As he sat on the podium and spoke to the press on Friday, Max Allegri described Juventus’ trip to Ferrara to face S.P.A.L. as a game that his squad couldn’t afford to not win. The fact that there’s a double negative in there meant that anything other than three points would likely have Max ripping off his overcoat and, as one could surmise, in a pretty grumpy mood.
Well, I think a grumpy mood is going to be a central theme for Max as he analyzes this one over the international break.
Juventus didn’t get the win as their manager so desired. Instead, as S.P.A.L. defended like absolute madmen and did everything they needed to do to keep their hopes of staying in Serie A alive, Allegri was absolutely losing his mind on the sideline and nearly stepping onto the field itself as his team Juventus played out a scoreless draw at an absolutely red-hot Stadio Paolo Mazza on Saturday night.
The stat totals were a complete representation of how ineffective Juve were in the final third of the field.
Twelve total shots.
Three shots on target.
If you wanted to see what 20-year-old S.P.A.L. goalkeeper Alex Meret, a rumored transfer target of Juventus over the last 12-16 months or so, could be capable of then this probably wasn’t the game for you. Meret had almost as little to do as the man with whom he has looked up to his whole life, Gigi Buffon, had to do in the opposite goal.
0- Juventus haven't found the net in a competitive match played on the road for the first time since last September, against Barcelona. Stop. #SpalJuve— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 17, 2018
Sure, Juventus picked up another point and pushed its lead atop the Serie A table to five points ahead of Napoli. And obviously Napoli’s result against Genoa on Sunday night depends on whether the Scudetto race is truly back on heading into the final two months of the season. That is what everybody will be talking about coming out of this result in Ferrara.
(Which makes sense seeing as Juve’s lead in the league will be cut to all of two points if Napoli beats Genoa.)
But this was as much about Juventus being unable to break down one of the worst defenses in Serie A as it was what kind of implications the future may bring our way. S.P.A.L. played physically, they hunkered down at the back and they really just did every single thing they needed to do to make sure that Juventus didn’t really trouble Meret at all outside of one cross-shot that he easily parried away and out of trouble.
Juventus had no answer for it. None whatsoever. No late-game Paulo Dybala magic. No real surge where they were bombarding the opposing goal with chance after chance after chance. That’s a credit so S.P.A.L, obviously, but it’s also how Juve just simply didn’t create much of anything for consistent periods of the game.
So ... after spewing out close to 500 words about this game already, let’s just get a visual representation of how things went from Buffon himself.
Yup, that seems about right. Good work, Gigi. Thank you for (indirectly) helping.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- S.P.A.L. played well. Juventus didn’t. Therefore, S.P.A.L. deserved that valuable point.
- Also of note: Tired Juventus squad is tired. They need the international break so much.
- Speaking of Buffon, he had 21 touches in the game. Gonzalo Higuain had 24. Something tells me that isn’t really a recipe for success.
- If your first thought when you saw that there was five minutes of stoppage time was something like, “Oh, good. Plenty of time for Dybala to do something cool like he did against Lazio again,” you weren’t alone. That turned out to be a total bust.
- Of course, Juventus shouldn’t have been in a position to need a last-minute or stoppage-time goal against S.P.A.L., but there we were ... in the 94th minute ... hoping that Dybala could pull another rabbit out of his Argentinian hat. That turned out to be a total bust, too.
- Giorgio Chiellini was great again, which shouldn’t be a surprise based on how he’s played for the vast majority of the season. But for the first time in a decent amount of time, we’re going to be sweating the sight of Chiellini grabbing at his hamstring and asking Allegri to replace him with a sub. Injuries have been a constant the last three or four months, and even the risk of Chiellini missing a decent amount of time makes me quite upset.
- Douglas Costa is fast, but you knew that already.
- Daniele Rugani is so calm under pressure, but you knew that already.
- Claudio Marchisio should have played, but you knew that already.
- Miralem Pjanic is out of whack right now, and Marchisio is the better option.
- I still can’t believe that Higuain only touched the ball three more times than Buffon.
- At the completely end of the spectrum, Mattia De Sciglio had a game-high 107 touches and played well once again. Solid player continues to be solid.
- What else needs to be said about that game right now? Not much. At least we get to kick back on a Sunday and watch some calcio rather than thinking about a Juventus game.