As Juventus announced the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, it was very clear what the club’s intentions were. Dominant in Serie A, the Bianconeri had won the past seven league titles in a row, proving that they did not need the superstar in order to pull off that particular feat.
Instead, the hierarchy at Juve were obsessed with winning the Champions League, a title that had not arrived in Turin since 1996. They had reached the final of the competition in both 2015 and 2017, and during the latter occasion – as well as during the 2018 quarter-finals – it had been Ronaldo who had almost single handedly been responsible for knocking them out.
So it stood to reason for many observers, that bringing in the player who had proven to be this side’s nemesis with such frequency would provide the missing piece of the jigsaw in order to achieve their publicly stated aims.
Yet on Tuesday evening, Juventus were outpaced and outclassed by a young and energetic Ajax side who advanced in their place, and the ability to name CR7 in the Juventus starting lineup would not even be enough for them.
It wouldn’t be the first time this had happened either.
Max Allegri’s side may be 17 points clear at the top of Serie A with just six matches remaining, but the fact that one of only two domestic defeats this term had come at the hands of Atalanta was no surprise at all. Indeed, Gian Piero Gasperini’s band of fearless attackers – who possess a very similar style to Ajax – also knocked Juve out of the Coppa Italia this term.
Atalanta, Lazio, Genoa, SPAL & now Ajax. Time after time over the last 18 months, young, energetic teams willing to run & work have bested the Old Lady. Allegri seemingly unawares each time. Unforgivable really #JuveAjax
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) April 16, 2019
After such optimism at the beginning of the season, 2018/19 will certainly go down as a failure for the Old Lady. The reasons for the change can be attributed to an overly conservative approach from the Coach and a lack of balance in the midfield.
Emre Can, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi are all talented players in their own right, however they are far too one-paced for a bright and attacking side that go all-out to win. Whilst the signing of Ronaldo gave Juve the kind of player that can truly make a difference in the biggest of matches, this expensive acquisition ultimately meant that this issue was left unaddressed, and has been exposed on a number of times this season.
In the league this has been a problem masked by the quality of individuals who have the ability to pull off a narrow victory despite a poor performance, but you simply cannot play in this manner versus the top sides in Europe without expecting to be punished. Versus Manchester United in the second of the group stage games between the pair and during the first leg against Atletico Madrid, Juventus were made to look like a side behind the times, unable to keep pace with the tempo of a more modern approach.
A midfield made up of players that are too similar is undoubtedly a factor, but the buck must stop with Allegri here. While the Coach has done some brilliant work in Turin, he continues to have a blind spot over going for the safe options in his team selection, rather than being brave enough to match the energy and dynamism of the opponent with some of his more attacking personnel.
The lightning form of 19-year-old striker Moise Kean was discussed in this previous post, but he, along with the brilliantly talented Joao Cancelo, Uruguay star Rodrigo Bentancur and Leonardo Spinazzola, were all left on the bench.
Such a grave error has been repeated over and over by Allegri, but both the club and the man himself assured supporters that he will remain in his post next season.
If this is to be the case, the team’s midfield will need a major overhaul and so will the Coach. Juventus simply cannot waste the opportunity of Cristiano Ronaldo’s last years at his peak for a man who cannot adapt to the requirements of modern European football.