Old habits die hard for Juventus


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Juventus v Cagliari - Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy - January 6, 2020 Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri reacts REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

(Reuters) - Maurizio Sarri, brought in as Juventus coach to impose his distinctive style of football, was left frustrated when they reverted to the more cautious approach of predecessor Massimiliano Allegri during their match at AS Roma.

Sarri, whose side raced to a 2-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes, was happy with their performance for the first hour of the 2-1 win which put them back on top of Serie A as the season reached the halfway mark.

However, the team spent much of the final 30 minutes keeping possession in their own half and avoiding risks -- something Allegri would habitually describe as "administering the match" and which became a hallmark of his five years in charge.

"I didn't like the way we sat back on the result," said Sarri, who took over this season. "We had several three-on-one counterattacks and we could have done more. I'd like to see us play the whole 90 minutes like we played the first 60.

"If we are going to just pass the ball around, then at least we should do it in the opposition's half of the field."

Juventus, chasing a ninth successive league title, have traditionally been a team who win without worrying about how they do it.

Allegri seemed to fit the bill perfectly and his teams were pragmatic, versatile and resilient and intent on getting the job done quickly.

But, after a relentless five years of Allegri, 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.

Juventus have an impressive 48 points from 19 games -- 15 wins, three draws and a defeat -- and a two-point lead over Inter Milan but their style of play has suggested they have changed Sarri rather than vice-versa.

"I don't know if Juventus has changed me, my wife tells me I'm just as obstinate as before," said Sarri, who previously turned Napoli into Serie A's most entertaining team.

"With Napoli, we twice led the championship at the halfway mark but it didn't work out well," he recalled.

"Do I feel totally Sarri in this Juventus? Look, there are some Juventus numbers that have changed so much since last year that I can say yes," he added.

"On the other hand, you always have to respect the players. I have to take the characteristics of the players into account."

For example, he said that his Napoli team could not have played the way Juventus did in the final half hour at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

"If my Napoli team had defended at the back like we did today we would have lost, so there are other qualities. Now I'm coaching another team," Sarri said.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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