Right now spirits are high in the Juventus camp. On Sunday night they thumped Cagliari 4-2 with a hat-trick from a genuine star in the making, Milos Krasic, but that’s just half the story. Lurking beneath the smiles and plaudits a disturbing trend is emerging – one that could scupper any chance of the bianconeri challenging for silverware this season.
So far this campaign Juventus have conceded an average of 2.5 goals a game. That is a startling figure for a team who invested so heavily in fortifying its back line. Sure there have been some extraordinary games this season and this figure stems from that small outlandish sample, but, if this trend is set to continue they’d be looking at shipping almost a century of goals before the end of the season.
As things stand, the damage to their league position has been limited somewhat as – just as improbably – the attackers have managed to net on average 2.8 goals per game. That is also a phenomenal figure and one that will be near-impossible to maintain. Continuing at that pace would make them the highest scoring team Europe has ever seen.
So what’s the problem? Why are Juventus leaking so many goals?
Well, one unmissible weak point is the malfunctioning partnership between Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – who are either going for the same balls or worse still, abandoning the centre in tandem. There is certainly a visible disconnect between the two.
What appears to be lacking, fundamentally, is positional know-how. Technically and physically gifted neither has the inbuilt GPS that we have taken for granted in great Italian defenders like Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta.
A further problem for La Vecchia Signora is the dismal form of the fullbacks. Zdenek Grygera is a no-frills back against the wall defender who shows little ability or interest in attack. Almost the polar opposite Marco Motta leaves Bonucci and Chiellini constantly exposed, far more capable and comfortable marauding up the field. Fabio Grosso’s decline is well documented and needs little expansion here whilst Leandro Rinaudo looks some way off being a valuable asset for a competitive team.
What does all this add up to? On the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, instability and unpredictability – which is a nightmare combination for any defensive unit.
Add to the mix Gianluigi Buffon’s absence and it’s easy to see why the goals-against tally is mounting. Sir Alex Ferguson once said that every season Peter Schmeichel would earn Manchester United around 12 points. Buffon at least matches that estimation year in, year out. As much as a tidy a shot-stopper understudy Marco Storari is, he offers nothing like the security and experience of Italy’s number one.
The only answer Juventus have found thus far has been a simple one: to score more goals than they concede. Surely though that’s just a short-term solution to what could be a season-long problem – especially when their attacking personnel are properly scrutinized.
Legend that he is, 35 year-old Alessandro Del Piero cannot be relied upon as the main source for goals anymore. Problem is Fabio Quagliarella, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Amauri are the definition of patchy strikers who, in rotation, may struggle to get into double figures this season.
Only time will tell how this will play out. In the immediate future more effective (and combative) protection from Felipe Melo and Claudio Marchisio is certainly needed to help sure things up. Because the moment the balance tips and the strikers run dry, without a significant change in focus, Le Zebre could very well find themselves locked-out of the title race entirely.
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