Even though Juventus have won a ninth straight Serie A title, there are questions whether their longer-term aim of Sarriball can flourish with one dominant figure in their team…
Juventus are champions again, Cristiano Ronaldo scored another two goals on Monday night against Lazio and despite some game challenges from a clutch of teams, they once again sit astride of Serie A.
All of which should mean that everything is hunky dory, but as James Horncastle has said throughout the season on the Totally Football Show, that’s not quite the case.
“Juventus have somehow managed to extend their lead from a single point before lockdown, all while not being entirely convincing. They’ve done it with moments of individual brilliance rather than collective endeavour from Maurizio Sarri.
“Ultimately the Lazio game was the Dybala show, which again raises another question here, because Dybala wasn’t supposed to be in the starting XI: Gonzalo Higuain was supposed to be starting but got hurt in the warm-up. Dybala comes in by accident rather than design and is man of the match.”
The story of their season, you could argue. But individualism wasn’t the point of bringing Sarri in: the idea was to create a more beautiful collective, a team rather than a set of players, and to that end they haven’t succeeded.
And James wondered whether that will ever succeed with such a dominant figure in the team.
“You have to doff your cap to Ronaldo because he’s the fastest player to reach 50 goals in Serie A – he’s got there six games quicker than Andriy Shevchenko did, and while Sheva would say “hang on, look at the defenders I was playing against”, it’s a remarkable achievement. I think he’s only one goal away from matching the record for the most prolific season ever by a Juventus player, which is held by Felice Borel – ‘Il Farfallino’, ‘The Little Butterfly’ – in the 1930s.
“So credit where it’s due, even though you could make the debate whether Juventus are ever going to play the kind of football that Sarri wants, with a player like him in the team. Will they ever be able to play the kind of high-pressing style that Sarri wants?”
Nevertheless, Juve seem wedded to the Sarri project, with no real prospect of them making any changes, despite rumours that Mauricio Pochettino could replace him this summer.
“I don’t think there’s anything to the Poch rumours: Juventus were unequivocal in saying that Sarri will definitely be there next season. Their recruitment has very much been done with him in mind – we’ve talked about the Arthur deal and the other layers to it, but he’s a player that very much fits the sort of profile that Sarri wants. As does Dejan Kulusevski, who they’ve signed to come in next season, he can play as a No.10 or out wide.
“I think it’s unlikely – even if they were to stink it up against Lyon in the Champions League – that they would make a change at this stage. They’ve been fairly consistent throughout: they have said the reason they gave Sarri a three-year deal is that they understand it takes time to see this style of football.”
Will next season be more competitive, though?
“I think yes. Juventus haven’t been convincing. Inter have been very ambitious in the transfer market: Achraf Hakimi is coming, I think they want to bring Sandro Tonali in as well. Whether Lazio can replicate what they did in the first seven months of the season, will be a challenge.
“The challenge will probably come from Atalanta as well: they will stick together, and if they do great things in the Champions League – which they’ll win – then the only world left to conquer is Serie A.
“I think it will be open, as this season has been open.”
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