As is becoming more and more usual, Juventus had just completed an international break in which they lost a number of players to injuries and faced a side from the Italian capital to restart their domestic season.
However, the only thing that was similar between Juve’s victory over Roma in the October international break and the one that came out 2-0 against Lazio on Saturday were the three points. won because it was a very different performance.
The good Juventus showed up, and although they found both goals via two shots on goal, the team were vastly superior to Lazio and restarted their Italian performance in the right way.
MVP: Léo Bonucci
Sometimes the job of awarding MVP points is quite easy, and this is one of those times. The old veteran – sporting the captain’s armband to boot – showed up with a vintage performance that resembled Bonucci’s peak days a few years ago.
Of course, the fact that Lazio star striker Ciro Immobile came out injured has a lot to do with Biancocelesti Attack seemed throughout the game, but it also had a lot to do with Juventus’ baseline work as Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt got it right in 90 minutes.
Plus, you know, scoring a brace as a center-back always has to be considered a hell of a good day at the office, no matter how those two goals turned out. Considering how many talented forwards and PK-takers Juve have had over the years, it shouldn’t be surprising that Bonucci didn’t find himself with the opportunity to shoot plenty of shots on goal, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s always fun to remember that he’s actually a pretty decent taker when given the chance.
(I remember a Coppa Italia semi-final – or a final? – in which Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli all took and took PKs in a shootout. If I remember correctly, Juve ended up losing that game, but it was so impressive having all of your defenders get to shoot those shots when it counts.)
Runner-up: Matthijs de Ligt – A banner defensive performance deserves recognition for both center-backs. de Ligt and Bonucci have always been a much weaker defensive duo than their reputations suggest, but this is easily one of their best joint performances. Lazio really didn’t have a dangerous chance to talk about the whole game, standing still or not, that’s pretty good.
Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Manuel Locatelli (8 points)
To save oneself
I understand not wanting to admit you are wrong. Or stay the course despite the results and all the evidence available to show you that it’s a bad idea. Pride is a hell of a thing, and you can convince yourself that you are seeing things that just aren’t there.
What I’m saying is that I sympathize with Max Allegri and his unsuccessful attempt to turn Adrien Rabiot into a winger. The idea makes sense the Allegri way, I see what he’s trying to do, but I think it’s also fair to say that whatever he’s trying to accomplish isn’t working.
And sometimes you need something – or someone – to save you from yourself when you’re stubbornly trying to get on with it. Like a loving coach throwing in the towel in a one-sided boxing match. The proverbial savior this time around for Allegri was Danilo, who sadly got injured early in Saturday’s game and forced Allegri to replace Dejan Kulusevski, placed Juan Cuadrado at full-back and played a 4-5-1 formation that sometimes looked like a 4-3-3
Putting Rabiot back in his usual place in midfield, with Chiesa and Kulusevski on the wings, solidified their defensive form, made Juventus much more dangerous on the clock and was the decisive blow to secure the victory.
As I said, Rabiot as a makeshift winger was not a baseless idea, but the fact that he had the best game in a while when he was deployed in his natural position and the he team looking much better overall should be the final proof of letting the experience finally die.
(Related, but not quite, but Cuadrado as a full-time full-back is a seductive idea that could solve much of Juve’s depth imbalance and his appearance on Saturday gave many people hope that it can work in the long run. I don’t necessarily object to the idea, but if he moved on to the full-time job, I guarantee at least three defensive mistakes that would cost Juve goals in an entire season. European guaranteed.)
Winner: Federico Chiesa
There is no more exciting player to watch right now when they’ve got the ball on their feet and they’re racing down the pitch. Chiesa’s combination of speed, physics, and sheer skill is incredibly exciting to watch in a game like this.
He really should have had a goal or an assist for his troubles as he was the main – and sometimes the only – reliable exhaust valve of the team on the clock. While he didn’t handle any scoring stats, I can’t overstate how key he was throughout the game.
Please, please keep the guy on the wings. Any kite, I’m not particularly picky at the moment.
Participant: Dejan Kulusevski
Kulusevski was objectively horrible for most of the game. Every decision he made seemed like the wrong one, he lost possession more times than I could count and he was completely lacking in confidence.
In fact, his form reminded me a lot of that of Federico Bernardeschi during the worst moments of his career at Juve. Kulusevski is a guy who tries too hard for something good to happen, but it’s in such bad shape that he constantly keeps giving the opposite result.
And then, out of nowhere, the guy offers an absolutely perfect long cross pass to Chiesa which puts him in a position to possibly get dirty by Pepe Reina for Juve’s second PK of the day and what ended up being the 2-0.
The talent is undeniable. It remains to be seen if he ever manages to put everything in place to make it count and I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be for him and his manager.
The “Pellegrini is really good” bus at the start
LUCA PELLEGRINI IS REALLY GOOD.
He was good! Legitimately good, can we please stop the loan rumors once and for all?
Defensively, he was part of the effort that kept another clean sheet and he has won his personal duel against Manuel Lazzari more times than he has lost. He also bumped into Lazzari’s face after trying to give him a slight foul on several occasions, and look, I know the honorable and mature opinion is that actions like this are a bit of a league at best. bush and at worst unsportsmanlike.
But, between you and me, I kinda like defenders. I think it shows passion and confidence to speak up when you know you’re playing well and beating the other guy. As long as you can save it, I have absolutely no problem with it showing a bit of fire.
Alex Sandro is not getting any younger and more rest for the Brazilian full-back is always a good thing. I really hope Pellegrini will continue to have chances, because with the little he has had so far he has done a lot with them.
Starting shot of the week
I still won’t buy into the sudden revival of Juventus. It was a good game, but we saw some good games from them to finish immediately after.
That being said, against a tough opponent in a tough venue, the team rose to the challenge and there isn’t much more to ask of them. It was as good a result as they could have hoped for and one they desperately needed to try to follow in Serie A.
Now, with the right vibes, they travel to London to take on Chelsea in what is surely – on paper, at least – the toughest game left on their schedule for this calendar year. Qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League is already in the pocket, but a good result in England could secure the top of the group, which is always a good thing to have for the draw.
See you on Tuesday.