Regardless of the circumstances, we are a bunch that is not used to seeing Juventus go 180 minutes (and a little more of extra time) without scoring a goal. We have become accustomed to Juve being the ones who are on the right end of a zero on the scoreboard, not the other way around. And when you factor in the amount of attacking talent this Juventus team has, the thought of going two games without a goal is rather scandalous.
Good thing we don’t have to talk about all that mess for
Juventus looked about as dangerous and lively as they’ve looked since football returned to Italy a little over a week ago. That might not be saying a whole lot compared to the two Coppa Italia fixtures, but it was better. Not by a whole lot, but better. And it was just because first-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala gave the reigning champions a 2-0 lead on Monday night, but it certainly helped. Outside of a little bit nervous passing at the back in the first half, Juventus was rather solid from start to finish — which, obviously, was a small but pleasant development knowing how the first two games of their post-coronavirus suspension of play went last week.
And, I guess scoring goals like this never hurts, right?
BRILLIANT finish by Dybala— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 22, 2020
What a touch by Bernardeschi! pic.twitter.com/MAYtxnlsb1
Three straight shutouts is also cool, too. Let’s not forget that — especially knowing how Juventus’ defense has had a habit of looking shaky against teams they shouldn’t exactly be looking shaky against.
That is cool, right?
I’m cool with Juve’s defense being rather stout no matter what the attack is looking like. That’s especially true when you consider how absolutely stupid Juventus’ fullback situation currently is. (More on that later.) At least Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci are becoming a pretty good partnership in the center of defense. So we’ve got that going for us.
But, at the same time, so much of the attention after the Coppa Italia games against Milan and Napoli has been on the attack — and rightfully so — and the ineffectiveness that has been going on up front. When you’ve got Ronaldo, Dybala, Douglas Costa and the like to choose from, the pressure is on Maurizio Sarri to cook up something that works and has this team clicking like the massive talent level he has at his disposal can put together.
This was far from perfect, and it’s not like Lukasz Skorupski was peppered with shots time after time while manning the Bologna goal. But, while there’s still a long way to go before this team resembles the one that has looked dangerous in front of goal before the coronavirus shutdown, this was a step better. It might have been a small step, but it was a step in the right direction rather than something more like against Milan or Napoli.
In total, Juve put all of three shots on goal, the same total as the Coppa Italia final.
OK, so maybe the ever-present optimistic side of me is getting the best of myself after a Juventus win. I don’t know. But it’s nice to see Juventus win and have them be rather competent while doing it. So, there’s that — which is better than what we had been seeing.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: I spotlight Douglas Costa in the match preview. He didn’t start. My magic continues.
- Pre-game thought No. 2: Federico Bernardeschi actually being fielded as a winger? Who knew that was still possible.
- Pre-game though No. 3: If this starting lineup — and basically season as a whole — has taught us anything, it’s the fact that having only three fullbacks on your roster is dumb.
- Post-game thought going off pre-game thought No. 3: Juventus now has all of one healthy fullback after Mattia De Sciglio came up lame with a hamstring issue in the second half. And that fullback is Danilo. Danilo, people, Danilo!
- And I left that last point in there because right as I was tying it, Danilo got his second yellow and was shown a red card. Juventus will have no natural senior team fullbacks available for Friday night’s game against Lecce. When you want an example of how to not construct your roster, this is a pretty good example.
- Soooooo ... Blaise Matuidi at left back against Lecce? At least it’s Lecce.
- I am shocked — SHOCKED, I TELL YOU! — that Federico Bernardeschi was played in his natural position out on the right wing and had one of his best games of the season. Shocked! Except not at all. I know I spotlighted Douglas Costa and said that a healthy and dangerous Costa would bring a different level to the Juve attack in the match preview, but the same could be said for an in-form Bernardeschi. The man is fighting for his Juve career right now, and if he’s going to find a groove and be regularly fielded as a winger on a regular basis the rest of this season, then I am very much in favor of him getting much more playing time. He can be a difference maker as a winger — you know, like he was against Bologna.
- I mean, just look at Bernardeschi’s assist on Dybala’s goal. That’s a player who’s got confidence again.
- Speaking of Dybala, that goal was just beautiful. He might still be working his way to full match fitness after dealing with COVID-19 for the better part of two months, but it’s nice to know he’s got those kinds of tricks in him even as he does it.
- Ronaldo was better, but not by a whole lot as compared to what we saw against Milan and Napoli. He still wasn’t the big-time Ronaldo that we saw before the coronavirus shutdown. There are still those moments where you can tell he’s trying to force the issue a bit too much.
- It was good to see him sink a penalty again, though. So that’s cool.
- I don’t know what the plan is for squad rotation on Friday against Lecce, but it might be time to give Rodrigo Bentancur a rest. He was great against Milan, but has been more on the quiet side the last two games. He’s become so important that Sarri can’t afford to burn him out.
- Matthijs de Ligt is so good. How do I know this? Bologna’s entire team had 4 clearances on Monday night. All by himself, de Ligt had 6 clearances. And 3 blocked shots. And 3 interceptions. And a couple of tackles. What a stud.
- Adrien Rabiot wasn’t bad. Don’t let the Twitter slander fool you.
- Wojciech Szczesny has never been a sweeper keeper type, and the struggles he had with some of his distribution on Monday reminded us of that. At least he’s really good in other areas, so he can stay.
- Now we wait and root for Atalanta on Wednesday night. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do most nights, but it’s especially good when Atalanta is playing Lazio and can help Juventus remain four points ahead of its closest competition in the Serie A table.