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Juventus v. Napoli Recap with JuveFC.com: discussing the black and white side of the match

Yesterday evening's Juventus v. Napoli match was one of the biggest games in Serie A's recent history. Napoli were able to win 1-0 away to Juventus, which means they have now closed the gap to just one point and will be breathing down the Old Lady's neck during these last four matches. To discuss what went wrong for Juventus, and where they go from here, we sat down with our good friends from Juvefc.com (Twitter: @juvefcdotcom).

Claudio: So first off, what were your thoughts on the game itself? I thought Juventus looked satisfied with a draw, and were actually doing well to soak up Napoli's pressure and possession and were three minutes away from getting the result they needed. Did you think that was the game-plan as well or did you see something else?

JuveFC: I think after the injury to Chiellini and Dybala's lacklustre first half, the plan for the second 45 minutes was to hold for a draw. I think the plan all along was to not let Napoli win, if that makes sense - to stop them from taking anything more than a point. The play was negative, pessimistic, slow, laborious and horrible viewing, especially as we were at home and in front of our own supporters. Beyond that, I wonder if there was a larger game-plan at work - nothing worked yesterday.

Claudio: Yes it was odd to see Juve play this way at home, it seemed like they really couldn't get anything going, even when they tried to play out of the back it was very sloppy and they often just gave possession right back to Napoli.

Allegri fielded a pretty strong lineup in my opinion, do you think the blame is with him or with the players?

JuveFC: I think it's both - the team looked strong, but I'm not sure what the formation or tactics were. In midfield, we struggled to hold onto the ball and the players all looked uninspired. The attack looked isolated and lacked any kind of service, the defence was under constant pressure and tried to pass it out from the back. None of it looked good. I think Dybala is struggling in that role and should be partnering the centre forward - there would have been no shame in switching to a 3-5-2. I suspect taking Paulo off would have done him more damage. The lack of Marchisio in the midfield is absolutely baffling and the only explanation is some kind of falling out between player and coach. He would have been greatly appreciated last night. The other substitutions and tactical switches were baffling, the players lacked hunger and spirit.....this has been the case all too often this season.

Claudio: I agree with that assessment, when Chiellini went down I thought we would see maybe another central defender brought on instead of Lichtsteiner and they could have shifted to a 3-5-2. It seems like Allegri has a short leash with Dybala even though he has come up for them in key moments this season and is probably their most talented player.

What do you think of their play at Juventus Stadium this season? Matches that come to mind for me are the Lazio loss, the Tottenham match where they allowed Spurs to come back from 2-0 down and tie the game, the 3-0 thrashing to Real Madrid and then obviously last night. Are they losing a bit of that advantage of their own stadium?

JuveFC: I think there's a lack of concentration and focus. They have switched off in key games on so many occasions at home - they lasted brilliantly for 44 minutes against Barcelona then a momentary lapse and it was over. The mentality of the team seems to lack the fight required to come back sometimes. Against Spurs they were in the ascendancy and then they gave the ball to Spurs and invited nonstop pressure. Last night, again, they were robbed of possession and let Napoli dictate everything. This is what we lack most - a midfield that can hold onto possession, link the defence and attack, shut down opposition attacks, build chances and most importantly, control a game - against the likes of SPAL, Benevento, Chievo, it's not a problem- Against the bigger teams, we are outplayed every time because the midfield is so desperately lacking.

Claudio: That's an interesting point, do you think this season you are starting to see signs of the team being mentally drained? Allegri made a good point that Juventus plays so many matches every season because they are in all competitions until the end. I know the same could be said for a Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona, but those teams receive major investment every year. Do you think some key players on this team are just drained from the physical and mental concentration that has made them so successful over the past seven seasons?

JuveFC: I think we have some aging players who are nearer to the end of their career than the beginning - as such, they are starting to decline. Players like Chiellini, Buffon, Barzagli, Lichtsteiner and a few others are worn thin, injury after injury, and are close to hanging up their boots. It's been a long, long season, not helped by the departure of key players last summer and the hangover from Cardiff. I feel this season started on the wrong foot and we muddled along from there. Juventus are used to striding forth to the title, this season we have hobbled, sometimes on one leg, sometimes dragged our feet - we need a rejuvenation - we need new ideas, we need to get rid of the aging players and we need to start a new cycle with a new psychology at the heart of it.

Claudio: Do you think Allegri is the right guy to begin the new cycle? Or do you think he should be let go to Arsenal or whichever English team wants him and Juventus goes and hires a new coach?

JuveFC: I think he should remain for now, provided he has the summer to find a formula that works and is finally given a capable and competent midfield. No more Khedira, Matuidi starting - we need younger more dynamic players - player that can influence a game and change its course - too often this season, we've been passengers.

Claudio: As someone who watched Milan closely, I would warn Juventus fans to be careful what they wish for when it comes to Allegri. After Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were sold, he did a tremendous job overachieving with a poor Milan team. I know Juventus is a much stronger team and has much more money than Milan did at that time to reinvest, however, I think he's a top manager and it would be difficult to find better.

Now to paint a brighter picture, what are your thoughts on the last four matches? With all of the negativity surrounding the team, Juventus is still a point ahead and really control their own destiny. Do you think they will go on and win the scudetto?

JuveFC: I hope they will - my biggest fear is that they will collapse, and against Inter, who have plenty to play for, we will have a tough, tough match. If they can come out of that match with a win, the confidence will grow - I think we need a different kind of dialogue from the team, less of the “this game is not decisive” less of the philosophical and introspective talk - more affirmative language, more grinta, more fight, more hunger. The team has to come together for these final games and play on the front foot - we have to attack teams - we have to pressure and we have to see out matches. 1-0 or 2-0 isn't going to do it anymore. We need big marquee wins, we need to send a signal, to Napoli but also to our own fans.

Claudio: Well the positive is after the match yesterday Allegri himself said that the Inter match will be the decisive match for the scudetto, so hopefully the team resonates your thoughts. They have the tougher schedule, but they are Juve and are more experienced to handle this pressure. As a neutral I am excited for it to go down to the wire.

I also try to remind people that even though Juve have maybe not been at their best this season, they still have 87 points with four matches remaining. It is a real credit to Napoli as well who have been able to hang around at this ridiculous pace. Point being, it is not like Juventus has had some major decline this season in terms of results.

JuveFC: That’s a really valid point - Napoli have done remarkably well this season. They have pushed us all the way and they deserve credit.

Claudio: At the end of the day, if they are able to hang on and win you will be looking at a team that has won its seventh straight scudetto, lost to Real Madrid in the last seconds of the quarterfinals controversially, and could win the Coppa Italia against Milan. Would you consider a domestic double and that Champions League result a successful season?

JuveFC: I would, for sure. It was a tough slog and if we come out with a title and a Coppa, I would really be pleased. The CL has been a write off since the group stages - we have been stretched so often and played really poorly, the exception being the 20 mins v. Spurs at home and away and the return leg in Madrid. We learned nothing from either though, as last night showed.

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