Juventus‘ Coppa Italia triumph might have earned under-fire boss Andrea Pirlo another season in the job – despite missing out on a tenth Scudetto in a row.
The 2019/20 Scudetto winners have struggled under the 42-year-old, and are yet to even qualify for next season’s Champions League with the race for a top-four finish going right down to the wire.
Failure to achieve that, when you consider the way Juve have dominated the division in recent years, would be simply unacceptable – but does Wednesday’s victory over Atalanta soften the blow should the unthinkable occur on Sunday? Probably…
There were warning signs of Juventus’ demise last season when they won the title by a single point despite having finished 11 points ahead of second-placed Napoli the season prior. Winning silverware is great and often papers over cracks, but when you unpack Pirlo’s first season as boss there are certainly more negatives than positive.
The Bianconeri’s title defence effectively ended in April, and the nature of their Champions League exit at the hands of FC Porto raised many questions with regards to Andrea Agnelli’s decision to entrust the club’s former midfielder with the role of managing the first-team.
The reality of the situation is, even if they are to manage a top-four finish, it’s impossible to look back on this season as anything other than a failure. While the buck stops with the manager there have certainly been other contributing factors.
Cristiano Ronaldo‘s form has often been discussed this season with suggestions the 36-year-old has failed to produce in big games, but 29 goals in 33 Serie A appearances reads well. An over-reliance on him is more likely the issue and, more significantly, the failure to select a regular partner for the Portuguese attacker and allow that partnership to develop.
We’ve seen different formations applied throughout the season and Pirlo looks like a man still trying to establish a managerial identity. The club’s current financial state means they’re unlikely to be able to overhaul the squad dramatically come the summer, and therefore it is imperative whoever sits in the dugout is able to get the maximum out of the group.
The cup win doesn’t necessarily justify Pirlo’s appointment, but it might have bought the rookie manager some much-needed goodwill with the Juve fans and those in the boardroom calling the shots.
When high profile clubs for whom success is the norm appoint inexperienced coaches in the hope they’ll prove to be the next big thing, they have to take into account the inevitable transitional period.
To sack their former midfield maestro after a single season would suggest Juventus failed to consider the above but equally shows a desire to maintain the standards set in recent years.
The Coppa Italia victory alone may not be enough to keep Pirlo in the job, but if they’re to sneak into the top four on Sunday he may just have pulled off the great escape.