It was supposed to be a great day for football. It was exactly what we had been waiting for all summer, Serie A was starting and Juventus were showing off their new look. A look that cost the management over €100 million, and most importantly, a look without Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Carlos Tevez.
To alleviate all these changes in personnel, Allegri decided to go with a team that knew the system well and had played within it for years — the exception being Mario Mandzukic. But Max's plan to take Serie A by the scruff of the neck from day one didn't work out. Juventus walked off the field with their first loss in a season opener since before the Antonio Conte days.
There is a lot of work left to do in the coming days before we head out to Rome to get back to our winning ways.
The first surprise of the 2015-16 season was the inclusion of Kingsley Coman in the starting 11. Just like last year, the young Frenchman was given a start ahead of other players with more experience. Besides that there were really no surprises. Juventus lined up with the true and tested 3-5-2 with Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at the back; Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra flanking Paul Pogba, Simone Padoin, and Roberto Pereyra in the middle; and all these players supporting a front line of Mandzukic and Coman (our oldest and youngest strikers on the team).
The game started out well, Juventus really dominated the first 10 minutes and Udinese could not get out of their own half. Not only that, the visitors were so disorganized in defense that it appeared Juventus were going to run them over. Before the 10 minute mark Coman had a nice chance from a ball recovered by Mandzukic but he failed to move closer to the net and his weak shot was easily handled by the Udinese keeper. After that Udinese took a more defensive shape and frustrated the Bianconeri attack. Juventus continued to press on and created some chances but nothing came of them.
The second half started with no substitutions and the game continued with the same script as the first half: Juventus dominated and Udinese soaked up the pressure. Except that this time Udinese started to make mistakes and chances started to appear.
Juventus' goal was right around the corner, right? Don't answer that.
Max decided to shake things up after 65 minutes, substituting Coman for our shiny new signing, Paulo Dybala. The Old Lady continued to push forward but Karnezis kept frustrating every black and white player. And then the unexpected happen. Thereau scored a goal from a quick counter attack to give his team the lead after 77 minutes. From then on Juventus continued to try without success. If anything, Udinese were closer to doubling their lead than the Bianconeri to reduce it.
And so it was, a game that Juventus dominated with over 65% possession, three times more shots, and an 83 percent pass success ratio (compared to Udinese's 68 percent), finished with a Bianconeri loss.
Buffon 6.5 Nothing to do on the goal, he did fine otherwise but wasn't really tested.
Lichtsteiner 5.0 This one was a tough one. He did well in attack putting a number of crosses and getting into good positions, but he lost Thereau on the goal.
Barzagli 6.0 Was really involved in attack, probably the game in which he was most involved going forward. Did well on defense, nothing to do on the goal.
Bonucci 6.5 Started many attacks and played essentially as a regista in the absence of
Chiellini 6.0 Also got forward a number of times but nothing really came out of it.
Evra 6.0 Was involved in possession and defense. Can't remember him doing something terribly wrong, but can't remember him doing anything too meaningful either.
Pereyra 6.5 One of our best players out there. He missed a good chance and could have helped a bit more in the Thereau goal (I still think it was mostly Lichtsteiner's fault).
Padoin 5.5 We know what he can do and what he can't do. He was his usual average self, except that this time, the team didn't rescue him. Could have had a winner but his shot was too close to the Udinese keeper. Marchisio better get back soon or we'll be in trouble.
Pogba 6.0 He did as well as he did last year, the issue is that this year Udinese didn't have to worry about covering Pirlo, Vidal, and Tevez, so he was handled easily. He loses 0.5 for his terrible free-kicks.
Coman 6.5 I thought he did well, he created enough chances for others and was unlucky to not get into the score sheet. Those who have no faith in him should see that he had less than 1,000 minutes played last season and has plenty of room to grow.
Mandzukic 6.0 He was brought to score goals and today he failed at that. He had a few chances but couldn't capitalize. With that being said, he holds the ball well and can use his head quite effectively.
Allegri 4.5 Harsh, I know, but I am making him at least 50 percent responsible. Sure we should have scored from one of those chances, and the coach can't really do that for the team but he had a few blunders that can't be overlooked. I'll get to them below.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
- Allegri's mistake No. 1: He knew Pirlo was gone by the time pre-season began, no surprise there. So why did the team look so confused when free kicks were awarded? On Sunday, no one really knew who was going to take a free-kick and it almost seemed chaotic. If Pogba is going to take the free kicks, Max needs to make sure these are practiced regularly. If not, figure out plays that involve the rest of the team.
- Allegri's mistake No. 2: Last year the de facto play from defense was pass to Pirlo. When Pirlo was injured it was pass to Marchisio. Instead, Padoin had little service from defense on Sunrday. I understand that he is not the best player on the pitch, but if you are going to play him, you better make sure that he is used, otherwise you have a body sitting there getting in the way.
- Allegri's mistake No. 3: I can understand benching Dybala and letting Coman start (I actually thought that was clever). I can maybe understand taking Pereyra out and putting Llorente (although I would have preferred to see Padoin or a center back being substituted). But Mauricio Isla? That is who we are hanging our hope for the last 10 minutes? Sure, Lichtsteiner was tired, but Padoin could have covered for him.
- Last thing with regards to Allegri: You field your best players every time. In an ideal scenario, Marchisio would be healthy and you can play a 3-5-2 with Marchisio as regista, or even better a 4-3-1-2. But Marchisio isn't healthy, so why not look at the roster and see if there are better options than Padoin. I understand that Pogba is not a regista, or a trequartista, but when push comes to shove, the Frenchman could have done better in those positions than Padoin in the center of the park.
- Putting Dybala on at the 70th minute made the team really nervous. It was like telling them, you guys can't do it so I am sending this 21-year-old to do what you couldn't do. The team needs to calm down when things aren't going their way. In the past they would look to Pirlo, Vidal, or Tevez — or even Conte. Now that those players are gone, we need people that believe that they can overcome every obstacle.
- Okay, with that being said not all is lost, not even close. Let's be honest, Juventus dominated this affair and were unlucky to not score a goal in 96 minutes of play. I liked what I saw, but it is also clear that there is plenty more to get done. Let this be a lesson for all of them that they have to work hard and have that belief that champions have that they will win. That was certainly lacking in the last 20 minutes of today.
- On to Rome next week. Roma will be hungry, but Juventus need to be even more hungry. That game is not an scudetto decider but we need to bounce back. And nothing seems better for bouncing back than beating Roma on their own turf.