On a scale of 1 to 10, my wife is about a 10, my dog is about an 8 1/2, and Juventus preseason football is about a 1 1/2 As my good friend Danny Penza wrote on Twitter dot com, calma!
This is my view of preseason football: It’s not about looking cohesive or structurally sound or like a team that’s going to go scorched earth through the Champions League; it’s not about looking like you’re in shape or anything (retracted Gonzalo Higuain joke). Instead, the way I see it, the preseason is kind of like the Piedmontese tradition of aperitivo; it’s about little bright spots. It’s about finding a little skill here and there, a facet you didn’t know lurked somewhere in the player’s repertoire. (Case in point: Was I the only person — maybe I was — who thought the Joao Cancelo-at-left-wing experiment was kind of fun and compelling?)
If the mission of the preseason is to identify some interesting points you didn’t know previously existed, as well as to simply ease players back into the game after the holiday, then Juventus’ preseason was a success. I just don’t think bad form is worth a great kerfuffle.
So without further ado, here we go into a new season (sort of).
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- The main question I have about this team, as many others do as well, I think, is about the midfield. Certainly the attack is one of the best in the world with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa, Mario Mandukic, Juan Cuadrado, and Federico Bernardeschi. The depth there is pretty staggering, too. But the midfield? Where I basically left off last season was thinking that in the transfer market Juventus needed to add Emre Can plus one world-class player, but I did not think that player would be Cristiano Ronaldo. And here we are.
- So Juve have added Can to the midfield, and Rodrigo Bentancur is a year older and more experienced. Is a two-man pivot of Can-Miralem Pjanic enough (assuming Can eventually passes Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi on the depth chart)? Can a three-man midfield of Pjanic, Bentancur, and Can work? How can Juventus successfully field Bentancur and Pjanic at the same time? Is Max Allegri actually going to play Bentancur that much? Where do Matuidi, Khedira, and Claudio Marchisio fit into this situation? Does Bernardeschi morph into a central midfielder to get more time on the pitch?
- Midfield: Lots of questions.
- Can had a couple decent moments, but boy did he look gassed very quickly. Obviously, he spent the tail of last year injured, so I don’t think we can fault him too much for not being sharper (and more energetic) on the pitch, but in the extremely brief moments of success he did have, I think it’s easy to see why Juventus are interested in him, especially in tandem with Pjanic. He’s big, physically imposing, and he doesn’t shy away from a tackle; he may not be the most creative guy to walk on the planet, but he does look to move the ball forward. It may take a couple months, but I think he’ll be a regular starter soon.
- Goalkeeper: No questions. Juve clearly have two very good options.
- Defense: Old as hell at center back, but no questions for me assuming Alex Sandro is staying put.
- We’re less than two weeks away from the start of the season, and I’m losing my mind for the games to begin. Here in the United States, the Serie A TV rights — as well as the Coppa Italia, for that matter — have not been sorted, and that’s kind of a pain in the ass. But lest we not forget the world is connected with ye olde internet and, as they say, where there’s a will there’s a way.
Ivrea Orange Festival Award
For the player who takes something crappy and makes it beautiful.
I feel like I saw Cancelo pretty much everywhere on the field in the preseason. The young Portuguese addition traditionally plays at right back obviously, but he was fielded as both a right and left winger at various points in the muddle of preseason play and I think he showed quite well, if imperfectly. Yeah, he made some mistakes. And yeah, if he holds onto the ball as much as he did a few times then Allegri is probably going to break the internal instrumentation of the youngster’s ear.
But the “crappy” part of the preseason here that Cancelo made beautiful was the almost utter lack of forwards on Juve’s roster. The big guns stayed at home, since most of them featured in the World Cup, and I thought Cancelo did a fine job providing offensive threads for a squad that was relying on (no offense) Andrea Favilli up top. Cancelo created the own goal against Real Madrid with a cross, and he certainly isn’t afraid to let a shot fly.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Of the newbies, Mattia Perin far and away looked like the best player to me, the most Juventus-ready player. The Genova acquisition made a couple solid saves, but the more impressive thing to me was how comfortable he looked back there. The reps with Juve’s first-team center backs — Leonardo Bonucci excepted (that really happened, right?) — surely was helpful for the tattooed rock star god.
While Liverpool paid exactly €1 trillion for Alisson Becker, Juventus paid not as many Euros for both Wojciech Szczęsny and Perin collectively. That’s good business. I don’t know who’s going to eventually win the No. 1 job. Woj has the number right now, but Perin has looked very good.
I feel very good about this position! The end.
Piazza San Carlo Award
For a potentially overlooked yet stellar showing.
Center back average age notwithstanding — it’s 47 years old, if you wanted to know — Juventus do appear to have a group of promising midfielders on the roster, some of whom will stay in Turin with Juventus’ new Serie C team and some of whom may go out on loan. In their relatively extensive preseason time, I thought the trio of Luca Clemenza, Leandro Fernandes, and Nicolo Fagioli looked smooth on the ball and in possession; those kiddos are 21, 18, and 17 years old, respectively.
Fear not, there are young players who may be of use sooner rather than later. Here’s to hoping that one or more of these kids can develop into a first-team talent.
And now we wait.