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Juventus 3 - Sassuolo 3: Initial reaction and random observations

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Juventus’ tour de force on defense continues to roll on!

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-SASSUOLO-JUVENTUS Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

With time Maurizio Sarri’s system is supposed to get better and have more of an impact on his squad. Even with a three-month lockdown and everything thrown into chaos, we still thought that time might be on the side of Sarri and Juventus as a whole. A little more time to think, a little more time to figure things out, and then the struggles of September, October and November could be a thing (mostly) in the past.

We’re still waiting.

And they’re running out of time.

At least this season anyways.

For the second time in the last two weeks, Juventus went up 2-0 early in a half and then saw said two-goal lead go up in smoke. But unlike the 4-2 loss to Milan, it didn’t totally come back to haunt Juventus, as Alex Sandro’s near-post header with 25 minutes to go pulled the Italian champions even and allowed them to savage a point in a 3-3 draw against Sassuolo on Wednesday night. It was another game where Juventus’ flaws were out in the open for everybody to see, and if this was a conventional kind of season the closest title contenders would make Sarri’s squad pay for dropping seven out of a possible nine points in its last three games.

But Lazio is struggling. Same for Inter. (Insert angry Antonio Conte gif here, please.) And the only reason why Atalanta isn’t nipping at Juventus’ heels right now is because they dropped so many points in the first couple of months of the season.

And just think about it this way: What would the score have been if Wojciech Szczesny hadn’t played one of the best games he’s ever had as Juve’s No. 1? How many goals would Sassuolo have gotten past him? Outside of Szczesny’s first save, they were all great, all difficult and almost all of them goals if he hadn’t been at the top of his game Wednesday.

(In case you’re wondering, Szczesny’s seven saves against Sassuolo were the highest single-game total by a Juventus goalkeeper since 2014. That’s ... a lot of saves.)

As wild as this game was for a neutral — and, man, it’s fun to be in that position when watching Atalanta rather than where we are now — this just once again highlighted Juventus’ issues.

Both the on-field as well as the mentality side of things, too.

This was always going to be the toughest stretch of the restart schedule. Going from Milan to Atalanta to Sassuolo and then finishing up with Lazio — the first three being some of the most in-form sides in all of Serie A — is no joke, and the possibility of Juventus dropping points against one of those sides was always going to be in play. But against the first three? With a loss and two draws heading into the Lazio “showdown”? That didn’t seem all that likely — especially with how Juventus played against Genoa and Torino the week before.

Turns out, those were false hope.

Now, we’re watching Juventus allow goals like they haven’t done before. We’re seeing this squad’s lack of a killer instinct fail to put teams away. And this squad’s lack of cohesion and overall effectiveness see two-goal leads become not a big deal at all for attack-minded opponents to try and overcome.

Juventus will win the club’s ninth Serie A title in a row barring any kind of serious letdown to close out last few weeks of the schedule. That’s been the sentiment for weeks now as we’ve seen Lazio fade and Inter fail to take any kind of advantage of Juve’s recent struggles.

But, the fact still remains that Juve’s limping to the finish line. And with the Champions League coming up in a couple of weeks, Sarri’s squad is doing about the opposite of what you would call “filling us with confidence.” Maybe making us incredibly uneasy, but definitely not confident in their abilities.

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • Pre-game thought No. 1: GIORGIO CHIELLINI BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK
  • Pre-game thought No. 2: I can’t wait for the Italian media to speculate as to why Paulo Dybala didn’t start in the game after he was subbed out early because Maurizio Sarri thought he was dropping too deep to get the ball.
  • And then Higuain goes out and scores a goal less than 15 minutes in. That will certainly be some added spice to some of the chatter around Sarri’s lineup choices.
  • That pass from Miralem Pjanic on Higuain’s goal ... woof. That’s probably the kind of assist Sarri has been waiting for all season from his regista.
  • Juventus allowed 22 shots against Sassuolo. TWENTY-TWO!
  • Eleven of those shots were on target. A Szczesny save doesn’t happen or Sandro doesn’t make a goal line clearance and this is another very bad loss.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo attempted 10 (TEN!) shots against Sassuolo. All of two of those were on target.
  • Who here is seriously starting to worry about Matthijs de Ligt’s shoulder injury that is now forcing him to go down injured multiple times each of the past couple of games? This isn’t just a one-off where he can shake it off in a few days and everything is fine. This thing is lingering, and it’s not going away. It seems like the only thing that will make things all better is an extended break from play. Hell, surgery might be the only thing at this point. Either way, the more de Ligt plays, the bigger the risk is that he will miss a large amount of time due to that shoulder injury. But it’s not like Juve can afford to have him rest right now.
  • I sure hope subbing Giorgio Chiellini off at halftime was part of the plan and that he’s not injured again. The last thing we need is for Daniele Rugani to be Juventus’ lone 100 percent healthy player at center back.
  • Federico Bernardeschi started this game so well. And then he’s getting carded for stupid tackle and my Twitter mentions are nothing but people celebrating the fact that Bernardeschi is suspended for Monday’s game against Lazio. It’s been that kind of year for Fede. Poor guy.
  • There was a large portion of the first half where the amount of possession Juve had was in the 30 percent range. Seriously, I’m not kidding. That happened.
  • Juventus finished with 42.5 percent of the possession.
  • Is it just me or are Maurizio Sarri’s subs becoming increasingly predictable? We know Douglas Costa is going to come on at some point of the second half. We know the move of taking Miralem Pjanic off and moving Rodrigo Bentancur to the regista spot is going to happen. One of Blaise Matuidi or Adrien Rabiot is going to come on, too. It’s just ... the same thing every time.
  • Aaron Ramsey’s form post-lockdown is very much resembling his haircut.
  • This team. I don’t even know what to think anymore. It’s becoming more and more just a venting session while writing this post-game thread every time. I’m sorry.