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Can this get any worse?

I have been somewhat bemused by the uptick in widespread unease and groaning of late, spreading slowly, grimly, steadily across the fan base. Not due to any failure to relate, but due instead to the reality that I have felt ever more despondent with the direction of the club for a fair few years now. And whilst even with Sarri there were some positives, with Pirlo some excitement; every step of the journey begun with Max’s return has been more disheartening and lifeless. It seems more of a death march than a rocky road on the path to renewal and revival. Which brings me to the loss from last night. Along with the question…Can this get any worse?

Already covered of late, my own dissection of the major causes leading to our current predicament:

And yet despite this cynical wailing of the slow spiral downwards, I must admit, I was a little taken aback by the manner of our most recent debacle; the deserved and despicable 1-0 loss away to plucky Monza.

It has become a case in my head, probably connected a little to the heart, that I keep assuming ‘That is IT! Finally we have reached rock bottom, the only way now is UP!’

With the reality dawning upon me the very next match, the very next news article, the very next time I open my eyes…that I was very much mistaken!

Possibly this is due to projection, of my own awareness of how I tend to operate, often in cycles, and when on the way down, sometimes I know I need to reach the very bottom of the bottle (both figuratively and drunkenly) before the cork is released from the weight bearing down, and zooms back up to the top with joy and reinvigorated zeal. However, this always assumes there is something left in the bottle. Maybe there isn’t with Juve. Maybe there is no spirit, hunger, determination, belief left to tap into when all seems lost? Hence we remain…lost.

Now I am becoming accustomed to finding reports of our demise common, even in places across the virtual realm with fans who have always seemed more positive than myself, not hugely different in opinion, but more upbeat. With my own steady expectations presently seeming in comparison, the wild day dreams of a teenager.

For I do not believe we are facing a relegation scrap! Though that would bemuse me even further. I still assume that although our current form in all stats I can find, very much confirms we sit where we should in the league table, for a number of reasons I will briefly delve into, I expect us still to be aiming for and achieving 4th spot, perhaps better, perhaps slightly worse. Yet thereabouts when the fat lady sings…

Before my hopes spring eternal, a quick peek at those team stats for our performances in Serie A this season:

https://www.legaseriea.it/en/serie-a/teams-statistics

The data measures which stick out to me are Posts/Crossbar and Corners. Both confirm we are not simply unlucky, moreover we are offering very little as an attacking force.

 

Rabiot

On a more positive note…

Rabiot will soon return. Never a major fan of the Frenchman and at best I find him a human rook (chess piece), huge, physically imposing, very hard to run through, who is capable of moving a little up and a little down the pitch, pushing people over, shielding/winning the ball, breaking up incoming attacks and starting counter attacks of our own. Technically limited, offering far too little in the final third, and often a menace near our own box. And yet…Rabiot is one player who somehow fits whatever ‘system’ Max has long been trying to implement. We are a harder team to beat with him in the side.

Locatelli will soon return. We have yet to see the best of the Italian consistently under Max, though I feel we are a stronger side with his presence on the field. Even as the DM, where he can be shoehorned into becoming more of a vague regista, than Paredes has proven capable so far. Also far more intelligent in a mezzala role than the huffing, puffing yet all too often hapless (at CM) McKennie.

It will surprise many, but…another reason to try be cheerful is…Sandro will soon return! Yes, unbelievably, our situation is so poor, that the return of the long retired Brazilian, I feel will strengthen our cause. He knows what Max wants, and may well offer little in the final third, but can earn a start, shore up the rearguard and allow Kostic to be deployed higher up the field with less defensive duties. I am aware the Serb is a more than capable LM and LWB, and he has far from sparkled, but…he has 3 assists to his name already, and is one of so very few, regularly putting ANY balls into the box actually aimed at Juve players.

Pogba and Chiesa would assuredly add huge value to our attacking game. Whilst Chiesa is rumoured for a possible return to the squad in November, I will hold fire on assuming we can rely on him or Pogba, until early 2023. There is no guarantee that they will both hit the ground running, nor avoid any follow-on injuries. If we can find half a season with them both more available than not, it will be a massive boost to our fortunes.

