5 Reasons Juventus Failed in the Champions League This Season
Juventus failed to qualify from the group stage of the Champions League, falling well short of the expectations before the season started.
Signings of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente were supposed to boost the one weakness of the side and help to at least give the Bianconeri the opportunity to stand a better chance of reaching the semi-finals of the competition after defeat to Bayern in the quarter-finals a year ago.
It has been a massive disappointment, especially as the group this season was vastly easier than the one that they topped last year.
So where did it all go wrong? Let's take a closer look.
Lack of Tactical Variety
Juventus may have upgraded their attack significantly in the summer, but they failed to address something that they were accused of last season in Europe—an overreliance on the 3-5-2 system.
Antonio Conte does have tactical variety, having started his tenure at the club with the 4-4-2, which was interpreted by some as a 4-2-4.
Quite soon, though, it was clear that the 3-5-2 system best suited the players at his disposal, and it has been a huge success.
However, given its lack of use in Europe—particularly the Champions League—it was unclear whether it could translate to the European game.
After squeezing through the group stage on top, facing a weak Celtic side and then finally being eliminated by a formidable Bayern outfit, it was still unclear how successful it had been.
Conte appears willing to experiment with a 4-3-3 formation that he used twice against Real Madrid this season, but the players required to use this system on a more regular basis are not available to him.
Simone Pepe's injury has particularly harmed Conte's ability to switch formations more regularly, as there are a real lack of advanced wide players in the squad.
Next summer, it will be clear that wingers will be the priority in the transfer market, which will then enable Conte to chop and change his tactics dependent on the competition or opposition.
Tevez Failure to Translate League Form to Europe
Tevez has scored 10 goals in 16 matches in Serie A, which is a great return, matching the highest scorer in either of Juve's previous two seasons in the league.
In the Champions League, though, El Apache has failed to score in six appearances. Worryingly, that means it will be over four years before he breaks his drought, with his last goal coming in April 2009 for Manchester United against Porto.
Tevez must improve his record in this competition if he is to maintain his role as the No. 1 option in attack. If he doesn't, Juve will look to utilise Fernando Llorente in his place and switch to a 4-3-3 formation, or sign another striker in one of the next two transfer windows.
Andrea Pirlo did play in five of Juve's six matches, but his absence in the deciding game against Galatasaray on Matchday 6 was a massive factor in the club's relegation to the Europa League.
Pirlo started the season inconsistently, often struggling for form, but the 34-year-old looked back to his best in recent weeks—especially in the Champions League match with Real Madrid at the Juventus Stadium.
Without the maestro, it meant that the side lacked a regista to anchor the midfield and orchestrate possession, which is so fundamental to the Bianconeri's success under Antonio Conte.
Paul Pogba was played in a deeper role in an attempt to replace the Azzurri legend, which hindered his ability to impact the match in the way he had done so successfully up to that point in the season.
Juve struggled to look after the ball on what was a dreadful pitch—a tactic which would have helped to sap the life out of the game and take them toward the draw, which would have qualified them from the group.
Not Enough Penetration from the Wings
Part of the reason that there has been clamour for Conte to use a 4-3-3 formation is the lack of pace in the wide areas when utilising the 3-5-2 system.
Stephan Lichtsteiner does not possess express speed, but his close control and ability to carry the ball great distances does at least provide the Bianconeri with a threat from the right.
However, the Swiss international was recently injured for four-and-a-half matches after being subbed off in the home game with Galatasaray.
Kwadwo Asamoah has some pace and power, but he is not a natural left-sided midfielder and his form has been erratic, which is also the case for Mauricio Isla ever since the Chilean returned from injury.
Simone Padoin is workmanlike, but lacks the ability to change a game, as does Paolo De Ceglie and Federico Peluso on the left side.
Both Copenhagen and Galatasaray were happy to allow Juve to dominate possession and crowd the central areas in their matches at the Juventus Stadium, forcing Juve to spread the ball to the wings, where they rarely hurt the opposition.
Multiple Defensive Lapses in Concentration Against Gala at Home
Juventus were guilty of defensive howlers against Galatasaray, which ultimately cost them three points against the side that would eventually put them out of the Champions League.
Had they won that game, Galatasaray would not have been able to catch them in the final game of the group stages.
Leonardo Bonucci's dreadful pass allowed Didier Drogba to bear down on goal, and Gianluigi Buffon's eagerness to come off his line only exacerbated matters, allowing the Ivorian to give the Turkish side the lead.
However, Juve were able to claw their way back and go in front—only to switch off again.
Giorgio Chiellini failed to challenge sufficiently for a header on the edge of the penalty area, and then Andrea Barzagli was caught ball-watching, which allowed Umut Bulut to ghost into the penalty area and equalise.
This, ultimately, proved fatal to Juve's hopes of reaching the next phase of the Champions League.
The Turkish champions now face Chelsea in the last 16, a side that Juve beat comfortably last season, which makes the elimination even tougher to take.
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