.
Q: Juve caught a few eyeballs with the summer acquisitions of Paul Pogba, Angel Di Maria, Filip Kostic, and Bremer, while Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini moved on. How have the new arrivals fared in Turin, and what gaps have the departures left?
A: Pogba - who was the signing of the summer - has played zero minutes and is out until 2023. So, tbd?
Angel di Maria has been effective whenever he has played but - again - that has been very little time thanks to injuries and even a suspension so his overall impact hasn’t been all that felt considering his lofty expectations and wages.
Filip Kostic has been durable and more or less what was advertised as a left winger, nothing to blow you out of the water, but a perfectly decent player. Similarly to Bremer who - outside of some shaky moments in Champions League play - has been everything that was advertised as a top of the line defender.
Giorgio Chiellini’s departure can be mostly felt in the leadership role. He could still put forth good performances last year but because of injuries - sensing a theme here - he played very little in his last year as a Juve player. Still, some of the collapses Juve has suffered this season could have probably been avoided with a guy who could calm and rally the troops in the pitch and that person has been MIA.
(Disrespect very much intended towards Leo Bonucci)
Paulo Dybala’s absence is definitely felt given that there is no offensive fulcrum anymore to try and get the attack going. It’s pretty much crosses galore and little else for Juve in the offensive department and that is as much of Allegri’s fault to Dybala no longer roaming the pitch.
Q: What is Allegri’s preferred style and how has that translated into strengths and weaknesses on the pitch? Are there any specific players that Inter should keep watch on?
A: Like mentioned above, that answer can change pretty much week to week. We’ve seen 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formations and none of them have managed to stick around with the same personnel for long enough to make a judgement. This is a team that doesn’t really have a defined style of play to its detriment.
As far as players go the revelation of the season has been Fabio Miretti, a youth product that Allegri has surprisingly relied on heavily in various roles - more recently as an attacking midfielder - and who more often than not can produce an offensive flash of brilliance when nobody else seems to be able to. Adrien Rabiot has been another standout performer recently after three years of disappointments, it’s not crazy to say he’s been their most consistently good midfielder this season. If healthy for the match, Dusan Vlahovic is still a goal scoring machine, even if Juve’s style - or lack thereof - hasn’t really benefited him.
Q: What does a successful second half to the 2022/23 season look like for Juventus?
A: A strong run in the Europa League is a must. Lifting the trophy is probably too much to ask unless something drastically changes between now and 2023 but this is a team that hasn’t won a knockout round in Europe in the last three years and was now bounced in the group stage. Making it to the quarterfinals or semis feels like an achievable goal.
Domestically they should at worst make the top four again, if they managed to make it interesting for the title would be peaches, but again, there just doesn’t seem like a lot to put your hopes up other than expecting a major shake up.
Q: And lastly, what’s your prediction for Sunday?
A: I hope for a 2-1 win for Juve, but considering all the absences and what a rollercoaster season in terms of form for this team it has been I’d be happy with a draw and getting the hell out of Milan with no more injuries.