'Sometimes in football you have to score goals'. Those are indeed the wise (comedic) words once uttered by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, almost as obvious a statement as that which describes the current situation at Juventus. Four consecutive league draws, six in their last seven games, and just six goals scored since the start of February, all of which has seen the Bianconeri surrender their lead and allow Milan to open up a four point gap at the top of Serie A. Surrounded by cries of injustice and media blackouts, bad luck is one thing, having an impotent strike-force is another.
Pirlo and Juve struggle to break deadlock at Genoa
Watching both Genoa-Juventus and Milan-Lecce simultaneously on Sunday afternoon, it became apparent the clear difference between the two sides. While both dominated their respective matches for large periods, it was clinical finishing in the final third of the pitch that separates them. Midfielder Antonio Nocerino registered his 9th goal of the season, albeit via a favourable deflection, while ‘Zlatan’ ruthlessly smashed home his 19th, more than Matri, Borriello, Quagliarella, Vucinic and Del Piero combined (16). Simone Pepe will have fair reason to feel aggrieved his goal was ruled out for offside, thus sparking the ban on speaking to the media, with a simple ‘Footage speaks for itself’ comment from the club on Twitter. The Bianconeri had 64 per cent possession, seventeen corners, roughly around 98 shots at goal and conspired to hit the woodwork three times. It just doesn’t seem to be happening for them at the moment.
Gone are the goals from midfield of Claudio Marchisio and Simone Pepe, their last efforts coming on December 4 and December 18 respectively. Alessandro Matri continues to be the most consistent goalscorer, with his fellow strike partners lacking any sort of clinical edge to aid him. Fortunately, Lazio’s loss at home to Bologna curtailed any talk of second-place being in danger for now, but with games against Fiorentina (A), Inter (H), Napoli (H), Palermo (A) and Lazio (H) to come, it would be preferable to see shots turned into goals sooner rather than later.
Despite the criticism levelled at those at one end of the pitch, there was reason to be positive at the other. With Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli both injured, and Leonardo Bonucci suspended, in stepped Martin Caceres and Arturo Vidal to steady the ship. Along with several fine saves from Gigi Buffon, the makeshift defensive duo did well in shutting out a usually potent Genoa attack, with the clean sheet a respectable achievement in itself. It was also refreshing to see ADP and especially Eljero Elia to be given a reminder of how it feels to step onto a football pitch, albeit just for the final quarter of the game.
As is expected, expectations are being lowered as the Scudetto begins to slip away. Yet in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge, 2nd place in Serie A with eleven games remaining and a semi-final Coppa Italia 2nd leg clash with Milan holding a 2-1 advantage isn’t such a bad return, is it? Looking ahead to the summer, a prolific striker might top the shopping list. Rather than a Marco Borriello 2.0, perhaps a proven goalscorer in the same mould of Gonzalo Higuain would help Juve make that step-up in quality?
What do you make of the reaction by the club to implement a media blackout? Is there an answer to the current woes in front of goal, something to be addressed in the summer? With a make-or-break fixture list approaching, can Juve still challenge for the Scudetto?
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