God I hate these scenarios. You take a two week break from watching Juventus, you wait patiently for the Euro qualifiers to finally finish, you read all the "Juventus is fully prepared to take on Chievo, everyone's raring to go" posts on any possible news outlet on the web, your ass is full of ants all day Saturday and you can't sit from excitement and anticipation about the match, you stay up all night waiting for the stupid late-lunchtime kick-off...and then this shit happens.
A mostly uninspiring Juventus side created very little against the equally-if-not-worse Chievo team Sunday, leaving a lot to be desired (and possibly regretted at the end of the season).
But before we all start acting like it's the end of the world, let's just agree on one thing - this is still a decent improvement from last season! Remember when Juventus would put in an underwhelming performance for most of the game and then lose after a stupid error or sheer incompetence from our payers? Well that has obviously changed. Again, remember, in the first 6 games of the season so far, Conte's men haven't yet lost a game and haven't conceded many goals either (3). That said, the Chievo game was a game we should've won, and we didn't. Goddamn flying donkeys.
Tactically, Conte decided to stick with the 4-1-4-1 that worked well against AC Milan. I am guessing he had a feeling Chievo was going to pack the middle, so he made sure to have an extra midfielder there instead of a second striker. Clearly a more conservative approach, though given that we were playing away I can see the logic to begin the game that way. In these situations, the wingers are the ones that really need to spearhead our attack as they stretch the field and move the defenders out of position. Unfortunately, all our wingers right now are lacking form offensively and we were stuck fighting an endless battle in the middle to no avail.
The first half was pretty uneventful but for a couple of instances. One was the disallowed goal for Chievo which, in my opinion, was rightly called for a foul on Thereau. Funnily enough, the ref booked Thereau for shooting after the whistle had gone. It was pretty funny as the replay shows Thereu complaining about the decision mid-stride, then going on to slot it past Buffon for a yellow.
The second was Gigi Buffon's customary dangerous-but-not-yet-catastrophic spill of the game, which I believe came after a Pellissier free kick. Just a little something to keep the handful Buffon doubters out there going strong.
After the halftime whistle, there was more energy and activity from Juventus though nothing important really happened until Del Piero came on. (Alex, as some of you already know, is playing his last season at Juventus as announced by Agnelli today. Don't ask me to comment on it yet - I just can't. Cannot even picture the scenario. One of us writers, if not all, are likely to spill our guts on this blog regarding the announcement soon. And it won't be pretty, in fact it will probably be an emotional mess. But back to the game for now.)
The most concrete chance Juve had during the game was Del Piero's header which was from close range but only managed to hit the crossbar. It had felt like a goal was coming up until that point, and I really thought it would happen. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Alex, however, definitely livened up the team with his game and overall presence. In hindsight, he really should've come on at halftime and compensate for Vidal not really contributing in attack from the middle. Hindsight's always 20/20 though.
Buffon: 6 - Wasn't tested much once again, which must be attributed to our solid defense. The biggest moment of the game for him was a late corner in the second half that Del Piero had to clear off the line. I can talk all I want about how he is losing his focus and is not playing as his usual self this year. It will surely enable me to say "I told you so" if/when he screws one up. But I still have 100% trust and confidence in him. I mean c'mon, it's Gigi.
Lichtsteiner: 6.5 - Forrest Gump was a bit less active today for some reason, especially offensively. In his defence, he did have to clean up a lot of turnovers Krasic made in the first 45 minutes. I remember Steiner being a lot more of a threat while at Lazio though. If he recovers that once again (with Conte's blessing of course), he will be the best right back in Italy...easy.
Barzagli: 7 - Barzagli and Bonucci are just looking really solid this year. They weren't particularly tested again, and they will need to really earn their wages when a team comes along and goes at them every 5-10 minutes.
Bonucci: 7 - Like Barzagli, had some good tackles and more importantly, great anticipation. Both were quick to intercept through balls and did a decent job outleting balls to Pirlo.
Chiellini: 6.5 - I can't say I was too impressed with Chiellini's showing as a left back today. Given his technical skill level and his crossing abilities, I guess you can't really ask much from the guy on the left. Defensively, solid as always and tried to push up when he could. Again, he was bolstered in defense by Pepe, especially in the first half, who played as a quasi-left back on instances again. Until we get an actual left back, it just may have to be like that.
