Every third day this summer, a big-name player or a big-time prospect would sign for an unexpected team in England, and the move would be accompanied by the same idea: We don't need a Super League because the Premier League is already the Super League.
I mean... OK, yes, it's true: I too have been saying this for years. The Premier League is, by far, the richest league in the world. English clubs spent a record $2.2 billion in the summer transfer window -- more than the teams in Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga combined. And while the off-field economic advantage has slowly and eventually become an on-field competitive advantage, it hasn't really hurt the continental superclubs -- at least not yet.
We're still only a couple of years removed from a near-decade-long stretch where it seemed like only Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Juventus could win the Champions League at the beginning of every season. And according to 2021 financial data from Off the Pitch, Barcelona paid the second-highest wages of any club in Europe; Real Madrid were third, Bayern Munich were sixth and Juventus were ninth. In first? Not any English clubs, but Paris Saint-Germain.
With a couple weeks off for international play, let's check in on the state of the superclubs.
Juventus: It can't get any worse... right?
If you thought Manchester United were the masters of squandering a massive financial advantage, then boy, wait until you hear about Juventus. Here's the Off the Pitch wage data for 2021 in Serie A:
And here's where Juventus sit in the Serie A table: eighth.
It's significantly worse than that, though. We're only seven games into the season, and a lot of weird stuff can happen over a short stretch like that, but Juventus are fortunate to even be that high in the table. They have a plus-4 goal differential but an expected-goal differential of minus-1.45, which ranks 12th in Serie A. Except, it's actually even worse than that, too.
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Think about the way the sport is trending and what all of the top teams do, to some degree. They press, they smush the ball into the final third and, when necessary, they play with pace. What Massimiliano Allegri's tactics presuppose is, well, "What if we don't?"
Through seven games, Juventus have completed a 41.2% share of the final-third passes (known as "field tilt") in their matches -- the second-lowest mark in the league. And their pressing rate (measured by passes allowed per defensive action, or PPDA) is 13.57, the fifth-meekest in Italy. (Jose Mourinho's Roma are dead-last at 16.81. Some things will never change.)
Of course, you don't have to play like all of the other big dogs, and there probably is some value in zigging when everyone else is zagging, but Juventus aren't really even doing that, either.
There are two main strategic benefits of not pressing and not doing everything you can to keep the ball up in the attacking third. The first: you get more bodies back to protect your penalty area, and you make it harder for your opponent to turn their attacking-third possessions into quality chances.
[smashes palm against a comically large buzzer] Fail.
Juventus have allowed 121 touches in their own penalty area this season -- fifth-worst in the league -- and their opponents aren't having any trouble turning those touches into chances. The average shot Juve is allowing is worth 0.11 xG -- the fifth-highest mark in the league.