Juventus fans are frustrated, maybe quite angry in some cases.
The club purchased a galactico in Cristiano Ronaldo, and the attack has failed to hum. The midfield added Emre Can and boasts a possible budding superstar in Rodrigo Bentancur, yet the stale and limited duo of Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira continually see the pitch. In the attack, Massimiliano Allegri seems unable to integrate Juve’s No. 10 and returning leading scorer, Paulo Dybala, as well as the lightning-in-a-bottle Douglas Costa.
And now, hilariously, the international break arrives for all of these frustrations to fester.
For the next two weeks the conversation will be about Ronaldo’s lack of goals through three games. Whether or not that conversation is 100 percent justified or valid is another point, but I don’t think the only viable answer for Juventus fans is to simply shrug and say, “He’s Ronaldo — he’ll be fine.” The world’s most marketable piece of footballing talent has not only not scored, but has been almost completely disconnected from the attack. In some regards, he seems to have become less and less involved since the first match of the season versus Chievo Verona.
All the same, this is another issue on which I will beat the unsexy drum of a tepid take over the Ronaldo question but, really, over all these questions: The most sensible reaction to Ronaldo’s first three games is to have some concern — more over the lack of involvement than the lack of goals — but to also realize that only three games have been played and that, in fact, Juventus have earned nine points out of nine.
The most sensible take about the midfield, too, is to question Allegri’s decision but perhaps also acknowledge that, given the number of moving parts, maybe the skipper just doesn’t want to simultaneously remake the midfield, incorporate Ronaldo, introduce a new right back in Joao Cancelo (or Juan Cuadrado), and not to mention replace capitano Gigi Buffon in goal.
In other words: Boy, is there a lot going on. I’m not surprised that Allegri is choosing to retain stability in some units while tinkering with others. After all, you still need the points. And a home shutout of Lazio alongside two tricky road wins is a very, very positive start to the season.
Other than that, there’s no point in extracting something that doesn’t exist simply for the sake of saying it. Mario Mandzukic was extremely good, far and away the man of the match. The midfield wasn’t spectacular, but Miralem Pjanic bounced back well — five out of five long balls completed and four long passes. More importantly, he did not seem as careless with the ball. Sure, Juventus were playing Parma, but you can only succeed against the players in front of you.
Nine points out of nine!
Aperitivo afterthoughts — four of them
1. Count me all-in on the Federico Bernardeschi as the starting right winger
I like Douglas Costa off the bench. The electricity he brings with his speed is good in almost any situation — if Juventus are ahead and sitting back a little, the Brazilian offers a dynamite outlet on the counter attack. If Juventus are behind and attacking voraciously, he offers creativity, directness, crosses, and finishing skills. Against Parma, the tiny little man clanged an absolute beauty of a shot off the post, just a couple inches away.
Dybala remains, under Allegri, a difficult player positionally. As of now, the only consistently good place we’ve seen him is in the No. 10 slot in a 4-2-3-1, and Allegri has chosen to run a 4-3-3 the past two games. I still wonder what a 4-4-2 looks like with Dybala and Ronaldo up top, but that’s not something we’ve explicitly seen.
Given those two points — preamble over — I very much like Bernardeschi as the starting right wing, whether a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. I wrote about No. 33 after the Lazio game, and I maintain the thought that what Allegri sees in the Italian is a player with some of Dybala’s creativity, some of Cuadrado’s defensive work, and a hell of a lot of grinta. Douglas Costa just doesn’t do the work defensively; Dybala sure as heck doesn’t. And Cuadrado is not a wellspring of creativity, dangerous as he is.
Count me in!
2. The midfield questions will only grow louder
Can and Bentancur, the latter more than the former, are riding the bench. And it’s frustrating to watch Sami Khedira do his weird mediocre thing on the pitch and just sort of vaguely say, “Well maybe coach sees something we don’t,” and to hear Allegri swear by Khedira over and over again. Leonardo Bonucci has seemed to help Pjanic a little bit, but No. 5 sure struggled against the only quality competition the lads have played so far in Lazio.
3. The big one: Juventus don’t start up again until September 16, but play five games through the end of the month
This is the great caveat to every point made or observation noted in this piece: Only three games have been played so far, and Juventus are about to play five (!) games from the 16th of the month through the 30th, including the first Champions League fixture against Valencia in Spain and a monumental matchup in Turin against Napoli.
Translation: Emre Can will start at least once, Bentancur will start at least once, Costa, Dybala, etc. etc. The tinkering will jump from the slow track to the fast track out of necessity, and Allegri will have a better understanding at a more rapid pace of who he can rely on.
Also, Ronaldo buckets will come. I promise.
4. A transfer hypothetical: Sell Dybala, bring back Pogba
I don’t want to get into transfers, really, let alone the financials of this too much, but if Pogba were willing to take a bit of a salary cut this would solve a hell of a lot of issues, would it not? Juventus would clearly be rolling with a 4-3-3 and would have six midfielders as well as getting rid of the positional oddball. Bonucci, Pogba, and Pjanic on one team (plus Ronaldo) sounds kind of amazing.