Juve Suffer Side Effects Of Dismantling Winning Team
Juventus appear to be suffering from a predictable early-season slump in the wake of a summer spent fumbling around the transfer market in a bid to rebuild a team that had grown to dominate Serie A.
Juve have captured four straight league titles, including runaway wins in the last two seasons, but have seen their strangehold loosened in just eight days with back-to-back losses at the start of the 2015-16 campaign.
Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at AS Roma was the first time that Juventus have lost two league matches in a row since March 2011, the last season before their dominance began, and the first time they have ever lost their first two fixtures.
The lacklustre start, however, can hardly be deemed as that big a surprise following the loss of three influential players, and the heart of last season’s team, during the summer.
Playmaker Andrea Pirlo, whose arrival in 2011 sparked Juve’s dominant run, decided that at 36, it was time to bid farewell to Serie A and ply his trade in North America.
Arturo Vidal, one of the most complete midfielders in the world, left for Bayern Munich, apparently believing he would have a better chance of winning the Champions League, and Carlos Tevez returned to his native Argentina.
In their place have come the temperamental Mario Mandzukic, the relatively inexperienced Paulo Dybala and injury-prone Germany midfielder Sami Khedira.
Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado seemed to be an afterthought when he was signed last week and there was a failed, drawn-out attempt to coax midfielder Julian Draxler from Schalke 04.
Dybala, 21, scorer of a late consolation on Sunday, appeared a logical choice to replace his fellow Argentine Tevez but is clearly going to need time to settle.
Mandzukic has a respectable scoring record but the Croat spent most of his first game against Udinese fighting petty battles with the opposition, an unhappy facet of his game and a striking contrast to the feisty Tevez.
Khedira, sadly, has already suffered another of the nagging injuries which plagued his last season at Real Madrid and is out for another two months.
The form and confidence of the players who have survived from last season has also been affected, particularly Simone Padoin and Paul Pogba in midfield. An injury to Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio has not helped either.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri, who surprisingly reverted to a three-man defence on Sunday, has remained as unflappable as ever heading into a two-week international break.
“When we come back, we’ll have Claudio Marchisio ready and Sami Khedira won’t be far off,” he said.
“I’m not worried, now we will start our season. These things can happen in football, they shouldn’t happen but they do. The season is long and our team still has all our cards to play.”