I’m not here to give you a bunch of platitudes to make you feel better about a 1-1 draw at Napoli. The result is extremely okay, but I hate to remind all of us that the bianconeri are only six points up on Roma — and oh by the way we play them later at Stadio Olimpico. Given Marko Pjaca’s injury and the two games versus Barcelona and the hopefully more Champions League games after that, there’s a hell of a lot of room to stumble as Juventus amble to the finish line. A collapse isn’t out of question. That’s lesson No. 1 for me.
Lesson No. 2 is that if this Napoli game was a dress rehearsal for Barcelona, Juventus will lose 74-0 on aggregate. Napoli are good; Barcelona are great. Napoli field Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens; Barcelona field Leo Messi and Luis Suarez and Neymar. Any of those half-chances for Napoli is a full-chance for Barcelona. I can’t even begin to describe how not-fun watching this game was thinking about the Spaniards’ attacking play. Gulp.
Here’s to us being wrong about this assumption…
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Among other things, even from a neutral perspective that was a terribly boring game to watch. Juventus held its structure so well for most of the game, and for most of the game snuffed out Napoli’s attacks successfully. But there was no connection between Gonzalo Higuain and the midfield. There was no player in blue — heh, it was weird to wear blue against Napoli — who could hold possession at all.
- My wife and I went to San Antonio this weekend with my parents, and at the bar in Hotel Emma the waitress was super cool and knew everything about scotch and every other liquor, and I wanted to taste some mezcal because I’ve been getting into mezcal and tequila lately, and she brought out two different ones for me to taste for free. It was as amazing as my Juve-watching experience was poor.
- Are Juventus going to keep running a 4-2-3-1 despite the fact that we now have basically a single winger on the team? And seven games left in April? Wouldn’t shifting to a 4-4-2, or a 4-3-3 even, or something that doesn’t involve Mario Lemina as a winger, be more fitting for the personnel available to Juve?
- I don’t get to it down there, because of all the blame to go around, but Kwadwo Asamoah played pretty poorly, I thought. Every time I looked up it seemed like Napoli were behind him once again. The Swiss Menace didn’t look too great, either, but for whatever reason Napoli insisted on moving through the middle.
Onto the awards (“awards”):
Italian Teenager Gaggle Award
For the unit embodying the following descriptors: incoherent, waste of space, frustrating.
A single shot on target is what you get when you don’t have Paulo Dybala on the field and you offer Higuain the Super Mario Bros. as wingers. And honestly, I’m not sure whether to blame the players or the manager here, but both, I suppose, at the end of the day, were terrible.
The Super Mario Bros. win the Teenager Gaggle award, which goes to the entire unit that sucked entirely, just as a gaggle of Italian teenagers successfully suck the life and joy from wherever they are. They weren’t creative, and they weren’t pacey enough — I guess this part isn’t their fault — and they provided no service, and they kept possession about as good as the Grinch keeps possession of his Christmas-hating heart (get it, he doesn’t, because he always ends up a softie at the end of the movie).
(OT: I hate [American] Christmas. I hate all the lights and I hate that the stupid musical portion of the holiday begins in November each year. I find it such an overbearing holiday. Everybody gets nostalgic and puts all these false expectations on it and it’s the worst.)
Mario Mandžukić was really poor. Not sure who was worse, to be honest. I’m not going to do the apparently very hip thing and completely trash him for being the worst Juventus player of all time, because that doesn’t seem a very equitable or true-to-reality kind of thing to do, but he was absolutely not great. He’s not great at taking the ball and moving it forward, because he’s not a pace player. He’s not creative. He’s supposed to be a target forward, not a winger.
Sidewalk of Turin Award
For a weak(ish) performance masked by other factors.
Giorgio Chiellini played very strangely Sunday night.
In the last 10 minutes of the game he had several world-class plays that only old man Chiellini in all of his old man wisdom could do, and then he started passing the ball and it was not good. It was an oscillating performance from the man whose kit sits proudly in my closet. At the end of the day, I think the good outshines the bad in this performance. But that’s the Sidewalk Award. The actual, literal sidewalks of Turin are wonderful, and it’s a splendidly laid-out city — since it’s on a grid! and no European city is on a grid! — and the actual, literal sidewalks are wonderful places, except the times you step in dog poop because the Piedmontese dislike picking it up. But even the poop doesn’t make the sidewalks net-bad.
Chiellini was good. But that passing...not good. (Like the poop!)
House of Savoy Award
For the [worst] man of the match.
Does Max Allegri deserve this?
If this match was a dress rehearsal for Barcelona, then yes.
If this match literally existed to steal a point from Napoli and rest Dybala, Dani Alves, Juan Cuadrado, and Alex Sandro, then maybe a little more leniency.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Sami Khedira gets this award, because he was very good. The midfield, I thought, was the best unit out there. (Don’t tell anybody but I thought Miralem Pjanic played fine. Not great, but fine!)
I’m not certain it was their fault that the team couldn’t retain possession. Pjanic was playing out of position — at least relative to this season — and he, Claudio Marchisio, and Khedira held their defensive form almost flawlessly while the back line looked on-and-off.
Glad that’s over with. Now that we’re done in Naples we can...play again in Naples three days later. Woof.