January 1 is fast approaching, meaning it is time for the annual round of promises for us to keep as one year draws to an end and another begins. New Year’s resolutions are tough to make, but perhaps Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri has one to keep which could see his side enjoy a fine 2016.
As discussed in this earlier post, the coach can reflect happily on his previous 12 months as he led the Turin giants to a string of impressive results, but he will certainly be looking to match those feats again this time around.
Overcoming a poor start and having won their last seven league fixtures, Juventus are now perfectly poised to do just that, a matter Allegri himself noted in an interview with the Corriere della Sera just last week.
“We have room for improvement, but we can have a great season,” he said (h/t Football Italia). “We started with 10 new players, and with some uncertainty having lost some guarantees.”
Going on to add that “the team is growing and we mustn’t stop,” the former Milan chief hit upon something that should form the basis of his resolution for 2016, which is to push Alvaro Morata back to prominence.
The Spanish striker has struggled to match the impact he had last term, netting just three goals in all competitions so far this season. The last of those came in the October 4 victory over Bologna, and since that date he has started just eight matches as he has slipped down Allegri’s pecking order in attack.
Given the form of Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala that is little surprise, the former becoming deadly in front of goal while the latter continues to impress with both his scoring and his all-round play.
Dybala’s growing importance was discussed in detail here, but Juventus must hope that Morata—who was vital to their march to the Champions League final last term—can rediscover his best form quickly.
The problem first reared its head in pre-season, with the player substituted against Lechia Gdansk not long after being introduced from the bench. Allegri lambasted his poor attitude in his post-match interview.
“It wasn’t Morata’s day and I didn’t like his attitude,” the coach told reporters per Football Italia. “That is why I asked him to get off the pitch. He made me angry on the pitch, but then he was good as he went off to train by himself.”
The tension rumbled on, but there is hope for the future, particularly looking closely at Morata’s performances in 2014/15. Indeed, just four of his tally of 15 goals last term came before the Christmas break, putting him in a very similar position to this term as he once again looks to earn a place in the first-choice XI.
Morata is an extraordinary player who is regaining a good physical and mental condition. There’s no problem with him. Against City I assured him, I didn’t yell at him. He must give a lot to Juventus and I demand a lot from him as I do from [Simone] Zaza, who did well when he came on against Palermo.
Now behind Mandzukic and Dybala rather than Fernando Llorente and Carlo Tevez, Morata is in a similar position to last year, and Allegri must make a major attempt to help the 23-year-old become a central figure once again.