The league campaign remains larval. I believe we are actually faring a little better (albeit on points alone) than at this stage last year. Max’s coaching methods, whatever myriad of brutal assessments we can make, many of us will agree tend to lean towards physical conditioning aimed at hitting peak form in the final third of the season. It is not unusual to see the side looking weaker, slower, with less stamina, than many of our opponents at this stage. I am not suggesting this is a compliment to Max’s cunning strategy. Just an observation. Alongside the related slow gathering of points and decent form.

Serie A is not that strong. Even with our wretched form and shameful results, we remain solely 4 points off 4th spot. I do believe that the majority of sides are playing better football than ourselves, but the sides above us, Napoli and Atalanta aside, look far from consistent. And I assume Atalanta will drop off, as usual.

 

Have the players given up?

I watched a few reaction videos and read several lengthy outlines of the disgust and horror erupting after the Monza defeat. Much of which I agreed with. However, I was then, and now the dust has settled (somewhat) not so agreeable to the conclusion that the players had downed tools. No doubt that most the side looked awful. Perin seemed okay, and Miretti tried hard (to little effect). The rest appeared to be trying, over thinking, attempting to put into action moves, positioning, that has been coached, which goes against their instincts and the natural flow of the game. Something akin to table football, yet they had lost the bar and positioning it gave them.

We often find a side making many individual, even schoolboy errors, when the coaching is so disconnected to their skillsets and any basic foundation of functionality, that more than less appear confused, out of position, not knowing where to pass, to look, to run. Mckennie, for example, who I prefer as a wide forward, as his general intelligence in the middle of the park is rarely consistent; the American was trying, constantly. Paredes was all over the place, for twenty minutes, then seemed lost and was bypassed for the rest of the game.

All of our attacking players appeared to be foraging, not operating on firm (or maybe simply functional) tactics. Guided by the ball, not any well rehearsed and useful movements and passing channels. Which links in to what former Allegri player, Montolivio mentioned a few days back…

An old friend had suggested that Max is pretty good at managing a team of established stars, all accustomed to playing together, keeping them ticking over, tinkering a little, but not so great at actually building towards this.

I think he may be spot on with this analysis. Max has not become an awful coach, we are simply in a completely different situation to when he last joined the cause. For he arrived in 2014 to find a squad long imbued with a winning mentality, arguably with a midfield and defence amongst the strongest on the planet, with a sporting director well connected to smart, successful recruitment. In short, he inherited a winning machine.

Credit where it is due. Max then tinkered and not only continued the haul of silverware but took us close to the ultimate glory twice over the next few years. Must mention also, that my own conclusion was that Max was sacked through the new focus towards attacking, exciting football that Agnelli decided upon, as part of his project to rebrand the club to make us more marketable. I then have my cousin, who is far closer to the club than anyone else I know personally, having met the directors, president, players, several times over the last decade, had his team of chefs cook for them…confidently state that essentially Max was fired because he told the club that the squad needed major overhaul. The management said NO, Ciao Ciao!

Some of that story could be as true as the management deciding Max’s style was too passive, defensive, not drawing new fans. Who can say for sure…

Is the recruitment still a problem?

I may have been wrong to assume that Max has not played a (or the) key role in the mercato since he returned to the ranks. Rumours had abounded that part of his mega pricy re-appointment included his autonomy over shaping the squad.

Some of Max’s comments recently, whether intended for publication to the masses or not, suggest he is asserting he has control of recruitment. Which on one hand, a year or so back, I would have been happy to learn, and stopped arguing with comrade Senko. For I had long assumed Max had much less command of the transfers.

Even now, I struggle to find myself sure of anything Max says, as he has been increasingly unhinged since the start of the season. Yet perhaps my fine chum mr Senko (not our U23 GK) was correct. If so, this doesn’t make me more comfortable. I prefer to be wrong with my most scathing of criticisms. It felt more somehow palatable, to assume that the complete newcomers to their respective roles as the two wings of our SD team, Arrivabene and Cherubini, were muddling their way, learning on the job, than to believe all mercato work was signed off autonomously, by Max. Why?????

Well…of all the players signed since Max returned, not one has proven consistently impressive, other than Milik, in a bare handful of games. This is horrendous to seriously ponder, terrible to conclude.

Bremer has looked okay, much to learn.

Locatelli has not for more than one half of a match in his time at the club looked anywhere near as impressive as during his ultra encouraging form at Sassuolo or for La Nazionale. Admittedly, he has been shoe-horned into a makeshift regista, shown flickers of brilliance but overall, not much.

