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The Season Has Begun: Udinese 0-4 Juventus

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I like winning. Delneri likes winning. The Juventus Offside likes winning.

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Who's got the better face? Coda, or Chiellini?

It'd been a couple weeks coming, right? First, we started out incapable of scoring. Then, the goals flooded in, but unfortunately, they did on both ends, unfortunately for Manninger and Storari. Finally, yesterday, we kept a clean sheet. And the goals still flooded in, but thankfully, in Udinese's direction. More than the 4 goals, which were beautiful, beautiful goals, I was most satisfied with the defensive work. It's our first away clean sheet since October 25th, 2009, when we defeated Siena 1-0 away. And no, that is not a typo or incorrect in any way. It's about goddamn time we tightened it up at the back, I have been sick of seeing us concede week-in, week-out. It's also our first away goal in 235minutes.

Udinese and Juventus have been tied together recently. Aside from our Bianconero shirts, aside from the many players we have shared, our fate has been similar over the last 12 months. Last year was an absolute disaster for both of us, Udinese narrowly avoided relegation thanks to Di Natale's doping 29-goal season, had he scored 10 less, they'd be playing in Serie B. I don't need to go into how dreadful our season, suffice it to say, it sucked. The lowest moment of last year, in my opinion, no doubt was the 3-0 defeat to Udinese, at the Stadio Friuli. We looked pathetic, we were crushed by a team barely avoiding relegation. At the end, the home crowd was chanting "Ole" as a provincial club humiliated Italy's greatest team, passing the ball around with ease. When the 3rd goal was scored, a camera man happened to catch a young Juventina's tears, and I'd say it pretty much spoke for us all.

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Is it fate, or merely a poetic coincidence that by crushing Udinese 4-0 in their own stadium, the same place we were humiliated 6 months ago, our season has finally started after a slow start. Could it be that this victory symbolizes the rebirth of the Old Lady of Italian football? Perhaps. It is too early to say, Udinese were generally rubbish yesterday, but between the goals scored, the performances, and the defensive solidarity, it was a massive morale boost. It showed that this team can play, and while we are certainly not out of the woods, there is reason for hope.

We saw two teams on display yesterday. Both endured a miserable last season, flirting with absolute disaster: Udinese in Serie B, Juventus out of Europe. And we saw two teams moving in opposite direction- between the non mollare mai attitude showed earlier this week, and the performances today, Juventus have seemingly put the ghosts of last year behind us- the defensive fragility, the complete lack of confidence, and the propensity to throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty. Udinese, however, appear that they will be again battling relegation, cursed with many of the same problems as last year. There is a key difference between us, aside from the financial gulf and difference in reputation: Juventus were a team that worked hard to rebuild this summer, and Udinese sold all their best players. We saw a glimpse of Marotta and Delneri's plan for Juventus on show yesterday, but there is still much work to be done.

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LE PAGELLE:

Storari: 6.5- Had virtually nothing to do all game, before Sanchez was put one-on-one on goal with a lovely chip over the defense. Storari came out and smothered the shot excellently, and only had one other save to make, a shot from Di Natale from a tight angle that never really troubled him. There's a few ways to measure a keepers greatness- the first, is a keeper who has nothing to do all game, but then comes up with a vital stop. That shows tremendous concentration, a real sign of a keepers maturity. The second is organizing a teams defense. Our defense worked excellent yesterday, and you could see/hear Storari barking out orders at the back. That's something that Manninger did not do on Thursday, unfortunately.

Motta: 6- Krasic didn't offer a lot of cover, and Udinese drove down our right-flank as much as possible, a full 42% of their attacks. (As opposed to center or left-wing) Motta was up against his former captain in Di Natale who played fairly wide yesterday afternoon, but contained him without too many problems. Moved up in attack when he could, a solid performance.
Chiellini: 6.5- Another powerful performance from Giorgio, who held off Udinese players with relative easy.
Bonucci: 6.5- Still showed a bit of tactical naivety here and there, but looked assured in defense and scored a nice goal. A very similar player to Chiellini, and nothing shows it more than their propensity to score on set pieces.
Grygera: 6- Really had very little to do for long portions of the match, as Udinese mostly attacked down Motta's flank, but held his own when confronted. Pepe and Grygera were a fairly defensive combo on the left-flank, but it certainly snuffed out any Udinese attempts and probably led them to focus on the right-side early on. Right now, an "average" performance is important for Grygera, to get a little confidence back after his disaster showings last year. His bogey side (and Juve) has been Palermo in the past...it remains to be seen if he'll play.

