Juventus players and coaches viewed the post-international break set of games as the true start of their season. Basically, they told themselves they deserve a couple of mulligans, and now is the time where things truly get interesting. It was a good way to look at things, especially considering how those first two Serie A games went.
That new adventure officially kicked off Tuesday in Manchester with Juve's 2-1 come-from-behind win over the current English Premier League leaders. Just look at the joy on the faces of the players while they celebrated the go-ahead goal by Álvaro Morata. It wasn't just celebrating a goal. it was seemingly a release of all the early-season pressure go in an instant. They were enjoying their football again. And we were enjoying the show.
Yet, as we sit here four days after the fact, we're thinking to ourselves "What's next?"
This is the part that can be fun about Juventus playing well and getting a positive result against City. We want them to build off what they did in the Champions League. We know they know that they need to do so to turn this one-point-in-three-games start to the Serie A season around. Now it's just about going out and actually doing so.
You want to see the carryover from one game to the next. And you want to see that Tuesday night's win was more of something that gives us positive thoughts for the immediate future rather than it being just a one-off type of deal before going back into the early-season struggles.
With games coming fast and furious these days, there will be plenty of chances to make everybody forget about the way Juve have started the season. That is, if they actually start winning games in Serie A. Minor details, obviously.
.@OfficialAllegri: "Now we need to think about getting our heads down, quietly going about our business, and getting points on the board."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 19, 2015
That sure would be nice. Especially with the schedule being so gosh-darn packed with games coming out of the international break.
Two games ago, Juventus got their first point of the season! One game ago, Juventus got their first win of the season! You see, this is what we like to call progress. And progress is good.
No Claudio Marchisio, No Sami Khedira. No Kwadwo Asamoah. No Martin Caceres. Injuries are stupid.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. What formation will Max Allegri go with?
Conventional wisdom tells you "What worked against Manchester City should just stick around for a couple days as Juventus look to go forward." And hey, look at the lineup I want Juve to use. I'm all for it. But then you log onto the Gazzetta website as you're starting to write this preview and you see this...
That's ... not what I was expecting. Certainly not a left wing of Alex Sandro and Patrice Evra. Certainly not a 4-4-2 formation. And certainly not a center of the midfield that only has Paul Pogba and Roberto Pereyra.
Is this a thing? Well, sure, I wouldn't doubt it. I didn't expect Allegri to roll out a 4-3-3 against Man City and he did exactly that. And with Juan Cuadrado playing so well right now, Allegri is obviously looking for ways to get the Colombian winger involved in things. Maybe Alex Sandro can play a more attack-minded role as a left-sided midfielder. We certainly know the dude can whip in a pretty good cross or two.
.@OfficialAllegri: "We could stick to the same system we used in Manchester or perhaps change things up a little. I'll decide today."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 19, 2015
Of course you will, Max. Of course you will.
2. Paul Pogba's impact.
I feel safe in saying that much in the same fashion as the team as a whole, Tuesday night's win over Manchester City was Pogba's best game of the season. It's not even close, either. It was the Pogba of old, capped off by a wonderful assist to Mario Mandzukic for the game-tying goal. But, like the team as a whole, Pogba needs to build on it. And it really doesn't matter what formation Allegri goes with, either. Pogba will be the No. 1 guy in the midfield because of course he will be. With Claudio Marchisio out for the next month or so, that's what his role will continue to be. There's no doubting that if Juventus want to quickly reverse this sluggish start to the Serie A season, Pogba will play a big part in it. That's just what happens when you're one of the best — you're expected to play like it more often than not.
3. Álvaro Morata's impact.
Whether he's played as a winger in a 4-3-3 or a prima punta in (insert formation here), Morata's importance seems to be growing by the week. That's not due to the fact that every time he scores a goal this season he will be linked with a move back to Real Madrid next summer. (That stuff is stupid by the way and needs to end.) Now that he's back from his pre-season injury, Morata will surely be depended on to be the player he was a season ago — and probably better, too. He hasn't shown us that he can't handle that, either. He just scores important goal after important goal after important goal. Maybe we should just tell him every game is a Champions League game? That seems to be the trick, I guess.
And he's not buying into the Real Madrid talk, too — which is wonderful.
4. Juan Cuadrado's impact.
My gut feeling is that no matter what formation Allegri ends up choosing to go with against Genoa, Cuadrado will be included in it. So now that we've got that matter out of the way, we can talk about Cuadrado continuing to do what he's been doing in his short Juventus career thus far — playing really well. Cuadrado's first Juventus start was a very good one, and that's another indication that he's settling into life at Juve quite nicely already. Maybe it's the fact that he's back in Italy and at a club that is already showing they believe in him rather than burying him on their bench within two weeks, I dunno. Either way, Cuadrado is growing into this Juventus squad and it's quite clear that it's translating to on-field success. Makes me think the latest Beppe Marotta Special is working like a lot of the other ones.
My starting XI (4-3-3): Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Alex Sandro; Stefano Sturaro, Hernanes, Paul Pogba; Juan Cuadrado, Álvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala