As Juventus loaded up on talented wingers this summer, we figured at some point that Max Allegri would let them loose and add a new dimension to the attack that we haven’t seen yet. They were the kind of offense-first kind of moves from a club that is so well-known for its prowess on defense.
And yet, besides all of this attention tot the wing, Juve’s striker-turned-winger has once again staked claim to one of the two valuable spots alongside Paulo Dybala.
Mr. No Good himself Mario Mandzukic scored the game-winner with a brilliant diving header on an equally good cross from Juan Cuadrado — yes, that’s me saying nice things about him — proved to be the difference in Juventus’ 1-0 win over Fiorentina at Allianz Stadium on Wednesday night.
A relatively quiet and not exactly explosive match needed something to turn it into Juventus’ favor. And there was Mandzukic, on the back post, flying through the air to get his head on a cross that may have initially been intended for Gonzalo Higuain and connect with it to give Juventus its one and only lead of the game.
That’s the beauty of Mandzukic on the field. He contributes in his still-somewhat new role as a winger that some folks might forget that he was a pretty good striker when he played there. And there’s still those skills there — especially when it comes to getting on the end of a cross.
As it turned out, it was the goal that eventually gave Juve three points.
In short: Good win. Nothing spectacular. Just got the job done. Onto the Turin derby.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought: I have no idea how to feel about the terzino-ing of Stefano Sturaro that Max Allegri is doing right now.
- In-game thought: I have no idea how to feel about the terzino-ing of Stefano Sturaro that Max Allegri is doing right now.
- Post-game thought: I have no idea how to feel about the terzino-ing of Stefano Sturaro that Max Allegri is doing right now.
- Max Allegri has voiced his belief in Rodrigo Bentancur quite a bit during the preseason and now into the first month or so of the season. And we’re starting to really see what this 20-year-old Uruguayan has to offer. He’s just so smooth out there and plays so mature for a kid who won’t turn 21 until THE END OF JUNE. That huge sprint back that went about half the length of the field to win back the ball and end a Fiorentina counterattack toward the end of the game had me clapping in my recliner. Bentancur is earning the respect of his manager — and probably some more playing time down the road — with how he’s playing when he’s given the opportunity. I love to see that.
- Counterpoint: When you see Allegri put faith in Juventus’ youngest player, you kinda wish he’d let somebody like Federico Bernardeschi go, too. I know, I know, I’m being that guy that complains about the starting lineup, but having Bernardeschi playing 10 minutes every game or every other game isn’t exactly what I had in mind when Juve signed him for big money this summer.
- Another counterpoint: Cuadrado was good against Fiorentina, which makes the case to play Bernardeschi or Douglas Costa from the start a little more difficult to support.
- Another good sign: I could watch Blaise Matuidi cover as much ground as he did against Fiorentina every freakin’ day. He was everywhere.
- I don’t think it should be any surprise to anybody that Juventus’ best defensive games this season have come when Daniele Rugani is playing. Now if only we could get him playing in some Champions League games...
- Not that Wojciech Szczesny isn’t a capable keeper or anything like that, but what’s the best kind of thing to happen for a backup goalkeeper? To be forced into making no saves at all. There’s another sign that Juventus’ defense got the job done on Wednesday night.
- Paulo Dybala didn’t score a goal, ending his phenomenally impressive streak of eight goals in the first four Serie A games of the season. I think with the way he’s played so far this year that he’s earned the benefit of the doubt and that a relatively quiet night — as well as a few minutes off on the bench in the second half — is forgivable. He’s earned that rest.