Juventus came home with a point from their tough battle with Sassuolo on Wednesday night, but you can’t help but feel there is reason for major concern despite what appears to be an inevitable march to another Scudetto.
The Bianconeri looked set for a comfortable evening when Danilo and Gonzalo Higuain netted inside the opening 12 minutes. Instead, the lights went out rather quickly as Roberto De Zerbi’s side proceeded to cut through the away side with such ease that any first-time viewer must have thought the Neroverdi currently top the table.
Sassuolo finished the first half with 16 shots – the most Juventus have conceded since the 2004/05 campaign. If that statistic were the only negative to come from the match, you could maybe point to it as an anomaly rather than a point of concern. However, it’s one of several that underlies just how rocky Maurizio Sarri’s men were and have been in their past three matches.
If it weren’t for Wojciech Szczesny’s seven saves – the most by a Juve goalkeeper since Gianluigi Buffon against AC Milan in March 2014 – the scoreline would have been a Sassuolo TKO rather than going to the judges’ scorecard, which is a damning indictment of the away side.
Yet, despite the goalkeeper’s heroics, the Bianconeri still conceded on three occasions, making it nine goals against in their last three matches. When you consider that Juventus held two goal leads in two of those matches, and that they needed two penalties to claw their way back against Atalanta, and that they’ve already conceded 35 goals in 33 matches – five more than their final tally last season – it becomes apparent why the Scudetto race isn’t done and dusted just yet.
Atalanta currently sit seven points back, while an Inter win over SPAL on Thursday would bring the Biscione to within six meaning the title is still Juve’s to lose. That’s a statement that hasn’t been said in quite some time, such has been the Bianconeri’s dominance in recent seasons.
If Sarri isn’t able to get his backline in order in the near future, it won’t matter that Juve control their own destiny as opponents smell blood and aren’t intimidated. A very strange sight to see play out.
A home match with Lazio – a side with their own issues – is up next, and a win would push talk of a crisis to the back burner. However, anything but a convincing scoreline and performance will add credence to the belief that the Old Lady aren’t the dominant force they used to be.