It hardly gets better than this folks. Four beautiful team goals and a solid overall performance from a Juventus team that was a couple starters away from full strength. In our first official game under coach Conte, at that.
For the first time in a long time, our Bianconeri played a dominant, possession-heavy game that resulted in good link up play, overall solid passing, great goals, and 89 minutes of good team football. For the first game of the season, I personally couldn't have asked for more. I have a feeling most of you are in the same boat. Now that the excitement and thrill of the win has winded down a bit, let's take a realistic look at our team, the individual performances, and the conclusions from the amazing first 90 minutes of the season.
Note: I am not positive what the rating system that Aaron used exactly entailed, but I will use the 3-10 system that Football Manager employs. 3 is utterly terrible (worst game ever), while 10 is speechlessly marvelous performance (best game ever). The ratings will likely mostly vary between 5-8.5.
Buffon: 6 - Didn't have much to do today, though he did look a bit shaky on a particular cross/shot that he should've easily smothered. Did a good job of keeping our defenders calm and focused on taking the ball up the field. Conte wants us to play from the back forward, and our center backs' passing will be key to that. He did a good job of starting the attacks through them and cleaning up the mess when they were under pressure. It is obvious he is not in top form still, but I am encouraged he is heading that way. When we play better teams, he will be tested a lot more. Let's see how he does then.
Lichtsteiner: 7.5 - I believe it has been since Zambrotta way back when that we've had a solid right back. Man does it feel good to have that again. Steiner is super solid, and he showed most of that today. Albeit against an easy team, it was a great opportunity for him to start settling in his spot. He did that in style, scoring the first goal, owning the right flank for 3/4 of the pitch, and always running back to cover for anyone. Though he probably didn't really run today. I believe he calls game like these light jogging.
Barzagli: 7 - To be honest, I don't understand why he is above Bonucci in the pecking order right now. I tried checking the facts and it looked like Bonucci was healthy and ready to go, he was just left on the bench for Barzagli. I do realize we were trying to sell him right before the window closed, and I understand if he needs time to get his head straight again. But if Conte has decided to waste the opportunity to further develop Bonucci's talent over playing the somewhat-reliable-yet-old-and-peaked Barzagli, I'd be disappointed. As for Barzagli, he did a solid job today and was passing the ball well. He wasn't really bothered by the Parma attack, though that was more to do with Parma's lack of possession and fluidity in attack, than Barzagli's outstanding contribution. Nonetheless, no hick-ups against a tricky team mean thumbs up from me.
Chiellini: 7 - Did his job very well and looked quite comfortable with Barzagli by his side. He even had some successful passes with his right foot (say wat). I can't help but think he'd like Bonucci back next to him though. Although they were quite rocky at times last season (and by at times I mean the last 6 months), I still believe in the Chiellini-Bonucci partnership. I think Chiellini does too. #freeyayo #freeweezy #freeBonucci
De Ceglie: 5 - Personally, I was disappointed with De Ceglie today. In the first half, he had some terrible passes and looked extremely nervous. That whole left side was just a huge disappointment today (but we'll get to that later). I realize he hasn't played competitively in a while, but he's had a good time to come back from his injury and get fit and ready. Mentally, this kid is still a kid. And he is not ready for a starting spot at Juventus. He has promise, and that was very evident at the beginning of last season. Maybe he needs more time to get back to playing with confidence again, and he is fortunate that he will get that time (at least until January, cough Kolarov cough). He really didn't impress at all though, and the red card was the icing on the cake for me. Not really his fault, but it was still a clumsy challenge. In that situation, either let Giovinco go by or go in for the ball knowing that you may very well trip him and foul him. He just doesn't seem to be owning that LB position. He may in the future, but he didn't today.
Pepe: 8 - I've criticized Pepe in the past for being an average player that doesn't cut it technically to play at Juventus, but I thought he was outstanding today. He took control of that right flank, especially in the final third with crosses, cuts, and even a goal. The goal was the last thing I noticed though. He was very motivated, tracked down furiously all game long, and just looked like the pest we need him to be. If he keeps up the good work and learns how to look up before he crosses (9/10 crosses were at the far post to no one), he can be a solid back up winger to Krasic/Elia. The way he defended today though, I can't help to think we are still missing the chance to convert him to a wing back/full back.
Pirlo: 9 - Here is a shocker: I thought Pirlo was the man of match today. The guy was born to be a regista and can pass with the best of them. The Italian Xavi, I am ecstatic to have him at our club even though he is in the twilight of his career. He set up Steiner beautifully and found Marchisio with a brilliant pass (though il Principino's finish was just as impressive). I was shocked Parma wasn't man-marking him and closing him down all the time. They missed on a big opportunity there. Without our starting wingers, it was obvious everything was going to go through him. No way we would have been so dominant if he was marked out of the game. Still, he had a very impressive performance. We've been longing for a guy that can just as comfortably set up our attack from deep midfield and make the final through ball (lob pass) for a goal. May you stay fresh and healthy this season Pirlo, you will be key for us.
