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October’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Living life on the edge

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October is over as Juventus has been grinding out results and just about continue its unbeaten start to the season.

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

If everything in life were easy, it would be a desperately boring affair, no?

It sure seems like that’s what the players and coaching staff at Juventus think based on what was a nervy month of October. There was six games played, with and five victories — four of them being by the same narrow scoreline of 2-1 — and one draw.

October’s games certainly kept us on the edge of our seats, so let’s get started!

Thin Ice

The first day of the month saw a return to action in the much-coveted Champions League. After the shenanigans of Matchday 1, Juventus needed three points in order to jumpstart this year’s group stage campaign. Though it took the Bianconeri a while to get going, at the end of the evening the victory came easily after goals by Gonzalo Higuaín (a cracking goal!), Federico Bernardeschi, and Cristiano Ronaldo secured the 3-0 home victory against Bayer Leverkusen. Juventus then traveled to the city of Milan for the first Derby d’Italia of the 2019-2020 season against Inter. This year’s derby is particularly special given that it is the first time that ex-Juve coach and player Antonio Conte faces his former side. Who would have thought that it was going to be under these circumstances?

Regardless of circumstances, it was the exact same outcome as it so frequently is in the Derby d’Italia: a Juventus victory. After a stunning Paulo Dybala goal in the fourth minute was quickly rebutted by a penalty from his compatriot Lautaro Martínez, it was up to Gonzalo Higuían to wrap up the all-Argentina goalscoring lineup with a tidy finish after an exquisite Juventus passing move. Final score: 2-1.

Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus FC celebrate after scoring a... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

After the International Break, Juventus returned to action with a nervy 2-1 home victory over Bologna (goals from Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic) and an even tenser 2-1 comeback at home against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League thanks to two late, late goals from Dybala. The latter game, in particular, was one that threatened to end in another one of those frustrating evenings of football until Dybala rescued the team with a cracking equalizer and a poacher’s finish. Credit to Lokomotiv for a near-impeccable defensive performance on the night.

The final two games of the season were equally frustrating even though they had different results. The away game against Lecce ended in a 1-1 draw after both sides scored penalties that were awarded for dubious offenses, while Juventus won the home game against Genoa 2-1 after Ronaldo converted a penalty in the dying seconds and both teams ended the game with 10 men.

Overall, October was a month of nervous victories, so-so performances, and plenty of uncomfortable match situations. But hey, life is much more exciting when you live it on the edge.

Struggles

Federico Bernardeschi and his wonderful endearing dogs is something of a Juventus darling. However, he has had a very troubling start to the 2019-20 season. Even though Maurizio Sarri continues to give Bernardeschi ample opportunity to prove his worth, the former Fiorentina winger has struggled to show the form that convinced Juventus to splash the cash on him. How much more time will Sarri give the Juventus winger? After playing in a hybrid trequartista-winger role, does Bernardeschi perhaps need to return to his trusted first-choice position on the right wing in order to rediscover his true abilities?

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A
Here he is, playing his invisible drums.
Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

In other news, now that Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey have returned from injury, Sarri has a decision to make regarding the team’s formation. Is he going to stick with his 4-3-1-2 formation or will we see a return to the old-fashioned 4-3-3?

One thing is for sure, though, we’re unlikely to see much, if anything, of Mario Mandzukic, as the Croatian striker has played a grand total of zero minutes this season. In a quite remarkable turn of fortunes — which, granted, some may have seen coming — Mandzukic has been utterly exiled from playing duties for Juventus since Sarri took charge of the team. What does the future hold for Mr. No Good? Only time shall tell.

Finally, we’re all aware of the trials and tribulations of Juventus’ record-defensive signing Matthijs de Ligt. (Side note: a commentator mentioned that one thing that might be contributing to his struggles is the switch from man-marking at Ajax to zonal marking now with Juve.) The Dutchman has had a tipsy-turvy start to his career at the Bianconeri, coming under fire especially for giving away a few penalties through handball offenses. But he has slowly but surely smoothed out the errors and, with the aid of Leonardo Bonucci’s excellent leadership, is beginning to settle in to life at Juventus.

Juventus Women

I forgot to give an update last month on the progress of Juventus Women so, in order to compensate for my forgetfulness, I’ll be giving a September and October recap of the team’s games.

Before starting the action on the pitch, though, Juventus was busy signing players and renewing contracts. The team signed winger Maria Alves from Santos, defender Linda Sembrant from Montpellier, striker Andrea Staskova from Sparta Prague, and backup goalkeeper Sabrina Tasselli from Sassuolo. There were also contract extensions for coach Rita Guarino, goalkeeper Laura Giuliani and midfielder Valentina Cernoia (all until 2021).

September started off with a 2-0 loss in the Champions League against one of the best teams in Europe: Barcelona. The team bounced back, however, with a 2-1 comeback victory at home to Empoli in the first league game of the season. Cristiana Girelli and Arianna Caruso were the goal scorers on the day. The second league game saw Juventus notch a 3-1 victory thanks to two goals from Girelli and one from Eni Aluko.

Juventus Women v Fiorentina Women - Italian Supercup Photo by Filippo Alfero - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Guarino’s team then traveled to Spain in an attempt to overturn the 2-0 deficit suffered in the first leg against Barcelona. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Barcelona raced to a 2-0 victory by half-time. Staskova grabbed a consolation goal late in the game to make it 2-1, but the Spanish side eventually cruised through 4-1 on aggregate and knocked Juventus out of the competition in the process.

Thankfully, life was much better in Italy as the Bianconere secured their third and fourth league victories against Florentia (3-1; Girelli, Sembrant, Alves) and Inter (3-0; Martina Rosucci, Girelli, Cernoia) respectively. Sandwiched between those games was the 2-0 Super Cup victory against Fiorentina thanks to goals from Girelli — will she ever stop scoring? — and Staskova. The first piece of silverware of the new season is already in the bag!

Despite the Champions League setback against Barcelona, it has been a perfect start to the season for Rita Guarino’s team. Long may it last!