At one stage, it seemed Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo wasn’t going to last until the end of the season but after a strong run in, he delivered silverware as well as Champions League football for the 2021/22 campaign.
The Turin-based club were one of those desperate to form the breakaway Super League, largely for financial reasons and so had Pirlo failed to deliver a top four finish – it could have been disastrous for the club moving forwards.
Here’s a review of the 42-year-old’s first season in charge of the Bianconeri by way of a report card, complete with a final grade.
Serie A – 4th
Having won nine league titles in a row going into this season, Juventus were expected to challenge for the Scudetto, but much to the disappointment of their supporters they finished a whopping 13 points behind the eventual winners Inter.
If you’re wanting to put a positive spin on it, you could say that despite looking as though they were going to finish outside of the top four they were able to close the gap on second place to just a solitary point. However, anything less than a strong title challenge was always going be seen as a disappointment given their dominance in recent history.
As was being widely reported, a fourth-placed finish was the absolute minimum requirement for Pirlo who was fighting for his job and after a bumpy ride, his side just about made it over the finishing line – thanks in large part to Hellas Verona.
Despite an undoubtedly underwhelming league campaign, Juve lost one game less (6) than they did in 2019/20 (7) and were only four points shy of the total that led to them being crowned champions under Maurizio Sarri. They earn a passing grade – just.
Coppa Italia – Winners
Andrea Pirlo lifted his first silverware as a manager after his side beat Atalanta 2-1 in the Coppa Italia final. They defeated title winners Inter at the semi-final stage and were worthy winners of the cup.
A club of Juventus’ size should always be aiming for silverware, and while ordinarily they’d be aiming for bigger things, this triumph has gone someway in papering over the cracks and putting a shine on a disappointing campaign overall.
Juventus crashed out of the Champions League courtesy of FC Porto in the round of 16. The tie went to extra-time and Sergio Oliveira’s late free-kick stunned Andrea Pirlo’s side and sent them packing.
For all their dominance domestically over the past decade Juve have failed to triumph on the continent. They were heavy favourites going into the tie with the Portuguese outfit and their exit was described in Italy as ‘catastrophic’ – it even led to a 90min ‘Who Is To Blame?’ article.
Federico Chiesa was, somewhat surprisingly, Juventus’ best player during the 2020/21 season. At just 23 years of age he’s scored some vital goals for Pirlo’s men, and made himself a focal point of the club’s attack – bagging a whopping 15 goals and 11 assists in the process.
Cristiano Ronaldo is always part of the conversation when it comes to standout performers and while his numbers make great reading – 36 goals in 44 appearances – his overall influence on the team noticeably waned.
It’s difficult to pinpoint one particular individual as Juventus’ worst player this season as, well, there were plenty of candidates.
Arthur was probably the worst of the worst though, after joining the club for a whopping £64m (technically…it was more of a swap deal for Miralem Pjanic…look we’re trying to make a point here). He’s failed to have a significant impact at the Allianz Stadium this season, even struggling to make the starting XI for the majority of his first year in Turin.
Andrea Pirlo’s lack of experience has at times shone through this season, but having sneaked into the top four following his cup triumph he appears to have saved his job for the time being. The pressure will be on the young manager to hit the ground running next season.
It had the potential to be a disaster season, so Andrea Pirlo can count himself lucky that he got Juve into the Champions League and win a Coppa Italia. For that reason, La Vecchia Signora get a passing grade.
Overall Grade: C