With no Juventus games to occupy our minds for the next few weeks, there's free time to do other things. Like, I dunno, sitting around and going through our photo tool here on SBN and see nothing but pictures of Mario Mandzukic being utterly frustrated during his first couple of months as a Juventus player. It was easy to see why his reactions were that way, too. Goals weren't coming his way at all, and he instead had to deal with the fact that he wasn't doing what Juventus brought him to Turin to do.
It was an incredibly tough start to Mandzukic's Juve career, no doubt. He scored in the Supercoppa against Lazio in August, then didn't find the back of the net against another Italian opponent for another two and a half months. That's not how we drew it up. That's not how Mandzukic wanted to make a first impression, surely. And considering he had a relatively inconsistent season with Atlético Madrid the year before, starting his Juve career the way he did was nowhere near the kind of first impression anybody wanted him to make.
But let's just go ahead and see what Mandzukic has done since scoring Juve's second goal in a 2-0 win over Atalanta on Oct. 25.
Nine appearances in all competitions, six goals scored, one assist
So, after two goals in his first eight Juventus appearances, now Mandzukic is on the brink of cracking the top 10 when it comes to Serie A's top scorers and has been a major factor in Juve's success over the last two months. With a seven-game domestic winning heading into the new year, Juventus has plenty of newfound momentum after the struggles from September and October. Luckily for us, the same can be said about Mandzukic's form.
That means his numbers for the season now look like this:
Eighteen appearances in all competitions, nine goals scored, one assist
That's one goal scored for every 134 minutes played. Is that the kind of production that you would consider at an elite level? Nah, but it's still pretty good — especially knowing how he didn't score a goal in league play until the final part of October. But those days are long gone even if they might not be so far away. Instead, Mandzukic is now finding form and scoring goals like he did to complete his first-half brace against Carpi this past Sunday afternoon.
I'm going to steal this line from a friend (and he will know who he is when he reads this because he's a regular lurker here): This is the footballing equivalent to a posterizing dunk in basketball. Mandzukic doesn't just out-jump the man marking him, he absolutely blows right through him on his way to making contact with the ball. You want an example of how to go up for a cross in the box, just go ahead and watch that over and over again.
And that's the beauty of Mandzukic when things are going right.
He had plenty of chances in the box earlier in the season, but couldn't finish them to save his life. He's had bad misses just like any other striker does. But not every striker arrives on a big-money transfer a month or two earlier and has to try and be part of the crew that is trying to replace one of Juve's most productive strikers of recent memory. While it's true that Mandzukic was never going to be a direct replacement for Carlos Tévez because they are different kinds of strikers, he's bringing his own unique kind of characteristics and playing style to the table. He's pressing like Tévez, and now he's finding the back of the net and rising up the scoring table, too.
Regardless of his goal-scoring form, the first part of Mandzukic's game was always going to be there. But that second part, he's starting to do that on a much more regular basis now. And the results speak for themselves. Juventus has gotten better as the season has gone on, and the same can be said for Mario Mandzukic. That, my friends, is no coincidence. One works with the other. It's a beautiful thing.