Max Allegri’s switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation has brought a lot of positives to a Juventus side that was is dire need of some kind of jumpstart midway through the season. The overall team play is better, the attack is much more dangerous and explosive, the defense looks stable and not as heart attack-inducing as before.
All of those are good and vital to Juventus success over the course of the last three games since Allegri made the major shift in how his team is lined up on the field.
There’s another one, too: Juventus are not just scoring goals, but scoring them early.
That was on display once again in Juve’s 2-0 win over Sassuolo on Sunday afternoon that finally saw the defending Italian champions solve their bugaboo at the Mapei Stadium. It wasn’t quite the two-goal lead Juventus have had within the opening 20 minutes like in the wins over Fiorentina and Lazio, but thanks to Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira finding the back of the net in the first half, Juve were able to roll to yet another victory with their new-look and attack-friendly formation.
And thanks to Roma doing Roma-like things, it’s plus-4 for a game in hand atop the Serie A standings. If you could have drawn up a better weekend than that, go ahead and name it. (If you say Juventus wins 5-0 instead of 2-0, then you’re just being a jerk.)
For this team to not only get leads early, but to lead by multiple goals within the first 20 or 30 minutes in each of their last three games is so crucial to their success. Their implementing their will against the opposition even those teams have been three very different teams in terms of either how they’re playing or how they operate.
Not only does it mean the pressure is off the attack to produce — and even if it was, I’d feel confident that they could get it done these days with how they’re playing — but that pressure is transitioned over to the opponent because they’re the ones having to try and come back from a multi-goal deficit.
There’s no more sitting there in the 50th or 60th minutes wondering if this is the game where Juve’s attack frustrates the hell out of us because they’re wasting chance after chance. They’ve been extremely clinical to open games against Fiorentina, Lazio and now Sassuolo. They’re creating chances, taking advantage of them and riding their early leads to relatively easy wins as a result.
I don’t know about all of you guys, but I like this version of Juventus a lot better than the one that was grinding its way through the first three or four months of the season. Allegri had the cajones to identify his teams need for a change and go through with it. Now, after plenty of frustrating moments even in wins, Juventus are seeing the benefits of making their much-needed switch to a 4-2--3-1 formation.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Upon seeing the starting lineups, I was reminded that Alberto Aquilani is a Sassuolo player. Yes, the same Aquilani who once played for Juventus six years ago. Time flies.
- Gigi Buffon’s goalkeeper kit on Sunday was ... very bright. Very, very bright. (But he’s Gigi Buffon, so he can do whatever the hell he wants.)
- Buffon got a win and a clean sheet as a late birthday present. That’s about as good as it gets for a goalkeeper. Oh, and that double save midway through the second half was pretty damn awesome, too.
- Sunday proved the latest reminder that Alessandro Matri is Sassuolo’s No. 10. Seriously, Matri is a No. 10.
- Who was the better winger on Sunday, Mario Mandzukic or Domenico Berardi? Serious question.
- I don’t really care how many goals Mandzukic finishes with this season. He’s been one of Juventus’ best players and there’s nothing that you can tell me otherwise.
- That combination play between Mandzukic, Sandro and Higuain for the opening goal will be something I see in my dreams later.
- That dummy from Paulo Dybala on Khedira’s goal will be something I see in my dreams later.
- It’s Higuain, Mauro Icardi and Edin Dzeko tied atop the Serie A scoring charts entering February. Should we start taking odds about Pipita finishing as the league’s top scorer for a second straight season? He’s starting to get that look of being absolutely lethal every single time he’s in front of goal.
- That was Khedira’s first goal in two and a half months. If he’s going to start looking like the Brother Sami we saw at the start of the season rather than the one we’ve seen a lot over the last couple of months, man, Juve’s midfield — and team as a whole — look just that more potent.
- Marko Pjaca got to play more than 10 minutes! It’s an improvement!
- I feel safe in saying that Juventus are playing a lot better overall entering their second game of the season against Inter than the first one. You know for a fact revenge will be on every single Juve player’s mind based on what happened the first time around. You think somebody like Mandzukic has forgotten about what happened at the San Siro back in September? Of course not. For all we know Mario will be screaming at all of his teammates while he makes them watch the game film again at training tomorrow morning.