Juventus totally bossed Inter in Turin. There’s no avoiding that fact. Defensively, offensively, tactically, everything — it was a game that felt like a 4-0 win, and it darn nearly was one.
One has to think that if Mario Mandzukic hadn’t been coming off some extended recovery time, he would’ve been sharp enough to finish one of his three, four, five chances. The Croatian saw a header clang off the crossbar, and several crosses land at — and then evade — his feet before he could slot something home. There was also, of course, the chance within the opening minutes.
I’ll be the first to admit I was irked, to say the least, when I saw Juve’s starting lineup: a 4-3-3 with clearly defensive ambitions, and no Paulo Dybala or Douglas Costa. But I’ll also be the first to admit that my apprehension, apparently, was totally misguided: Max Allegri got this one right. The only difference between a 0-0 affair and a 3-0 drubbing was Mandzukic’s lack of finishing in front of goal. How can you fault Allegri for that? He put the players in the position to win. He saw something with bringing the target winger back. He saw something with overloading the midfield and the flanks. Allegri read Inter like one of those children’s books you read your kid that’s so simple you have to make things up as you go just to keep it interesting because it’s so inanely simple.
That’s all a coach can do — position his players correctly. And that’s what Allegri did. Sure, there’s some disappointment, but as Danny and everyone who’s got their head screwed on straight is pointing out, the Old Lady just endured the gauntlet of Barcelona, Napoli, Olympiacos, and Inter without conceding a goal and winning two of the four games.
If you’d been given that option in mid-October, you’d have taken it.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Mattia de Sciglio has quietly developed into a pretty damn good right back. A lot of us thought, assumed this would happen, and I’m sure Allegri believed it’d happen at some point.
- Medhi Benatia and Giorgio Chiellini are an absolute wall in the back. It’s pretty damn nice to see the back line seemingly solidified, though of course it comes at the expense of Daniele Rugani once again riding the bench.
- Juventus play Roma on Dec. 23, but besides that fixture here’s what the next league games look like: Bologna, Verona, Cagliari, Genova, Chievo, Sassuolo, Fiorentina, Torino, Atalanta. That takes us through February, and that’s a pretty damn nice slate of games to shave away at Inter’s current two-point lead.
- My one quibble with Allegri’s handling of the game. Given Juve’s defensive solidity the entire game, I would’ve liked to see Allegri substitute Dybala into the game sooner, and potentially Douglas Costa or Alex Sandro. In other words, I thought he could’ve committed to the offensive side of things maybe around the 60th minute.
- What’s with this recent Blaise Matuidi revolt? From my perspective, as long as he plays with a technical midfielder (Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio, Rodrigo Bentancur) he’s fantastic. Just don’t start him next to Sami Khedira or Stefano Sturaro and I think everything is fine. He proved again how good he can be on Saturday night.
Onto the awards:
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Was this, possibly, the most obvious man of the match designation of the season? Juan Cuadrado absolutely shredded Inter, and was far and away the most dangerous man on the pitch. Inter did a fine job of covering MDS’s overlapping runs, but it seemed like Juve’s bouncy Colombian always made the right decision. Sometimes, that was to cut back and penetrate the middle of the pitch on the dribble. Sometimes, that was to immediately launch a cross from the right flank; the crosses were beautiful, all night. And sometimes, it was to beam the ball to the top of the box on the grass, as he did several times.
It was Cuadrado’s best performance in a Juve shirt, at least that I’ve seen. If he keeps playing like that, it makes you wonder what a lineup with Cuadrado on the right and Costa on the left would look like. (Spoiler alert: scrumptious.)
Ivrea Orange Festival Award
For the player who takes something crappy and makes it beautiful.
The night in Turin was a strange one for Kwadwo Asamoah, and it wasn’t pretty all the time. I remember at least two out-and-out gaffes which gave Inter a glimmer of hope around the Juve penalty area, and there were a handful of times he got too cute on the left wing in possession, but he also won the ball back and paired with Matuidi to form a midfield wrecking crew. He was crucial to the press that kept Inter on their heels the whole night.
If the Alex Sandro rumors are indeed true (let’s not get into it here), there is some solace that Juve have reliable insurance left back, though one shudders to imagine Asamoah facing Raheem Sterling or someone like that.It’s not a bad result! Everyone calm down! Juventus are good. More importantly: Juventus are getting better.