The last time Juventus visited the Franchi, goals were scored in furious fashion. The scoring chances were even more regular. Juve not only rolled through Florence, they brought their heavy artillery and destroyed Fiorentina and anything in the surrounding area.
Different time of the season, different kind of team performance, different result.
Lining up against a similar 3-5-2, Juventus struggled to take control of the game, which ultimately ended in a scoreless draw. Fiorentina's midfield pressed the visitors a lot — and the results showed. Juve never got into their game, which is based so much on having a huge margin in terms of possession and dictating things.
The final possession figure in this game: Fiorentina 51 percent, Juventus 49 percent.
That stat is telling, but it goes beyond just those two simple numbers.
Fiorentina controlled the midfield, an area of strength we've seen Juventus dominate so many times in the past. And with dual 3-5-2 formations going against one another, things basically got cancelled out. It's not the first time Juve struggled to get things going against a formation like that, with the center of the field so crammed with players trying to make something happen.
Final result: One point, unbeaten streak still intact.
Buffon: 6.5 - While San Gigi only recorded two saves, he was incredibly busy on Tuesday night. Every time a Fiorentina player whizzed a shot wide, you could see that if it was on goal, Buffon was going to have it covered. His positioning in goal — both on shots and taking command his box — was fantastic.
Barzagli: 6 - Back on the right side of the defense after being rested against Chievo, Barzagli was his usual self — calm, cool, collected. I thought he might he problems with the Fiorentina attack just because they are so technical and quick, but Andrea handled himself very well.
Bonucci: 6 - La Stampa's pagelle said it all: "Grits his teeth and gets along." Playing with a bum hamstring, Bonucci was up against it to begin with. Had some trouble with the pace of Jovetic, but I thought he handled himself fairly well under the circumstances.
Chiellini: 6.5 - It was a typical kind of Chiello game — lots to do and making sure physical presence was known to his opponent. Giorgio help things down on the left side of the three-man defense, without many problems through the full 90 minutes.
Lichtsteiner: 5.5 - One of the non-Pirlo division players that returned to the squad after not starting over the weekend, the Swiss Express certainly struggled to make much of an impact. There wasn't much venturing forward like we've come so accustomed to seeing him do, and a lot of that had to do with the way Fiorentina were playing.
Vidal: 6 - With Marchisio starting on the bench, Vidal's impact was limited. You can tell that without Principino on the field, King Arturo takes on a different role in the midfield. Whether that is ultimately good or bad is to be determined, but against Fiorentina, it definitely hindered what Vidal could do.
Pirlo: 5.5 - The rest was supposed to do him some good, right? This looked like the same, tired Pirlo we saw before he took the weekend off. Hell, this was pretty much the same Pirlo we've seen since the season started. Some of it had to do with the pressing Fiorentina did in the midfield, but Il Maestro is yet to find his feet after Italy's run to the Euro 2012 title game.
Giaccherini: 5 - The idea of him getting some playing time wasn't what bothered me. It was the fact that he was getting playing time in this kind of game that was the questionable decision. Fiorentina, like Juventus, relies on its midfield a lot. And in that midfield, it's physical at times. Giaccherini, as we know, isn't anything close to that. He gave away a lot of passes and had the worst pass accuracy rate (78 percent) of the three center midfielders.
Asamoah: 6.5 - In a game where a lot of players were pretty drab, Kojo was the best of the bunch. He not only had to do his usual contributions offensively on the left flank against Fiorentina, but also did his best to keep tabs on Juan Cuardrado.
Giovinco: 5.5 - SuperSeba started brightly, but much like the rest of the team, suffered as the game went on. He didn't see the ball a whole heck of a lot and when he did, it was either taken away or turned over not that long after.
Quagliarella: 5.5 - Suffered the much in the same fashion as Giovinco. Never got in the game, thus never really got the chance to keep his great run of form going.
Vucinic: 5.5 - The thinking was that Mirko would liven up an attack that had struggled for just under 60 minutes on the clock. In reality, Vucinic's introduction did nothing whatsoever.
Pogba: 6 - Brought on for Pirlo in the 68th minute to try to liven things up in the midfield. Didn't completely change things around, but didn't cause things to go to hell, either.
Marchisio: s/v - Brought on far too late to make an impact. (We'll get to that in a little bit.)
Conte/Carrera: 5.5 - Got it wrong with having Giaccherini start in the midfield instead of somebody like Marchisio. I don't know how many times I thought to myself, "I wonder what Asamoah going into the center would do?" over the course of the game. Carrera recognized it with the inclusion of Pogba and Marchisio in the second half, but it came far too late to generate a real turn of events on the field.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
- The midfield got outplayed — badly. It wasn't just Pirlo getting outperformed by his regista counterpart, it was the whole group. Giaccherini struggled mightily and Vidal wasn't his usual dominant self when it comes to taking control of the physicality in the center of the park. Marchisio's awesomeness was greatly missed — and it really did show.
- The insertion of Vucinic did nothing to help. Other than throwing on Marchisio way too late, this was the move where I thought Carrera got it wrong. The midfield was getting bossed around, and he decides to throw on a striker? Yeah, I don't get it.
- Vincenzo Montella has done one hell of a job with Fiorentina in an incredibly short period of time. Not only are they playing well right now, but the starting lineup is almost completely different from a year ago. Also: LOL ROMA for letting Montella go soon.
- When do we start to worry about Pirlo's performances thus far? This could be a post on its own, but I'll keep it simple. Like I said in the pagelle, this isn't the same Pirlo we saw last season or over the summer at the Euros. Be it teams keying in on him more or being flat out tired or a combination of the two, Pirlo has yet to kick it into gear. We're five games in, so he has plenty of times to turn it around, but we all know just how important Andrea Pirlo is to this team's success.
- A point against a tough opponent away from home? Yeah, I'll take that.