Maurizio Sarri joined Juventus in the summer of 2019, after a brief stint at Chelsea. Sarri managed Chelsea for only one season before the “Old lady” signed the manager on a 3-year contract. Sarri’s departure from Chelsea just after one season wasn’t very shocking to football fans. This was because of the fans’ disgust, players’ annoyance and Sarri’s will to go back to Italy to spend time with his family. He won his first trophy as a manager with the Blues, as Chelsea lifted the Europa League trophy in 2019. Sarri, despite all the problems, led Chelsea to a third-place finish in the Premier League.
Sarri had previously managed Empoli and Napoli before he went to Chelsea, where he employed a 4-3-3 system. At Napoli, Sarri played a possession-based style of football with quick movements on and off the ball. Insigne, Mertens, and Jorginho flourished under the system and the type of football played was branded as “Sarri-ball”. Sarri was given the role at Chelsea because of his hand in Napoli’s 2nd place-finish behind Juventus in Serie-A. Sarri’s Napoli side had registered the highest points ever by a team finishing 2nd in the Serie-A. Even at Chelsea, he employed the same system, with Jorginho at the heart of everything. Jorginho also went to Chelsea with Sarri, and he is often called as Sarri’s prodigal son.
The Honeymoon Period
At Juventus Sarri’s arrival was seen as a welcome change, as the club faithful had seen boring and pragmatic style of football under former boss Max Allegri. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Mathijs De Ligt on board, the club had serious ambitions of winning the Champions League. The Italian Serie-A was never a real concern for the Old Lady as the club has won it consecutively from the last 8 years. The club made some great signings last season in De Ligt, Aaron Ramsay, Adrien Rabiot and club legend Gianluigi Buffon, who had moved to PSG a year earlier. Sarri was seen as the manager who would bring an attacking brand of football to the club.
But, after more than one year to his tenure at the helm for Old Lady, the club faithful aren’t satisfied with what they are witnessing on the pitch. The main reason behind the failure of Sarri-ball at Juventus has been the midfielders Sarri has got at his disposal. And a certain Cristiano Ronaldo might also play a part in the failure of Sarri-ball. A key element in the success of Sarri-ball is the presence of a good “regista”. A regista is a player who plays in front of the defence, but with less defensive responsibilities.
Sarri-ball in Effect
His main motive is to keep the play ticking by making forward or side-way passes. This position was taken up by Mirlaem Pjanic, but the real problem lied on his sides. But sometimes, even Pjanic has had problems in the position because of his lack of pace. When Pjanic gets man-marked, Juventus find it difficult to progress the ball to the forwards.
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Juventus didn’t have ball progressive midfielder or dynamic wingers in the squad. Adrien Rabiot and Ramsay have taken up the mantle to take on the roles, but at the beginning of the season, both the players were injured. Thus, the midfield positions on both sides of Pjanic were taken up by the likes of Matuidi, Khedira, or Bentancur. All of the above have great stamina and are great ball-winners, but aren’t that good on the ball. The full-backs at Juventus are great defensively but don’t provide the width going forward. This leaves a huge space unused, as Ronaldo often drifts inside. To solve this problem, Sarri employed CR7 as the central striker, but it didn’t suit the player and he was again shifted to his favourite left flank.
The Portuguese legend’s low work-rate also meant that it was difficult for Sarri to employ his favourite brand of football, which included runs between the channels by wingers. Thus, Sarri had to play Matuidi as his tireless running would cover up for Ronaldo’s low work-rate. Juventus also lost the Coppa Italia recently against Sarri’s former employers Napoli. The match ended goalless after regulation time and Napoli won 4-2 in penalties.
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All is not Lost for The Bianconeri
But there seems to be a glimmer of hope for Sarri as glimpses of Sarri-ball have been visible in Juventus’s game recently. Juventus are well on their way to win the 9th consecutive Scudetto. The Old Lady are also alive in the Champions League at a 1-0 deficit against Lyon, in the Round of 16. Recently Arthur, from Barcelona, has agreed to join Juventus this summer, swapping with Miralem Pjanic. The Brazilian is younger, much faster and efficient on the ball than Pjanic and his signing is seen as a way forward. And finally, the Italian giants might witness what they thought of when Sarri joined Juventus.