As in life, wrinkles in football also means "change." And there are some new wrinkles I found on the Old Lady under our new coach, Max Allegri. It's early, yes, as we are only four giornate and one UEFA Champions League game into the 2014/15 season. But they're there, so let's see what those are.
Wrinkle No. 1: Leonardo Bonucci's less long balls, more thrusts
In 2013/14, Leonardo Bonucci averaged nine long balls per game. But this season, it's an average of only five per game. He did, however, quite often thrust into the opposition's half, something we didn't see his three seasons under Antonio Conte.
They haven't given any clear results yet, but these thrusts are something different. And while Bonucci hasn't gotten the hang of it, they offer a new dimension in Juve's scheme. The opposition has to commit a man on him and it will open more space for other players. Will it work? I don't know, but it does have a great potential and at least, less long balls means more possession.
Wrinkle No. 2: Claudio Marchisio is keeping it simple
Last season, Andrea Pirlo averaged 69 passes per game as Juventus' regista. With him out, Claudio Marchisio took his place and averaged around 40 percent more, 101 passes per game. He didn't open the opposition's defense with his passes but he kept it simple and made the game flow quicker. Defensively, he is also more sound and contributed to the clean sheet in all of our five competitive games so far.
Will it continue when Pirlo is back? I don't know, but I like what I've seen so far. Both players complement each other and it doesn't hurt to have two types of regista in our squad.
Wrinkle No. 3: Paul Pogba's power game
Last season, we were mesmerized by Paul Pogba's silky skill and booming shots from outside the box. This season, I'm in awe at how he's used his power to keep the ball. He's still in the process to assimilate skill, speed and power and hence why he doesn't seem to play as well as Marchisio. But once he can mix them all together, oh boy...
Will he still have weaknesses after this? Yes. His defensive phase and ability to read the game still need improvement, but those hopefully come later as he keeps working and gets more mature. One thing I predict, though. Pogba is going to be an absolute beast sometime soon.
Wrinkle No. 4: Deep is good, Calos Tévez
Last season, Tévez had two goals after four competitive games. Now, he's got four. The difference is he's now playing deeper and maximizing his strength at running at defenders. Does it work? I think so, but he's already 30 years old so Allegri needs to control his minutes carefully.
Wrinkle No. 5: Rotation, rotation, rotation
Through four Serie A and one UEFA Champions League games in, Juventus has scored nine goals and, probably more importantly, conceded zero goals. This is even more satisfying considering Andrea Barzagli didn't play in any of those games and Giorgio Chiellini also missed the first two games. Allegri didn't have any choice, but to play them but Martín Cáceres and Angelo Ogbonna have responded very well and performed admirably with oozing confidence. They made plenty of errors last season, but now, they can keep it at a minimum. If they can keep it up, we don't need to worry about the center back position for the next few years.
Not only at the back. Last season, with the scudetto virtually secured, Antonio Conte played his best eleven against Sassuolo when three days later, we had a very important game against Benfica in the second leg of the UEFA Europa League semifinal. Now, Allegri rested Tévez, Pogba and Kwadwo Asamoah in the midweek game against Cesena on Wednesday for a more trickier game against Atalanta three days later. Immediately follows is another midweek game, this time in the UEFA Champions League at Atlético Madrid.
Does rotation always work? No, and while I'm not saying Allegri is better than Conte, it seems he's willing to take more risk for a greater return.
With five wins from five games, those changes form the old guards have made us less predictable and so far it's working. Furthermore, Allegri has also mixed the new guards into the squad and they look encouraging.
Wrinkle No. 6: Roberto Pereyra The Hub
With Arturo Vidal out, Roberto Pereyra has proven that he belongs here. Many media members see Pereyra as the vice-Vidal, but I disagree. Both are excellent at their movement and versatility, but while Vidal is superior at tackling, stamina, shooting and breaking plays, Pereyra is quicker, a bit better at passing and making himself available for a pass. To me, he seems like a hub between midfield and attack. He's a type of a player Juve didn't have last season and personally, I like what I saw last night against Cesena when they played together.
Before the season began, many Juventini doubted his worthiness. But little by little, Pereyra keeps proving himself and with only starts with Juventus, he's already been called up by the Argentina national team this past Monday.
Wrinkle No. 7: Two-way striker in Álvaro Morata
In the three games where he played around 30 minutes in total, he's already shown us how good he can be. Skillful, strong, quick and fast, Alvaro Morata will at least be our super-sub from the bench but personally, I think he's going to be a wonderful No. 9 for Juventus. Already a two-way striker, Morata complements his offensive skills with hard work and willingness to defend deep into his team's area. I won't be surprised if he takes the starting spot from Fernando Llorente sometime this season or next.
And this is just the beginning. Who knows, maybe soon we are going to witness the eighth wrinkle, (Kingsley) Coman The Destroyer. We haven't seen much from Coman, but he could be the joker of our wrinkles. He's fast, technical and good at keeping the ball, so the potential is in abundance. If realized even a bit, Coman will also offer an option we didn't have last season: He can play as a second striker, wing forward and attacking midfielder and once he's learnt how to deal with Serie A's defenders, we can possibly have another diamond on our hands. The troubles Juve had in breaking down Milan's defense when they put 11 men behind the ball may be solved with Coman if he's given the chance and blossoms.
These seven wrinkles are just from the first five games and who knows how many more we'll see from Allegri. The only constant is change and we're doing it. They have definitely enriched our plays and make us better but will they be enough? I don't know, but I'm confident that whether we'll achieve our target or not, these wrinkles are laying a solid foundation for our future success.
- Juventus 3 - Cesena 0: Initial reaction and random observations
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. Cesena
- Juventus vs. Cesena Preview: Round 4 — She sells sea(horses) by the seashore
- Talkin' tactics: Juventus display hints of Conte's philosophy in 1-0 win over AC Milan
- "Yet To Be Named" — Juventus news link dump for Sept. 22nd