There was huge fanfare when Dusan Vlahovic joined Juventus from Fiorentina in a January deal worth £62million. He hit the ground running, too.
Three goals in his first four Serie A games and one on his Champions League debut against Villarreal proved the Serbian was a shrewd buy. But just months later the striker bought to resurrect Juventus has become a prisoner of their woeful football.
Vlahovic is a vertical player, who loves to make runs in behind and get on the ball to find team-mates in support of him. But he’s suffering from the dismal, horizontal football that Massimiliano Allegri’s side are producing.
Dusan Vlahovic is finding life tough at Juventus after a blistering start after joining in January
Vlahovic heads home Juventus’ goal in the disappointing draw with Bologna on Saturday
The Italian newspapers are showing him to be nervous and downcast. Vlahovic always tries to be useful to the team but it is undoubtedly true that he’s not loving life in Turin at present.
A target for defenders, Vlahovic is fouled often. That’s something that happened less frequently in Florence and is another cause of his disdain in Turin. Each match is proving to be a battle in which he is beaten from the first to the 90th minute.
After the goal against Bologna last week, his celebration was full of anger and insults towards Mitchell Dijks who was kicking and fouling Vlahovic all game.
The Serbian did not take his eyes off the Dutch defender and screamed his name, along with some phrases in Serbian that were unlikely to have been complimentary.
In Florence, Vlahovic built an extraordinary ‘Robocop’ image where he was physically dominant and capable of scoring with disconcerting ease. But in Turin his quality in front of goal has been lacking.
After an extraordinary start to the year in Florence, Vlahovic is struggling to maintain the high returns he brought to his team from September to January. But a lack of ammunition at Juventus is also to blame.
Vlahovic, dubbed the saviour of his homeland, helped Juventus significantly improve their goal output but he is also capable of returning the team to a position of dominance in Serie A and in Europe if placed in the correct system and team.
In the Fiorentina midfield he had Lucas Torreira dictating the timing of passes but in Turin there is Adrien Rabiot, a player who is still unable to be decisive in any role he plays.
The likes of Adrien Rabiot (left) and Alex Sandro (right) are not giving him enough chances
Without somebody who can play vertical passes into Vlahovic, it is difficult to make the most of his technical ability. At Juventus he has gone from ‘Robocop’ to trying to do much to score.
Allegri also seems to be harsh in his criticism of the Serbian. After the match against Bologna, he was particularly critical: ‘Dusan is an important player but has only been playing football for a year and a half. Playing for Juventus is not like playing in Fiorentina.
‘He has too much desire to do everything and this attitude leads him to be in a hurry.
‘I think he has a lot of room for improvement. When he finds a balance, all his qualities will surely emerge. Now they know him, they fear him, they study him: even he knows it well.
‘It’s normal that he always needs to improve but I’m happy because he fought but he has to stay calm.’
Perhaps Allegri should not worry about making the most of Serbian’s talents but rather finding a tactical formula more suited to the characteristics of the player.
Allegri has returned to the centre of the crosshairs of Juventus fans who have dusted off the usual ‘#AllegriOut’ after the dismal draw against 10-man Bologna.
Massimiliano Allegri criticised Vlahovic for trying to do too much to get on the scoresheet
The low production of Juventus in attack, only the 10th best in Serie A despite the huge outlay it took in January to bring Vlahovic in, is the cause of a lot of criticism from Juventus fans.
Another reason for Vlahovic’s frustration is that a barren run with no goals means the possibility of winning the Serie A top scorer title is slowing disappearing.
Lazio’s Ciro Immobile is in first place with 24 goals and the Serbian is positioned in second place with 23. If victorious, Vlahovic would become the first player born after 2000 to win the award.
Vlahovic scored his 50th goal aged 22 years and 78 days. In the history of Serie A, only one foreign player has reached this milestone before him and that was former AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato at 21 years and 220 days.
But despite the ominous presence of the Serbian, Juventus continue to struggle in front of goal. In Serie A they have only scored 50 goals, eight fewer than AC Milan and Napoli and 18 fewer than Inter Milan.
The main reason is that Juventus’ midfield is unable to adequately provide for their attackers but also the poor concentration of Paulo Dybala is having a negative impact on results.
Vlahovic will lose his chief creator in Paulo Dybala (centre) when his deal expires this summer
In the last three years in Serie A, Dybala has scored 28 goals which is five fewer than the goals scored by Vlahovic this season.
Despite the pair’s promising relationship, Vlahovic will soon lose the partner who has contributed to 40 per cent of his goals in Turin thanks to sublime movement and intelligent assists.
When Dybala’s contact expires, Juventus must start to build a team more attentive to the qualities of their No 7, who is desperate to be the focal point of a winning project.
With his devastating movement, Vlahovic can open opposing defenses and cause havoc but his team-mates never manage to make deep passes. Instead they opt for slow and predictable management of the ball that renders the great physical work of the Serbian striker useless.
In the last five games, Juventus have conceded four goals: too many for a team that find their own goals hard to come by and can’t make the most of their dazzling striker.