With an eye clearly on the start of the new-look Women’s Champions League, Juventus Women took to the field Sunday for its first friendly of the summer. It was the first opportunity to see what new manager Joe Montemurro has in store for a group that is coming off a fourth consecutive Serie A Femminile title a couple of months earlier.
Through Montemurro’s first 90 minutes it’s a resounding “So far, so good!”
Yes, the competition wasn’t very good at all. And yes, a 12-0 dismantling of Maltese champion Birkirkara only confirmed that notion. Juventus got goals from eight different players during Sunday’s rout, including braces from Cristiana Girelli, Lisa Boattin and Andrea Staskova.
But this was what followers of Juve’s women’s team have been waiting for: the chance to see what changes Montemurro, who arrived after a successful run at Arsenal over the summer, is going to bring to the table after Rita Guarino quickly turned this squad into a record-breaking group.
With the second half of Juventus’ weekend full of friendlies now completed, here are a few things that we can take out of the first game of the Montemurro era in Turin.
1) Annahita Zamanian playing as a deep-lying midfielder might be Montemurro’s first big lineup change.
Under Guarino, the 23-year-old Zamanian was a rotational piece in a crowded midfield that had so much freakin’ talent it was essentially six players battling it out for minutes in three different starting spots.
Zamanian appeared in 19 of Juve’s 22 league games, but only started seven of them.
That looks as though it’s going to be changing. And for good reason.
Zamanian, known more as a creative midfielder rather than one who plays in front of the defense, was deployed as a deep-lying playmaker Sunday and absolutely crushed it. Say what you want about the opposition, but if Montemurro’s vision for Zamanian is to have her playing deep and direct play, then he might have struck gold. Zamanian has the skills and passing range to do it, but was always used in a more advanced role as compared to this new one.
As arguably the most impressive player on the field Sunday, Hito showed that playing a lot deeper in the midfield than we’ve previously seen might fit her skillset perfectly. And if that’s something that Montemurro can continue to unlock as the season goes on, then Juve’s midfield that was already one of the best in Serie A Femminile could take a huge step forward. Zamanian was fantastic in Sunday’s win, and her ability to spread the ball all over the field was on full display in her 60-something minutes out there.
Basically, this was a good day for the Hito Hive.
With Aurora Galli departing the club earlier this summer and no direct replacement being signed (so far) this summer, a spot in the midfield has opened up for Zamanian to try and make her own. In a season that is being viewed as a big one for her personally, this was definitely a huge statement to show she can help fill the void left by Yaya’s departure.
2) Arianna Caruso essentially played as a trequartista.
This might just be a product of the opposition Juve were playing and the fact that Montemurro knew for a fact that his team was going to be attacking for much of the game.
But it could also be something that Montemurro seriously wants to see happen.
And if it means Caruso is playing further up the field and, at times, playing off Girelli, then Juve’s midfield got even that much more dynamic.
Caruso is coming off a true breakout season in the 2020-21 campaign where she scored seven goals — third most on the team behind Girelli’s 22 goals and Barbara Bonansea and Andrea Staskova each with eight — and had three assists. Under Guarino — a manager that Caruso seemed to be truly close with — the 21-year-old Italian was more of a box-to-box midfielder who was the one who made the most runs forward of the midfield three.
With Montemurro now in charge, it looks like that might be taken one step further.
In Sunday’s friendly, Caruso was being played about as high as she ever has been when Juve had the ball. There were moments when she was either even with Girelli in hugging the line or even further up the field than Juve’s No. 10. It was surprising in the fact that
Essentially, it looked more like a 4-2-1-3 or even 4-2-4 rather than the 4-3-3 that Montemurro is known for.
Again, this could have just been because of who Juventus Women was playing and the fact that Montemurro knew he could do some experimenting. But, when it comes to reacting to this sample size that we have, Caruso might be scoring even more than the seven goals she had a season ago. And considering just how well she played last season, that’s quite the enticing possibility to see take place.
3) Press on press on press.
Another case of the opposition was bad and Montemurro could afford to tinker with things a little bit if he wanted to simply because there was so much room between the two teams to do so. But Montemurro made it clear Sunday: He wants his team to press the opposition, press the opposition a lot and press the opposition quite often.
Maybe that’s not going to be the case a few weeks from now when Juventus head to Spain to face Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Joan Gamper Trophy doubleheader. For now, though, seeing Juve absolutely suffocate the opposition with the press — another reason why Caruso was playing rather high up the field, by the way — was a pretty good first impression.
Guarino’s Juventus sides were all about putting the opponent under pressure whether it was with the direct way in which they played when they were in possession or the way they tried to win the ball back immediately after losing it. Montemurro obviously wants to bring a new element to that, and this utilization of the press is just one aspect of it.
The first result was good, and hopefully that only continues to be the case. Ninety minutes into Joe football showed us that while there’s obviously still room for improvement, there’s a pretty good foundation to work off of even after two weeks worth of training with a brand new coach.