Juventus take on Napoli tomorrow in Serie A tomorrow in what is expected to be enticing battle involving the two of the division. The Bianconeri will come into the game at the back of an impressive run (on paper) that has seen them win eight games in a row and keep eight cleansheets in a row as well. They have racked up a host of impressive records on the way and Max Allegri’s ability to have changed course of the season deserves huge credit.
The Bianconeri were on the verge of collapse not too long ago. They had been knocked out of the Champions League, there was clear disturbances amongst the club’s board and Allegri was being publicly abused by fans to a point where he once needed to be escorted by the police to leave the stadium, following the defeat to Monza. Things seem much more settled now and Allegri definitely has earned a fair share of credit.
But while results and the league position is quite impressive, underlying numbers suggest that the Bianconeri have largely been lucky.
Expected Goals wise, the Old Lady are seventh in the league (24.3) and they are behind both Atalanta and Fiorentina in that regard. When it comes to Expected Goals conceded, Juve are sixth (17.9) and it is a number which has been boosted by the manner in which they have ousted the likes of Lecce, Empoli and Udinese when it comes to Expected Goals created (via FBRef)
It is vital to note that the Bianconeri’s impressive spell has come in a period of inconsistency for others – reminscent of the Serie A in the 2010s. Milan failed to beat Roma despite being 2-0 in the 80th minute recently and Inter conceded a late equaliser to Monza. Lazio too conceded late against Paolo Zanetti’s Empoli despite being a goal up and playing well.
The Rossoneri had lost to Torino before the World Cup break and were held by Cremonese and Inter were, in general, struggling to even be in a top six race at one point in the campaign. Lazio had displayed rather familiar signs of inconsistency that has been associated with them since the Maurizio Sarri era began. Udinese, who began the season in fantastic fashion, have faded away. While Roma have impressed when it comes to xG and xG conceded, they have underperformed in both departments.
While Juve have taken advantage of others’ inconsistencies during this spell, it has coincided with them overperforming at a time when Allegri has had a fair share of injury issues in the side. Dusan Vlahovic has not featured for some games and Federico Chiesa returned only recently, with Paul Pogba yet to feature for the club. There was a brief period when Manuel Locatelli was injured and Angel di Maria has had constant issues. Allegri has shown the sort of adaptability that he is known for, as he has been forced to innovate with his shapes.
And even though Allegri has proved that he is someone who can adapt, change and be flexible with his approach, the Old Lady remain a dour side to watch. The goals against Cremonese and Udinese came late through unlikely ways – as Danilo tapped home and Arek Milik rifled a free-kick in. Nicolo Fagioli’s goal did epitomise Allegri’s increasing usage of younger players, but it was a rather unlikely occurence, especially considering how late it came in the game. They were built, if anything, on solid defensive structures and that is something Allegri deserves credit for.
Being lucky, on top of that, isn’t the worst thing in football. The game is decided by the slice of fortune a majority of times but the numbers show that there is a long way to go for the Old Lady.
Kaustubh Pandey | GIFN