Ahead of Lazio vs Juventus, The Laziali’s Jerry Mancini spoke to Alberto of All JuveCast to get his thoughts on the departures of Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo, the appointment of Massimiliano Allegri, the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and much more.
It was a modest season for Juventus under Andrea Pirlo last year. What were your thoughts on his time with the club? Were you surprised that Juventus fired him?
I was incredibly surprised to hear Pirlo was hired immediately after Sarri was sacked. I’m not even sure it was a week after he had been brought in to work with the U-23’s that he was handed the senior team with absolutely zero experience and no certification at that point.
Despite this, I actually do believe Pirlo did a good job as a first time ever manager in a hotbed like Juventus who was apparently chasing a new philosophy. I don’t consider his season a failure from his standpoint but as a club he shouldn’t have been appointed manager.
Was I surprised he was fired? Yes and no. Yes, because I can’t believe the club wouldn’t commit to a manager and make a third change in as many years. No, because Allegri was available and the club’s financial situation is currently delicate; he presents an option who could maybe get more with less in the roster.
Also, something changed with Pirlo in that season and he stopped trying to get the team to grasp his ideas and play with the tempo and style he wanted and the same thing with Sarri happened the year prior. That shows signs of potential doubt within himself or potentially the players but how the team finished down the stretch was anything but promising to be given another chance really.
Juventus announced the signing of Massimiliano Allegri this past summer. This was a signing that many had anticipated after the season they had. How did you feel at the time that Allegri was coming back to Juventus for a second stint as manager and did you like this move?
I felt if Juventus was going to make another change first and foremost, they would need to commit to it.
Max is someone they could commit to because they knew it would be a fit from a working relationship standpoint. There was no risk in that. He would also bring a hard-working mentality and potentially rediscover the identity that was fading from Juve in which a decade of dominance was built upon.
I liked the move (as long as they stick with it) but and this is a big but… there are questions Allegri will need to answer. Has he evolved his game in two years away from the game? Will he be able to groom the young guys (which was a major emphasis of the new philosophy Juve was apparently trying to implement?). So far, early into this season, we still have no answers to these and will have to wait and find out…
What would be a successful 2021/22 season for Juventus? What about the expectations for Allegri’s tenure overall?
I will admit I thought Juventus would be right in the mix for the Scudetto with Max being back at the helm. However, a poor start and mixed showings from not only the players but even Max himself, I believe a successful season for Juventus this year would be making top 4 in the league, winning an outside trophy like the Coppa Italia, and maybe make a healthy run in Champions League.
Another key to being successful this year really will be what happens when it’s over. Juventus has holes to fill and needs to be very smart and work methodically to right the wrongs of past mercatos. Last but certainly not least have the young guys finish the year strong and develop (one of those big questions following Allegri’s appointment).
In terms of Allegri’s overall tenure, I would have to say it’s taken the team back to stability in terms of its identity, the work ethic, and competing across all competitions. Trophies will be tied for most to this tenure but it’s much different scenario than when he first arrived and there is a lot of mistakes to correct. If the trophies come that’s a bonus but first and foremost we need to rediscover where our success came from because we went away from it in my opinion.
One of the biggest stories this past summer was the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. What were your thoughts of Ronaldo joining Manchester United? Have they fared better without him?
I was very vocal about certain displeasures I had with Cristiano Ronaldo and his time at Juve on the podcast and I took some heat for it but everything I stand behind. Ronaldo cares about nobody but Ronaldo. The honeymoon with Ronaldo ended really quick for me, his goals were fantastic but at the same time he was hurting us.
Throwing off the balance of the side, showing poor attitude in his last season with us. Not allowing the others to make their contributions even through kree-kicks despite for instance someone like Dybala carrying a much higher percentage on them. Everything was play to him and built for him but as a team we gradually got worse.
When the rumours about Allegri wanting to make Dybala the captain and the focal point of the project started to come to light and Ronaldo was taken off free-kicks, you could sense something was going to give and in true Ronaldo fashion, the same way he came to us (seeking adoration and appreciation) he left us. I’m fine with it.
How have they fared without him? Well, we are mid-table and still trying to find ourselves under Max. Would he have us higher in the standings if he was around? Maybe but would it be worth it long run or take your lumps now and grow with the entire group?
What are Juventus’ strengths and weaknesses so far? Which players concern you on Lazio that pose a problem for the Bianconeri?
Juventus doesn’t necessarily have a clear strength and that’s due to the fact we’ve seen some mixed lineups and their strength changes based on who is on the pitch. In some matches, if the right personnel are there, it can be their ability to quickly counter-attack you and exploit space with pace. In other matches, their strength has simply been an organized and tough at the back approach.
Their weakness would be they can be pretty stagnant in the attack in standard build-up and can be very slow and heavily reliant on players winning one on one scenarios. We also struggle with possession and can cough the ball up a bit too much at times. Make it simple, we don’t score enough. 16 goals in 12 league outings is pretty soft.
Factoring in the middle of the pitch where I truly believe games are won and lost, I would single out Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto as the guys most likely to do damage to Juventus. Both players are quite versatile with a high footballing IQ. One physical and one extremely silky in how they go about their business but both effective. Juventus will have to stop them.
Any Juventus players that Lazio fans should be concerned about?
If Dybala makes the game (doubtful right now) Lazio would have to be concerned with him. He has looked great this season with a level of determination through the charts. He breaks the lines with ease and can create and finish if given the opportunity.
Chiesa is another one. Although not as consistent as many would’ve hoped and not truly looking comfortable in Max’s setup, he still possesses the ability to flip any game on its head and sometimes out of absolutely nothing. If he is given space, he simply will punish teams so Lazio will need to be aware.
McKennie is also one to watch as he has been in great form as of late for Juve and for his country. His high pressing ability is strong and he gets very involved in the opponent’s box and he’s very strong in the air.
What is your prediction for Saturday’s game?
Lazio will be missing some players and so will Juventus. These matches are hard to predict as it is but one after an international break makes it even harder.
Based on the players Juventus will be without, I can see them playing a slow and calculated game. With no Ciro Immobile Juve could invite a bit more in order to try and hit on the counter which they would have the personnel available to do so (just barely but they would). Allegri’s setup comes into question then and what he will do there but… I usually am more concerned with Juventus against the lower sides than I am against the bigger ones. Another aspect is the fact Sarri will no doubt want to stick it to the club that fired him.
Lazio can leak goals as they have allowed 19 goals in 12 matches which is the highest out of the top 5 clubs in the table and 9th highest in the league to this point. Juventus has also only scored 16 goals in 12 matches so what’s going to give?
Prediction… Juventus to edge Lazio out 2-1 in what’s going to be a tight match by teams who will be battling injuries and trying to get to their best after the international break.