There were a lot of new things that took place in Torino this weekend for the Derby della Mole: it was the first such encounter at the Juventus Stadium, it was the first time De Ceglie and Giaccherini started a match together this season as a left back and attacking winger, and it was the first time a 4-3-3 formation had been deployed from the start by Conte/Alessio. Yet fittingly, some of the most familiar faces around town, born and bred along the banks of the river Po, were the ones to decide the winner.
One in particular, Juve's very own Claudio "il Principino" Marchisio, shined on the main Torinese stage to deliver the victory to the reigning Serie A champions. It was a beautiful message - when a whole club and city are behind you, the will and desire to reward them is most immense.
Seba's and Claudio's match-deciding performances weren't the only thing to note on the night though. A red card, a missed penalty, another step upward in a 19-year old's development path, and a whole lot more all happened in front of our eyes to mark the first Torino derby of the season.
Delicious. That was the word that first came to my mind when I saw Juve's official 4-3-3 formation at the start of the game. Finally a game with a little bit of spice in it when it comes to writing these reviews. See, for months now I've had very, very little to write about in terms of Juventus' tactical approach...because for the most part, not a thing had changed in our formation.
This time round though, Conte made things interesting by switching our standard 3-5-2 formation for a 4-3-3 and handing a start to the less-preferred De Ceglie and Giaccherini. At the same time, no Chiellini, no Vidal, and no Quagliarella. Things were gonna get fun one way or another.
It wasn't for a while that things started clicking for our Bianconeri. The first 30 minutes were nerve-rattling, as we failed to really create any serious scoring opportunities while Torino started growing more confident.
The fault seemed to lie on our wings. Giaccherini and Giovinco were left to take on their men one on one, while Vucinic's attempt to get into the game was limited to holding up the ball deep from his prima punta position and laying it off to the ineffective wide attackers.
Tactically, there was one type of disconnect in particular. Giaccherini and Giovinco are good attacking players, but not natural wingers. All too often, Pogba and Lichtsteiner would pass the ball out right to Giaccherini without providing any support for a back pass or a one two. This left him isolated against one or two Torino defenders who easily smothered any attacking attempts by the winger. Same thing happened with Giovinco on the left, as Marchisio and De Ceglie played way too defensively and left Giovinco on his own on the left, outnumbered and easily closed down.
In the middle of the pitch, young Pogba struggled to find his place in the beginning of the game. Tasked with link up play, occasional attacking forays, and defending/pressing from box to box, he failed to fittingly replace Vidal in any of these categories. This allowed Torino a lot more possession in the first 30 minutes, which they fortunately squandered uselessly more often than not.
The turning point of the games was the red card to Gilk in the 36 minute for a high, stud-showing tackle on Giaccherini. A deserved red card which gave Juventus the advantage for the rest of the game. Pirlo had more time on the ball, Pogba had more space for long shots and attacking runs, and Marchisio started creeping closer to Torino's box as well.
After Pirlo's missed penalty the only real chance in the first 45 minutes, Alessio switched things up at half by pulling Giaccherini, inserting Bendtner in the middle of attack, with Vucinic and Giovinco taking the left and right sides in the last line of 3 in the formation. This proved effective since it gave Vucinic more space to operate either as a wide left attacker or as a second striker inside Torino's box. Giovinco on the other hand found plenty more space on the right and played a more of a Robben-type inside forward position.
The floodgates opened after a great Giovinco cross found Marchisio's header in the box. Then Vucinic took over on the assist sheet with a lovely ball to Giovinco for the second goal, and a beautiful chest down pass to Marchisio for the third.
Buffon: 6.5 - Had very little to do after the red card, though had a scare early on when he seemingly closed down the angle well enough to force a close miss by one of Torino's run.
Lichsteiner: 6.5 - Played a lot more defensively in his more natural right back role and that was to be expected, I guess. I still would've liked to see him supplement the attack more and help out the attacking winger on his flank.
Barzagli: 7 - Stayed solid throughout the game and fit well in the 4-man backline. His experience gives Conte a lot of flexibility in defense.
Bonucci: 6.5 - I thought Bonucci would struggle without Chiellini by his side and to be honest, he did start a bit shakier than usual. Almost was to blame for a goal if Meggiorini's shot had gone in. The red card changed everything though, and he became more himself as the game grew. He did look like he picked up a knock but expect to see him freezing his ass off on Wednesday in the center of our defense.