Zakaria was a complete failure. Not to assert he is a failed player, but at Juve, complete waste of time.

 

vlahovic

Vlahovic? We became LESS of an attacking unit after his arrival. Still, he fared well enough in the goals last campaign, yet seemed increasingly starved of service and support. This new season, he has been even more consistently finding himself 1 v 3/4/5 with no support. His brilliance in Florence was not playing with his back to goal, yet this seems how Max wants to use him. Other than his FKs, which have proven useful, superb, his general play has been far removed from worthy of the 13m gross wage and 75m transfer fee.

Di Maria looked pretty good in his first game, then faded, then injured. Has returned since to be found questioning Max’s decisions on camera to Milik(more dismal PR), then dismissed for violent conduct, quite rightly, after an innocuous wind-up routine. I was rather sore, emotionally and cold statistically analysing the departure of Dybala. No need to get deep into this, suffice to surmise as…This made no sense from a business or sporting perspective to me.

Related to our recruitment in recent times, yet more negative publicity for the club erupted of late…as we ranked second for the clubs in Europe who have wasted the most money in the last decade!

Manchester United’s total investment for the 33 fee paying transfers assessed in the study was €238M greater than the estimated value of players concerned: €1.59 vs €1.36 billion (+18%). Juventus (€233 M, +29%) and Paris St-Germain (€162M, +19%) complete the overspending table’s podium. Only three Premier League teams figure among the 36 clubs that invested less money than expected to conclude the fee-paying deals assessed. This confirms their key role in driving up inflation on the transfer market.

https://www.football-observatory.com/IMG/sites/b5wp/2022/wp389/en/

Which came hot on the heels of Zakaria…

“It’s difficult to say what went wrong, maybe the style of football wasn’t suited to me. The team sat very deep, so I didn’t have much space. I’m a player who needs a lot of space for my runs. It might suit me better in England. “Allegri is a good person, I can say that for sure. Maybe the team didn’t play that well, which is a shame, as with the talent in that squad, they can do much better.”

And for the hatrick, the Curva group of ultras also released a statement, which basically stated:

‘we hate Bonucci! sending the players out twice in a row this early in the season to apologise is bullshit…Agnelli is fucked…’

Add these to other damning condemnation of late…

 

Arrivabene:

“Max doesn’t just have a contract, he has a project that he has to develop over four years. I have a project that I have to develop … Then the culprit is me who is at the top of the company”

“Then you pay for who comes next?”

“Let’s make things clear. When I left the restaurant, a fan shouted that we should sack Allegri if we don’t win and I replied with the first joke that crossed my mind. It’s ridiculous to create a case for something like that,” Arrivabene told Prime Video ahead of Juventus-Benfica at the Allianz Stadium.

“That’s how football should be taken sometimes and have a laugh.”

Landucci

“Perhaps the defeat to Benfica was more of a psychological blow than we realised, but again, these are excuses and excuses are of no help. We just have to shut up and work hard.

“Obviously, nobody is happy right now, but in order to emerge from this situation, we can only work hard and do better. We seem to start well and then stop playing, so the only method is to work and everyone raises their game to work in the same direction.”

That apparent humour courtesy of Arrivabene feels instructive. He has a reputation for speaking straight. Not sure how this works out in regards to his lies about the mercato! Yet still, this quip felt true. As in…it will cost a lot of money we desperately need elsewhere to get rid of Max.

Hardly encouraging for Allegri, only likely to further alienate him, and push this bizarre siege mentality that began after barely two games of the season.

Also of Max’s recent ‘interview’, he suggested his midfield was to be Rabiot- Paredes- Pogba…Rabiot was toying with a move to United through the Summer, which failed at the last. Paredes is a weird choice as a Max regista as he is not a regista, more a combative screener of the defence. And adding Locatelli as ‘first sub’??? A player we must assume he demanded we must sign, through negotiations that took an eternity, finally came to fruition seemingly solely due to the player’s will to join and Sassuolo doing right by Locatelli…the same player who looked our only briefly flickering light in the midfield last season. Relegated to the bench!

