Soccer

What went wrong for Juventus in their shocking home loss to Empoli a day after Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit?

Saturday marked the start of a new chapter for Juventus. The post-Cristiano Ronaldo era began, and it is one the fans hope will bring optimism, cohesion and better results. So far, not so good. Juve lost to the newly-promoted champions of Serie B, Empoli, 1-0 in Turin. It was one of those nightmare matches where just nothing went Massimo Allegri and company’s way. Juve had more of the ball, had more shots, nearly double the expected goals, yet came up empty handed.

Here are three takeaways from the match:

Don’t blame the defense

Sure, this defense isn’t like the scary ones we’ve seen in the past. Matthijs de Ligt has struggled with consistency, the pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini feel nearly a century old combined (though they were fantastic for Italy at last summer’s Euros), but they shouldn’t be at fault for this. The defense allowed just three shots on goal the entire game, and while they could have done better on goal, they should still be OK.

First, Juan Cuadrado is not a defender, so him playing right back means you are sacrificing space with him going forward. On the goal, the Colombian midfielder/winger got caught a bit too high up the field which meant a one-touch ball sent his man through in behind him. Take a look:

Had he been in better position, or had there actually been a real right back there, then chances are Juve would not have been bothered by the pressure being applied. And even when Cuadrado caught out, when the ball is played in, five Juve players are marking three Empoli players. Danilo, a natural fullback who was playing defensive midfield, closes down well, and the ball takes a deflection before it is put away. That’s just a fortunate bounce that happens occasionally, and little blame should go on these Juve players. 

Chiesa and just Chiesa shine in attack

There was very little to get excited about in attack for Juve, but just like with Italy, Federico Chiesa is a major key to their success. He played 66 minutes and did a whole lot more than anybody else who played the full 90. While him being taken off was baffling, Allegri got what he deserved for making such an odd change. 

Just look at Chiesa’s numbers combined to that of Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata combined:

Chiesa:

  • 66 minutes
  • Three shots on goal
  • xG of 0.64
  • xA of 0.13

Dybala and Alvaro Morata combined:

  • 135 minutes
  • Zero shots on goal
  • xG of 0.15
  • xA of 0.15

It’s so glaringly obvious how key Chiesa is to this team’s creativity and just ability to score in attack. He was easily the team’s biggest threat going forward, so taking him off down a goal made absolutely no sense. Instead, Allegri opted with a duo in Morata and Dybala that need Chiesa’s creativity to fully function. More on that below.

Pressure to buy a striker?

Changes are needed, and there is no doubt about it. What exactly happens remains to be seen. But this has to fuel Juve’s urgency in the transfer window, especially after selling Ronaldo. Chiesa can be that creator from the wing, and Dybala could be it from the other wing. But Dybala is not a true No. 9 and Morata will make you think he’s on the verge of stardom before playing like he should be sent to Extremadura UD on a free transfer. 

Personally, I wouldn’t have minded trying to get Edinson Cavani as part of the deal for Ronaldo, but boy do they need something. 

Andrea Belotti? Dusan Vlahovic? Is Moise Kean really enough?

The transfer window is closing and if Juve don’t do something, their window of winning may just be as well.



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