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Marked his 100th game for Juventus with a lovely goal

Krasic: 7.5- Fast, precise, this is the player we signed from CSKA Moscow. His performance against Bari was disappointing to say the last, but having arrived in Turin a few days ago, it could certainly be forgiven. Second Serie A game in a row he receives my man of the match award. Always dangerous, always cutting Udinese open, they really had no answers for him. The only demerit I'd give him is he needs to try and provide a bit of coverage for Motta a bit more in the future.
Marchisio: 7- Another excellent performance from Marchisio. In the upcoming podcast (editing after work) Marco asked why Marchisio started instead of Aquilani. Given a good game against Lech Poznan and another today, he is started to round into some good form, so playing time to continue that is vital. Same could be said for Iaquinta v. Amauri right now.
Felipe Melo: 6- Minus .5 for a totally unnecessary yellow card when we were already 3-0 up. Did his job effectively, providing coverage, winning balls back, and generally playing a very solid game. That's a step up compared to Lech Poznan, but Marchisio's presence over Momo Sissoko certainly helps him. Delneri has talked him up a lot, and he gave him a very warm embrace after substituting him. The fans gave him a nice applause when he substituted, perhaps Delneri is doing a good job with his mental state, like he did with Cassano.
Pepe: 6- He almost played as a wing-back, him and Grygera combining well to stifle Sanchez and any attack coming to the left-flank, but that of course meant neither were terribly effective up top. Krasic had space to run, and if you look at his heat map he attacked the center a lot. Pepe stayed relatively wide instead, but did a great job of fouling the crap out of Udinese players. Maybe a bit too often.

Del Piero: 6.5- Another bright and inventive performance from il Capitano. I thought he'd be too tired to play great on Thursday, and having played wonderful against Lech Poznan, I thought he might be too tired to be effective today. He didn't play too close to goal, but he was the center of all our attacks, providing clever assists whether via set pieces or while carrying the ball.
Quagliarella: 6.5- He's adapting a bit to play more of a prima punta role with il Capitano dropping back, and did well yesterday. Scored a wonderful backheel goal that Del Piero has done many times, and generally looked lively up top. His long-range shooting isn't quite up to his Playstation standard, but that's 2 goals in 2 weeks for him.

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Delneri: 7- Hard to complain about anything. Sure, it's Udinese, but we played almost a perfect game. Substitutions were smart, defense organized well, when we were on the attack we looked like a Delneri team: pace on the counter-attack, precise and quick passing. Still much to go, but this is a good start. This is his vision.
Sissoko: 6- Substituted in a smart like-for-like swap with Felipe Melo, and didn't screw up. That'll do.
Iaquinta: 6.5- Came on, scored a nice precise goal, and did his prima punta job well, he was always drawing attention from Udinese's defenders and keepers and consequently freeing up Krasic and other Juve players moving forward.
Legrottaglie: s.v.

