Juventus

Juventus title hopes all but extinguished after woeful week

Grey Whitebloom
Paulo Dybala skulks off the pitch after Juventus dropped more points in a week that dealt their Serie A title hopes a significant blow
Paulo Dybala skulks off the pitch after Juventus dropped more points in a week that dealt their Serie A title hopes a significant blow / CPS Images/GettyImages
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When Juventus scrambled a late, soft spot kick to narrowly avoid defeat against their supposed rivals for the title, not many in black and white would have predicted that those pair of dropped points would be the highlight of the week.

Yet, after six days and two losses against teams that finished outside last season's top seven, those of a Bianconeri persuasion can only wistfully reminisce about being outplayed for large swathes by Inter.

Hot on the heels of a gut-wrenching 2-1 defeat at home to Sassuolo, sealed by a 95th-minute winner, Juventus were knocked into the unfamiliar depths of eighth with a bullying victory from Hellas Verona by the same scoreline on Saturday evening.

Juve scarcely looked capable of overturning Giovanni Simeone's blitzing brace in the opening quarter of an hour, almost singlehandedly hauled through the first half by Paulo Dybala before substitute Weston McKennie's 80th-minute consolation proved too little too late.

The insistence of Juve's vice-chairman, Pavel Nedved, that the 13-point chasm up to Napoli and Milan - who now also have a game in hand on the Old Lady - was a 'recoverable gap' already leaned closer to delusion than optimism when it was declared pre-game.

The faint whiff of hope lingering around Juve's camp likely stems from the similarly dire start the Bianconeri made on their circuitous route to the 2015/16 title - also under Massimiliano Allegri. That campaign Juve had the same paltry tally of 15 points from their first 11 games, yet roared back to claim the Scudetto by three clear wins.

The caveat to that slow start was how unlucky the record-champions were in their opening salvo; despite languishing among mid-table mediocrity, Juventus had contested games that warranted them closer to a league-high 24 points, according to UnderStat’s expected points model - which takes into consideration the quality of chances (expected goals) for each side in each game, weighting the three points available thereafter.

This discrepancy largely stemmed from squalls of poor finishing peppered throughout the squad which, over the course of the season, eventually evened itself out. Yet, this term Juventus are hovering well within the realm of their desperately underwhelming underlying metrics.

On his first start of the season, Arthur 'rewarded' Allegri's faith by teeing up Verona's Antonin Barak for a shot inside Juve's box. Wojciech Szczesny smothered the forward well but parried his save straight to the feet of Simeone to gleefully nudge Verona ahead.

Minutes later, Serie A's second top scorer this term was afforded the freedom of Romeo and Juliet's city to tragically double Verona's lead from the edge of the box.

Allegri's great surge of 2016 was underpinned by a record-breaking run of ten consecutive clean sheets. A spurt of four successive 1-0 wins either side of the October international break masked the woes Juventus have endured at the back.

With as many as 15 goals shipped already this term, Juve have recorded their worst defensive start to the season since 1961/62 (per Opta). Serie A's tightest defence for eight consecutive years between 2012 and 2019 is just the ninth-best by expected goals in the division this term (per UnderStat).

By FiveThirtyEight’s predictive model, Juve have just a 2% of winning the title. Although, perhaps the more alarming detail is that Italy's title winners in nine of the last ten campaigns miss out on Champions League football in almost two-thirds of their simulations of the season (35% chance of qualifying).

Following the previous weekend's draw to Inter, Allegri was quick to stress that 'you don’t win or lose a league for one match'. And he's quite right. Juventus have had their Scudetto aspirations all but extinguished by more than a quarter-season's worth of painfully underwhelming performances.

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