As the second half of this game went on, I couldn’t help but have a flashback or two to the days of Max Allegri and his well-known affection for a 1-0 lead with the clock winding down.
Our old buddy Max loved a 1-0 lead. He loved defending a 1-0 lead late in games. He is on the record talking about how 1-0 wins are some of his favorites. They weren’t always pretty, but they certainly were a big reason as to why Allegri was so successful during his five-year tenure in Turin.
Sure, the final score wasn’t 1-0 against Sampdoria on this rainy Saturday evening at the Luigi Ferraris. But Juventus’ 2-0 win over Samp, their fourth on the bounce after the embarrassing loss to Inter Milan at the San Siro two weeks ago, had all the makings of the kind of win Allegri probably would be smiling about when he got to the post-match press conference. Juventus were dominant early, with only some inability to add onto their lead in the opening 45 minutes serving as the lone blemish. But a second-half performance that was filled with defending, defending and more defending — and then some fouls thrown in for good measure — allowed Juve to get the three points and
You want to see a prime example of the old saying “a tale of two halves” and this one would definitely be up there for all to admire.
Juventus’ play in the first half was fluid, free flowing and pretty easy on the eyes. Their passing was crisp, their movement was fantastic and it resulted in Sampdoria spending plenty of time in their defensive third as Juventus pushed for the lead — which came on a fantastic team goal that was finished off by Federico Chiesa’s partly-shinned shot off an Alvaro Morata cross.
But, because of the inability to add onto the lead until Aaron Ramsey’s stoppage-time tap in, the second half suddenly turned into a defensive battle rather than a continuation of what the first half looked like.
Claudio Ranieri obviously changed a few things to get Sampdoria in better positions to try and get a goal, but Juventus just didn’t have the same mojo going forward as they did in the first half. That will happen and it didn’t come back to hurt them this time around, but the one true thing you wanted Juventus to do better in this game was to not have Sampdoria hang around for so long even if they were defending well.
(And they were defending well because Giorgio Chiellini is awesome and I want this nice little run of form he’s on to continue for as long as it possibly can.)
No matter what, though, Juve did what they needed to do to get the shutout, get the win and get the three points needed to keep pace with Milan in the Serie A standings. Like I’ve been saying for weeks now, sometimes it doesn’t mater how they do it as long as it ends in a Juventus win and the Serie A deficit not getting any worse than it was a few weeks ago.
It didn’t get any worse following this game and I’m perfectly OK with that. Sounds like a pretty good way to start the weekend in my book.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- That’s four clean sheets in a row in all competitions. I dunno about you guys, but that’s something that is definitely a good development during this
- Giorgio Chiellini sliding in the six-yard box to block and opposing striker’s shot — just vintage stuff. It’s so fun to watch him on the field again and playing well.
- Also fun to see from Chiellini: baiting an opposing striker into an offside position, giving him a fist bump afterward and then turning toward the camera to reveal a giant smile. The “I GOTCHA!” look on Chiellini’s face after he got Keita Balde to fall for that trick was priceless and just another sign of just how much this dude loves defending and everything that comes with it.
- This is what Weston McKennie did in the first half against Sampdoria:
- McKennie finished with six tackles, four interceptions and three clearances. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who left the field battered and bruised after a pretty physical match.
- I think, as of right now, it’s pretty easy to see that Juve’s best midfield trio is McKennie, Arthur and Rodrigo Bentancur. With McKennie’s ability to both contribute to the attack as well as work his ass off to cover defensively, it allows Arthur and Bentancur to do what they do well. Arthur, especially, has looked better since this trio has become a thing — which is one of the bigger developments of the last couple of weeks.
- I guess the hole Bentancur had in his foot — basically the Italian version of some kind of deep cut in the fashion of Mario Mandzukic — is feeling OK because he had another extremely solid game. The yellow card he got will keep him out of the Roma game next weekend, so that sucks, but just like with Arthur, these last few weeks have seen him looking as good as he has all season.
- If you have a chance, go back and watch the slow motion replay of Juan Cuadrado’s latest assist. Not only was it his 11th assist in all competitions this season, but he nutmegged his defender on top of it. Style points, baby!
- Cristiano Ronaldo had a pretty quiet game in terms of his own scoring chances, but his two biggest passes of the game sprung Juventus teammates loose for both of their goals. That pass he had to Cuadrado to start Juve’s counterattack on Ramsey’s goal was simply fantastic awareness. The through ball to Morata was pretty sweet as well. While the announcers on the ESPN+ stream made a big deal that he hasn’t scored in his last three games, both of Juve’s goals wouldn’t have happened if not for Ronaldo’s passing ability.
- Andrea Pirlo learned at least one thing from Antonio Conte: when it’s raining out, go for the hat to protect that hair of yours. So here is a picture of Andrea Pirlo, in the rain, in a hat:
- #PirloHat forever.
- If these last four games are just how Andrea Pirlo wanted his squad to respond to a bad, bad loss like what happened against Inter, then I think he’s got to be feeling pretty good about how things are currently going. Sure, there are things to improve upon (like taking advantage of chances in front of goal), but if this team is truly finding some consistency then good things are going to continue to happen.
- Hopefully good things continue to happen because I like how Juve’s playing right now.