Six wins, one draw, and one loss in the opening eight league matches, averaging two goals per.
For most clubs, this would not be a bad way to start the season, but Juventus aren’t like most clubs. After winning two straight league titles, including an undefeated campaign the first go round, the Bianconeri were favourites to win a historic third consecutive Scudetto, a feat they haven’t accomplished since the 1930s when they won five titles on the trot.
Despite dropping points only twice in Serie A, a 1-1 draw with Inter and last Sunday’s 4-2 collapse at Fiorentina, there is an element of unease spreading around the fanbase. Especially, since Roma are now five points clear at the top.
The defence is leaking goals, the tried-and-true 3-5-2 doesn’t look as dynamic, and even Superman himself has looked a bit shaky. Mistakes and lapses in concentration that weren’t made last year or the year before are showing.
The squad is still capable of destroying opponents at will, particularly their early season double over Lazio in the Supercoppa and the league, outscoring the capital club 8-2. However, their other wins were all by narrow margins, failing to defeat their opponents by more than one goal.
It hasn’t been much better in Europe either. The signing of Carlos Tevez over the summer was a signal that Juventus got the ‘top player’ they had been searching for. And with the explosion of Paul Pogba, Juventus were keen on improving their quarterfinal place in the Champions league last season.
If they intend to do so, then they best get into gear as the side have only taken two points from their opening three Champions League matches. A 1-1 draw away to Copenhagen was followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Galatasaray; and in both matches the Bianconeri conceded the first goal and in the latter giving up a late equaliser soon after taking the lead.
A hard-fought and controversial 2-1 defeat away to Real Madrid has put the Old Lady under the kosh, as they must get a result against the Spanish giants in two weeks’ time if they want any chance of exiting the group stage. Tuesday’s performance was an encouraging result in light of playing a man down in the second half, but points are a must from here on out in the Champions League.
There are, however, mitigating factors to Juventus’ hazy form to start the season. One, a good chunk of the starting XI are starters for their national teams, particularly for Italy (Gianluigi Buffon, the entire back line, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio), Chile, Ghana, and Switzerland. Italy did play in the Confederations Cup this past summer when almost half of the Azzurri’s starting lineup consisted of Juventus players.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Juventus’s opening eight league matches were as tough as any in Serie A.
The Bianconeri played four derbies—Inter, Torino, AC Milan, and Fiorentina—with three of those being played away, taking seven points from a possible 12.
Chievo and Hellas proved to be tough nuts to crack and the opening match against Sampdoria was played in a downpour. Only the match against Lazio was a cakewalk, and even the 3-2 scoreline against Milan flattered Juve’s opponents more than anything.
The league is a lot more competitive than the past couple of seasons and it shows in how hard Juventus need to fight every match. Perhaps it’s something the players aren’t quite used to after dominating the peninsula over the past two years.
Is this the end of a cycle at Juventus? Are we seeing the ‘three-year rule’ come into effect for coach Antonio Conte?
We’re barely a third of the way into the new season, so any talk of a collapse is probably premature. Additionally, Juve’s next three league fixtures (Genoa and Catania at home, Parma away) are relatively easy before facing Madrid on November 5 and Napoli five days later. Juventus get the added bonus of playing both matches in Turin.
Unless the club is still playing catch-up with Roma and crashing out of the Europa League late in the season, then declaring the Old Lady moribund should be done at one’s own peril.
Follow Frank Lopapa on Twitter: @fnlopapa