With the summer departures of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, and arrivals of Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro among others, it was expected that it would be more difficult for Juventus to retain their Serie A title with such a significant change in playing personnel at the club. Yet a 1-0 midweek loss at Sassuolo was a fourth league defeat of the campaign for ‘The Old Lady’ and already there is growing unease at the club as the team languish in the lower half of the Serie A table after 10 matches.
Juventus have won the Serie A title in the previous four seasons and only during the 2012-13 campaign were more than three league games lost from August until May. Roma have finished the previous two Italian top flight seasons as runners-up but with 17 point deficits to the dominant champions, but early indications suggest that Juventus may no longer be the feared team in Italy with Roma potentially set to benefit from the current adversities of Massimiliano Allegri’s team.
Roma now lead Serie A by two points with an important weekend game at Inter Milan awaiting the team, but Juventus are now 11 points adrift of the leaders with just one away victory in the league earned this season. Besides losing at Sassuolo in midweek, where experienced defender Giorgio Chiellini was dismissed during the first half for incurring two yellow cards, Juve have also lost vital games at both Roma and Napoli by 2-1 scorelines, whereas they tended to win or avoid defeat in such crucial games during previous campaigns.
Only against lowly Bologna have Juventus netted more than two goals in a league match this term but home draws against Chievo and newly promoted Frosinone suggest that the ruthless streak so evident in previous campaign may now be absent. Hosting the Turin derby at the weekend will add more pressure onto the shoulders of head coach Allegri, and it is a game which he dare not lose although Torino have been beaten in their last three league games on away soil.
Yet the domestic problems faced by Juventus are not being repeated on the European stage. The ‘Old Lady’ lead Champions League Group D and are unbeaten in three games having already won at Manchester City and beaten Sevilla in Italy. It is also strange that all three Serie A victories this season have been earned immediately after midweek action in Europe.
There is the possibility that Juventus may regain their usual momentum when the new arrivals have become properly embedded into the current team structure. However, until a more consistent level of form is produced by the reigning Serie A champions, the title race in Italy may become the most open competition in many years with Roma current favourites but with several other teams including Napoli, Fiorentina and Inter Milan competing for the honour.