For two years, the super strong midfield and the 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 system, depending on how defensive Juventus wanted to play, worked like a charm. Not a lot of goals, but there weren’t too many problems keeping a clean sheet, and winning Serie A titles. Three years into the Antonio Conte project, maybe it’s time for a slightly refreshing change.
All summer long Juventus wanted a striker. Fernando Llorente, not playing too much so far (scoring twice), wasn’t enough, especially after hardly playing for almost an entire season at Athletic Bilbao. So in comes Carlos Tevez, which pushes Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic down the depth chart.
But finding a striker wasn’t the only problem. Gianluigi Buffon just isn’t the same goalkeeper he once was, and it seems like the defensive trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Two consecutive losses aren’t the end of the world. After all, the Fiorentina loss was more of a freak accident, as shocking as it was. Against Real Madrid, Juventus didn’t look that bad on defense. It was the midfield that let them down.
Teams have made it mission to stop Andrea Pirlo. So while there are Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba, for once playing in something a bit more similar to a 4-4-2 that doesn’t fit these players at all, the passing when Pirlo isn’t working his magic just comes out off and wrong.
There’s Pirlo himself, which keeps sending those lobs and crosses from the middle into the box. When you’re playing with an advanced playmaker like Mirko Vucinic that can control the ball and dictate the play off of those passes, it’s fine. But with the current striking duo, or with Quagliarella playing next to Tevez, it’s better to keep the ball on the ground, and search for a bit more creativity instead of going for the same old play.
This isn’t a crisis, it’s just a warning. Juventus are five points away from Roma, who will start losing points pretty soon, especially with their grand influence of Francesco Totti injured. The Champions League is a tricky one considering picking up only two points so far, but Real Madrid are far from unbeatable, especially away from home. There’s still time to fix this, but Conte, in his first big trial as Juve’s manager, needs to show he can take the next step and become a manager that evolves his team, instead of just making sure everything’s still working.