When Andrea Pirlo talked about his team on Friday, you could tell that the mistakes of the first two months of the 2020-21 season would no longer be tolerated. Pirlo wanted to see progress, he wanted to see a team worthy of taking steps in the right direction and, maybe most important all, a team that was starting to truly get what he was trying to implement.
We got that step in the right direction Saturday.
Especially in the opening 45 minutes.
In easily one of their best displays of the season, Juventus claimed a much-needed win right out of the international break at Allianz Stadium with a 2-0 victory over Cagliari. The Italian champions dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes — which was hanging around the 70 percent mark when Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first of his two first-half goals within four minutes of one another. It was fairly routine, with the only real “stressful” moment coming on an offside call that everybody knew was an offside call once they saw a replay or two.
This was the Juventus we have been waiting to see for weeks now — especially when you factor in how they started the season two months ago against Sampdoria.
It was the same kind of performance this time around where the Italian champions played exactly like that and the possibilities of what could come after this came are impossible to avoid when thinking about the immediate future.
It’s one game, but it was a refreshing one.
It’s one game, but it was one that Juventus needed both in terms of the standings but also to show us that what Pirlo wants is starting to settle in and his vision can become a reality.
That’s what we wanted to see, right?
Juventus were in control in the first half, they were in control in the second half even though they weren’t throwing as many bodies forward. Even in a second half where they weren’t going full-on attack mode, Juve still finished with two-thirds of the possession and only allowed Cagliari all of four shots total. FOUR. That’s not something we’ve been able to say often this season. The presence of Matthijs de Ligt in the center of the defense was great, and there were few times when they were even in danger. That’s a sign that they had this thing covered from the word go.
Again, it’s refreshing.
Also: It’s a start. And hopefully there’s more to come.
You can say it’s just Cagliari and you’re not wrong, but it was only a few weeks ago where we expected performances like this one against a couple of probable relegation battlers and Juve sputtered when trying to do anything right. It’s a really good first step, and hopefully it’s the first step in many rather than a simple blip on the radar.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- (insert your own joke here about how Alvaro Morata is offside so often that now he is impacting his teammates from scoring goals...)
- Matthijs de Ligt had the look on his face as he came out of the tunnel like he wanted to make 100 tackles in this game. About two minutes in, he made his first tackle and it just seemed like things were right in the world again for at least that very moment. I missed him so damn much, and you’re lying if you don’t feel the exact same way.
- Honestly, I celebrated every de Ligt tackle like it was Juve scoring a goal. It was that refreshing and delightful to see him back out there. He’s going to be such a boost to this team at the perfect time.
- Thinking Gigi Buffon could have put his feet up, read a nice book and had a few glasses of Pirlo’s wine and it wouldn’t have mattered all that much. Uncle Gigi was on the field, but out of an offside goal and a touch of the ball here and there, Juve didn’t really need him to do much at all.
- This wasn’t the kind of Cristiano Ronaldo volume shooter kind of game. He was playing the role of provider just as many times as he was looking to score himself, if not more. And, honestly, with all of the weapons that Juve had on the field in the final third of the field, Juventus don’t need Ronaldo to just continue to hammer shot after shot after shot. He’s going to attract so much attention, and that’s going to open up chances for his teammates to take advantage of. Works for me.
- Juan Cuadrado had a whopping 123 touches. Arthur finished with 110 touches. Can you remember the last time Juventus had two players finish with over 100 touches in a single game? Because I can’t and I don’t exactly have the time to look it up. (You want an immediate reaction, don’t you?!)
- Arthur also completed a game-high 102 passes. That’s wild.
- In regard to the Arthur-over-100-passes theme, this is a tweet that made me laugh.
- Speaking of passing: Merih Demiral completed 98.8 percent of his passes. That’s good!
- The de Ligt-Demiral combination is going to get some run over the next couple of weeks as Leonardo Bonucci works his way back from injury and I am here for it. It’s the future in the present.
- Even in a game when Dejan Kulusevski didn’t score a goal — he came close! — he was still one of Juventus’ most dangerous players. Every time he is on the right wing and is looking to cut in on his left with authority just gets your attention up a little bit more than usual. He’s always looking to drive forward, he’s confident as all hell and he’s got the kind of mindset where he is looking to make a couple of defenders look bad along the way. He’s also not going to be 21 years old until late April.
- These are the players Andrea Pirlo brought off the bench in the second half: Weston McKennie, Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro, Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Chiesa. I mean, that’s just silly. The depth this squad has when it’s anywhere close to being full strength is absolutely crazy.
- I just want to point out McKennie’s first touch of the game came after he sprinted about 25 yards and made a great sliding tackle to put a Cagliari attack to rest once and for all. Harp on him if you want, but you can’t say the guy doesn’t come out firing whenever he plays.
- Federico Bernardeschi wasn’t all that bad! Hey, at this point I’ll take it.
- Adrien Rabiot led Juventus in tackles again and, at this point, it’s pretty much a lock that he needs to be playing much more often than not. (Not to the point of exhaustion, of course.) This is the Rabiot that Juventus hoped they were going to get when they signed him two summers ago, and he’s really starting to look like post-lockdown Rabiot again.