Dusan Vlahovic's struggles at Juventus should be a warning to potential Premier League suitors

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Dusan Vlahovic Juventus 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The €70 million signing from Fiorentina hasn't scored in Serie A since February and there is now talk that he could be sold this summer...

Dusan Vlahovic has always had the utmost respect for Erling Haaland. He's long studied the movement of a No.9 he calls "a goal machine".

However, Vlahovic has never viewed Haaland solely as a role model, he also sees the Norwegian as a peer, firmly believing that there is little to choose between the pair in terms of talent and technique.

Right now, though, the Manchester City ace is operating in an entirely different stratosphere to the Serbian striker.

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On Tuesday, Haaland set a new record for most goals in a season across all competitions for a Premier League player (45) - and we've not even reached the middle of April.

Vlahovic, meanwhile, is by no means certain to start for Juventus in their Europa League quarter-final clash with Sporting CP for two reasons.

Firstly, he has a minor ankle injury. Secondly, and far more importantly, he is enduring the worst drought of his Serie A career, having failed to score in his last eight games - seven of which he started.

His rotten run of form has, unsurprisingly, become a major talking point in Turin, and beyond.

  1. 'A foreign body in this Juventus'
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    'A foreign body in this Juventus'

    Indeed, Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso couldn't resist sticking the boot into his former forward while speaking recently at an economics event in Florence.

    “We paid €15 million combined for Arthur Cabral and Luka Jovic and they have already scored 20 goals in the three competitions we play in," Commisso boasted in his speech.

    "Vlahovic, on the other hand, has scored 10 goals in Turin, two of which were penalties. He has exactly half [the number of goals] of our two forwards. And amidst all of this, we earned €70m.

    "The Cabral-Jovic deal was excellent for us, unlike the Juventus deal for Vlahovic."

    It's difficult to disagree, as the gap has only grown since Commisso took to the stage. Cabral and Jovic are now up to 24 goals between them, while Vlahovic has only added one in the interim - another penalty, which is indicative of his struggle to integrate himself into Massimiliano Allegri's team.

    Some three months after his arrival in Turin, Fabio Licari wrote in the Gazzetta dello Sport, "The best No.9 in the league is still a foreign body in this Juve."

    The situation hasn't improved over the past year either; if anything, Vlahovic looks more isolated, and more out of place, than ever before. And some pundits are not in the least bit surprised.

  2. 'Juventus will not change with Allegri'

    'Juventus will not change with Allegri'

    Antonio Cassano may have a lot of crazy opinions but, to his credit, he did say just days after Vlahovic's move from Fiorentina to Juve had been confirmed that the attacker had got his choice of club "sensationally wrong".

    "Juventus will not change with Allegri, neither next year nor in 10 years," the former Italy international warned on BoboTV.

    It was a valid point because even last season there were legitimate concerns over whether Vlahovic was really suited to his new coach's style of play.

    He had flourished at Fiorentina playing under Beppe Iachini, Cesare Pandelli and Vincenzo Italiano - three coaches with admittedly different styles, but far more expansive footballing philosophies than the painfully pragmatic Allegri.

    The hope was that Juve might adopt a more attacking approach this season. When Vlahovic arrived in Turin, the team was sitting seventh in the table and Allegri adopted, successfully, a win-at-all-costs mentality to secure a Champions League berth.

    This year was meant to be different, particularly for Vlahovic, but Allegri has once again prioritised points over pretty play, and one can understand why, to a degree at least.

    Firstly, Juve have been hindered by injuries, particularly to the likes of Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa, two players who would have undoubtedly made a world of difference to Juve's offensive output if fully fit.

    Secondly, the 15-point penalty deduction the club received has forced Allegri's hand somewhat.

    He needs to get Juve as high up the table as possible and, at a club where 'winning is the only thing that counts', it doesn't really matter how.

    Ugly wins have once again become the order of the day at Juve.

  3. 'There was criticism for Cristiano when he arrived'

    'There was criticism for Cristiano when he arrived'

    That is, of course, little consolation to Vlahovic, who has cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the field. Off it, meanwhile, he has deleted his Instagram account - and not for the first time.

    Vlahovic has taken a break from social media on at least two previous occasions when he was copping a lot of flak for his performances.

    "There was criticism for Cristiano Ronaldo when he arrived," Allegri pointed out on the eve of the Sporting game. "Dusan will find the goal again, he is 22 years old and has also improved technically.

    "Throughout your career. there are moments when things go less well for you. You must remain serene... Dusan has very specific characteristics and it's not like he's any less strong now than when he arrived."