De Ceglie: 7 - Another Juventus primavera talent who I'm sure needed no additional motivation in the Torinese derby. He's failed to impress this season (and that's being generous), but he actually played well for the most part he was on the pitch. Just as Lichtsteiner on the right though, he rarely made the forward runs and didn't try to overlap with Giovinco and then Vucinic on the left. Alessio rightly took him out and put in the more attack-minded Asamoah while going for the kill. Got a good hour in though, De Ceglie, which should do well for his confidence.
Pogba: 7.5 - As I mentioned above, the young Frenchman started off a bit lost on the field but regained his focus midway through the first half. Won the penalty, was the only threat from long distance early on (and with some impressive shots too), and really deserved a goal by the end of 90 minutes. He's a great talent, we've all established that - now it's time for him to give us less mistakes to talk about and more important plays to praise. It's all a work in progress though, and it seems to be coming together nicely. Just keep ripping those bombas, son.
Pirlo: 6.5 - Let's look at his overall performance first. He passed the ball well, stretched Torino's defense very well by including our wide attackers, though his killer through balls were a bit lacking. The penalty? I was disappointed he missed it, well mostly shocked to be honest. It didn't seem like a Pirlo-type miss. His penalties are usually weak, but for such a technically-gifted player to sky a penalty like that to me was very surprising. I don't blame him for lack of composure or anything. I think the pitch was partly to blame here. He seemed incredulous when he saw the outcome too. That said, I'd like to see Mirko take those in the future, or Vidal if he's in.
Marchisio: 8.5 - Claimed the city like a boss on the night. His first goal was a great instinct goal, his second a beautifully finished attack play with his weaker foot. His control and awareness during the whole match was impressive. Thumping his chest and the Juventus logo in a Derby della Molle is an image few will forget in Torino. Grazie Principino!
Giaccherini: 5.5 - You can't blame him solely for his ineffectiveness on that right flank but still, Giaccherini had a pretty miserable 45 minute stint. He was desparate to make a difference but should've realized he was often outnumbered and been more patient with the ball.
Vucinic: 7 - Had a quiet first 45 minutes but I still think he was of great help holding up the ball and getting our wide players involved. Took his move to the left in stride and did very well to stretch the play out when needed and then get in the box once Asamoah came in and played further up the pitch. Those shoulder/chest passes to Marchisio were gorgeous and don't forget, he notched 2 assists despite failing to find the net himself.
Giovinco: 8 - Was always going to find a way to be dangerous from the side of the 16 as that's a more natural position for him - gives him more space to run with the ball and use his pace. Really came into his own in the second half and took his goal like an experienced striker. Loved seeing him play as an inside forward; the 4-3-3 is really designed for him to shine.
Bendtner: 6 - If he can't get a goal in 45 minutes against a 10-man Torino team, at home, with 2 other good passers in attack with him then I don't know when he's gonna get a better chance. He really should've put that chance away that Vucinic and Marchisio created.
Conte/Alessio: 7 - The switch to 4-3-3 was risky, but they can both be glad things turned out the way they did. This was the last Serie A game in which Conte won't be on the sidelines for the season - he's finally back after Shakthar on Wednesday. The halftime changes proved very effective, despite Bendtner's lack of impact. A big game awaits us on Wednesday, and I'm sure that was partly on their minds as well.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Formation flexibility - Whether it was preferred or forced (given Chiellini's and Caceres' injuries), the 4-3-3 can be a useful weapon in Conte's arsenal. As it's been the story this season though, he'll need to get the attacking trio right. I loved the move in the second half when Giovino was playing the inside forward role on the right. We really are becoming predictable and if it takes a couple tough games to mix things up, so be it. The 3-5-2 should rightly be our preferred formation since the team is now so comfortable with it, but playing a trident up front was refreshing on Saturday.
Che coreografia - the Juve fans welcomed our city rivals with quite the display at the new stadium. The huge black and white JUVENTUS display was beautiful - it really showed whose house this was and, more importantly, whose city it was.
I leave you with Claudio Zuliani's voice and the highlights of the three goals (thanks to whomever it was that linked it in the comment section). Happy Birthday, Signore Zuliani! Hope you'll have plenty of good things to shout about on Wednesday too!