MAMMA MIA WHAT A GAME!
Three days have now passed since the match and I am still pumped up and bouncing off the walls whenever I think of the win. In the biggest test so far this season (in terms of quality of opponent), our reconstructed Bianconeri side played a spectacular game against the current Italian champions and got a tremendous win that was more than deserved. Not only did we get the win, but we are still top of the table and have (unfortunately) welcomed the ever-so-superstitious Scudetto talk after only 5 rounds. But more on that later.
Sunday's game was very much a performance like we've been longing to see for a while now. I can't really remember such a dominant and confident performance since pre-calciopoli (tho Sampdoria's thrashing in 09/10 comes to mind in the post-calciopoli era).
It definitely seemed as if all chips fell in the right place against Milan. Tactically, Conte hit the nail straight in the freaking head. It was obvious that Milan had been well scouted and the team was prepared. Let's take a closer look at how Juventus' tactics and movement changed shapes throughout the game.
I Bianconeri came out of the gates running and gunning. Juve set a high tempo from the very beginning and managed to hold it until the end of the game. What seemed to be a 4-2-3-1 formation by Conte was actually a very dynamic 4-1-4-1 setup. When Milan were in possession (44%) in their own half, Juventus were mostly in a typical 4-1-4-1 formation where Vucinic was pressing on the centre backs taking the ball out, while either Marchisio or Vidal was loosely marking Van Bommel - Milan's only central outlet player.
When Milan advanced with possession into our own half, Pepe usually dropped a bit deeper to form a quasi 5-person backline. This was a pretty genius move from Conte. With Cassano mostly operating on the left and Boateng & Seedorf pushing up through the middle, Ibrahimovic was really stretching play from the right side of the field. Pepe's deep position helped our backline cover Ibrahimovic in the instances where one of Milan's many midfield players dragged Chiellini towards the middle of the defense. Trusting Pepe with this role was brilliant - the winger's work rate is incredible and his defensive skills are on the rise as well.
When Juventus were in possession (56%), Conte really had our players push forward in numbers. With Pirlo as the deep playmaker (who was inexplicably unmarked most of the game), the full backs pushed up high while Vidal sat between Milan's defense and midfield helping Pirlo bring the ball up through the middle. This allowed Marchisio to make countless runs towards goal, dragging defenders with him, opening space up for Vucinic to line up shots, and in general cause havoc in the shaky Milan defense.
Juve didn't miss a beat in the first half. Vucinic was the most dangerous with a shot straight at Abbiati, one wide of goal, and a beautiful dipping shot that hit the crossbar. Pirlo had a couple shots on goal as well but the teams went into the halftime break tied at 0-0.
In the second half, it was obvious that Conte had urged his players to keep going and get that very precious (and by now obviously deserved) goal. Chances came and went, with Vucinic again coming close on a couple occasions and Bonucci missing a sitter after a corner kick. Vidal also had a shot from just outside the 16 go inches wide. From the 45-80 minutes, Vidal and Marchisio rotated quite a bit with Vidal really the one making runs forward in support of Vucinic. This is exactly the advantage of the 3 midfielder formation that many of you have been lusting for since day one.
The breakthrough goal didn't come until late (87 min), but man was it a relieve when it was actually here. A somewhat fortuitous goal for Marchisio who did well to stay with a couple one-twos through Milan's defense and then deflect a tackled ball past Abbiati.
The Juventus Stadium erupted in celebration while neighbors around the world sent in noise-complaints to apartment managers of buildings where Juventini lived (whoops).
Few minutes later, Marchisio got lucky again. A nice run by Giaccherini down the left (hey, that's a first) was cleared only to the always-volley-ready Marchisio who shot it straight at Abbiati. The latter, in true Abbiati fashion, let it slip through his hands, legs, and eventually the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Game over, 2-0, and an endless party all around.
Buffon: 6.5 - Needed to make one save all game, but was ready for it when it came. I was very surprised he wasn't tested on more occasions, especially with the tricky and technically superb Ibramerda & Cassano playing. Was probably bored as hell for most of the game.
Lichtsteiner: 7 - He may have started the match with some Molinaro-type crosses, but the way Conte masterminded this game I wouldn't put it past him to have instructed Steiner to do so on purpose. Maybe he was trying to trick Abbiati into thinking our players can't cross to save their lives (not that hard to "fake") to have Abbiati relax even more and eventually let one in through the legs. Either way, Steiner did a heck of a job pushing up and supporting Krasic/Pepe, as well as always being behind Cassano down the flank. Steady as a beating drum this lad.
Barzagli: 7 - Again, he's been surprisingly consistent. Well, I guess it's not really surprising anymore. Both him and Bonucci seemed almost unbothered during all 90 minutes. What they had to clean up they did well and with confidence. I mean to render Ibrahimovic and Cassano useless during a game is impressive by itself.
