Last updated 5 months ago | By Reuters
Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri is struggling to impose his style of play on the Turin side and his frustration came out into the open again after a poor performance in their Champions League defeat to Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday.
In comments that could be viewed as refreshingly honest or a risky public criticism of his players, the chain-smoking 61-year-old said that his team were struggling to grasp the concept of passing the ball around quickly — a style dubbed “Sarri-ball” by his admirers.
“I am having a lot of difficult in getting across the idea of moving the ball quickly to this team,” said an exasperated Sarri.
“In training, the ball moves around at 200 kilometres an hour but the strange thing is that doesn’t happen in matches. In training, we work twice as fast as we did tonight,” he added after the 1-0 defeat in the round of 16 first leg.
Juventus, Italy’s most successful team domestically, have traditionally been a side who have won trophies without worrying about how they do it.
Before Sarri — who earned his reputation during a three-year stint at Napoli — was appointed in the summer, they had spent five seasons under the more pragmatic Massimiliano Allegri, who repeatedly stressed the importance of “administering the match”.
Having won the Serie A title in every season under Allegri to extend their run to eight successive titles, Juventus decided they needed more flamboyance and turned to Sarri who likes his teams to weave intricate, passing patterns at high speed through opposing defences.
However, old habits die hard and Sarri has often observed that his team drop back to defend on the edge of their penalty area in the style of the more cautious Allegri.
Juventus have shown flashes of what Sarri wants and still lead Serie A by one point but a lot of their possession has been sterile and, in Serie A, they have scored fewer goals than at the same stage last season — 48 against 53.
Sarri has complained several times before that the message is not getting across but Wednesday’s performance was particularly frustrating.
“In the first half, our passing was lacklustre and that was why we suffered,” he said. “The second half was better but not good enough for a Champions League match.”
Such constant public criticism is unusual as it could risk alienating either the players or the club leadership.
Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte suggested earlier this season that Sarri’s complaints might ring hollow now he is in charge of the team with Serie A’s biggest spending power.
“Now, he is on the side of the strongest team so he needs to stay calm,” he said.