Despite an Allegri admission that Juve were pushed to the limit by Napoli, the Old Lady was able to power through to the title, beating their exhausted opponents
From “Hi5tory” to “Le6end”. And now more.
The two words used on social media by Juventus to celebrate the record-breaking consecutive fifth and sixth Serie A titles won’t be enough. Because the Bianconeri have done it again: they are the Italian champions-elect. Napoli tried their best, but they simply collapsed, mentally and physically, when it mattered most. Pressure is the biggest rival at that level, and it crashed on top of the Partenopei.
Let’s rewind, and go back to summer 2017. In the second half of the 2016/17 Serie A season, Napoli had done better, in terms of points, than Juventus. Maurizio Sarri’s idea of football was starting to reach its peak, interpreted perfectly by this group of players. The Napoli coach, staff, players and club directors got together and decided nobody would leave in the summer, to cement the team and have a proper go at winning the Scudetto.
Sarri calculated every detail, leaving rotating players to one side in order to have the best team in every league game, and in doing so willingly deciding to be eliminated in European competitions. A scientific approach. He believed this was the best way to have his best eleven players on the pitch until the very end. It was not enough.
After beating Cagliari 5-0 away from home, Napoli dropped in form. Physically first, then mentally. Whilst Juventus had the squad depth to deal with the inevitable ups and downs that teams and individual players have in a season, Napoli slowly started dropping points. They were running less. And in their minds the Scudetto had gone.
Juventus beat Lazio on the 93rd minute back in February. Napoli lost against Roma only two hours later. Then the same happened two weeks ago: Juventus won in the final minute against Inter, and the following day Napoli’s Scudetto hopes died in Florence, with Fiorentina winning 3-0 against Sarri’s men. Only a week earlier they had beaten Juve in Turin. A historic triumph. But it was the last of the energy. Scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Napoli’s hopes ended there. Also because Juventus never gave up. The Bianconeri dropped points against some small teams, had to deal with the disappointment of the Champions League exit, but their mentality and the squad depth was too big to fail. When Paulo Dybala struggled to impress, Gonzalo Higuain took over, then Federico Bernardeschi, then Dybala and Higuain again, now Douglas Costa. They always had some players in top form.
The Bianconeri have piled together their seventh Scudetto in a row, and the fourth consecutive Coppa Italia title. For the first time since the 2011/12 season they had a real opponent. So a round of applause for Napoli is needed. But Massmiliano Allegri’s men did a Juve, again. And crashed their single opponent. Napoli did their best. Their best was not enough to beat this Juventus side. The winning mentality, the handling of the pressure, and the bigger and better squad. These are the ingredients that brought the Bianconeri the title.