Marchisio: 7.5 - As usual, Marchisio worked hard but went unnoticed for most of the match. His position is almost referee-like - you know he is doing a good job if Juve is controlling the midfield yet you haven't heard his name much. He is our quiet assassin (okay, I'll stop now). Overall, a good performance for him in his most natural position. The goal was a beauty, and I really loved his celebration. He was basically like "Meh, I'm happy with the goal but I've done better. Just check out YouTube."
Giaccherini: 5 - Man was it painful to watch this kid today. For the first 35 minutes, he couldn't even stay on the ground and kept slipping around like it's Rockefeller Center. The rest of the time, when someone was actually brave enough to pass him the ball, he dribbled in place, cut inside, and passed it along. Did you notice how Del Piero tried putting him through once, and after he tripped over himself ADP never passed to him again? Can't believe we let Pasquato go to have this guy back Elia up. Unless he improves dramatically, he will be this year's Martinez without the Armani-like price tag, while Pasquato could've really broken through at Juve this season. In all fairness though, it is too early to tell. Fingers and toes crossed.
Del Piero: 7 - Some of you may have noticed this, but Del Piero was very key today. He is the only guy right now (until Quags is fully fit again) that can come deeper and take a pass from Pirlo. Andrea needs a player like him to relieve some pressure if they are pressing us in our own half. Del Piero is the perfect player for this, as he has that brilliant one touch turn and can rid of a defender or draw him into a foul seamlessly. Was smart to pass to Pepe for the goal, though you'd expect nothing less from our Capitano. Come te nessuno mai!
Matri: 6.5 - He had a couple good chances to score which he should've taken, but we are all spoiled given his poaching resume from last year. The goal he had disallowed looked dubious, but doesn't define his perfomance today. He still needs to learn how to play with Del Piero and the wingers, as Krasic and Elia can be really good servants for him once they all link up well.
Vidal: 7.5 - Give him 5 minutes and he will make himself your new favorite player in less. Hit a ridiculous goal right after coming on, and just took control of the game. He is already Marotta's joker signing of the summer. I am really looking forward to watching this guy make the difference for us on any given night.
Krasic: 6 - Limited playing time, but all I can say for his cameo is: meh.
Vucinic: 6 - Didn't really show anything in the 30ish minutes on the pitch. He'll need a couple starts + a couple goals to get going personally. It is Mirko, after all.
Conte: 8.5 - Like a boss! Screamed his heart out all game long, criticized where warranted, and celebrated like a true fan. He may need to tone it down a bit as he is already looking like he's gonna pop a vein, plus I'm sure the players won't want to be yelled at 24/7 for 38 games. He looks like he knows what he wants to do with this team though, and if the first game is any indicator (which it isn't), he can get the most out of this team. As I said, just win a few games after the X-mas break. I will love you forever.
Things I think I think:
Note: I loved this section of Aaron's game reviews so I would really like to continue it. Senor Giambattista, please let me know if you have any qualms with this. I just noticed you are using the same style for the game reviews at Juventiknows.com, so I'd be happy to switch it up if you'd like.
#1: Possession is key - we don't have the perfect team for a counter-attack system. We have a 32 year old playmaker and a 37 year old advanced playmaker. We need possession, we need to switch play to flanks, and we need crosses and through balls. On those rare instances when we do break, we can use the pace of Krasic/Elia + Matri to try and work something up. But today was a perfect example of how well our build up from defence works when paired with possession football. It will be a great test to this team to keep that up throughout the season.
#2: The left flank is still only half fixed. If we put all our eggs in Elia's basket, then we are still left short in the left back position. De Ceglie looks shaky and nervous, and Ziegler was never even given a chance. I better not see Grosso suit up again for us this season. We need to sign a Lichsteiner-type player in the January window to cover behind Elia. Unless De Ceglie can turn things around quickly and play with conviction. Hey, stranger things have happened.
#3: Lichtsteiner is Pavel Nedved's long lost cousin. Think about it. They are both tireless football players. They have a very similar attitude on the pitch, and never stop working for the cause. Plus, they run the same. Look at Steiner running from the back - the way his body moves and his bow-legged running style is almost exactly the same as Nedved's. While he may not grow those lusty blond locks, Steiner will now remind me Pavel. Couldn't have picked a better player of which to remind me.
I know I can be harsh on players, but I still feel like one game is not enough to qualify for the shitlist. I will begin this section from next weekend on.
God I need to go to bed. It's incredible how easily 2,000 words come together when we play like we did against Parma. Keep it up boys!
Update: Whoops, that's right, Ziegler is enjoying the Turkish sun while we have Grosso and Liviero as back up left backs.