The good news about Juventus defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in an infernally heart attack-inducing comeback is that the Bianconeri move on to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. But the bad news is that my previously written recap is now blasted to smithereens.
What the heck just happened?
I woke up the morning of the game and I was a youthful-looking 28 years old, and when my head hit the pillow I was pushing 70. I’m exhausted, like probably all of you. I can’t imagine how much energy that game sapped from the players, but the lads have a game on Sunday to worry about, and then a game on Wednesday, and then a game on Saturday. No rest for the weary, as they say.
Because I’m tired, here are my points without lengthy framing or support:
- Tottenham have better players than Juventus, and may be a better team than Juventus (or at least this injury-ridden iteration of Juventus). By this I mean they have a higher number of more talented players. They’ve certainly got more creative players, and that was painfully apparent for the vast majority of this game. Son Heung-Min is an absolute terror. Harry Kane is the best striker in football (hold-up, positioning, finishing, movement, creativity, technical ability... ). Dele Alli is inconsistent, but when on-form he’s a heck of a midfielder. Christian Ericksen is very, very good at a lot of things. Juventus won by capitalizing on mistakes; Juventus advanced. That’s what matters and Spurs fans can complain all they want. I care so little about their problems right now!
- It’s time for Juventus fans to stop thinking all English teams are a joke. Spurs kicked our buttoxes for the vast majority of this game — for the vast majority of both games, actually — and they’re fourth in the Premier League. Fourth! They fall a full 20 points behind Manchester City. (That said, I’d love to draw City next, because at some point the winner will have to face them probably.)
- Max Allegri is a heck of a coach, the Sami Khedira situation notwithstanding. His substitutions on Wednesday night were brilliant. He created width when there was none; he realized his mistakes, and he corrected them.
- Vis-a-vis point No. 3: Of course, of course, of course it was Khedira and Stephan Lichtsteiner who made impeccable plays on Gonzalo Higuain’s goal. But Khedira certainly isn’t fully exonerated. For vast stretches of the game, including Son’s goal, he was nowhere to be found.
All of that said, it doesn’t require a rocket scientist to point to the fact that a fully fit Juventus probably wouldn’t have been overrun. Mattia De Sciglio wouldn’t have gotten his lunch toasted by Son like Andrea Barzagli did, Federico Bernardeschi or Juan Cuadrado would’ve provided the width or speed or creativity that we so glaringly lacked, and we would’ve had actual depth. It’s not just that Juventus were missing rotation players in both fixtures; we were missing key players. Not sure whether or not Spurs fans are aware of this fact. Let’s go to their blog and tell them.
(Kidding! Don’t do that!)
As far as squad needs, the same thing that has been true from the beginning of the season remains true: There needs to be a change in the midfield. If Spurs are thrashing you in the middle of the park, you’ve got some serious issues.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Final shot tally: 23-to-9 in favor of Spurs, 6-to-3 on target also in favor of the hosts. That’s ... not good.
- Can we buy Son?
- Can we buy Ericksen?
- I have no clue what Allegri has to do to get credit for the job he does. Ravaged, absolutely ravaged by injuries, playing in London against one of the most talented teams in Europe, Juve get through thanks to Allegri’s adjustments. Allegri gets more efficient production out of the personnel he’s been given than anyone in the world. Take that to the bank. Juventus aren’t Barcelona, Manchester United, or Real Madrid. We don’t have that kind of payroll. Yet we’re playing with the big boys. Team Allegri forever. Sue me!
Onto the awards:
Parco Valentino Award
For an urbane demeanor distributed amongst the squad.
I’ll happily admit to my dumbass comments: Barzagli was the wrong choice for right back. He got his ass kicked over and over, and Lichtsteiner probably wouldn’t have been perfect but he definitely would’ve been better. And he would’ve offered something moving forward.
Then, in the 60th minute, the Swiss Menace did come on, and boy those were the best 30 minutes of football I’ve seen the man play in a long, long time. He looked cool as a cucumber with the ball. He timed runs perfectly. Perfectly! His cross was impeccable. He took pressure off with some nice movement forward. He made plays on defense. What the hell! It was amazing.
Barzagli did, though, come back with a goal-saving line clearance. Thanks for that, old man. Danny’s right: The dude just can’t play as a fullback any more. The wings these days are nuts.
Egyptian Museum Award
For the best game by a player older than 30.
First of all, consider this a co-MOTM award.
Giorgio Chiellini was King Kong. He draped Kane like a suit tailored by Giorgio Armani himself. He cleared the ball exactly twelve zillion times. His energy was excellent; kudos to Allegri for resting him over the weekend, because that extra zing in his step proved pretty crucial at moments. Case in point: He was pretty heavily involved in goal No. 2, pushing up to Higuain who spun around and assisted Dybala.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Fantastic as Chiellini was, the man who turned this game around was Gonzalo Higuain. Juve’s No. 9 made the first Bianconero goal look pedestrian, but I think we should pause and watch the replay a few million times to appreciate the degree of difficulty there. Just ... oh man. He was pumped.
Then the second goal: textbook hold-up, wonderful vision, silky touch, and appropriate weight on the through-ball. Not one of those things is easy, and he connected them all flawlessly.
Dybala also, of course, should get a hell of a lot of credit for bagging his second embodiment of “fino alla fine” in a row. After two months of injury, Juve’s No. 10 returns with a ludicrous goal against Lazio in stoppage time to win and a one-on-one game winner against Hugo Lloris. Yeah, it was wide open. But people miss those sometimes!
(Side note remember how people were like, “Oh Higuain never does anything in big games.” Heh. Let’s end with this side note. Fino alla fine, amigos.)