Juventus stumble to another draw as calls for Paulo Dybala start to grow
Demonstrating the frustrating ineptitude of their forward line, Juventus wasted the opportunity to grab another win that would have taken them one step closer to qualification for the Champions League round of 16. Held to a goalless draw by a mediocre Borussia Monchengladbach, more must be done to improve a side that lacks intelligence and understanding in the attacking third.
It's inelegant, if not ungracious to criticise Massimiliano Allegri because he has managed wondrous results in the Champions League. However, when it comes to winnable games, he and his squad have been known to stutter and disappoint and they did so once again in the match against the "easiest" opponent in the group. While Juventus dominated proceedings and played with a certain level of fluidity, the lack of decisive play in the final third was maddening to say the least.
For that Allegri must take responsibility, as the decision to deploy Alvaro Morata alongside Mario Mandzukic was a failed one. The duo simply don't understand one another and when facing a side that defended tightly, closing down the spaces expertly, teamwork was the only logical way to penetrate a locked defence. Andre Schubert's men did a wonderful job of exposing the lack of relationship between Juve's two forwards.
The Croatian has only just returned from injury and considering the nature of the game, wasn't afforded the right level of service to exploit his strengths. Had Stephan Lichtsteiner been available, Mandzukic may have done more. But with Alex Sandro not able to deliver accuracy into the box, Juventus would have benefitted more from the ingenuity and hard work of a certain Paulo Dybala.
The Argentine was once again benched and only thrown on to the pitch in the final 10 minutes of the game. A player who has shown to understand the movements of Morata alongside him and would have disorganised a defence by pulling players out of position, it remains to be seen why Allegri won't entrust him with a starting role.
Asked about this very topic in his post match news conference, the coach was vague, only noting that the youngster must grow and is still very inexperienced. While Dybala needs to improve his strength and be able to stand his own ground, Allegri simply does not have the luxury of training him as he trained Morata. There is no Carlos Tevez to score the necessary goals in the meantime. Right now, the youngster may well have to be thrown in at the deep end.
If those are indeed the reasons why the expensive signing has not been used often then it remains to be seen why the inexperienced Simone Zaza and his many obvious limitations is being afforded minutes. A deflected goal in the league and one against an exhausted Sevilla back-line is simply not enough of a reason to play the ex-Sassuolo striker who simply lacks the technique and intellect required to play top level matches. The fact he is being chosen above Dybala is bizarre to say the least.
Whenever deployed, Dybala frequently makes an impact and managed it again at the end of the game by elevating the quality of play in attack, especially from set pieces. No one but Allegri understands the youngster's weaknesses but if he insists on not playing him then more must be done to improve the overall game in the final third.
The attack is simply not clicking and the same mistakes are being repeated again and again. At this moment, the midfield cannot chip in with goals. Sami Khedira does not seem as effective with Claudio Marchisio beside him, and the duo are not offering enough inspiration or unpredictability when in the attacking phase of the game.
As for Paul Pogba, his quality on the ball may be abundantly clear, but going forward he provokes frustration. He either wastes possession, slows down play or misjudges the situation by either striking the ball too softly or dispatching an inaccurate strike on goal. His constant stuttering begs the question, why does he play like a shackled man?
Is it fear of making a mistake or are the tactics so rigid that he's constantly attempting to remember instructions thus slowing down the game? Far too often the Frenchman found himself in excellent situations only to make another mistake when perhaps all he needs to do is trust his instincts and his quality and show that he has enough to cope with the responsibility. Consistently attempting to score is not the answer, Pogba needs to learn to play for the team, sacrificing himself for the cause.
It remains to be seen how Allegri will resolve the situation but the absence of Tevez is being sorely felt, a man who had the individual quality and the intelligence required to play within a unit. Without an experienced forward and players who can make the most from set pieces, it remains to be seen how many goals Juve can score this season. More must be done to extract the quality of the new arrivals and find a way of allowing them to play harmoniously with one another.
Until then, the Old Lady may continue the trend of goalless draws.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.