It’s crunch time for Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus career as he attempts to move forward following a disappointing defeat to Lazio in the Serie A.
For an ex-banker, Maurizio Sarri’s rise in the football world has been a surprising one. He’s gone from coaching low-league sides to some of the biggest clubs across Europe in Chelsea and reigning Serie A champions Juventus.
It sure is a rare thing to see coaches go from rock bottom right up to the very top of the ladder these days.
Joining the big guns, however, comes with a hefty price and lofty expectations. It’s something Sarri is still relatively new to having only landed his first big job four years ago at Napoli.
But coaching the most successful team in Italian football history means Sarri cannot afford any such excuses. And with millions of fans watching from across the world, strong results and performances are a must.
Sadly, the chain-smoking coach has experienced a mixed start, so far. While the Bianconeri have grinded out results, they’ve not exactly blown their opponents away this season.
Trouble might be brewing for Sarri
After 19 matches in all competitions, Sarri finally tasted defeat as Juventus coach during Saturday’s 3-1 loss away to Lazio.
Truthfully, though, he had it coming for quite a while.
The Juventus squad has struggled all season in adapting to his way of thinking during games. Overall, it’s led to a drop in performance levels compared to last term under Massimiliano Allegri.
The Bianconeri got off to a bright start in Serie A games during Allegri’s reign, and normally cruised to victories in the second half.
With Sarri, however, it’s been a different story altogether. Suddenly, Juventus have to fight hard for points against opponents they would have dominated in the past.
Not helping Sarri’s cause is the debate surrounding his use of Cristiano Ronaldo this season. It’s no secret the club’s star player hasn’t been his usual extraordinary self recently.
Juan Cuadrado, on the other hand, has taken up a right-back role for much of this term. While Miralem Pjanic’s superb start has somewhat diminished, with summer recruits Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey failing to make their mark.
This is only the beginning of Sarri’s midfield problem as Sami Khedira looks outdated nowadays, and Emre Can rarely makes an appearance.
Things on goal-front aren’t looking good either, with Juventus only scoring 26 goals in their 16 games. Therefore, they only boast the Serie A’s fifth-best goal record behind Atalanta, Lazio, Inter Milan and Cagliari.
And if Saturday’s defeat wasn’t bad enough, a fuming Sarri revealed that some of the players didn’t respect his tactics.
The real problem for Juventus
Captain Giorgio Chiellini, on the other hand, has missed pretty much the entire campaign due to an ACL injury. Therefore, Matthijs de Ligt’s integration into the team was brought forward at a much faster rate.
Despite his lack of defensive cover, though, Sarri has no plans to make any new signings in the January transfer window. Given his lack of quality options in other areas as well, this could be a big mistake.
Especially for Juventus’ Champions League ambitions.
Still, Sarri remains unnerved by the club’s struggles to maintain their domestic dominance. He instead argued on Saturday that the increased level of competition in the Serie A is the real problem.
“I was in the Premier League and the level was high,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“If I think about when I left Italy two years ago, there is now a better level. The smaller teams have a good technical level and are always fighting.
“Fortunately, our championship is improving.
“The thing that interests me now is to suffer less and to ensure that, come the final whistle, we have won our games.”
Whether Sarri can make Juventus suffer less is indeed the big question.
It’s likely the next six months will be crucial for the Italian to prove himself in Turin, and convince the club board to stick with him.