His idea of the front three, planning a season of Chiesa??? Who we all knew was out till likely January. Di Maria?? Who refused to sign for more than one season, had zero interest in a longer term at the club…was mainly looking to play at a high level, on a high wage, keep fit, focus on the World Cup, then move home to Argentina???

The question of whether Max knew this interview was to be made public is besides the point here. His ideas sincerely expressed seem deranged, grasping at some idea of mangled fantasy with zero realism, zero responsibility taken for the horror show we have become under his guidance.

 

Must mention the Curva crowd, more specifically the ultras. As outlined by Keefo.

There is also another area of the mismanagement of the cub that I feel is also important. The downturn in performances of the team around 2018 also coincided with the club management fighting back against some of the organised fan groups.

In 2017, the club offices were ransacked by police searching for evidence of illegal activities relating to the mafia linked ultras. Agnelli was subsequently given a one-year ban and a €300k fine for his role in selling tickets to these gangs. Agnelli was prosecuted even though it was the club that was a victim of extortion, blackmail, and threats of violence from the leaders of the ‘Drughi’, ‘Tradizione’, ‘Viking’ and ‘Nucleo 1985′ gangs. The violent troublemakers of the Curva were later identified and arrested due to Juventus’ collaboration with the police.

The club implemented severe security measures at the stadium and the atmosphere in the stadium and surrounding the club has never been the same. Those ultras became hostile, and the club has been engulfed in a depressing cloud of negativity.

The ultras traditionally provided the magic atmosphere, singing, flags, banners, flares etc. That’s all gone now. The security measures brought in by the management at the stadium have left it feeling somewhat soulless. The ultras have lost out and the club/team has lost out.

There have been no winners in this ongoing conflict. Hopefully the club’s management will work with some of the decent fans to create organised support groups to fill the void. Inspiration for such measures can be found in how some of the Bundesliga clubs work with their fans. A few criminals caused the problem and the grip they held over the club needed to be eradicated but how the management has gone about doing this has been very poor in my opinion.

Others have mentioned similar. The stadium has had it’s heart ripped out. Whilst some of the Curva crowd are clearly quite serious troublemakers, their majority represent the most passionate, vocal support in the stadium. The measures taken to remedy the issues have led to visiting fans allowed to express themselves with mega vigour, with our home fanbase banned from doing likewise. This further impacts the players, who  find fervour from the rank and file roaring them on with collective voice and loud feeling, who have had their wings clipped. No longer can the players find their essence buoyed, encouraged, feed off the war cry erupting all around them. This matters and feels like further effort to convert the hybrid business/sporting Juve into a product, whilst removing the very essence that makes it so enticing for the masses.

The more I upend weeds and shine light on the roots, the more tangled this rambling becomes. It seems our woe is neverending!

I hope we have reached rock bottom now. Though will likely wake to peek at the latest news tomorrow morning, with a now steady sense of concern. For I really have no idea if it can get any worse!

Rather than just focus on the problems. I will suggest what I believe may happen…as some form of response to the ongoing ugly circus we have become, though this is not expected soon, it is projected for next Summer>>>

Agnelli is going nowhere.

Max will remain at the helm, not sure how or why, beyond this warped, by now useless idea of ‘the project‘.
Arrivabene and Cherubini are twin prongs representing the two sides of the family. The former is Elkann’s man, the latter Agnelli’s. Both will remain. And yet it seems possible that Agnelli will feel like he must do something, anything, even tokenistic, to show he understands we are engulfed by and veering towards further catastrophe. If so, I think it is viable to focus on seismic renovation of the medical sector and physical conditioning coaching. Bring in proven experts in these areas.

Aligned with that sweeping clean slate of failures replaced with as sure bets of improvement as can be found, finally a true SD. Whose CV includes clear history of careful, intelligent spending to make a squad both more valuable and successful on and off the field. Beppe had mainly his work at Sampdoria to earn his chance, yet this was hugely more than the combined CVs of Cherubini and Arrivabene. Allow this new SD to be above Max, listen to him, work with him, but not bow to him. Max was given that opportunity and it has led to our demise quickening and worsening.

My general conclusion, perhaps a struggle to find in the above muddled wavering between calm and then abruptly irritated and appalled analysis, is that I very much assume we are going to find ourselves not far off, or even within the top four by the turn of the year…

(follow me on twitter to likely more of your dismay and regret than joy HERE)

Forza Juve

 

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