Juventus' Loss Highlights Absence of Leadership and Creativity

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistAugust 24, 2015

TURIN, ITALY - AUGUST 23:  Paulo Dybala (L) and Paul Pogba of Juventus FC look dejected at the end of the Serie A match between Juventus FC and Udinese Calcio at Juventus Arena on August 23, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

After a summer of change, transfers and lots of speculation, Italian football returned on Sunday as the Old Lady began the defence of her Serie A crown. Udinese were the visitors on the league’s opening day, pulling off a shock 1-0 victory over a team who they had failed to beat in each of their four previous visits to Juventus Stadium.

Indeed, since the Turin giants opened their new home, they had outscored the Friulian side by a margin of nine goals to two, underlining their dominance with a string of impressive victories. Yet, thanks to their diligent execution of coach Stefano Colantuono’s game plan, Udinese were able to leave with all three points this time around.

While the Zebrette deserve praise for their own resolute performance, it is difficult not to look at what has happened to Juventus over the past three months and wonder just where they stand today. It is easy to read too much into a single performance, but the game showed at least two key issues that the reigning champions must quickly address.

MONACO - APRIL 22: Andrea Pirlo (L) and Carlos Tevez of Juventus celebrate at the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between AS Monaco FC and Juventus at Stade Louis II on April 22, 2015 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Phot
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The first is the absence of leadership on the field as with Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal having moved on, a lack of identity in the opening few weeks of the season was perhaps inevitable. It is a matter which is likely to resolve itself as the extensive injury list eases and some key names return to full health, with Sami Khedira certainly falling into that category.

Like Pirlo, the German international is a vastly experienced World Cup winner who arrived on a free transfer, and he must look to fill the void left by the former Milan maestro’s decision to move on to a new adventure with New York City FC.

“It is my personal ambition to become a leader for this team,” Khedira told As (h/t Forza Italian Football) shortly after signing for the Bianconeri, and his presence will be an important one as the season progresses.

Joining him on the treatment table is Claudio Marchisio, with the club’s official website ruling him out for two more weeks with a torn thigh muscle. The 29-year-old signed a new contract with Juventus last month, and club president Andrea Agnelli told a press conference that the midfielder “is already a legend.”

Adding that Marchisio “is the point of contact between the Juventus of yesterday and the Juventus of tomorrow,” Agnelli also labelled the Turin native as one of the team's senators. That is undoubtedly true, and his impact on the side was missed on Sunday as the side slumped to defeat against Udinese.

Juventus Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio celebrates his teams victory after the Italian Super Cup final football match between Juventus and Lazio in Shanghai on August 8, 2015. Juventus defeated Lazio 2:0.

Indeed, the loss of his attacking impetus was evident, with the likes of Simone Padoin simply unable to provide a similar spark to the midfield. He is a reliable hand, but he cannot drive the team forward in the way Marchisio can, and it is with that in mind that the club is expected to delve into the transfer market in the coming days.

“We needed more quality in the final ball and the finishing,” Massimiliano Allegri told Sky Sport Italia shortly after the final whistle (h/t Football Italia), and Juan Cuadrado might provide that for the coach in the near future. Speaking before the game, director general Beppe Marotta told Sport Mediaset that the Colombian will arrive on loan as soon as Monday, per Guardian Sport.

With his pace and invention providing Juventus with elements that were clearly missing and the return of some much-needed leadership, there is no need for panic at Juventus, who will look to get back on track in next week’s clash with AS Roma.