Let’s be brutally honest here. There’s only so much that can happen when these two things happen simultaneously: Juventus start Stefano Sturaro in the midfield, and Chievo Verona — a tough egg to crack, mind you, having held both Roma and Napoli scoreless this year — hold all 11 players behind the ball.
When those two things happen at once, there is basically just nothing you can do, especially when you don’t have a player like Paulo Dybala whose spontaneous magic can crack open a team in the blink of an eye. Instead, for much of this game we saw a very tightly compact defensive team really make no effort to cross their own half. Chievo were, without a doubt, banking on another 0-0 draw with a big side. It’s extremely boring, terrible stuff to watch. But they’ve seen it work twice against top-flight teams.
And so, as we pretty much all noted, nothing happened in the first half. Like, nothing. Besides the first red card, which was fair but just really not very smart from Samuel Bastien.
In the second half, the two things that hampered play in the first half were demolished when Fabio Maresca took serious — and, let’s be fair, totally ridiculous — offense to a “I’m handcuffed in jail” gesture from Fabrizio Cacciatore (which means “hunter” in Italian, by the way . . .) and sent him off. Max Allegri also came to his senses and substitute Federico Bernardeschi on for Sturaro.
With Fede and Douglas Costa now donning the wings, good things happened. Each winger registered an assist, and Juve walked out with three points — albeit against a nine-man Chievo Verona.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Can we talk about these third kits? They’re the worst! I like the idea of the away kits (the yellow) and the third kit (the green ones we saw against Chievo) in a non-footballing sense. Like, wear them with jeans! Or joggers! That’s hip. You can make it work. But both jerseys, in my humble football-kit-appraising estimation, look very, very not-good on the pitch. By contrast, our home kits this year are pure gold.
- For some years now, Juve’s calling card has been that they don’t drop dump points. They don’t walk into somewhere like Chievo and lose, or even draw. Or at least they don’t make a regular habit of it. As we all know, the same can’t be said for the team in Milan that doesn’t wear red and black, which has not won a league game since Dec. 3 and who drew SPAL 1-1 on Sunday after conceding a horrendous goal at the very end. The same cannot be said for Roma, who hasn’t won a league game since December 16.
- But, at least so far, there’s one other squad who’s taking care of business — our good friends Napoli. Against Bologna they conceded within 30 seconds, but then dominated their way to a 3-1 win. Here’s probably not a very hot take: I don’t think Napoli are going away, not this season and not any time soon. They’ve got a really talented, really young roster that, frankly, looks brighter than Juve’s. (Look at their midfield! Rog! Diawara! Zielinski! Leandrinho! Ounas!)
- Coppa time! The schedule is about to get saucy, and the injuries are really, really thinning Juve’s squad out. Missing Juan Cuadrado is really going to hurt. I favor Fede and Costa, but Cuadrado is a great winger and gives Juve much-needed depth. (Man, having Marko Pjaca sure sounds nice . . . ) Let’s hope La Joya stays healthy and nobody else gets a boo-boo.
Onto the awards:
Italian Teenager Gaggle Award
For the unit embodying the following descriptors: incoherent, waste of space, frustrating.
This award goes to the entire Chievo Verona organization. Congratulations!
The host’s three-fold effort of being extremely boring, extremely dumb, and extremely unfortunate made for an all-around strange game in which they didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot, but rather slashed their ankles and jumped into a shark-infested aquarium (luckily for them, one of those sharks was Stefano Sturaro so it took some time to get bit).
C’mon, gang, please be a bit better.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
You know, it’s funny, because Douglas Costa frequently looks like the best player on the field. I know this is an extremely hot take, but I think we should pretty much always have him out there. His creativity combined with his technical ability and pace are absolutely unmatched on this Juventus squad.
Cuadrado is fast, but he has like two moves, one of which is the classic “kick it seven or eight feet past the defender and try to run around them and if this doesn’t work I’m screwed,” which is only so useful. Costa is dangerous on either foot, and has more dekes than this person.
Dybala is quick, but not really top-end fast.
Costa, my friends, is both.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award, Pt. II
For the man of the match.
In a moment of sheer insanity, and in the most Italian fashion possible, Fabio Maresca took grave offense to another very Italian thing in Cacciatore’s supremely dramatic “you’ve thrown me in jail” situation. I think Juventus would’ve probably walked away with three points all the same, but this more or less sealed the deal.
And, really, if you wanted to parody Italian habits and culture, you can’t really get any better than that 90 seconds of Maresca making Cacciatore go off the field, then the little argument, then the gesture, the offense taken, the red card, the justification, et. al.
What a time to be alive!
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award, Pt. III
For the man of the match.
In other news, maybe shouldn’t feel so bad about Pietro Pellegri going to Monaco, because Moise Kean earned himself a pretty damn nice brace in Hellas Verona’s route of Fiorentina (!). On both goals he did receive exceptional service, but — as we know — exceptional service doesn’t always yield the ball in the back of the net.
For Juve’s soon-to-be-18-year-old striker prospect, that was not the case. He executed. Both finishes were nice, but what was really nice was his positioning on both plays, and in particular his rapid burst to the ball on the first goal. He looked like a shark, and he looked quick as hell. I’m wondering, too, if he maybe read an article or two about this Pellegri kid. Right now, Kean is scoring goals.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it will be nice to see him play some first team minutes at Juve in 2025.