If you completely erase Juve's pre-season from your memory, we picked up right where we left off in May- with hoisting another trophy for the ages.
Okay, maybe the Italian Super Cup isn't really that memorable of an accomplishment, but it counts and it goes in our trophy cabinet. Plus, it's Gigi's fifth Super Cup with Juventus, Conte's second in a row, and just a fantastic way to welcome our new signings to the squad - with a medal in their first game.
The scoreline suggests a convincing, dominating victory, but the winning margin would've been a lot smaller had Lazio not self-combusted early in the second half to allow for three quick goals in four minutes.
That said, Juve fully deserved the victory. Awake and ready for battle after a terrible pre-season (result-wise), Conte's men looked fit and eager to start the season with a trophy.
The game started off at a great pace, with both teams pushing hard trying to establish themselves early. Lazio's strategy was clear right away - fast counter attacks that spread Juve's defense and expose the slower Chiellini and Barzagli. Candreva and Lulic gave these two a lot of problems in the first 25 minutes, but thankfully Lazio was unable to find the final, finishing touch and score.
On the other hand, Juve caught a (un)lucky break. Marchisio limped off with an injured knee after a solo dribbling bonanza and Paul Pogba stepped up to fill his place once again. Just a couple minutes after he was on the pitch, he put Juventus ahead with a difficult turn around shot after a tricky Pirlo free kick caught the Lazio defense scrambling.
In the second half, Lazio started a bit more aggressive which opened things up for Juventus. Through a very well executed counter attack, Lichtsteiner found Chiellini for the simple tap in and the double lead. on 53 minutes. The second goal inspired a Juventus burst and a Lazio meltdown. Within a few minutes, Lichtsteiner and Vucinic combined for a beautiful third goal, while Carlitos scored in his official debut after Pogba set him up off of a Marchetti deflection.
Before you knew it, it was 4-0 Juventus and the game was over. As much as this didn't stop Conte from shouting and Klose from trying to finally break the duck against the Bianconeri, the scoreline remained so and Juventus were once again crowned Italian SuperCup Champions. Boom baby!
Buffon: 7.5 - Lazio resorted to many long shots which Buffon kept away easily, but when it came down to quick reaction saves like the Klose 1-on-1 towards the end of the match, Gigi didn't lose his focus.
Barzagli: 7 - Lulic did his absolute best to take advantage of Barzagli's age and lack of pace, but this wasn't Andrea's first rodeo. Stayed in control and had some great tackles and interceptions.
Bonucci: 7 - Didn't have a ton of work to do nor was he put in situations where he could've cost us a goal. He was caught on the wrong foot when Klose ran by him at the end but other than that, a solid start of the season for Leo.
Chiellini: 7.5 - If I told you that Giorgio would've scored 1) on the counter, 2) with his feet, 3) with his RIGHT foot before the match, you would've punched me twice in the face and poured acid over me. But hey, he did, he secured Juve's lead, and I'm uninjured and acid-free (well, for the most part). Defensively, Chiellini had his hands full with Candreva who had a great game against his former club.
Lichtsteiner: 8 - Man of the match really, as rarely as that happens. Was involved in all four goals (while scoring one and directly assisting another), ran his ass off (nothing surprising, I know), and even gave the sour Lazio fans a sarcastic bow on his way off the pitch. What a bawse!
Pirlo: 7 - My opinion of his performance was left spoiled by his few turnovers at the end of the game (see my things I think I think). Nonetheless, he made the opportunity for our first goal happen, he was diligent with his passes and kept things simple, and for some parts controlled the pace of our attack.
Marchisio: sv - If things continue the way they've been going for Marchisio and Pogba over the last 10-15 games that Juve's played, I imagine I'll get scolded on here very soon for writing a piece to promote Pogba to the first team in Claudio's place. We're not there yet though, but I'm using this rating summary here as a fair warning.
Vidal: 7.5 - He didn't score, nor did he particularly help in attack for the goals, but his work cannot go unnoticed. He gave Hernanes very little room to operate which really neutralized Lazio's attack in many ways. I may be a bit generous here on King Arturo, but I just want to start him off on the right foot for the season.
Asamoah: 7 - Worked a lot as well, though I noticed something else from him - he wasn't just carelessly trying to force things down the left flank. He was a lot more humble with his passing and integrated well with the midfielders and attackers with shorter passes rather than blind crosses.
Tevez: 7 - Welcome Carlitos! Like a true striker signing, he scored on his debut for what is hopefully one of many, many goals with the legendary Juve number 10 on his back. In the first half, he struggled to establish himself against Lazio's defenders but found his rhythm in the second half and started linking up with Mirko a bit better too. He'll obviously need time to integrate in the squad but I have high hopes he will deliver this season.
Vucinic: 7 - I was slated to really chastise Vucinic after the first 45 minutes, but his selfless play in the second half and great link ups for Lichtsteiner's and Tevez's goals convinced me otherwise. Honestly, he was atrocious in the first 45 minutes despite being handed the starting spot over our beautiful, blue-eyed Lion. I think Tevez's role will be very similar to what Conte always wanted Giovinco to do, which should make it easier for Vucinic to play with him. It shall be interesting seeing the angry Montenegrin fight for his spot with Llorente and Tevez this year.
Pogba: 8 - My close second man-of-match after Steiner. He came on, scored immediately and put Juve on the right track, then played a very mature game and set up Carlitos for the fourth. Sky's the limit for this kid, and he's not just dreaming of reaching it in the future - he is clawing for it right now. Gotta love it.
Conte: 7.5 - Despite the slow start in preseason, Conte whooped these boys into shape quick and got them mentally ready to fight for an early-season trophy. The result may have been more a testament to Lazio's self-destruction than Juventus' performance, but Conte deserves high praise for coming through once again and adding to Juve's trophy cabinet like he's used to.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Step on the ball - When I was growing up, my dad and I used to watch a lot of football, primarily Juventus and Bayern Munich (as those were his two favorite teams). I remember one instance specifically - we were watching Bayern, who at the time had Stefan Effenberg as their midfield maestro, and my dad was marvelling at the way Effe "stepped on the ball" and controlled the pace and game with his passing and security on the ball. As much as I love Pirlo, he unfortunately does not have that skill. His pass completion ratio is usually high, yes, but he often gives the ball away in very inopportune situations. Even when the scoreline is as high as 4-0, Juventus still doesn't have the skill to kill the game with boring but precise passing. Lazio did press pretty high, that is true, but once Conte can get this team to be able to do that, we'll be capable of many more minimal victories in Serie A, especially against lower-level clubs during the busy schedules of the season.
My new jersey is 1 for 1 - I'm sure many of you know this tradition, but I intend on following it religiously this year just for schnitz and giggles. You wear a Juve jersey on game day, and you wear it every game day without washing it until Juve loses. Once we lose, you can switch up the jersey (if you have more than one) and see which one is your "lucky" one for the season. This could work well with my idea I had last year (still planning on making it work this year) to organize Google+ hangouts for watching the games together. Btw, would any of you be interested in this?