Maurizio Sarri stands on the brink of becoming a league champion for the very first time. The 61-year-old former banker has led his Juventus side to the brink of the Serie A title, needing just one win from their remaining three games to guarantee a ninth consecutive Scudetto.
On the face of it, the former Chelsea boss should be enjoying life in Turin. However all is not well for Sarri at Juve, and he already finds himself under severe pressure.
Once The Old Lady finally manage to fall over the line and claim that impending title, the club’s hierarchy will be able to switch their focus towards winning the Champions League. After all, this is what star player Cristiano Ronaldo was brought in for.
Juventus need immediate success, both domestically and in Europe. The previous manager, Max Allegri, lost his job as a result. Unless the situation for Sarri improves dramatically over the coming days and weeks, he too will soon be out of the door.
Maurizio Sarri Feeling the Heat
Problematic Playing Style
Defensively, Sarri’s Juventus have been customarily solid: only Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan have shipped fewer goals.
But in midfield and beyond, the much-lauded ‘Sarri Ball’ has yet to be seen in full flow.
Indeed in the middle of the park, this Juve side has looked solid and functional at best. That would certainly be your opinion if you were taking an optimistic view of the situation. Others would call it boring and largely predictable.
The verdict among fans and journalists alike in Italy is that Sarri should have overseen a more fluid style by now considering the talent he has at his disposal.
Juventus have recently concluded a deal with Barcelona to bring Brazilian midfielder Arthur to the club. Sarri aspires to utilise the 23-year-old in the same way he did Jorginho at Napoli and Chelsea.
It remains to be seen whether he will be given the time to do so.
Ronaldo and Dybala Papering Over the Cracks for Sarri
Cristiano Ronaldo has been his usual monstrous self all season. After all, the Portugal legend recently brought up 50 Serie A goals in record time for the club.
Equally impressive has been the form of Argentine international Paulo Dybala, who brings intricacy and flair to the table as well as goals.
Between them, the pair account for 41 of Juventus’s 73 Serie A goals so far this season. Nobody else has mustered double figures.
Gonzalo Higuain has chipped in with seven league goals. Next after him, Juve’s fourth-highest Serie A scorer is defender Mattijs de Ligt with four.
This presents a worryingly clear picture for Juventus fans: their team has become dependent upon Dybala and Ronaldo to make up for their absence of creativity, and their glaring lack of goals.
Maurizio Sarri must remedy this quickly if he stands a chance of keeping his job.
Champions League Chances
Sarri’s future looks set to depend upon his team’s performance in the latter stages of this season’s Champions League.
Allegri made two finals and won neither of them, for which he paid the ultimate price. As mentioned, the Juve hierarchy saw Ronaldo’s arrival as the solution to making the next step and claiming a third European Cup.
Ageless though he may appear, Ronaldo is now 35-years-old. Quite simply, Sarri needs his talisman to deliver for him now if his Juventus career is to be branded successful enough for him to continue at the helm.
Their latest European adventure resumes with the second leg of their last-16 tie against Lyon next month. The French club won the first leg 1-0 in a game which typified all of Sarri’s problems.
The Old Lady’s Champions League prospects dangle upon a knife-edge. So too does Maurizio Sarri.