Things I Think I Think:
#1- What's Our Ideal Center Midfield? Without a doubt one of the reasons we did so well defensively yesterday was the strong performances of Claudio Marchisio and Felipe Melo. They shielded the back four well in defense, and dominated possession of the center midfield. I think they make a great CM partnership in a 4-4-2. Not saying Sissoko or Aquilani aren't options, but they are probably the best blend, and as much as I don't like Felipe Melo, as long as he plays well, I'll stay quiet. As I said in the piece on Delneri's Juve, an ideal 4-4-2 (that Delneri and Ranieri play) consists of a pure CM, and a more defensive CM with an eye for a pass. Under Ranieri, Nocerino and then Marchisio played the roaming CM option, and Zanetti was the tough-tackler/playmaker. The playmaking role in a 4-4-2 for Felipe Melo is far less than that of last year, particularly with Marchisio around. He's solid there, he plays a bit deeper than Marchisio, breaks up play, and can occasionally play a nice long pass. Delneri's been doing good work to boost his confidence, and perhaps we're seeing the fruits.
#2- I'm not Ruling out Aquilani or Sissoko from Starting- They could slide in easily, and will do so in the future. Obviously Aquilani is Marchisio's alternative, and Sissoko that of Felipe Melo. They are a bit more on the extremes, though, Aquilani is less defensive than Marchisio, and Sissoko has less playmaking ability than Felipe Melo. They'll be important players as the season goes on, but I think Marchisio-Melo is a great mixture of physicality, tackling, and passing. They don't need to be Andrea Pirlo, that's what the wings are for.
#3- Excellent Defensive Off-the-Ball Movement Was Excellent- Delneri has been drilling defense all this week, and if it didn't exactly show against Lech Poznan, it did today. When we were without possession, the players were moving around smartly, covering one another, protecting the 18, and looking one step ahead of Udinese. Particular credit goes to Marchisio and Felipe Melo, who really forced Udinese (Sanchez and Di Natale) to drift wide. The team moved as a unit when were without possession, and that is key.
#4- I Hope Udinese Stays Up- I really do. In many ways, they are a model club. The Friuli club is financially responsible, they do a great job of scouting young players and developing them into young stars, and generally play an attacking, pleasing style of football. Much rather see them stay up as opposed to say, Chievo, who has crap players and generally looks about as interesting as a modern art exhibit on drying paint.
#5- But what in God's name was Pozzo doing? I've said it a few times before, but Udinese did their damndest to put themselves deep in the relegation quagmire this year. After fighting us tooth-and-nail for Gaetano D'Agostino last year, they let him go to Fiorentina for 4.5mil on co-ownership. Then they happily shipped out Motta and Pepe to us on the cheap, let Barreto stay at Bari (they fully owned him, and needed a goal-scorer) and had agreed to sell us Di Natale before he scuppered the move. Astonishing. What completely baffled me was that they let Antonio Candreva leave for Parma on the very last day of the mercato! He would have been a clear replacement for D'Agostino, but instead is off in the land of cheese and sausage.

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Sold on a 9mil valuation, after demanding more than double last summer. Candreva, Motta, Pepe out. Confusing.

#6- Iaquinta v. Udinese-

“Iaquinta disappointed me. In 25 years I have never seen such a lack of respect for the fans,” slammed Udinese President Giampaolo Pozzo. “We signed Iaquinta when he was just some poor kid in Serie C club Castel di Sangro. We raised him, introduced him to top level football, paid handsomely and then he went to Juve. Udinese do not deserve such treatment.”

“I would like to point out I was not cross with the President or anyone at the club, who I have always respected a great deal,” insisted Iaquinta. “My gesture was aimed at the Udinese supporters. Today I wanted to play and to score, as they hurled serious insults at me and my mother. In any case, I apologise to everyone, it was the wrong way to react and I regret it. I have always been a calm person, but this is the third time I have come to Udine and been showered with insults. I scored today and just couldn’t take it any more. I spent some wonderful years in Udine, so I don’t know why there is now so much bitterness aimed at me.”

a. Don't ever insult an Italian man's mother. Mothers in Italian society are sacred, more than the Madonna.
b. Iaquinta is absolutely right. He spent 7 great years at Udinese, and has been jeered every time he returned, for reasons neither of us understand.
c. I would call Iaquinta a "very calm person" any moment except for when he scores. If you all remember against Catania two seasons ago, he "blacked out" when scoring a goal, celebrated without his shirt off, then went studs up into a tackle 2 minutes later, leaving us to battle 10v11 for 80 minutes. When he scores, he celebrates hard.
d. Pozzo is an angry man. Ranted about Iaquinta, about the referees...it's not our fault his mercato sucked.

#7- Paolino is now on Twitter. Been using his injured time productively, I see!

#8- New podcast will be up later tonight.

#9- Yes, it appears BetClic is our sponsor for our away kit, too. Not sure if it means JCB couldn't find another deal or not.

#10- The ex's- Diego scored a nice goal, Giovinco was bright, Trezeguet got his first goal, Caceres scored, Zebina didn't make Brescias bench, and Camoranesi got 3-4 assists and MOLINAROS CROSS WAS CONVERTED FOR A GOAL OH DEAR GOD. Cannot comprehend the last one, so I think that'll do it for me today.

Juventus Offside Shitlist:
Emptied, because I loved everything I saw Sunday. And I love the team. Vuoto for now, ragazzi.

Unleash the Krasic
Credit to Papai for this awesome wallpaper, full version if you click on it.

SEMPRE JUVE!!