Three matches into the new season, and Juventus sit alone atop the Serie A table. With a full nine points from those three matches, the boys in black and white are two points ahead of Sassuolo before the impending clash between the two sides this Sunday.
While some players haven’t scored as many goals as they’d like (Cristiano Ronaldo), or performed to their capabilities (Paulo Dybala), that doesn’t mean everyone on the team is playing poorly. I mean, again, Juve has secured wins in every match so far. Below are the three players I believe have been the standouts to this point for the bianconeri:
Undoubtedly Juventus’ strongest player to this point, Mario has been everything we’ve come to expect and then some. With the highest rating of any Juve player other than Ronaldo, according to WhoScored, Mandzu has made his presence known. He has two goals and one assist so far, but more than that has been involved in most of the better attacking moves. My personal favorite was his cheeky backheel assist to Blaise Matuidi, showcasing his technical ability which some forget when watching him run full throttle for 90 minutes while taking names.
It is clear that Mandzukic is key to the attacking potential of this team, as he does so many little things for his teammates. He and Ronaldo are able to freely roam back and forth between the center forward and left wing positions, exploiting matchups as required. He holds the ball up for wingers like Federico Bernardeschi and Ronaldo, and is a force in the box. Mario has already won 14 aerial duels in just three matches, a testament to his tireless work. Needless to say, Mandzu is still the non-stop engine we adore. He hasn’t slowed at all from previous seasons, and better yet Marione has brought his sparkling form from the World Cup with Croatia back to Turin.
Fede has been written about a lot on the site, and rightly so. After playing a more limited role than fans would have liked last season, Bernardeschi has shone brightly in the early going, while receiving more chances to prove himself to Max Allegri. And prove himself he has. Playing ahead of Paulo Dybala, Berna has been a constant threat with his playmaking on the right flank. His creativity has been dearly needed, as Juventus have struggled finding attacking inspiration often, instead being more pragmatic.
Berna has raised his play across the board. His passing success rate is sitting at a cool 90 percent, up 5 percent from last term. He has averaged 3.3 shots per game, getting threatening and quality chances on net. There hasn’t been a match in which he has finished below a 7 rating. Oh, and he scored the game-winning goal in the dying embers of the match the first week after the other would-be winning goal was taken off the board.
Bernardeschi has been explosive and I hope this increased faith in him by Max Allegri continues on. And as an added bonus, he’s the only Italian who has started at least one match besides Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
Speaking of players who have carried over strong World Cup showings, how about the one man in the team that won the thing? At least for me, Matuidi has been the best midfielder so far. Miralem Pjanic hasn’t been a model of consistency through these early matches, and Sami Khedira still warrants a lot of the ire he draws from fans for sub-standard showings.
The good thing is that the last third of the midfield has been consistent. He’s tallied a staggering average of 4.5 tackles per game, higher than any other total of his career. He covers a ton of ground as the box to box midfield engine, often winning the ball back with his relentlessness and restarting attacking plays. He even scored a goal against Parma, and anytime I get to see him do that airplane celebration, I’m a happy man (just don’t ask people who play FIFA).
Tough, hard-fought matches have been the norm through the three weeks and this team needs a player like Matuidi who does the dirty work while running his tail off. It’s intangibles like that which win matches and titles.
Next up is the aforementioned Sassuolo in a battle of the top two teams in Serie A. Yeah, I didn’t think that would be the case, either, but the neroverdi beat Inter, so I ain’t mad. Thankfully, the international break is (almost) over.