The deeper we go into the Serie A season, it’s quite clear that Juventus aren’t going to relatively comfortably win a third consecutive title. Teams are taking out Andrea Pirlo, the midfield isn’t finding the answers, and it seems that the team only starts playing with conviction after a substitution by Antonio Conte (this time Sebastian Giovinco) or conceding a goal that forces them to raise their game.
AC Milan have now won only twice in the first seven matches, but it shouldn’t be a big surprise. A team with a weak and disoriented defense, a mediocre midfield and an attack that doesn’t exist without Mario Balotelli. Their name might be big and they still make the Champions League, but the form and quality on the team isn’t anywhere near the expectations the reputation of the club creates.
And even with Milan’s problems, Juventus looked bad for so many minutes, having to skip the midfield, and rely on Carlos Tevez being a one man wrecking crew, constantly disturbing the Milan defense, which was reduced to 10 men by the end of the match after Philippe Mexes was sent off with two quick yellow cards.
The striker situation at Juventus is simple: There’s Carlos Tevez, and there are the rest of them. For now, Fabio Quagliarella is getting more credit than Fernando Llorente or Sebastian Giovinco, who has almost been forgotten on the bench. That’s what makes his introduction late in the match as Conte was trying to breath life into his team’s scoring efforts so surprising. The Milan defense is usually very weak when contending with crosses, which made it clear that Fernando Llorente should see the pitch.
However, Conte wanted another player who can create instead of receive and be another target for a midfield that seemed almost disinterested in confirming its superiority. Giovinco needed only one minute and 48 seconds to dribble past two Milan defenders and score his first goal of the season. Maybe, just maybe, it means that he’s getting a positive bump at the expense of Llorente and Mirko Vucinic.
But Juventus, despite the 3-2 win, are drowning in problems. It’s only cost them two points so far this season, but their Champions League campaign has started off on the wrong foot, and things will only get more difficult later on with matches against Real Madrid, Napoli and Roma, who both present the current opposition to Juve’s rule.
Andrea Pirlo scored a beautiful free kick, but teams are taking him out of matches, with Juventus being unable to respond. Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal make a difference with their vitality and mobility, but they’re not players who drop back to build up attacks. Paul Pogba, the most versatile of the Juventus midfielders, is someone who could have solved Juve’s problems, and the team looked much better after his introduction in the 55th minute.
Juventus still have the best team in Italy in terms of the individual quality of their squad, but for some reason, it’s not showing so far. Maybe only when they lose for the first time this season some sort of urgency will hit the players and their manager, who seem to be slightly over confident in their ability to turn any deficit into a win, without playing too well.