Juventus suffered through a Champions League campaign to forget and their early elimination further illustrates the need for the Italian giants to rebuild their squad. The Bianconeri were eliminated from the group stage for the first time since the 2013/14 campaign, but this season’s results proved to be more atrocious as they only collected three points in Group H, which came in a 3-1 victory at home to Israeli side Maccabi Haifa on Matchday 3.
Like in 2013/14, Juventus finished third in their group, and La Vecchia Signora will play in the Europa League in the second half of this season despite losing 2-1 to Paris Saint-Germain on Matchday 6 due to the Israelis suffering a humiliating defeat to Benfica on the same night.
Allegri has been left behind
When Juventus were eliminated from the 2013/14 Champions League, they finished just one point behind Galatasaray and it was a scoreless draw against the Turkish giants on the final day that proved to be decisive. However, this campaign was different as La Vecchia Signora were far behind Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica.
The Bianconeri suffered 2-1 defeats to both sides in the opening two rounds before securing that victory against Maccabi Haifa. It was a different story when Juve travelled to Israel, losing 2-0 in Haifa, and then their dreaded run was completed after a 4-3 defeat to the Aguias in Lisbon and another 2-1 loss to the Parisians.
Not only was the early elimination from the Champions League a sign that the conservative tactics of Massimiliano Allegri are outdated, it also illustrated that the old stalwarts that remain from his first coaching spell in Turin are not as reliable as they once were.
Despite scoring in the defeat against PSG on Matchday 6, Leonardo Bonucci has started to display more vulnerability in defence and looks off the pace, Alex Sandro has been disappointing for the last 2-3 seasons at left-back, and Wojciech Szczesny in goal is still prone to the occasional error. There are also players like Adrien Rabiot, Moise Kean, and Weston McKennie, who are still in their 20s, but they struggle for consistency.
It also does not help when key players have been rarely featured due to injuries. Paul Pogba is yet to play a minute on his return to Juventus, Federico Chiesa made his first appearance of the season on Matchday 6 against PSG, and Angel Di Maria has been in and out of the squad due to multiple injuries in a short space of time.
Youthful exuberance can accelerate the Juventus rebuild
Despite the abundance of defeats in this Champions League campaign for Juventus, La Vecchia Signora can be satisfied with the number of youngsters that have started playing under Allegri in both the European fixtures and recent Serie A games.
English winger Samuel Iling-Junior made an impressive cameo appearance in the Matchday 5 defeat to Benfica while Italian midfielders Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti started against PSG, and Argentinian winger Matias Soule has also made some cameo appearances off the bench. Fagioli was the hero for Juve in their 1-0 victory in Serie A a few days earlier while Miretti had already showed signs of potential towards the end of last season.
This a testament to the work done with the Juventus Next Gen team in Serie C, giving those former Primavera products regular playing time against adults before playing for the seniors in Serie A and in Europe.
Juventus are seventh after 12 rounds of Serie A action and they have a Europa League campaign to think about in the second half of the season. If the youngsters can help La Vecchia Signora rise up the league table and show some ambition in Europe, Allegri will have more reasons to play them and less excuses to leave them on the bench.