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Landmarks of Turin Awards: Juventus vs. Udinese Edition

It’s a draw, which means some new awards.

Udinese Calcio v Juventus FC - Serie A Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

Sometimes, when I’m handing out a test to my students, one of the smarter kids has this smug expression on his or her face as they listlessly scribble their name on the top-right of the paper. Maybe he or she takes his or her sweet time when the bell rings and the class starts on the test, and he or she sort of dilly-dallies around with it and maybe even smirks at the prompt which I, the teacher, have devised, because it is so inferior to his or her titanic intellectual abilities. Then, on top of everything, he or she turns the test in with something like seven minutes of class remaining and then goes back to his or her desk and waits it out. Then I grade the test. And after I grade the test, and when I go to hand back the test to this student, he or she awaits it with relish, ready to receive his or her A, probably an A+ in his or her opinion, and it’s like a 78 or something like that.

All the entitled pomp with which he or she has been drenched since he or she waltzed into my class when the test was given — the pomp vanishes, because the performance was terrible, shameful, listless, arrogant.

On Sunday, Juve were collectively the smart kid who was a little too smart for his or her own good. A smarty-pants. The result, in the end, was generous: an eight-point lead in the league table.

One could make all sorts of excuses for this type of performance: the lads are coming off an emotional, contested game against Napoli; the next 10 days are loaded with a home fixture against Milan and a decisive Champions League match; Udinese played and pressed out of their minds on top of all this. Blah blah blah. I don’t think we ought to excuse this kind of performance. For me, the external factors don’t mitigate what we saw.

At the same time, of course: Take a deep breath. Eight points clear. A chance to reload on Friday.

And now you get to see something you’ve never seen before with the Landmark of Turin Awards: a draw edition. The resting assumption with this recurring post is, of course, a victory — you don’t give honorary awards out for losing, unless you’re in a fourth-grade church basketball camp. I’ve been armed with the knowledge that Juventus might, at some point, draw or lose, and so I’d already cooked up a batch of some of Turin’s, Piedmont’s, and Italy’s worst elements, ready to criticize.

The Draw Edition, therefore, is a composite of the customary awards you’ve seen and a losing collection to which you have not yet been exposed. Today, it’ll mostly be the latter. Something to look forward to!


A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.

  • It’s raining at Stadio Friuli, and it’s raining here in Austin. Science!
  • The other day I watched some of the Portland-Minnesota MLS game, the season opener for the American league. And after the inaugural goal of the MLS season, and after 30 minutes of watching those two sides play, I thought to myself: “Woof.” And then I watched today’s Juventus game.
  • After three minutes — Udinese pressing, the Bianconeri midfield with more turnovers than an English bakery — it was obvious the game would be a struggle.
  • A note on Max Allegri: The manager’s insistence of patience worked out well against Porto not too long ago, but it did not work today. The difference, for me, between those two games, between those two decisions not to make an early — halftime — substitution, was that against Udinese the culprits were obvious, the holes gaping. The like-for-like substitute for Giorgio Chiellini did nothing to change Juventus tactically. Like many people, I thought Marko Pjaca needed to be a bit earlier, but my biggest question for Allegri is why a midfield substitution was not made earlier.
  • Y’all know I love Paulo Dybala, but he’s got to give the writhing around on the ground a break. At least he’s not as bad as Dele Alli.
  • Shout-out to Dybala: What service on the free kick.
  • One other Dybala note: Is it time to start wondering if his role as CAM is a sustainable way to use his talent?
  • What about Daniele Rugani? Allegri’s trust of veterans sometimes pays off, and sometimes doesn’t, but at some point you have to play inexperienced players, right? It’s like the classic job dilemma for the kids: I don’t have any experience so I can’t get a job, and I don’t have a job so I can’t get any experience. I think games like this against Udinese are the prime opportunities to throw players like Rugani and Pjaca into the starting lineup, because their hunger won’t be deterred by the size of the stage. They still have something to prove, regardless of the opponent.
  • Duvan Zapata: The dude is good, and big, and strong, but if he had any vision at all Udinese might’ve scored 2-3 more goals today. They squandered some counterattacks because the big striker didn’t have the wherewithal to see, let alone distribute to, a streaking teammate.

Onto the awards (“awards”):

Piedmontese Smugness Award

For the “I’m too good to be playing against you...oh shoot I made a huge mistake” player.

One of the very few things I dislike about Turin, and Piedmont more generally, is the sometimes-palpable strain of smugness. This is by no means true of the general population, but it’s occasionally true, and even a fault that’s occasional can be harmful. There are some from this area of Italy who turn their noses at other Italians, especially southern Italians, and it’s quite sad to me. The intensely regional aspect of Italy is both its most alluring trait and its most disconcerting flaw. It provides both the astonishing cultural difference and dynamics even between town to town, but it also accounts for unfortunate, insulting stereotypes.