    The numbers would suggest otherwise, though.

  4. 'Vlahovic just needs to stay calm'

    'Vlahovic just needs to stay calm'

    In his final 18 months at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, he scored 41 times in just 65 games in all competitions, averaging a goal every 126.7 minutes.

    At Juve, that figure has fallen to 199.8. He's now converting just half of the big chances coming his way - down from 65 per cent at Fiorentina. His overall shot conversion and shooting accuracy have also fallen.

    "Vlahovic just needs to stay calm," Allegri argued during an interview with DAZN. "Every now and then, he uses up too much energy, so he has to just take it easy.

    "Once he is able to learn that game management, he will be less hasty when the ball arrives and more clinical in finishing.

    "Let's not forget he’s only been at Juventus for a year, he is doing well and has everything it takes to improve."

    Certainly, his potential remains obvious, but one wonders if he will realise it under Allegri.

  5. 'The Juve shirt comes with a lot of pressure'
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    'The Juve shirt comes with a lot of pressure'

    The pair have a good working relationship, but there is no denying that we have yet to see anything like the best of Vlahovic at Juve.

    Club legend Alessandro Del Piero has openly wondered whether there is "a psychological aspect" at play.

    "The Juventus shirt comes with a lot of pressure," the former No.10 told Sky Sport Italia. "These matches when you don’t score weigh heavily on you."

    However, Christian Vieri is adamant that it's simply a clash of styles, arguing that if Vlahovic were playing for a team more suited to his strengths, like Inter, he would already have scored 25 times this season. Instead, he's toiling in Turin. "If you play in a team that plays badly, you play badly too," Vieri told the Gazzetta.

    Prandelli agrees that this is a tactical mismatch, insisting that the blame lies not with Vlahovic, but with his coach and his colleagues.

    "I’ve always started from the assumption that when you have a striker with such scoring qualities, you have to look for him a lot," the former Fiorentina coach told Tuttomercatoweb. "If we look [at Juve], there are a lot of passes before the ball gets to him.

    "I’ve always thought that he must be valued. I am sorry to say it, but the team-mates should give him more service and don’t just make him do the dirty work. Others should do that and not the striker who has scoring skills.

    "In my career, I was lucky enough to find great strikers and when I saw them track back too much, it was because the team wasn’t doing well. It must be in an emergency, but not a constant.

    "He has shown that he knows how to score. At 20, he had scored 50 goals in Serie A, the others need to understand that."

    It certainly seems significant that Vlahovic, for all his struggles for form and fitness in Italy this season, has continued to score freely at international level, with six goals in his last six appearances for Serbia.

    The belief is that the best version of Vlahovic can yet be unlocked at Juve, and there remains a willingness on all sides to make this move work.

  6. 'Juve cannot give up someone like Vlahovic'
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    'Juve cannot give up someone like Vlahovic'

    After all, Vlahovic wanted Juve last January, as much as Juve wanted him, and Iachini is adamant that his former charge will come good.

    "I read and hear a lot of criticism against him because he's not scoring much but all strikers have periods like this," he told Tuttosport. "He's had a groin problem that didn't allow him to train continuously, and that doesn't help him at all, given his physical stature.

    "When Vlahovic was in Florence with me after Covid-19, he needed time to recover his form, but I had confidence in him, and he had a lot in himself. He also worked hard. He was the last to leave training because he always wanted to learn.

    "As soon as he felt better, physically, he showed his quality. Because of his quality, he will come out of this bad spell. I repeat, he just has to feel good. This is what he's lacking now, more than goals. Juventus cannot give up someone like Vlahovic."

    That very much remains to be seen, though.

    Juve have appealed against their points deduction. but if it is upheld at a hearing later this month, it is unlikely, even accounting for their recent revival, that they will finish in the top four, and failing to secure Champions League football for next season could well mean having to sell a star name this summer.

    As the Gazzetta outlined on Tuesday, Vlahovic is obviously their most valuable asset, given he continues to attract plenty of Premier League interest. Arsenal tried to sign him last year, while Chelsea are obviously in dire need of a goalscorer.

    Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich are also crying out for a new No.9, with the cost of losing Robert Lewandowski made painfully clear in Tuesday's crushing loss to Haaland's Manchester City.

    Going head to head with the Norwegian on the club game's grandest stage feels a long way away for Vlahovic at the moment, though.

    Between now and the end of the season, he needs to focus solely on proving his worth - both to Juventus and any potential summer suitors.