It says a lot for Juventus that being on equal points at the top of the league is considered a crisis, but this is a Defcon level that Maurizio Sarri signed up for when he took over in the summer.
They are relentless winners in Italy and anything less is unacceptable. A shock defeat to Hellas Verona on Saturday night was bad enough. Inter Milan’s victory over AC Milan on Sunday made it so much worse as Juve dropped down to second.
The cracks have started to appear for Sarri’s regime and there are already suggestions Massimiliano Allegri could be brought back to take charge again.
Sarri was brought in to make Juventus more attractive after Allegri was jettisoned at the end of last season. Well, it is tough to be pretty when you’re not leading Serie A — with Juventus having won it in each of the last eight seasons.
There are crucial problems afoot though. Part of the issue seems to be that Sarri is struggling to resolve a disconnect between the older members of the changing room and their younger team-mates.
Leonardo Bonucci and Gianluigi Buffon are said to have hammered the players for their lack of determination at Verona.
Sarri stood by and listened in, approving of the message that was being put across.
Speaking after the game, the manager admitted:
‘I hope the old men in the dressing room can help me.
‘The boys train in the right way, but in the game they do not reveal all their technical potential, they are blocked. I hope someone helps me.’
There is a belief, though, that Sarri’s decision to say that on television would not have helped him in the eyes of Andrea Agnelli. To a degree, it was an admission that he is not able to solve their problems alone.
This is, though, just the crescendo of a long run that has seen Juventus struggle for real consistency under Sarri. To have lost three by this stage of the season is unusual for a club of their size.
They have not been putting together performances either. There is a sense that they are particularly weak in midfield. The players in that position are not thought to run enough.
In particular, Rodrigo Bentancur and Miralem Pjanic have attracted criticism for being too lightweight.
To add to that, Sarri’s coaching has left them with a serious disconnect between their midfield and their attack.
There is also a belief that Juventus are lacking in grit. They do not tend to kill games off, which gives the opposition the chance to fight back. That was clear on Saturday as they went 1-0 up against Verona before losing 2-1.
They have also been too reliant on Wojciech Szczesny bailing them out at the back and Ronaldo putting away goals to make up for their poor play elsewhere.
The truth of the matter is that even with Inter’s revival under former manager Antonio Conte, Juventus should always have enough to win the league.
Instead, the serial champions have hired a man who simply cannot win.