As the dust settled on Juventus’ most recent result, the problems faced in a 2-1 defeat to Fiorentina at the weekend were understandably widely discussed. While the Stadio Artemio Franchi was vibrant, loud and passionate, the performance from the Bianconeri was anything but as coach Massimiliano Allegri’s side fell flat once again.
Just as they were against AC Milan (twice), Genoa and Inter Milan, the Turin giants were lifeless, devoid of attacking ideas and defensively weak, completely overrun by an opponent who should not be able to match them in terms of overall quality.
Yet in all four defeats, Juventus have looked the weaker team, leading to much criticism both from outsiders and from the players themselves, with perhaps a social media post from Leonardo Bonucci best summing up the display.
FAME, PALLE, INTENSITÀ. Loro si e Noi no.
Zero Alibi. Poche chiacchiere.
Solo così possi… https://t.co/htbSCW7k68 pic.twitter.com/kfyS1bLwzz
— Leonardo Bonucci (@bonucci_leo19) January 15, 2017
“Hunger, balls and intensity. Them, not us,” the defender wrote (in Italian) in the tweet above. “We have zero excuses.” Bonucci should be applauded for such an approach, but the final sentence there is not exactly accurate, and it is Allegri and his bosses who must shoulder that burden.
He sent the team out in Juve’s tried and trusted 3-5-2 formation, but opponents appear to have solved that framework comprehensively this term. In all four Serie A matches that Juve have lost, the team has lined up that way only to find themselves outplayed across the pitch and looking completely ill at ease.
Of course there have been games where it has worked, with many Italian teams simply unable to tactically negate Juve’s strengths whether through a lack of quality or poor coaching. Yet the results do not and should not be allowed to mask the fact that the Bianconeri look so toothless when playing with a three-man defence.
5 – Juventus have conceded goals in 5 away league games in a row for the first time since March 2013. Inattentive.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 16, 2017
The reasons often stem from midfield. Miralem Pjanic has thrived in a role behind the strikers in recent weeks, Allegri’s switch to 4-3-1-2 and a more advanced position bringing the best from the former AS Roma man.
As the tweet above from Opta noted, the 3-5-2 is hardly offering defensive stability either but on Sunday it was more out of necessity than choice. The coach was hamstrung by absentees, the injured Dani Alves joined on the sidelines by the suspended Stephan Lichtsteiner.
That meant there was no orthodox right-back available, with Andrea Barzagli’s lack of fitness prompting the change back to a formation that looks increasingly ill-suited to his current squad.
It is here that the club’s management team must look to improve Allegri’s options, with one touted transfer in particular looking perfect for all concerned. Numerous outlets on the peninsula have linked Juventus with a move for Milan’s Mattia De Sciglio, with talks developing earlier this month.
According to Sky Italia (h/t Football Italia) and others, Bianconeri director general Beppe Marotta was spotted talking to De Sciglio’s representatives in Milan as the player’s contract has just 18 months left to run.
It is widely believed that neither he nor the San Siro giants are interested in a new deal, so they could look to sell him soon rather than lose him for nothing. Their position is further boosted by the emergence of Davide Calabria, with the youngster providing solid cover for veteran full-backs Luca Antonelli and Ignazio Abate.
Marotta has met with Giovanni Branchini (De Sciglio’s agent) today at the Hotel Palazzo Parigi in Milano. [Sportitalia] pic.twitter.com/Pfyl5h3YoF
— JKhaledalnouss (@khaledalnouss1) January 12, 2017
The rumours stem from Allegri’s known admiration of De Sciglio, with the Milan man’s agent Giovanni Branchini revealing in an interview with Tuttosport (h/t Football Italia) that “Mattia was very close to Juventus in January” last year.
Juve’s problems at full-back have led to that interest being rekindled in a player who can play on both flanks. With Allegri telling a press conference that Patrice Evra is “considering what to do” about his future, the Bianconeri are looking increasingly thin in both roles, and De Sciglio would be an ideal solution.
Now 24 years old, he has been part of the Milan first team since 2011 when then-coach Allegri handed him his debut in a Champions League group-stage home game against Viktoria Plzen.
#Allegri le habría dicho a De Sciglio al final del partido que se lo llevaría a Turín pronto. pic.twitter.com/pquqXEXqze
— Gazzetta del Milan (@gazzetadelmilan) May 22, 2016
Since then he has made a total of 124 appearances for the Rossoneri, during which he has shown an ability to contribute to the attack when necessary, although he struggles to cross the ball well if deployed on the left.
According to WhoScored.com, De Sciglio has connected with an average of 39.6 passes per game over his career, completing 81.2 percent of those attempts. Furthermore, the same source shows he has created an average of 0.9 scoring chances for his team-mates over that same period.
Comfortable on the ball, figures courtesy of Squawka show a 56 percent success rate in taking on opponents, highlighting an ability to both recognise when he can beat his marker and when he should pass to someone else instead.
Adam Digby (via Squawka.com)
Mattia De Sciglio 2015/16.
However, it is as a defender where De Sciglio truly excels. Figures from WhoScored show he has averaged an impressive 1.8 tackles, 2.2 interceptions and 2.6 clearances per game in 2015/16, while winning 1.4 aerial duels per game.
Signing him now would help Juve retain the four-man defence that has looked so much more solid in defence and dangerous in attack. De Sciglio is more than capable of making a telling contribution in both departments.
A quick sale would also give the Rossoneri a much-needed boost in funds to pursue other targets, with coach Vincenzo Montella’s squad needing reinforcements in other areas if they are to continue their fight for a European place.
Thought Italy’s wing-backs were excellent today, de Sciglio in particular. Positioning brilliant at every switch to far post
— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) June 27, 2016
Developing through the Milan youth sector and impressing observers with his unflappable calm, he drew praise from some important figures and was compared to some truly great players.
“He possesses great quality,” Franco Baresi stated back in 2014 per ESPN FC. “He’s shown it ever since he was very young. I remember Paolo when he started out, he played with a boldness and confidence, but also provided security. De Sciglio has those qualities too.”
Obviously he has struggled under the weight of such expectation but remains a reliable and effective player who can fill a vital role at Juventus. He is also under no illusion as to who he owes for his emergence at Milan, as he explained in an interview with the Corriere della Sera that same year.
“Compared to the other players I played with in the youth system, I was able to make the leap straight from the youth team to the first team without going out on loan,” De Sciglio said (h/t Football Italia). “I have to thank Allegri, who helped me to grow and gave me an opportunity to show what I can do.”
They now have a chance to continue their partnership in Turin, and it is an opportunity both men need to take if they are to enjoy the kind of success they both crave. The Old Lady is waiting.