Bonucci: 7 - Just like Barzagli, Bonucci was solid during the whole game and even had a chance to put Juve in front. I was impressed with how well our defenders pushed up high in attack and immediately backtracked in defense to not let too much space create behind them.
Chiellini: 7 - In his first foray as a terzino this season, Chiellini looked like a kid in a candy store. Free to push up and attack, he did so in true Chiello style - sometimes surprisingly dangerous, other times rushed, forced, and technically subpar. No matter his position in defense though, he knew his task all along - destroy the ugly monster that is Ibramerda. And my oh my did he succeed. I was very encouraged by Chiellini's confident performance as a left back. I hope it doesn't mean we aren't shopping for one in January though.
Pirlo: 8 - If it weren't for Marchisio's two goals, he'd be man of match yet again. When he is unmarked and let to control the game, he has no match in Italy. There were a couple passes he overhit, but even he's human. I thought he was instrumental to our win today, always demanding to start the attack (especially with his deep position on Sunday) and sometimes even high up the pitch to finish it. This three man midfield really suits him as he has more freedom knowing he will be backed by the ever-so-hard-working Marchisio and Vidal.
Krasic: 6 - Here's the thing with Krasic - the way he started last season makes us all expect a burst of pace, magic, and pink unicorns from him. While he is far from delivering any of that, he still worked very hard for the ~60 minutes he got. Conte said he picked up a knock hence why he took him off, but I don't buy it. Krasic just wasn't bringing much to the table. One of these days, Милош will find a full back to toy with and he will get his confidenza back. I can feel it. I actually think the international break will suit him well. A bit of rakija, ajvar, and total tactical confusion in the Serbian national team will hopefully bounce him back. Who knows, they may even beat Italy.
Marchisio: 8.5 - As someone said after the game, there was only one PRINCE on the pitch in this match. Our Principino worked his ass off, helped Vucinic and Vidal up top tremendously with his runs, which eventually paid off for his two goals. Yes, he was lucky to score on both, but he did so mostly because of the work he put in. I'm not even gonna bother saying anything about the "overrated" claims made recently. You ladies & gents put that oh so eloquently in the comments after the game.
Pepe: 7.5 - Yet another solid game from the winger/wingback/secret terzino to further invite comparisons to Angelo Di Livio. Heck, even Di Livio himself took time from his day to talk about none other than Simone Pepe. If that doesn't hit Pepe's life ceiling, I don't know what will. Comparisons aside, Pepe put in a very consistent performance against Milan. He did his job admirably - helped out on defense, stretched the field, and attacked when he could.
Vidal 7 - I may be a bit generous with Vidal here, but he has become the master of getting shitty first touches and then sticking with the ball only to win it back after tackling 3 opposition players in a row. He reminds me of Felipe Melo in that respect, without the red card-inducing tackles and punches. That said, Vidal must have killed a dozen birds on Sunday. Every shot he took (except for the one that went inches wide) was way high and looked totally amateur. He got tired towards the end after so much running, but he needs to work on his composure and shooting. Where's FM individual training when you need it?
Vucinic: 7.5 - I don't think a lot of people would've seen Mirko as the sole striker in a 4-1-4-1 before the start of the season. We always talked about him playing as a seconda punta or out wide on the left. But I thought Mirko had a very good game. He was unlucky to score and eventually lost his touch as the legs tired, but he had a very good game. Props to Conte for keeping him on until the first goal came.
Giaccherini: 7 - Giak impressed me today. He came on around the 60th minute and immediately played with confidence and determination. Had a couple nice touches, a couple good balls in, and seemed generally more settled in. Encouraging from the diminutive winger.
Conte: 8 - What a mastermind of a game by Antonio Conte. While his players take a lot of the credit for implementing it, Conte's strategy overpowered anything Allegri and Milan brought to the field Sunday night. He was patient enough to let Mirko play until the first goal came (apparently he "didn't want to disrupt the magic") and was screaming for Pazienza halfway through his first goal celebration. And btw, we haven't had a coach that celebrates better than this guy. Not in my lifetime. Imagine how he would've celebrated if he was playing or coaching during this game in 1997? In addition, for how uncertain I was about him at the start of the season, Conte has shown that he has the work-ethic, anal retentiveness, and balls to customize Juventus' approach uniquely to every game. Five games, top of the table, and no losses. Quite impressive. I am actually looking forward to the first defeat just to see how Conte and his team will handle it and react. It's not like I'm praying every night for it though.
