You know something good happened when Max Allegri says in his postgame conference, “I must congratulate the lads.”
But the win, of course, hinged on two crucial plays: A four-minute VAR review on a maybe-or-maybe-not Giorgio Chiellini handball that was, eventually, reversed just as Gigi Buffon was staring down a penalty kick; and a Gil Dias shot that clanged off the post following a blistering counterattack in the wake of a corner kick.
Had one of those two plays resulted in a goal for the hosts Fiorentina, I’m not sure Juventus would’ve been able to hold firm, because for the first half — and first bit of the second half — La Viola were playing absolutely possessed defense, or, maybe, Juventus just weren’t that good.
For much of the first half, there was no offensive creativity for Juventus. There was no connection between the midfield and the attacking third. There was no pace. There was really no effective way to the net — and that continued until Douglas Costa entered the game in the 65th minute. I thought he single-handedly blew the game wide open, or, as Allegri said, he allowed Juventus to “play on an open field.”
The problem with the lineup — no Paulo Dybala, no Costa, no Juan Cuadrado, no Blaise Matuidi — was a very tangible lack of pace and burst. Federico Bernardeschi’s extremely clever goal on a free kick was almost the single moment up to that point of offensive penetration.
So, I’m not sure what to do with this game. The clean sheet was nice, but it needed a healthy dollop of luck. The two goals were nice, but they were really against the run of play for me. It seems like we sound like one giant broken record, but Douglas Costa needs to be on the pitch from the first whistle.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- When Douglas Costa entered the game for Claudio Marchisio and Bernardeschi was still out on the pitch, it looked like we played a 4-2-3-1 with an extremely fluid F3D3-Costa combo on the wing and in the center, and I really liked it. I think many of us are still itching to see what it’d look like to position Gonzalo Higuain on top of Bernardeschi, Costa, and Dybala in some form or fashion. Those three play very different games and I think that’d be a hell of a potent attack, but it must be said that we probably don’t have two influential enough midfielders to sustain the formation defensively if Mario Mandzukic isn’t playing.
- Speaking of Marchisio — not the best. His fitness looked great, but he had some really poor touches out there.
- In the center of the mid, though, I thought Miralem Pjanic had an absolute beauty of a game, especially on the defensive side of things. Man he’s turning in some absolute stunners on defense, and the first one I really remember being shocked by is the home game against Barcelona last spring, when he blanketed Leo Messi.
- Buffon had a crucial save in the second half, but I also thought he did about as well as he could against Gil Dias and was influential in the shot going just wide. Side note: it’s funny that shots off the post aren’t counted as “shots on target.” I mean part of me understands, but part of me does not understand.
- We didn’t wear the yellow, and we didn’t wear the green. Non-hot-take: No soccer team should have a green kit, because the pitch itself is (ostensibly) green!
Onto the awards:
Egyptian Museum Award
For the best game by a player older than 30.
Of course, consider this a co-man-of-the-match award, because Chiellini was absolutely fabulous, from his marking and defending and helping out Alex Sandro (ugh) to his purely delectable assist to Pipita. The man is an absolute rock at the center for Juventus, and after the departure of that other guy who played center back for Juventus who left Turin for Milan over the summer, Chiellini has gladly (and, for the most part, efficiently) taken a greater role in moving the ball forward, and although he may not be as silky smooth with the ball at his feet as that other guy he’s doing a pretty damn fine job overall.
Knock on wood 10 million times that the 33-year-old maintains his uncanny run of good health.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
From a purely objective standpoint, I think Chiellini played a better game than Bernardeschi. Chiellini hardly turned a foot the wrong way, and there were vast stretches of the game when No. 33 was conspicuously absent (though that may or may not have been his fault).
All the same, I thought Bernardeschi’s response to being placed in the starting 11 back in Florence was sheer gold. Every time he touched the ball the hisses and boos from the under-capacity crowd streamed down and made it sound like an over-capacity crowd, but he didn’t really look miffied; he just didn’t have many chances.
But, finally, he created his own chance, with a quick and clever touch inside the box; then he and Pjanic picked apart the Fiorentina set piece defense, and Bernardeschi executed a wonderful free kick. Tisk, tisk, Sportiello. The half-step to his left gave No. 33 the window he needed.
Nietzsche’s Horse Award
For the player whose play demonstrated an insanity indicative of serious decline in form.
As is only right, Sami Khedira has reclaimed his claim on this award. I thought the game against Sassuolo was by far his best, not just in terms of the goals but in his palpable influence of the game, but as influential to the game and the scoreline as he was last time he was nonexistent against Fiorentina.
The statistics are almost unbelievable. In 90 minutes, Khedira logged zero shots, zero dribbles, and zero key passes. In 90 minutes, zero tackles, zero interceptions, and zero clearances. In 90 minutes, a 73 percent pass accuracy on just 22 total passes.
In 15 minutes of play, Rodrigo Bentancur was exponentially more influential.