The time had finally come for Antonio Conte. It didn't happen in late September when Juventus faced their first couple weeks of super busy schedule, but the moment to rest most of Juve's starters arrived on the cusp of November in a midweek game against Bologna.
Taking nothing away from the rossoblu, this was also the perfect time to do it. Coming off a hard-fought win in Catania and guiltily looking ahead to the clash against Inter, Bologna was merely a pit-stop that needed to be taken care off and easily forgotten. Except for one small detail - in 48 games unbeaten in Serie A, Bologna remained one of only 2 clubs to avoid defeat from the Bianconeri.
Catania could boast such a record as well until 3 days prior(erm..I mean Genoa).
Juventus' reserves are still a force to be reckoned with in Serie A, and they needed little time to show Bologna just that. Frustrated strikers Bendtner and Quagliarella both seemed up for the match from the get-go, while Pirlo, Pogba, and Giaccherini did well to both set up play from the midfield and include right winger Isla in the build up as he continues to try and find his place on this team after recovering from injury.
And while the team came out the gates fired up to take care of his fixture early, the goals didn't come until 10 minutes into the second half. After having an almost clearly legitimate goal disallowed in the first half, Paul Pogba played a deliocious ball over Bologna's defense to find the on-rushing Giaccherini. The ball was so perfect that the diminutive midfielder had time to head the ball over to the middle where Fabio Quagliarella finished the play with his 3rd Serie A goal of the season.
With the help of struggling left back Paolo De Ceglie, Bologna equalized just 15 minutes later. A poor clearance by the Ashton Kutcher lookalike set up Taider perfectly for the far post shot which had the outstretched Buffon beaten. Just like that, Juventus was staring down the road of disappointing draws against i provinciali once again.
Conte quickly reacted and either through Morse Code or the secret tunnels passed word to Alessio to bring on the three starters Vucinic, Giovinco, and Asamoah in pursuit of a winning goal.
Once again, however, it was the young Frenchman that burst onto the scene like against Napoli 10 days prior for a magnificent goal in the dying minutes. After 11 shots on goal seemed futile, a Giovinco cross in the box was headed in perfectly by Monsieur Pogba for the last minute thrilling winner. In just his second start for Juventus, Pogba elevated to the status of a midfielder worthy of a spot on a championship team in one of the toughest leagues in the world. To say this kid has promise would be an understatement.
Bienvenue a Juventus, Paul Pogba!
Buffon: 6.5 - Once again conceded a goal to no fault of his own and did little else. I actually don't have a clear concept of how I give him a rating in these situations, but giving him a 7 would've been too much and a 6 would've been harsh. So a 6.5 it is.
Caceres: 6.5 - Throughout the whole match I had the feeling that Caceres was playing in the most natural position for him for the first time in a Juventus jersey, ever. He was and still is a center back, prefers the right side, and loves getting forward when necessary which is exactly what his position enabled him to do. It felt a lot more natural to see him push up offensively than, for instance, Barzagli, whom I always fear will make a bad pass and not have enough time to get back and cover. As for the Uruguayan's performance, it was on par with what you would expect from him - a lot of effort, timely but no-nonsense challenges, and only a few positioning errors here and there. Overall I'd say he should always be the first sub for any of our defenders - even for Bonucci, despite Marrone and Lucio being on our bench. If the reports are true, hopefully Lucio won't be there for too much longer...I can smell his merda remnants from here!
Bonucci: 7 - It was a bit weird to see him as the one defender in his most used-to role since Barzagli was now on his left and it was a rare start in defense for Caceres. Nonetheless, he rose up to the occasion and made some key tackles and clearances. As much as I'm afraid to jinx it, he's developing a bit of a consistency in that central defense spot. You go girl!
Barzagli: 7 - Stepping in on the left for Chiellini presented no issues for Andrea. He did his job diligently and seemed encouraged by his positive, Barzagli-like performance against Catania on the weekend. Like Bonucci, I feel he's getting in his groove at the right time. Not sure how much of that "I'm wary of Milito" comment was mind games and how much of it was actual threat he felt, but I'm excited to see him battle Cassano and co. on Saturday.
Isla: 6 - I was going to be harsh on him since I was hardly impressed, but he is still coming back from a long injury lay-off and this was really just a match-fitness game for him. He used it well - was happy to take on his man and in the instances where necessary, made the runs back to help out on defense. He tired in the second half and didn't really contribute until he was subbed off. It's good to know we have him as a depth player though, if he ever gets to his best Udinese form he can be really useful down the line.
