You wanted a good first impression, you got a good first impression.
It didn’t matter if it was from the first-year manager, the new-look and much more mobile midfield or the 20-year-old starlet who played as a makeshift striker even though he’s a natural right winger, Sunday night was about passing the first test — and Juventus did just that.
With room to spare, too.
Juventus might not have completely aced their first test of the 2020-21 season, but Andrea Pirlo’s first official game in charge of the nine-time defending Italian champions gave you reason to hope things are on an upward trajectory. Pirlo’s Juventus, one that we still don’t know much about, were able to seize control early thanks to a pearl of a goal from debutant Dejan Kulusevski and roll to a 3-0 win over Sampdoria at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night.
It was, dare I say, fun to watch Juventus again.
After grinding out so many results last season, this was a much-welcomed change for the better. Pirlo had an idea of what he wanted his team to do, they went out and did it, and the end result was a relatively comfortable win over Sampdoria side that Juve clinched its most recent Scudetto against two months ago.
It was, really, the kind of positive start you wanted to see from both Pirlo and Juventus as a whole. And we got a pretty clear idea of how Pirlo wants to set things up, too:
- It’s a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 in attack then ...
- It morphs into a 4-4-2 in defense.
For much of this game, it was a sound plan that worked out pretty damn well. Sure, there were some nervy moments — in the second half especially — where Sampdoria came close to testing Wojciech Szczesny in goal or even testing Juve’s No. 1, but it wasn’t the downright defensive disorganization that we saw last season.
But, the biggest thing was this: Juventus played quickly, they played with so much more energy as compared to a couple of months and, for much of the game, really were in complete control of things. Sampdoria may have recorded 15 shots in the game, but it wasn’t until the latter parts of the second half where Szczesny was actually called into action. (And those couple saves, especially the one on the goal line, were pretty clutch.)
It’s the kind of approach that we saw against Novara in the lone preseason friendly last weekend. It’s now the kind of approach we saw in the 2020-21 season opener against Sampdoria. The sample size may still be very small, but it’s looking like a very good foundation to build off of going forward here as the competition level gets a pretty big step up the next couple of weeks.
For now, though, this first impression from Pirlo was quite refreshing after grinding through Sarriball for literally an entire year.
In conclusion, I’d say things went pretty, pretty, pretty good on Sunday. Pretty good indeed.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Starting lineup thought No. 1: Gianluca Frabotta? GIANLUCA FRABOTTA!
- Starting lineup thought No. 2: Weston McKennie? WESTON MCKENNIE!
- Hey, it’s Pirlo’s first official starting lineup, he’s just keeping us on his toes right from the beginning. Could be worse, I guess. (Like, you know, a 4-3-3 with the same players over and over again.)
- Pirlo in that suit ... chef’s kiss.
- Pirlo’s reaction to Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal that made it 3-0 late in the second half? Clap of the hands and a drink out of his water bottle. If that ain’t Pirlo, then I don’t know what is.
- We knew Dejan Kulusevski was an electric talent coming into this game. He was the best young player in all of Serie A last season, doing it as a 19-year-old with very little top flight experience under his belt. But to see him finish that shot attempt with the relative ease and total no-big-deal kind of reaction to it all, that just shows you what kind of confidence he has in his own skills. Whether he’s out wide on the right or as a makeshift striker going forward the next month or two, it’s going to be fun as hell to watch him settle in as a Juventus player. Something tells me this kind of goal is just the start for him.
- I know a lot of us around here haven’t exactly watched Weston McKennie extensively prior to his arrival at Juventus. That’s part of the reason why we covered his arrival the way we did here on Black & White & Read All Over. But if this is the kind of game that he’s going to have a decent chunk of the time when Pirlo decides to play him, then it is going to look like an absolute steal even in the current coronavirus economics of football. Dude had 94 touches, completed 88 percent of his passes, had four tackles and three interceptions. If that ain’t exactly what Weston McKennie does, I don’t know what is. I think he’s earned another start or two.
- Also, McKennie came THIS CLOSE to, like Kulusevski, scoring on his debut.
- Breaking news: Juventus’ defense looked a whole lot better with Giorgio Chiellini out there leading the group as compared to last season when he was better there. I know that is something that really takes true insight to figure out, so you’re just gonna have to believe me when I tell you this.
- You know who will benefit the most from Chiellini being healthy? Leonardo Bonucci. Robin has his Batman back, and the Juve defense is just that much better because of it.
- The Aaron Ramsey we saw against Sampdoria was somebody that we’ve been waiting a year to show up in Turin. He was a creative force Sunday, and he could have easily had at least a couple of assists if the scoring chances were finished on the back end of one of his passes. He was lively, active and the kind of player who this Juventus midfield can really utilize to their advantage ... as long as he stays healthy. (And ain’t that the truth more than ever before.)
- Ramsey had six key passes. SIX!
- When the starting lineup was announced, a lot of the BWRAO Twitter mentions involved expectations of Danilo being terrible. Guess what? He wasn’t terrible! Far from it, actually.
- I, for one, was happy to see that McKennie’s partner in the center of the midfield, Adrien Rabiot, continued to show that the player we (rarely) saw at the beginning of last season is now a thing far in the past. Rabiot has settled in ever since the Serie A restart, and he’s going to be a huge asset for Pirlo if he continues to improve like he has the last few months.
- That was fun. We should do that again next weekend.