You know you’re in for something strange when, in the first 20 seconds of play, Alex Sandro is burned on the left side, Giorgio Chiellini botches a clearance off a hapless Miralem Pjanic, and Gianluigi Buffon is stranded in the sea like a giant statue incapable of moving.
A few minutes later, VAR made its presence known once again on a, shall we say, questionable PK — not because it wasn’t a foul (it was), but maybe because the Genoa attacker was in an offside position when he returned to play the ball? — and our friendly northern Italian neighbors made the score 2-0.
Sitting on my couch snug in my blanket as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey rattled on my roof and window — I live in Austin, and we’ve got storms on storms — I felt strangely not panicky. Maybe it was because the two goals had happened so early. Maybe because I’m insane.
Then things got stranger: Paulo Dybala scored with his right foot.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- That Diego Laxalt kid is pretty darn good, and for most of the game beat the hell out of Juan Cuadrado. If Atalanta is indeed super worried about losing Leonardo Spinazzola without a suitable replacement and if they are indeed thinking about Laxalt as a replacement, I wonder what the hang-up is? It’s not like Genoa ever really turns down a solid offer. He seems pretty versatile. He looked good moving forward. He was physical. He almost equalized 3-3 for Genoa. Color me impressed.
- Here is the token “complain about how slowly Max Allegri is integrating the new guys” thought. Some people say the only way to integrate new players is playing them in the game. I think that’s not true. If the last six months have taught us anything — i.e., Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci leaving — it’s that whatever we think of the “Juventus way,” it’s actually a thing. There is, apparently, a distinct flavor to the mien of the Bianconeri. And I think that having players soak up that attitude is something important, and something that can be done on the training ground, on the bench, in practice. I.e. watching Juve win the Juve way is a form of education. The longer Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa ride the pine, the hungrier these guys will be.
- They say that patience is a virtue. I can’t verify that it is, but that’s what they say, if you want to believe them.
- All that said, Allegri is happy to play Blaise Matuidi right away. So maybe my theory is bonkers!
- Brief mentions to some guys who didn’t factor into the awards: Swiss Menace was pretty decent, Alex Sandro was uncharacteristically poor, Mr. No Good with a beautiful assist.
- And on that topic: for the second week in a row, Cuadrado and Mandžukić hook up for a goal. Huge LOL.
Onto the awards:
Nietzsche's Horse Award
For the player whose play demonstrated an insanity indicative of serious decline in form.
Sami Khedira has been so, so bad it’s almost unbelievable to me. If I’m not mistaken, this is the second week in a row in which the German has managed zero key passes, zero shots, and virtually zero impact on the game. He looked like a fish after you’ve caught it and it’s been on the boat deck for like ten minutes and it’s still alive but sort of flapping around aimlessly and you’re like “oh yeah, that’s still there.”
In 57 minutes, Khedira had 44 touches with 85 percent accuracy.
In 38 or so minutes, Matuidi had 38 touches with 97 percent accuracy.
The Frenchman’s runs looked better — despite the extremely humorous and awkward trip on the counter-attack that may have led to a goal — his energy looked better, his defense looked better.
With Khedira’s form and Claudio Marchisio’s injury, should the midfield threat level be set at red (or whatever is the worst color)? I don’t know. Right now I feel like Juventus have two midfielders who are first-team quality in Pjanic and Matuidi, which leaves Khedira and Rodrigo Bentancur (for the next month) as the double-pivot.
Piazza San Carlo Award
For a potentially overlooked yet stellar showing.
There will be grumbling, but Gonzalo Higuain was really freaking good against Genoa.
Did he totally botch his best chance of the night? Yeah, he did.
But he did what all great No. 9 forwards do: hold up play. And he did a hell of a good job at it.
On the first goal, he tracked back to receive a pass, took one touch toward the box which sucked not one but two defenders his direction, and then he led Pjanic beautifully toward goal. The Bosnian crossed for Dybala who used his right foot (still amazing!) to score. Hockey assist for Higuain.
A few minutes later, he received the ball again with his back to the net, turned and immediately lifted a ball to a streaking Dybala. The run was brilliant; the pass was brilliant; the save was brilliant. (Mattia Perin is so good!) On most goalkeepers, that’s probably in the back of the net.
For good measure, Higuain added an actual assist on the final goal, although he probably wasn’t planning on that being an assist.
Higuain will get his goals — especially when (I’m really hoping it’s “when” and not “if”) Allegri starts playing actual wingers. But for now, he’s doing a damn fine job at playing second fiddle to Dybala.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Our favorite left-footed Argentine heads into the international break looking like a burning ball of calcio superpower.
He was so good. He will continue to be so good. Even watching him score a penalty kick is an amazing thing. Last year was somewhat disappointing, I guess, although the Barcelona game in Turin certainly gave Dybala some confidence.
But the loss in Cardiff, coupled with the No. 10 shirt, has triggered something special in Dybala. We believed it was latent — it may now be blossoming.
The deadline is a mere four days away, and I couldn’t be happier. The mercato is a lusty dream for journalists, but it gets annoying for fans — at least for me. It was fun for the first week, and now it’s just too much.
Maybe Juventus still make a move, but I think no matter what happens this has been a successful window. It appears more and more that Bernardeschi — who’s just 23 years old — was purchased for next year, and the year after that, although I have no doubt he’ll become increasingly important as the season goes along. Costa will figure into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Matuidi in the brief moments in which he’s played has, to my eyes, looked a hell of a lot better than Khedira. And Marotta probably paid 20 million less than any English team would’ve.
There’s still all sorts of strange speculation.
The midfielder talk: Andre Gomes from Barcelona? Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich? Have they already agreed with Emre Can for next year?
The defense talk: Gary Cahill (LOL), Benedikt Howedes.
The extremely weird forward talk: Schick wants Juve? Keita Balde wants Juve?
Maybe it will be an eventful few days.
Maybe it won’t.