I have a question and I want you to answer it honestly.
What actually constitutes a handball these days? Like seriously, do we know for sure? Do we know what the actual interpretation of the rule is? Do we know how referees actually decide, in the moment, what it means to call a handball? Or are we just guessing at this point?
OK, so that’s more than one question.
But, with how Juventus’ 2-2 draw with Atalanta on Saturday night went and how Cristiano Ronaldo was provided the opportunity to score two more goals from the penalty spot, there are going to be plenty more questions with probably not many answers that will actually come after that.
Essentially, the Italian media is going to have fun with this one.
Why? Because they love a juicy, controversy filled story. And this game is most certainly that — and one that, as much as the handball call has gone against Juventus in recent games, most certainly benefited the Italian champions this time around.
Let’s be clear here: Juventus didn’t deserve the point that they got because of this result, one that allowed the Serie A leaders to push their lead to eight points over Lazio. Atalanta were far and away the better side, and if it weren’t for a couple of handball calls that will rightfully have Gian Piero Gasperini fuming for hours to come, Juve would have been looking their second straight loss during this July gauntlet right in the face.
We wanted to see how Juventus would react after Tuesday night’s San Siro meltdown. And we got our answer pretty quickly: it wasn’t great. The opening minutes of the game were fine, but then after Juve looked about as drab and ineffective as we’ve seen them in weeks. Atalanta wasn’t just holding a bunch of possession in the champions’ house — at one point it was 70-30 in favor of the visitors — but they were taking it to Juventus.
It was very much Atalanta’s kind of game.
And not even close to what we’d seen from Juventus this time last week when it seemed like they were scoring for fun against Torino in the Derby della Mole.
Then the penalty calls starting happening, and the controversy will surely follow.
Sure, adding another point onto the Serie A lead is nice and all, but in this kind of fashion just seems a little ... uneasy? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fact that Juventus looked like garbage most of the game and deserved a big fat L to be put on their heads is making me feel a little bad about what happened. Or maybe it’s the inner Atalanta fanboy trying to come out and say hello because Gasperini and Co. rolled into Allianz Stadium and did just about everything they wanted to do against Juventus.
So now, after another disappointing performance, we’re left to wonder what Juve will do in the next game. Will it be another sub-par performance next time around? Sassuolo is turning its season around, and there’s nothing more that they would love to do than to extend Juve’s frustration Wednesday night even if they aren’t going to be playing in front of any of their home fans.
I tell you what, though: If Maurizio Sarri wasn’t feeling the heat coming off the Milan loss, he has to be right now. Or at least I would if I were him, because as Juve’s opponents have gotten better over the last two weeks, it’s his team that has looked far from its best.
That, my friends, is a trend that no manager wants to see take place — especially one, flawed squad and all, that is under the microscope that Sarri is with every passing game like the one his team just put forth.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- In case you haven’t already read it: Who knows what a penalty is these days in Serie A. One day you think you might have some of it figured out, but other days you really just have to throw your hands up in the air and hope that the most random of outcomes helps your team.
- Wojciech Szczesny had more touches than Federico Bernardeschi. Tek, as you know, is Juventus’ starting goalkeeper, so that’s not great.
- You look at what Gasperini did in terms of his subs and you look at what Sarri did with his and I think it’s pretty easy to see who got it right and who didn’t.
- Furthermore, the amount of talent that Gasperini is able to turn to off his bench still amazes me. It is pretty convenient when your team’s leading goal scorer is a part-time starter. Ho hum, right? If Duvan Zapata isn’t working anymore, there’s Luis Muriel to try and save the day. And he almost did.
- Yes, this might be the inner Atalanta fanboy starting to come out. Sorry, not sorry.
- Sarriball, huh?
- It was a tough day for my son, Rodrigo Bentancur. He couldn’t hold off Duvan Zapata on Atalanta’s opener and then had a very bad turnover that led to the visitors’ going up 2-1. It’s too bad, really, since this was his chance to shine as the regista in a big, big game like he did against Inter Milan before the shutdown. He was having a really good second half right before the unfortunate turnover. My poor son.
- Juventus completed 86 percent of their passes and I really have no idea how.
- Juan Cuadrado’s yellow card on Saturday night means that he will miss the trip to Sassuolo. I know you’re all fine with that because it means more Danilo in the starting lineup.
- Juventus players not named Cristiano Ronaldo put two shots on goal.
- Juventus, on their home field, got outshot 13-9 by Atalanta.
- I really don’t know what to say about this team anymore. A week ago, I was feeling very optimistic about things. In hindsight, that’s because they were beating up on teams that were nowhere near as good as they are. And that’s not to say that Juventus is actually a “good” team right now. They’re a talented team, and sometimes they look like a cohesive unit, but they lack the one thing Sarri harped on in his pre-match press conference: consistency. It’s a good thing they’ve got this kind of lead because Atalanta, unlike Lazio, show absolutely no signs of slowing down the next couple of weeks to finish the season.
- One last thing before I try to not smash my head against the wall: The way the schedule is these days with so many fixtures in a short amount of time, this is very much becoming a week-to-week kind of deal. Juventus were good last week. This week? Well, they sucked and dropped five points out of a possible six against Milan and Atalanta. We’ll see what next week brings. But at least Juventus aren’t the only team at the top of the table having a bad week, so there’s that.