Things I think I think:
#1: Where was Milan? - I said this during the game, but for a team that is stacked in midfield and uses the middle to control a game, Milan's midfield was nowhere to be seen. Van Bommel didn't do shit and I had no idea Nocerino was even on the field until he was subbed off in the second half. Seedorf, as usual played high up the pitch but never got any balls to be dangerous with. I realize this was a depleted Milan team who were missing Robinho, Pato, and Abate, but still, this was a terrible performance by the rossoneri.
#2: Chiellini is not our solution to the left back problem - one good game as a left back does not mean he should be consistently played in his old position from back of the Fiorentina days. If we don't go shopping for a left back in January, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. We already have a solid backline in Chiellini, Barzagli, and Bonucci, and the arrival of the promising Rhodolfo is imminent. I better not start hearing rumors again about Alex, Cahill, or Hummels joining us (tho Hummels would be nice). I want a left back in January that is not Grosso or De Ceglie. Is that really too much to ask?
#3: Long balls, how I DON'T miss you - We started going this direction a bit last year with Aquilani and Marchisio in midfield, and we are definitely playing possession-heavy direct football now. I LOVE IT! No more long balls over the midfield, no more English style target man play, just patient, technically-intensive build up. I hereby express my gratitude towards Conte's new style of play.
#4: The fans and atmosphere in the Juventus Stadium is amazing - ESPN3 finally had both commentary and match sound during their broadcast, and the recording I was watching afterwards really showed the atmosphere in that stadium. Fantastic! When we scored the first goal that place was going NUTS! What with the Drughi & Viking pre-match decorations, what with the never expected Michele Pazienza signs (Juve per tornare a vincere ci vuole PAZIENZA). God I wish I lived in Torino.
#5: We are not, I repeat, we are NOT a legitimate contender for the Scudetto...yet - many were quick to jump on the Juve for Scudetto bandwagon after this impressive performance, but let's be real. We've played 5 games, the season has barely even started, and Juventus has been the best at starting well and finishing catastrophically. So I say we give it a few months. If we are still in this similar position come January AND we win a single game after the winter break, maybe. Maybe we can start talking about. But not now. Definitely not now.
THE JUVENTUS OFFSIDE SHITLIST:
How do you add a player to the shitlist after one of the best Juve performances in a long time? Simple - you don't. Though Милош is certainly working his way towards joining Zebina & Amauri on the list.
- Zebina: (lifetime award) He now plays for Stade Brestois 29 in France. Nuff said.
- Amauri: (nearing lifetime award status) #IBlameAmauri
P.S. If you haven't seen it or liked it already, I shall leave you with an epicly wonderful poem about our hero Marchisio from one of our readers, Julian Rozie:
How is a regular day-to-day for Marchisio?
Well here it is:
WAS A BALL BOY (LIKE A BOSS)
THEN SECOND STRIKER (LIKE A BOSS)
NOW LEADING MIDFIELD (LIKE A BOSS)
YOUNGEST CAPTAIN (LIKE A BOSS)
GOT RELEGATED (LIKE A BOSS)
CAME BACK IN ONE YEAR (LIKE A BOSS)
HUNGER FOR VICTORY (LIKE A BOSS)
NOW IT'S MY TIME (LIKE A BOSS)
DECENT PASSSING (LIKE A BOSS)
AVERAGE TACKLING (LIKE A BOSS)
MEDIOCRE COVERAGE (LIKE A BOSS)
BUT KILLER SHOOTING (LIKE A BOSS)
OUT OF POSITION (LIKE A BOSS)
2 YEARS WASTED (LIKE A BOSS)
COVERING GROSSO (LIKE A BOSS)
HATE THE TAN MAN (LIKE A BOSS)
DON'T LIKE LEFT WING (LIKE A BOSS)
*peep* on GDN'S DESK (LIKE A BOSS)
"GDN has no faith on mehhh!!!"
BELIEVED BY CONTE (LIKE A BOSS)
BACK TO CM (LIKE A BOSS)
BICYCLE KICK (LIKE A BOSS)
AGAINST UDINESE (LIKE A BOSS)
ALSO PALERMO (LIKE A BOSS)
BUT LOST THE MATCH (LIKE A BOSS)
LEFT OR RIGHT FOOT (LIKE A BOSS)
NOT A PROBLEM (LIKE A BOSS)
PWND JULIO CESAR (LIKE A BOSS)
NOW ABBIATI (LIKE A BOSS)
1 GOAL TO INTER (LIKE A BOSS)
1 GOAL TO PARMA (LIKE A BOSS)
2 GOALS TO MILAN (LIKE A BOSS)
NOW TOP SCORER (LIKE A BOSS)
TURN INTO A JET (LIKE A BOSS)
BOMB FIGC (LIKE A BOSS)
WILL BE DEAD (LIKE A BOSS)
AS A BIANCONERO (LIKE A BOSS)
WHOOO'S DA BAWWSSSS NAAWWWW??????