Juventus’ defeat against Cagliari on Wednesday evening may be chalked off as just another post-title hangover but the warning signs are there as they stumble to the end of an epic season.
Goals from Luca Gagliano and Giovanni Simeone put Maurizio Sarri’s side to the sword – for the sixth time in Serie A this season – which is more than in any of the previous eight campaign winning seasons.
In fact, it was the Bianconeri’s first such loss over their last nine success-laden seasons as they had never lost the game after being crowned champions during this period.
They have also leaked 40 goals this season which is already ten more than their worst goals-against record during the aforementioned period with a game still to play and these facts will only give further hope to the hunting pack who’ll have one eye on the limping Old Lady for next season.
Take into consideration that the title race was wide open pre-COVID lockdown, some may now be looking at Sarri’s side and thinking that they are there for the taking next term because they’ve certainly not shone this time, despite picking up yet another Scudetto.
The game itself was a strange one as the visitors did manage to break another somewhat negative record of their own, having had 34 shots without scoring for the first time since OPTA started recording such stats in 2004/05.
It was also the first time in three years that the side from Turin conceded two first-half Serie A goals as the negative statistics kept on piling up.
As for the game itself, Cristiano Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure on a sweaty night in the middle of the Mediterranean as he looked to chase down Ciro Immobile, who heads the Capocannoniere standings, but was unable to get any change out of the highly impressive Alessio Cragno in the Cagliari goal.
Many of the Biaonconeri players looked short on ideas and the majority of their 34 shots were either wayward or no real test for Cragno who continues to make a real name for himself.
Federico Bernadeschi’s decision making was poor on his 150th Serie A appearance and his teammates weren’t much better on the night they began to bid farewell to Miralem Pjanic who was making his last league appearance before his transfer to Barcelona.
As for Cagliari, they can be more than proud of themselves after seeing off Juventus for the first time since November 2009 and for only the 12th time in 78 games between the two.
Twenty-year-old Gagliano had no doubt dreamt of this night for the entirety of his childhood, netting a goal against Serie A’s most successful side within ten minutes of his full debut and deservedly so.
Coach Walter Zenga had promised aggression and intent from his side in the build-up to the game and that’s exactly what they gave as they doubled their lead through Simeone on the stroke of half time.
The Casteddu were most notably without captain Radja Nainggolan and the tenacious Nahitan Nandez for the game, perhaps their best two players according to most on the island, but were at it from the off, snapping into tackles with intent.
Nandez is linked with a summer move due to his eye-catching performances and if his €36million release clause is met then he could well end up at the likes of Arsenal or Chelsea in the Premier League while Nianggolan’s future is also uncertain.
Zenga’s name was also being called out in the local press before the game with Eusebio Di Francesco being touted as his possible replacement for the following season, but amidst all the uncertainty the side from Sardinia managed to do themselves proud by gunning down Serie A’s most wanted.