Excuse me while I clear out my throat real quick. I have something important to say based on what we saw Saturday night at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Allegriball > Sarriball.
As much as Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio project has gotten off to a relatively solid start this season, this game, this much-needed 2-0 win against the man who last won a Scudetto at Juventus, was all about what Max Allegri did to guide his team to victory. The win, which saw Juve momentarily move up to sixth place in the standings and level on 18 points with Lazio, was Allegri putting out plan, having his team execute that plan pretty damn well and then getting a few breaks go their way, with a pair of penalty kicks from Leonardo Bonucci — yes, a central defender, folks — providing both goals to clinch the win.
It wasn’t the perfect game.
But it sure was a solid performance considering just how up and down this team has been.
And coming out of the international break with some important players back home in Turin, that is what this Juventus team needed more than anything else.
They also needed the three points quite a lot.
In years past, this was the kind of matchup that might have given Juve fits. Lazio were pressing, counter-pressing and then pressing some more early on. We’ve seen that those kinds of opponents are ones that force Juve into careless errors — which, a decent amount of the time, ends with bad things taking place.
Rather than buckling under the pressure, Juventus weathered the storm — especially early on as Lazio came out like absolute gangbusters and tried to jump on the visitors right away. Fast forward to the end of the game when the final whistle sounded and Lazio, with all of the possession it had and with nearly 200 more passes completed than Juventus, finished with all of one shot on goal.
One shot on goal.
Sure, it helped that Ciro Immobile was up in the stands and Sarri chose to play Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as a makeshift target man, but Juventus’ defense was absolutely stellar from the very beginning of the game until the very end. As they mentioned on the Paramount Plus broadcast, it’s almost like Juve’s defense simply zapped every single bit of the hope Lazio had and could cruise to the finish line rather than having it be a mad scramble.
This was an Allegri win to its core. And Juventus looked pretty damn solid while doing it. It also helps when you score more than one goal in a Seire A fixture for the first time in seven games when Juve beat Sampdoria 3-2 on Sept. 26.
That’ll do just fine — especially against somebody like Sarri.
Sorry, Maurizio. No hard feelings, but beating you is always going to be fun no matter who you manage. It was fun against Napoli, it’s fun now against Lazio. That’s just what’s up.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- The good old recipe for success is when your center forward draws the penalty kick and then one of your center backs takes the penalty (and makes it). Hey, it worked on Juve’s first goal, so no complaints here.
- This is a wonderful picture and I am happy it was taken:
- You never like to see one of your better players go off injured 15 minutes into a game like what happened to Danilo, but the one good thing to come out of it was that it basically forced Allegri to go into a more natural 4-3-3 formation with Federico Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski flanking Alvaro Morata. Whatever gets Adrien Rabiot out of the wide left spot in the 4-4-2, right?
- Chiesa is reaching that level where he just perk up a little bit more than you usually do whenever he’s got the ball at his feet on a counterattack. He is just so explosive when he puts his head down and puts his foot on the gas going forward. What a player.
- Controversial opinion: I love watching Matthijs de Ligt play.
- OK, that’s not very controversial and certainly one shared by just about everybody here. Man has he been good lately. So, so, so good.
- The de Ligt-Bonucci tandem in the center of the Juve defense — pretty good against Lazio. Actually, more like lights out against Lazio. Both of them were fantastic.
- Bonucci and de Ligt combined for 10 clearances. That’s good.
- One more note on Bonucci: Those two PKs were absolutely ruthless. He couldn’t have hit them any better than he did. (Maybe Roberto Mancini should take a look at that. Jorginho, too, for that matter.)
- Manuel Locatelli was subbed off right before second-half stoppage time and he was grabbing his hamstring as he walked off the field. That made my heart sink into my stomach. Please, this team does not need another injury to an extremely important player.
- Still trying to figure out what Pepe Reina was doing in the sequence that gave Juventus the second penalty. That sure was some interesting goalkeeping.
- With all of the praise that Juventus will get for this win, there were definitely some moments that left you wanting to put your palm to your face — especially when it comes to some of the decisions or passes that were made on the counterattack. This was a 2-0 win, but Juve really could have won by a bigger margin if they had been more clinical when things became more and more open in the second half.
- Like, seriously, Dejan Kulusevski’s decision making leaves so much to be desired.
- Luca Pellegrini — another pretty solid showing in an important game. At this rate, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Pellegrini getting another couple of starts to give Alex Sandro some much-needed time to rest. Allegri can’t afford to run Sandro into the ground over the next couple of months.
- Allegri and Sarri both got yellow cards late in the second half and I am only going to assume that there was a whole lot of yelling and very Italian things being said that caused that to happen.
- Moise Kean, while only on the field for about 20 minutes, was about as lively as he’s been all season. In those 20 minutes, he took four shots, nearly scored and had one very pretty moment of fancy footwork. Clearly he’s feeling healthy again and it looked like the time off during the international break did him some good.
- There are games where Juve players seem like they can’t connect on any of the long passes that they attempt. This was not one of those games. Whether it was Locatelli, Bonucci or Juan Cuadrado, Juve’s long passes were pretty damn accurate from start to finish. Considering the game Allegri set out to play, doing just that was pretty important.
- After checking the Atalanta score from earlier in the day, I can only hope that Juve defend like they did against Lazio next weekend. The big games just keep on coming. There is no time to rest. None.