This award goes to a player who, like the occasional smug Piedmontese, looks down on an opponent as inferior, and the winner (loser) today is Dani Alves.

What a terrible game! He deserves some of the ample blame on the goal as well, because where the hell was he? There was one point in the match when he was on the left wing (!). His match was characterized by the following: awful positioning, fouls that were both reckless and completely and utterly irrational, and errant crosses. He was very bad, and he made me regret all the times I’ve defended him on this blog. Oh man. Just because you played at Barcelona doesn’t mean you’re better than everybody on Udinese’s side. Woof and a half for the Brazilian right back.

Italian Teenager Gaggle Award

For the unit embodying the following descriptors: incoherent, waste of space, frustrating.

American teenagers suck. Can confirm: I teach high school. (They’re also wonderful of course.) But they suck.

Italian teenagers make American teenagers look like a group of thoughtful, considered Greek philosophers discussing the good life, and ethics, and all that stuff. Italian teenagers are loud and commit flagrant PDA everywhere possible — parks, buses, trains, benches in piazzas — and they play their music too loud, and for some reason they smoke cigarettes — why, Italian parents, why? — and they seem to all have this inner self-belief that they are the center of a novel.

This award, therefore, goes to a unit that is extremely useless and annoying, cringe-inducing and gaudy. Against Udinese, it was the midfield.

Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira were off in every way possible — the passing, the attacking movement, the defensive backtracking. The formation requires a stable connection between the attackers and defenders, and we’ve been spoiled over the last 10 games to see this connection be made, but this was not the case Sunday. As someone mentioned on the game-time thread, Pjanic, what’s with all the five-foot passes? Khedira, where were the incisive runs you were making just a couple games ago?

On top of the listless effort was a total tactical disconnect, at the heart of which is — I don’t actually know; maybe it’s Allegri, maybe the midfield, maybe still the fact that Dybala at attacking midfielder isn’t working that well. But against Udinese, the midfield certainly wasn’t working.

Sidewalk of Turin Award

For a weak(ish) performance masked by other factors.

Just because Juve’s goalkeeper is a spry 39 years old doesn’t mean he isn’t world-class. We know he is. We’ve seen the evidence in the last few weeks. And so, for that reason, I’m awarding the handsome old fox between the posts the Sidewalk Award.

Gigi made a few saves, none spectacular, but at the end of the day, he’s the type of keeper who should’ve done better on the goal. There’s lots of blame to go around on that Zapata goal, and I’ll get to the others who deserve blame, but man that angle was slim. That’s a scenario in which I’d take Buffon as the victor maybe seven times out of ten. Zapata took the chance extremely well, especially the effort and strength to muscle past Leonardo Bonucci, but I thought our netminder should’ve stopped the chance.

Udinese Calcio v Juventus FC - Serie A Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images

House of Savoy Award

For the [worst] man of the match.

If you’ve studied Italian history at all, and Piedmontese specifically, and are also generally aware of European history, you’re probably aware that the House of Savoy is one of the most egregious, inept, and useless royal families of all the pretty useless royal families the continent has seen. Vittorio Emmanuele II was king when Italy was unified in the mid-nineteenth century, and he liked to take credit — because he was a Savoy — for thing that Garibaldi or Cavour did. And now there are streets and piazzas in every damn city and town in Italy named after him, and stupid horse statues, and it makes me mad when I go to Italy because the dude was really just a flamboyant aristocrat who liked to play army dress-up.

Rant over, but point made: the House of Savoy Award goes to the worst man of the match, and the inaugural award goes to Bonucci (first-half version).

It’s not only because I place the bulk of the blame on Bonucci for the Zapata goal — which I do, and which you’re welcome to contest — but because his entire game was off: his distribution, his marking, his vision. He turned the ball over a few times, and his long balls were off the mark. It was not the sort of thing you hope for. Allegri fielded what is probably, at the end of the day, our most intimidating lineup, and of all the players in that lineup Bonucci is arguably the most intimidating, and for forty-five minutes he played, um, really bad.

Giuseppe Garibaldi Award

For the man of the match.

Leonardo Bonucci (second-half version)!

Three plays:

1) The finish on the set piece to secure a point.

2) The clearance on the Udinese breakaway to prevent a goal from the opposition.

3) The near assist to Higuain on what would have been an unlikely and undeserved game-winner.

The man certainly redeemed himself in the second 45 minutes.