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Could Juventus’ 18-game unbeaten streak be holding them back?

Juventus currently hold the longest unbeaten streak in Europe’s top 5 leagues. The bianconeri have gone 18 games without losing now and have made some dramatic comebacks along the way. Questions still remain though regarding whether or not they have what it takes to win the league.

Alessandro Matri: desperate for release

Alessandro Matri: desperate for release

Over the course of the first half of the season Juventus have been fawned over endlessly, unnecessarily so at times. After their first pre-season friendly against an amateur representative side from the Susa Valley, the Gazzetta Dello Sport described Andrea Pirlo as “turning the pages of Juventus’ book” – Juventus walked to 12-1 victory.

Manager, Antonio Conte, has drooled over Claudio Marchisio describing him as playing just like him “only better“. The central midfielder has been transformed from a frustrating could-be, into the energetic pin-up of this new Juventus.

‘Spirit’ is a word that has often been used when describing Conte’s Juventus, but perhaps this idea has been over-played. They have certainly shown a great deal more determination than had been seen in the last two seasons combined. But for every dominating display (Parma and Fiorentina), last gasp winner (Milan) and remarkable second half comeback (Napoli); there have been just as many leads given away (Bologna and Genoa) and drab performances (Chievo, Lecce and Bologna). Perhaps the spirit is spent.

The 18-game unbeaten run is the longest in the clubs’ history, extending the previous record by one. While this run is now longer the previous record from the 1949-50 season was a more successful one, comprising 15 wins and 2 draws (32 points in old money – 2 points for a win). The current sequence includes 8 draws – the joint highest number of games drawn in the league together with Atalanta.

Conte, though, doesn’t appear to be too worried about the number of draws so far, telling Sky Italia “There are draws and draws and we’ve now played against five of the top six sides away from home”. While they have gone to great lengths to play down their title ambitions so far, they must realise that this is a real opportunity that lies before them.

Conte is delighted that the side are still unbeaten but he need only look back as far as the ’78-79 season to see that the draws could come back to bite him. Perugia finished the season unbeaten (11 wins and 19 draws), but they finished 2nd to a Milan side who had lost 3 games.

Fans were disgruntled fans at the end of both the Lecce and Cagliari games. So perhaps losing the streak might provide impetus to play for wins against teams determined to defend every last yard, releasing the beast and setting the spirit free.

Follow Rocco on twitter (@rcammisola).

  • VarunM

    While, I agree that the ‘streak’ is a bit over-rated at this point seeing as the team has struggled on occasions, I think conversely it is what is keeping them alive still.

    For the past few seasons, Juve have inevitably fallen apart in and around the start of the second-half of the season. And it is these mental frailities that Conte must try and bury. While, the ‘spirit of Juve’ is on evidence now and again, the team is not really of that high quality to be expected to challenge for the Scudetto.

    I guess Conte knows this and hence avoids talking about it. At the start of the season, not many would have put money on Juve being top after the first-half. To me they are a bit like Napoli from last year aided by the horrible starts made by both Milanese sides. And of course, being Italy’s most decorated club (domestically) only serves to dispel the myth of overachievers.

  • Robbie P

    I think up until now, the unbeaten run has been only positive, for the statistical contrast to the previous seasons and for the momentum it has created in solidifying the group’s unity and their faith in Conte.

    There is a risk that too many draws could bring forward the accusation of a team playing to ‘not lose’ rather than to win, but their performances haven’t reflected that yet.

    This is looking statistically similar to Mancini’s Inter of 2004-05 that drew 18 times and finished third, but performances are not as similar.

    You could argue that at least half the draws this season have been good results and that the early-season ones (the not-so-good results) were a consequence of everyone still learning Conte’s system.

    I think though, how the team follow up the draw to Cagliari could still be most important to how their season pans out. A consecutive draw or a first defeat could threaten another January derailment.

    You can see why Conte has avoided talking about the Scudetto. The pressure of suggesting that you are in the running for it can turn an undefeated run into a debate about too many draws!

    Still, a nice problem for Juve fans to discuss, as opposed to those from the last two seasons!

  • Chris King

    The streak mirrors in some way that of the Invincible Arsenal run. If memory serves, there were a load of games when you thought the run would come to an end, where they were dropping too many points – but in the end it proved to be decisive.

    Other teams kept dropping their own points – couldn’t get near them. Where cancelled out. If Juve don’t lose between now and May, will anyone care about the draws or style of draw if they go on to add yet another shield on the website?

  • serieaweekly

    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put,…  the second half of the season will say everything, does Juve have the staying power?

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