Maybe it was too much to expect Juventus to replicate what they did in Andrea Pirlo’s debut as manager. We knew the opposition would be better this weekend, we knew that said bar that Pirlo set in the debut was going to be tough to match as a result of that. And, maybe most importantly, we know that this Juventus team is still one that is being formed.
As we saw Sunday night in Rome, things are still very much a work in progress.
Down a man and not playing all that well at all, Juventus were able to steal a point from Roma in a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo brace, the second of which coming on one of those gravity defying headers where he hangs in the air a lot longer than pretty much anybody who doesn’t play in the NBA. Juventus’ performance was far off what it was seven days earlier, and it was just further confirmation that there is bound to be some kind of growing pains with Pirlo for the simple fact that he’s learning what works and what doesn’t with this squad as the first few weeks and months of the season go on.
And I guess it does always help when Edin Dzeko misses a wide-open chance like he did in the second half when the game was very much on the edge of going very, very badly for Juventus.
Give that miss the Man of the Match award.
Or, at least if you’re a Juve fan you might as well do that. I’m pretty sure our blog buddies at Chiesa Di Totti won’t really be agreeing with that.
But, in a situation where Juventus very well might have crumbled under their last manager, Pirlo’s Juventus didn’t. Even down a man this very unpredictable game saw Juve actually taking it to Roma for much of the last 20 or so minutes despite the fact that Adrien Rabiot had been sent off. Things very much could have gone haywire after that where Juventus’ midfield was suddenly having to make adjustments and this already very interesting lineup was even more makeshift than it was to begin the night.
That didn’t happen, though. Things didn’t go from bad to worse. The problems that consistently showed themselves throughout the 2019-20 season — defense not holding things where they were to begin with, for example — didn’t necessarily haunt Juve in this one.
Was it a great showing? Well, of course not. Not by any means.
But it also wasn’t a disaster.
There are still plenty of things that Pirlo needs to figure out to try snd get this Juventus squad to play the way that he wants to play. Or, at the very least, there are things Pirlo needs to figure out to allow this Juventus team to play something close to its best at least a good portion of the time.
Pirlo is still trying to figure this out just in the same way as we’re trying to figure Pirlo out when it comes to him as a manager. But I can tell you that I’m not feeling as bad about a 2-2 draw as I would have last season. Maybe that’s me being the optimist that I tend to be when it comes to new things, but at the very least Juventus seemed to play like they cared Sunday night — and that’s more than we can say about a lot of Juve’s so-so performances a season ago.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- This game was yet another example of how Juventus get all of the calls.
- Juventus finished the game with eight shots total against Roma.
- Cristiano Ronaldo took 10 shots all by himself against Sampdoria.
- If there’s anything we’ve discovered from Andrea Pirlo’s first two starting lineups is that he’s not going to shy away from experimenting with things. Considering how truncated the preseason training period was, that is pretty understandable.
- At halftime, Wojciech Szczesny had more touches than the following players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Álvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado. I am no footballing genius and will never claim to be one, but that seems less than ideal.
- Juventus gotta thank Szczesny for a couple of those saves he made, too.
- Leonardo Bonucci’s defending on Szczesny’s best save of the night ... yikes!
- Dejan Kulusevski as a wingback ... yeah, I dunno about that one.
- Juan Cuadrado as a wingback on the left ... yeah, I dunno about that one, either.
- If this game didn’t see Rabiot get sent off in the second half, I wonder where Paulo Dybala might have played into Pirlo’s plans. If it’s 2-2 and Roma doesn’t have a man advantage, you gotta think that Pirlo throws Dybala on for the last 10 or 15 minutes to try and steal a win, right? Maybe? I don’t know. It’s just so hard to get a sense for Pirlo’s instincts as a manager when we have all of two official games and a friendly to go off of right now.
- Pirlo’s Juventus made a good first impression last weekend. Arthur made a good first impression this weekend. Juventus’ midfield looked a whole lot better with him on the field, that’s for sure.
- It’s really nice to have Giorgio Chiellini healthy and on the field contributing again. I said that last week, I have no said that this week and I will continue to say that every single time Chiellini plays this season because he is a damn master of the defensive arts.
- And when it comes to your personal life, you really should get you somebody who cares as much about you as much as Giorgio Chiellini cares about defending and heading an opponent’s cross out for a corner. The man sure does love what he does, and the fact that he’s able to play after essentially a year away from the field must feel so freakin’ good.
- One last Chiellini bit: The more of him doing random ass Chiellini things in the attacking third like he did in this game, they will never not be funny. Whether it’s trying to deliver an off-balanced cross after a corner or delivering some sort of overhead kick like he tried right before the final whistle, attack-minded Chiellini will bring a smile to my face.
- Danilo led Juventus in tackles AND interceptions against Roma. Through two games, Danilo playing in a back three has been far from the disaster that it could have been based on how many of us think of Danilo as a player. Of course, having Matthijs de Ligt back healthy again in November will be wonderful, but Danilo has been pretty solid on the right side of Juve’s three-man defense — and that’s something I didn’t expect to type a couple of weeks ago.
- Rino Gattuso had to be sitting back after beating Genoa 6-0 earlier in the day and licking his chops watching Juventus defend counterattacks like they did against Roma. We know how Napoli beat Juventus last season, and Gattuso has to be thinking the same kind of game plan will be a recipe for more success this season.
- Roma counterattacks made me nervous. Not great, Bob.
- If Juventus were to start the season and go into the international break with seven points out of a possible nine, I don’t think that would be the worst thing in the world knowing just how much this is a work in progress under Pirlo.