Upon scrolling the starting lineup for Juventus’ first preseason friendly of the summer on Saturday, you get a pretty good indication just how slim the roster currently is. There were a lot of players that, if you’re not all that familiar with the Under-23 or primavera team, you didn’t recognize, while Juventus’ captain for the start of the game just so happened to be a guy who was out on loan for the entire 2020-21 season.
So, yeah, Max Allegri’s first friendly back as Juventus manager was one where his roster was very, very, VERY shorthanded.
Despite all of that, Allegri’s squad went out and claimed a 3-1 win over Cesena at Juventus Training Center. Koni De Winter, Weston McKennie and Matías Soulé got the goals, as Juve’s makeshift squad got its first run-out of the summer and Allegri got the chance to manage his first game in over two years after his departure from Juventus at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Outside of a few names that have been Juventus senior squad players during the past couple of years, this looked more like a friendly for the Under-23 team than it did for the senior squad. There were lots of numbers in the 40s and 50s, a lot of players who we will see called up to the senior squad for a game or two throughout the upcoming season because there are injuries and Allegri is in need of bodies and a lot of players who will likely be heading out on loan somewhere before the summer transfer window is over because there won’t be a spot for them on the roster when everybody is back from vacation.
But there were actually a few interesting things that we got to see:
- For one, Allegri rolled out a 4-3-3, which may or may not be what he sticks with during the early part of the 2021-22 season once his first-choice starting lineup is actually available.
- Secondly, Allegri brought on Merih Demiral to start the second half and shifted Radu Dragusin (and later Daniele Rugani) out to a fullback spot because of the current state of the roster. So, as much as we can say Allegri went 4-3-3 to start, the expected tinkering during the first friendly of the preseason was very much there once the subs started happening.
- We got to see Weston McKennie score a goal — something Allegri wants to see the American a lot of this season — as he played an advanced role on the right side of the three-man midfield.
- That sweet, sweet new away kit.
And we got to see this for the first time in a couple of years:
Ahhhhh. Nature is healing. Or, in this case, we hope Allegri’s return means Juventus is healing.
There’s usually no reason to read into one friendly simply because you know that there’s still so much of the preseason ahead of Allegri with plenty of regular starters still to arrive at Continassa. As much as we were essentially forced to take a lot of last season’s first (and only) friendly because we had never seen Andrea Pirlo coach a game before, trying to read too much into what Allegri did against Cesena just isn’t going to be useful. The main players in his squad aren’t in Turin yet, and once they show up then this project can truly get going in earnest.
For now, though, it was just nice to see Juventus playing a game again and Allegri standing on the sidelines barking orders at the players. There are more friendlies to be played, more players to talk about and obviously more tactical setups to try and read too much into, but for now we can just be happy that Mad Max is back at the place where he’s achieved so much already.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I’m guessing that Matías Soulé, who scored against Cesena, becomes the youth academy crush of many readers and commenters around here. Say what you want about the competition and everything, but for an 18-year-old playing at this level he showed out pretty well.
- In case you’re wondering, Nicolo Fagioli, Gianluca Frabotta and Alessandro Di Pardo did not play in this game due to disciplinary reasons, according to multiple reports. That’s disappointing. (In the players, not in Allegri laying down the law for the young guys.)
- Paulo Dybala didn’t play, which isn’t all that surprising based on the fact that he’s been battling a muscle injury this week. He was sitting off to the side on a ball behind Mattia Perin’s goal in the first half with a look of a sad puppy not getting the chance to play with his littermates. Poor guy just wants to be out on the field, man.
- Reading way too much into a jersey number worn: Perin rocking No. 36 doesn’t exactly scream “I’m going to be staying here for the 2021-22 season,” does it?
- Capitano Daniele Rugani!
- Marko Pjaca starting in the center a front three!
- Mattia De Sciglio back in the No. 2 jersey!
- You gotta love late-July friendlies when so much of the team is still away on holiday, huh? It just provides you with these kinds of things that hopefully can provide us with some laughs while the team doesn’t exactly impress during a friendly.
- Cesena’s goal was some classic bad marking in the box by Juventus’ two center backs, Rugani and Radu Dragusin. (It was more Rugani unable to win a ball in the box and clear it out while Dragusin lost track of his man a couple of feet away.) Good thing it’s July and we can (hopefully) not get mad about any of this happening.
- Felix Correia, who started out on the left wing, sure has a lot to improve on when it comes to the technical side of his game as well as his passing, but man that kid can fly.
- The second half was Pinso time. Everybody loves Pinso time.
- If you were to ask me to name the 11 Juventus players who were on the field when the final whistle sounded, I don’t think I could get halfway there. That’s just what happens when so many folks are missing and you’re forced to dip deep into your Under-23 and youth setup.
- I did not recognize Luca Clemenza when he was subbed on in the second half. My man has a big beard and long hair now, which was definitely not the case a couple of years ago.
- I’ll leave you with this: Because of the camera angle on JTV, you could usually see the coaches behind Allegri talking whenever they cut to a shot of the sideline. A lot of the time, Simone Padoin was standing behind Allegri and talking to another one of the coaches. I don’t know why, but seeing Padoin there just brought a smile to my face. It’s the Padoin effect, I guess.