Pirlo: 6.5 - For the second game in a row, he was relentless in seeking out our strikers with long balls over. He hasn't shaken off that tendency to lose the ball in tricky situations hoping he'll get the foul - something I would love to see him remove from his game as much as possible. Here's hoping he'll get some rest between now and Inter, cuz he's been going non-stop while Marchisio and Vidal have been rested. Either way though, he'll be up for a game against Inter even if he has to draw energy from his epic beard.
Pogba: 8 - You know how I said he needs to SPRINT back after losing possession? He actually did that for the first 30 minutes of the game and it was so awesome to watch. When he's in "beast mode" both offensively and defensively, there's very few guys like him in the league - and I say that after only 2 starts in a Juve shirt. Not only that, but he used his space very well throughout the game and was always complementing Pirlo instead of bumping into him for the same type of plays. He really carved out his own position against Bologna. Got a beautiful hockey assist on the first goal, had a couple gorgeous shots from outside, and scored the winner. He had a fantastic game, scored 2 goals really, and looked very, very confident. While it was smart of Alessio to keep his feet on the ground with his post-match interview, Pogba has plenty to be happy about. He will learn a lot more in the next few years, sure, but he is showing that he can really energize this side now and play a big part. That's huge! Man of match by all accounts.
Giaccherini: 6.5 - Along with De Ceglie, he was almost invisible in the first half and except for his (lovely) assist to Quagliarella, didn't impose himself on the game a whole lot. He did run a lot, which really is all he can consistently do (and I don't mean that as a knock, I don't think). Also, it's hard to ask too much of a player when they have been watching most games from the sidelines, but he knows chances like these won't be easy to come by. Offensively, he has to do more when he plays, plain and simple.
De Ceglie: 4 - I've been crucified on this blog before for calling the likes of De Ceglie and Giaccherini "average" players but really, apart from a few flashes over the years that's really all they are. Today, fortunately, I don't need much to support that thesis after Paolino's performance against Bologna. Sure, he is a great kid to have in the team for the spirit, and he's been a decent sub on the left flank at times, but when was the last time you watched De Ceglie string multiple excellent performances together? Exactly. And don't even start the whole "he needs more games" argument. There's a reason he's not getting any games on the field and he has no one but himself to blame.
Quagliarella: 6.5 - I'd be walking in risky territory if I continue the "average players" spiel in Fabio's pagella, so instead I'll admit this - despite all the criticism he gets, he's scored a couple important goals for us this season. The one against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was huge, and the one against Bologna was important too. Goals are hard to come by when we don't have a quality striker (I know, this is something nobody has talked about /s) so I'll take anything from Eta Beta. I still don't know who I'd get rid of between him and Matri if someone asked me right now, so...I think that's a compliment. To the both of them.
Bendtner: 6.5 - Kid is huungry, you have to give him that. He wants it, he works for it, he's waiting for it. He doesn't lack any confidence, either. He's not super selfish - in fact he was in many situations throughout the game when passing the ball to him would've been better than half the shots we took, but oh well. Conte can use him - I don't know how just yet, but he can be useful. It's Conte's job to figure it out.
Giovinco: 6.5 - Once again was brought on with little time and a lot asked from him. Once again, he energized the attack immediately! Had a great cross to Pogba for the winning goal, though his accuracy is really lacking on his shots. This is where you put him on individual finishing training for a week or two like in FM and after a goal or two he gets his mojo back.
Vucinic: sv -
Asamoah: sv -
Conte/Alessio: 6.5 - Started the game with quite a few key players on the bench yet still managed to dominate the game and pull off the win. Both coaches will be happy to see the consistent starting 11 back for the Derby d'Italia, hopefully Alessio will have less work to do with those guys during the match.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
Bring on Merda! - Did you have a chance to see Inter's highlights against Sampdoria? If that was a red card and a penalty then every injustice ever done to anyone by Juventus should be forgiven immediately. But still, I'll stay classy and won't stir up any unnecessary conspiracy theories cuz there really isn't the need or space for any. They are coming to Torino on Saturday, and our guys must be pumped! Let's make some
Stramaccioni STRACCIATELLA from ze Merda!!