Sometimes, Max is mad as Mad Max if Mad Max wore the Mad Hatter’s maddest hat.
This, for me, was the madness: Not starting Federico Bernardeschi.
My ire has less to do with Juan Cuadrado — who indeed did score, but who, as ever, displayed the most consistent characteristic he offers: wild, raving, lunatic inconsistency — and more to do with the development (or lack of development) in the the 23-year-old Italian winger.
The kid needs to play. It’s as simple as that. Cuadrado just started a game against Sporting, and Benevento hadn’t (and hasn’t) earned a single point in league play. When — if not this fixture — is the right time to play him? I’m very nearly dumbfounded.
I think it’s also perhaps worth pointing out that, tactically speaking, Benevento was always going to sit back and absorb punches, and Cuadrado is not at all a creative player. He doesn’t have the elusiveness that Douglas Costa has, nor the arsenal of Bernardeschi; the Colombian is mostly useful on the counterattack, and that was never going to be the approach to Benevento.
Additionally, with Costa and Alex Sandro attacking from the left flank, there were plenty of tasty crosses — one of which Cuadrado was the beneficiary of for the game-winning goal — and so I thought it’d be fine to go with a left-footed right winger in Bernardeschi at the expense of Cuadrado’s crossing game, which I think we ought to admit has mightily improved. Allegri’s first choice put some great balls into the box to counterbalance, if you see it that way, his flagrant lack of creativity.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Goodness gracious, those jerseys. I’d really, really like to get one of those jerseys.
- It was unfortunate that beautifully clad Juventus had to play Benevento, whose kits looked like Ronald McDonald imitations.
- Oh yeah, the game and the result: I didn’t actually think that Juventus played that poorly. The Bianconeri fell behind on a magical free kick, perhaps the only point about which you could complain was Wojciech Szczesny’s positioning of his wall. In every other area of the game Juventus were completely dominant, and it was just a lack of finishing. That happens! Don’t freak out about it.
- The stats, all in Juve’s favor: 67 to 33 percent possession and 27 to 3 shots (8 to 1 on-target).
- Amato Ciciretti’s free kick was a stunner. It seemed like it bent 5-6 feet. Wouldn’t mind taking a look at Ciciretti, actually. The kid is only 23, and he and Bernardeschi could always open a tattoo parlor if their football failed them, or even after their careers are over. You never know!
Onto the awards:
Parco Valentino Award
For an urbane demeanor distributed amongst the squad.
Claudio Marchisio is back, and darn it was good to see him there. He’s a fantastic double-pivot to Miralem Pjanic at this point in the Juventino’s career, offering what Juve’s jewel midfielder does in a slightly less potent way. Marchisio was wonderful in orchestration, especially in the second half, and I think if the Blaise Matuidi-Marchisio partnership lacked a little organic jive in the first half it acquired a workability in the second.
Juve’s No. 8 threw some great long balls forward, held back effectively in the few times he needed to, and gave the black and white the stability they needed.
All that said, it would really be a shame if Rodrigo Bentancur failed to log minutes other than 10- or 15-minute stints at the end of games because of all Juve’s depth. There are times when the 20-year-old looks as composed as anyone on the ball, and that’s including Marchisio and Pjanic.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Gonzalo Higuain, folks, wants screenshots of all the “Mandzukic is so much better” horse feces that was littering the walls of those — and therefore, I suppose, other — sites. Because he’s on fire, and when he’s on fire there are fewer than two or three players in the world at putting the ball in the back of the net. The finish on Sunday night was Pipita’s third-straight gem, an absolute pinpoint shot into the top-right corner that drew Juventus level and spurred them on to the three points.
The build-up was just as encouraging.
Competition notwithstanding, Mattia De Sciglio looked like Juve’s best right back. He linked up on the right flank with Cuadrado, and then the Italian sent a back-post cross to Matuidi; the Frenchman made an excellent adjustment on the ball, heading it back to Pipita, and then the Argentine finished adroitly as ever.
New player to new player to Pipita — not bad.
Not bad at all.