The frustrating loss against Parma confirmed Juve’s absence from Europe next season. This has been another exasperating, painful and perhaps most importantly disappointing season to the Juventus contingent. That iconic Champions League anthem; a beautiful song which fills you with a sense of pride and emotion won’t be heard in Juve’s refurbished stadium at least for another season.
It’s been a roller-coaster of a season for the Bianconeri. Up until the winter break, the ‘Scudetto’ word was whispered around but surely the players had their feet on the ground instead of their head in the sky. Indeed, the players as well as the management had their priorities in place, denying the team were realistic contenders for the Scudetto and that a Champions League spot had been the main objective all along. And how right they were!
Fast forward to the 15th of May; a day of farewell as it’s known throughout Juve’s history. Roma, direct rivals to Juventus in the race for the last Europa League spot succumb to defeat at the hands of Catania in Rome. Another window of opportunity passed up the Turin based outfit as Juve suffered its 10th loss of the campaign to a Sebastian Giovinco inspired Parma side, thus bidding farewell to all the slender hopes of Europe Juventus harbored.
From potential Scudetto contenders to Champions League hopefuls to Europa League outsiders to zilch, such has been Juve’s disastrous season. So what are the reasons behind Juve’s failure to meet their well defined objectives?
Del Neri & Marotta
Of course the first person at whom all fingers will be pointed at will be the manager and rightly so. After carrying Sampdoria last term and performing the ‘Chievo miracle’, leading a club of Juve’s stature to a Champions League spot should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately for both parties it has been a rather tumultuous season. At times Del Neri has looked completely perplexed and rather clueless by what has transpired on the pitch this season.
His stubbornness to stick with his much criticized 4-4-2 formation has garnered a lot of abuse from the tifosi. His reluctance to start young Dane Frederik Sorensen – a player who has proven himself to be the best right back available to the squad and place faith in the much maligned Marco Motta has backfired time and again. His insistence on relying on the former Roma man has has infuriated fans and not once as his decision been justified. The former Italy U21 international has been possibly his side’s worst player this season.
The team have on one more than one occasion failed to showcase that hunger, desire and grit that have driven great Juventus teams of the past eras. A clear indication of the lack of motivational skills the Mister possesses. The inability to hold on to leads this season is quite frankly baffling. On no less than 11 occasions have the team thrown away points from winning positions. The draws against Cesena, Catania and more recently Chievo are examples of when the Old Lady held a two goal advantage only to clumsily allow the opposition a route back into the game. While this is an improvement from last season, when the team would go on to lose the game by heavy margins, this is not acceptable for a team like Juventus.
Del Neri’s partner Beppe Marotta, too had endured an average season. Missed opportunities is probably the story of the January window. The former Sampdoria DS was clearly out done by his rivals in the market. The most unusual purchase came in the summer in the form of Jorge Martinez. The Uruguayan, a relatively unknown entity in Serie A found himself at Juve for a sum of €12. A sum which when looked backed upon has been questionable.
The former Catania man has been a complete misfit in Del Neri’s strict formation. Loaning Sebastian Giovinco out in the summer was probably the right thing to do as he did not fit in to Del Neri’s system but replacing him with an equally incompatible Jorge Martinez a player who tactically is similar to Giovinco was the wrong move. To add insult to injury, Martinez has also suffered a terrible campaign, most of the time viewing the game from the comfort of his home with a meager 12 appearances. His injury record has left many fans upset and livid. Neither does he have a single assist nor a single goal to his name this campaign and will in all likelihood be sold this coming summer.
Having said that, Marotta cannot rectify the past various errors by Alessio Secco in one season and has done a solid if not spectacular job with his transfers.
Injuries and Loss of Form
When Milos Krasic arrived in the summer from Russia, few would have predicted the tremendous impact he would have had in Serie A. Arguably one of the best players in the peninsula for the first half of the season, Krasic was in devastating touch and brought with him comparisons to Juve legend Pavel Nedved. His blistering pace, trickery and explosiveness was a breath of fresh air to an otherwise lethargic Juve side. However, he slowly faded away after the turn of the year and we never really saw Milos reproduce that kind of form we saw in the first half of the season again.
The same can be said about Alberto Aquilani. Il Principe’s performances during the first half of the season matched his €16 price tag splashed on him by Liverpool. With the decline of Krasic, came the decline of Aquilani as well. The Italian International was always a risk when loaned in considering the less than encouraging injury record he came with. With rumors surrounding his future doing the rounds since Jan, Aquilani looked rather unsettled and his performances never really vindicated his price tag. The assists dropped and his overall influence on the field was underwhelming.
But possibly the determining factor coinciding with the loss of form these crucial elements of the Juve side was the terrible injury to striker Fabio Quagliarella. The game against Parma was one of the turning points of Juve’s season. Quagliarella suffered a horrendous knee injury and was heartbreakingly ruled out for the rest of the season. The former Sampdoria man was in the form of his life and had the tremendous ability of deciding a game with one of his renowned ‘play-station goals’. His work-rate and tactical sharpness were assets; whose loss was severely felt by the Bianconeri. He also combined very well with Krasic and Aquilani offensively to make Juve a formidable and competent attacking force. The side at one point of time in the season boasted of the best attack in the league.
They say – home is where the heart is. The temporary home occupied by Juventus has been anything but imposing this season and simply not good enough by any standard for a Champions League chasing team. The team has failed to make the Olimpico a fortress and the club’s home record is embarrassing to say the least. Juventus currently have conceded the most amount of goals on home soil with 29 and have won an ordinary 8 games drawing and losing 5 games each. Clearly home field ‘advantage’ has meant nothing to Juventus this term. Boos and whistles have echoed around the stadium every so often leaving fans disgruntled and disgusted with their side and understandably so, the home fans have had to sit through the worst moments of the season.
On their travels, the side boasts of one of the most impressive records in the league. Peculiar isn’t it? Interestingly enough, Juve have just let in 16 goals this season away, second only to Champions Milan. The team looks far more comfortable away from home with a proper game plan to abide by. At home however, Juve have struggled against teams that have the tendency to sit back against them and hit them on the break. Their vulnerability to counter-attacks has been exploited and well magnified.
Heading into the new Delle Alpi next stadium will not only help the club financially but also play a key role in attaining their objectives for next season.
The above reasons stated may act as alibis for the of failure of Juventus but they aren’t the only reasons the team has been below par. The players have to shoulder the responsibility as well. The team has often failed to take points off the bottom sides in Serie A while doing splendidly well against the powerhouses. It’s the lower unfancied teams that Juve have come up short and failed to show up. The Old Lady can easily be referred to Robin Hood; taking points of the rich while handing them over to the poor. Indeed comparatively Juve have done better than the top sides against the top sides.
As the last game of the season beckons, Juve will also look back over a plethora of missed opportunities, it almost looked as if the side is reluctant to qualify for Europe. It’s an all time low for Juventus and getting out of this rut will take some doing. But let me end with one note – sacking Del Neri is not the only answer.