Pirlo: 6.5 - Pirlo tried hard today, but had very little to work with. Krasic and Pepe weren't in an attacking mood, Vidal often got lost in the shuffle of the packed Chievo midfield, and Vucinic was often nowhere to be found. Andrea could've been a bit more even with his passing (he clearly prefers the right side to the left), but all in all there just wasn't enough to work with for Pirlo. Had we had someone to hold up the ball in Chievo's half and let our team push up a bit, Pirlo would've had the opportunity to make some more incisive passes. But for 75 minutes of the game, we didn't.
Krasic: 5 - Label me a Joey, but I am finally realizing how out of form our Милош is. The guy couldn't get a single touch right. He had 10 turnovers before the game even started! As I said while live tweeting the game, the only way I see him coming back to life is by spending some time with his family in Serbia over winter break. If he hits a couple goals and has a couple assists between now and then, even better. Conte said he is working with him in training but it really looks like a confidence thing to me. Is he going to be sold in January? I certainly hope not.
Marchisio: 6.5 - Claudio had a very standard game for him - worked hard and was at the right place at the right time in midfield. The way the whole match played out in that packed midfield didn't help any single player really stand out, but Marchisio did his job well.
Vidal 6 - A lot of what I said about Marchisio applies to Vidal as well, although I was disappointed with the lack of help he gave Vucinic up front. I envisioned Vidal to play a false seconda punta in offense, but he couldn't make the difference.
Pepe: 6.5 - In the first half, Pepe was made to look good on his flank just from how ineffective Krasic was on the right. In the second, he showed his versatility and adaptability to different sides of the pitch once again and had a couple decent crosses. He also had a beautiful left shot going for the corner but Sorrentino parried it. It's crazy to think he is our best winger right now.
Vucinic: 5.5 -I was hugely disappointed with Mirko, though i may have had unrealistic expectations of him for the game. After the Milan match, I really thought he would take the single forward position and own it. Instead, he had trouble getting open and holding the ball, and was overpowered by his markers. One to forget for Mirko, that's for sure. If I were Conte, I would've taken Vucinic off at the 60' and put Matri in with Del Piero on for Vidal. Oh well.
Del Piero: 7.5 - in the short amount of time he had, he was our best player on the pitch. Heck, his limited performance still made him man of match for Juve. Our capitano still has it, he will always have it. And he will bring it too. Incredible to see him carry us at this stage of his career and after all the money we've dumped on players and improving our squad over the last 5 years. Come te nessuno mai!
Conte: 6 - Conte simply failed to adapt to the game today. Many criticize his choice of sticking with the 4-1-4-1, but not me - from a tactical standpoint, the tight-knit Chievo was always going to pack the midfield and be dangerous on counter attacks through it. The extra midfielder in Vidal there did make sense to start with, especially if he was also going to heavily contribute in attack (which Vidal didn't). However, at halftime Conte should've pulled the trigger on another striker and a better right winger. Mirko should've come off too, even before Giaccherini was injured. It is his first real year in the Serie A as a coach, and on Sunday he showed it.
Things I think I think:
#1: Do not drop Krasic - Many of our fans want to see Krasic on the bench againt Genoa, and I can see how it would make sense to do so. But personally, I'd still play him, but I'd put him in a better position to succeed. The two things Милош needs right now are space and confidence. The first one is easier to accomplish. By playing Elia (or even Esti.) on the left wing, the left side could become our main point of attack. Chiellini is more than capable of pushing up and passing off to a more skilled winger like Elia, who can either hug the line and cross for Matri/Vucinic, or take the defender a la Robben and be dangerous with his right foot as an inside forward. This way, Krasic will be getting balls to him from switching play over to the right. In these instances, the defense would be trying to move over to the weak side and could leave more gaps for Krasic to run in with the ball. As for confidence, I think Krasic will be more hurt being benched than playing but not playing well. If he is on the field and if Conte is working with him in training, he will start getting his form back. Otherwise, he will just sink in a deeper hole that will be much tougher to get out of.
#2: We are still struggling against the minnows - well thanks captain obvious! No but seriously, playing the "minnows" in Italy can be very tricky. It's a fine balance between respecting them tactically but at the same time being bold enough to play your game and impose your dominance. Conte would be wise to learn this quickly, even if it means taking slightly bigger risks. I'd like to see him be more decisive with his adaptability. That way he won't be able to be scouted out of the game like he was against the well-organized flying donkeys.
THE JUVENTUS OFFSIDE SHITLIST:
- Krasic: it was time. He has been completely ineffective and really needs to step it up. C'mon Милош, this must now be your ultimate motivation, get off this shitlist!!!
- Zebina: (lifetime award)
- Amauri: (nearing lifetime award status) #IBlameAmauri