No matter if it’s home or away, Fiorentina’s game plan under Beppe Iachini is simple — they’re going to sit back, absorb pressure and then try to hit their opponent on the counter. Sure, it helped that we got the breakdown from our friends at Viola Nation before kickoff on Sunday, but even then it took about a minute or two to realize that it was status quo for Fiorentina come lunchtime at Allianz Stadium.
As it turned out, it wasn’t all that pretty at times, but Juve did exactly what they needed to to do to begin what is about to be an incredibly important month of February.
Two Cristiano Ronaldo penalty kicks on either side of halftime and a late Matthijs de Ligt header gave Juventus a flattering 3-0 win in a game that was much, much closer than the final score would tell you. Not that Juventus played poorly because they didn’t, but it was the kind of game where we’ve seen this team — especially at points this season — cough up what was a one-goal lead and then have to scratch and claw to try and get three points.
This, however, was just a solid performance all around. Juventus players were well aware it would be tough to get past Fiorentina’s defense knowing that La Viola’s plan from the opening kickoff is to sit back and try and hit the opponent on the counter. And the proof of that quality team defending was the fact that Juve had “only” 15 shots total.
But, outside of a couple of nervy moments at the back, Juventus was about as solid at the back themselves as we’ve seen in some time — which meant that the kind of even game regardless of what the scoreline said wasn’t the kind of high wire act it might have been in previous weeks or months.
Sure, many folks will dust off their “Juventus gets all the calls” narratives after the Bianconeri got a pair of PKs — that were confirmed by VAR no less — on top of the three points. The biggest thing about this game and this win is that the Juventus we saw last weekend against Napoli wasn’t present. The Juve side that looked totally flat and didn’t do much of anything right wasn’t there. This was a solid Juventus, one that did a lot right even if the opponent was a tough side to create a whole lot of scoring opportunities against.
I’ll take that more of than not.
And when it’s against a team where Juventus were completely flat against earlier this season, the second time around is much preferred to the performance that we saw on a sweltering September afternoon in Florence about 4 1⁄2 months ago.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Both of the sporting events I care about today have 3:30 kickoff times. It just happens that Juventus kicked off at 3:30 in the morning where I live. At least I get to sleep now. Or after a few more bullet points.
- Based on Juve’s kickoff time here where I live, a recommendation: Starbucks Pike Place medium roast in Keurig cups gets the job done. This has not been a sponsored post.
- Request for Maurizio Sarri: Play the Rabiot-Pjanic-Bentancur midfield all the time.
- OK, maybe not all the time, but about as much as you can without running all three players into the ground so that they’re not walking zombies the final month of the season.
- Adrien Rabiot, especially, was awesome against Fiorentina. This was his best game in a Juventus jersey. We are starting to really see the player that had people thinking he could really help Juve’s midfield. I know I’m saying this Rabit-has-shaken-off-the-rust type of thing a lot lately, but he’s continuing to play better and better as the weeks go by, SO DEAL WITH IT.
- Watching Matthijs de Ligt defend the last five weeks has been quite enjoyable. Mainly because, a lot like Rabiot, this has been de Ligt’s best stretch since signing with Juventus over the summer. A couple of his tackles — even though he got credited with all of one tackle by WhoScored for some reason — were a couple of the biggest reasons why Juventus got a clean sheet in a Serie A match for the first time in nearly a month. This is the defender Juve shelled out €75 million for, and I’m quite looking forward to de Ligt continuing to get better and better because he’s playing quite well right now.
- The announcers on ESPN+ were convinced Blaise Matuidi has signed a contract extension recently. That’s ... not true.
- Leonardo Bonucci: 4 tackles, 1 interception and 7 clearances. That’s pretty good.
- Douglas Costa wasn’t great by any means, but he continuously amazed me during this game with the kind of angles at which he attempted passes. You know, the kind that basically has him either doing so with the outside his foot or contorting his lower body in such a way that a good portion of us would have a few bones cracking if we were to try the same kind of thing.
- Can you imagine what kind of cherry on top it would have been if Paulo Dybala was able to get a goal on that run into Fiorentina’s penalty area he had where it looked like he was dancing against people in purple jerseys? That was absolute magic with probably a shot attempt needed a little sooner than it actually happened.
- Wojciech Szczesny had next to nothing to do in the second half as Fiorentina really wasn’t all that dangerous going forward after halftime. But man, those couple of saves he made in the first half proved to be quite important for much of the match, didn’t they? That was a nice bounce back game from Tek just like it was a nice bounce back game from the team as a whole.
- Gonzalo Higuain had 25 touches against Fiorentina. Szczesny, the goalkeeper, had 23.
- Inter Milan plays the final game of the weekend in a few hours. Inter hasn’t won a trophy 3,172 days. Yes, we’re counting.
- In conclusion: GO 49ERS.