Juventus

Juventus rediscovering their gritty identity under Massimiliano Allegri

Grey Whitebloom
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri barks orders at his side against Inter
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri barks orders at his side against Inter / Giuseppe Cottini/GettyImages
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As a club steeped in swathes of mythos and legend, Juventus have accrued their fair share of mottos and maxims. "Fino alla fine" - effectively, 'until the end' - applies best to the record champions' gritty 1-1 draw away to Inter on Sunday night, earned by Paulo Dybala's 89th-minute penalty.

The winners of the last ten Scudetti - nine for Juve but the most recent claimed by Inter - played out a prickly and parsimonious derby d'Italia that evidently reflected the game's status in both clubs' minds; namely, must-not lose.

As little as a month ago, when these sides were separated by a whopping eight points and ten league places, Juve's porous defence seemed scarcely capable of muzzling the likes of middling Spezia and Sampdoria, let alone Italy's most potent attack.

However, coming into Sunday's derby on the back of four consecutive clean sheets, Juve's resurgent rearguard only offered their hosts one chance of any note throughout. Unfortunately - and that was emphatically the operative word - for Juve, a red hot Edin Dzeko contorted his long limbs into position to tap in Hakan Calhanoglu's heavily deflected long range effort that bounced kindly to Inter's new number nine 17 minutes in.

Anchoring Juve's altered back-three formation in an attempt to quell Inter's similar system by mirroring them, Leonardo Bonucci has been quick to espouse that fabled 'grinta' - grit - of the club to grind out results of late, even going so far as to blame their departure from this style on his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

“In the recent past we had lost this characteristic from Juve," he recently told Sky Sport Italia. "We were playing with a great champion like CR7 and we wanted to put him in a position to always do well, thinking he could to solve all the matches. This year we are finding the right humility that is needed to regain victory."

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Leonardo Bonucci was caught on his heels as Dzeko stabbed in Inter's opener against Juventus / MARCO BERTORELLO/GettyImages

However, having lost last season's 29-goal Capocannoniere to Manchester United - who make Juve's woes look pitifully small fry - Juve are still trying to recalibrate an attack that had spent three seasons geared to Ronaldo's strengths.

Despite Inter's surprisingly passive approach to the second half, Juve could only cobble together a paltry return of 0.18 xG from open play (per FotMob) against a side eight league games without a clean sheet. Dybala's introduction off the bench certainly added an element of thrust to proceedings, but the returning Argentine wasn't under any illusions when assessing his team's limitations going forward.

“We definitely need to improve in attack," Dybala bluntly told DAZN (via Football Italia) post-game. "Because if we only try to win by one goal, then we will struggle if they score against us."

Much like Real Madrid in their first post-Ronaldo campaign - in which they haemorrhaged 30 goals and almost a quarter of their xG - Juventus are scoring fewer goals, taking fewer shots and creating lower quality chances.

Still just nine games into the Serie A season, Allegri has some time to tinker with his raft of mobile but scarcely prolific forwards. Until that talented but mercurial front line clicks into gear, the Old Lady will have to rely on their rediscovered defensive resolve to keep them within touching distance of the fully firing Milan and Napoli, who are already ten points ahead at the Serie A summit.

Juve are some way off that pairing's blistering form but are beginning to rediscover their gritty identity under a manager who is thrilled by the less glamorous side of the game. As Allegri once poetically put it: “You can't always dine on lobster and caviar. Every now and again you have to be satisfied with a ham sandwich."

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