As we discussed a few days ago on The Old Lady Speaks, it wasn’t so much the score we were interested in when Juventus played Atalanta in the final friendly of the summer, it was more about a step forward and some signs that Max Allegri’s squad looks like it’s ready to go.
It took all of 45 minutes for both of those things to be confirmed.
In about as free-flowing and encouraging of a performance as we’ve seen all preseason from Allegri 2.0, Juventus’ impressive first-half showing allowed them to claim a 3-1 win over Atalanta on Saturday night in the final friendly of the summer. Not only was Juve playing well, but the goals scored — from stand-in captain Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi on an absolute bullet of a left-footed strike — were the cherry on top of a really good opening 45 minutes where you could see just what kind of ball Allegri is thinking of having this Juventus side play.
Dybala, in his new role as vice captain, marked his first preseason appearance with a quality showing. He was all over the field in what we can assume was a free-roaming kind of role with the full knowledge of just how important Allegri thinks the Argentine is to his project. The goal he scored, on a fantastic counterattack with Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa, was a glimpse of what this talented front three can do when they’re clicking.
And, let’s be honest, in friendlies, sometimes it’s the small glimpses that give us the most hope for what’s to come.
Personally, this performance makes me feel a whole lot better about things than last weekend’s performance. Imagine that, right? Funny how all of that works.
But when you look at how the first half went — and, understandably, things were different after the halftime break because of subs and players still building up to match fitness — and you can see just what Allegri wants to try and achieve. This wasn’t just a good showing against a team from Serie B or Serie C. Juventus played well against a legitimate title contender in Atalanta, one that has given Juve issues over the last handful of years on top of being really good to begin with.
There was also this little wrinkle in Allegri’s side: 4-4-2 in defense, 4-3-3 in attack. It’s not totally what Andrea Pirlo did last season, but it’s definitely a sign that Allegri is being a little creative knowing that he’s got players like Bernardeschi and Chiesa on the field.
Looks like Max has a few tricks up his sleeve even if we still need to see what will actually stick when the games actually start to mean something next weekend.
Regardless, his was refreshing after what we saw last weekend.
Hell, it was refreshing even if Juventus had beaten Barcelona.
But when you play as well as you have all summer in your final preseason friendly, it’s a nice feeling that Juve aren’t totally limping into the start of the 2021-22 campaign rather than the alternative. Juventus gave us a good performance — or at least a good 45 minutes — on Saturday night, and that is something we can all appreciate.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- FANS BACK. FANS BACK IS FUN.
- How you can tell Federico Bernardeschi is a little more confident than last season:
- I mean, hey, if you can hit them like Bernardeschi did on this shot more often than not, then go for it, man. That was impressive, and the kind of confident player we have usually seen from a Bernardeschi in azzurro, not necessarily bianconero.
- And that goal was scored at the near post, too. Juan Muso just got beat on one of the cardinal sins of goalkeeping.
- That counterattack on Juventus’ first goal — woof. If that is going to become a regular thing that happens, then I can only imagine what the opposing defense is going to think when they see Dybala, Ronaldo and Chiesa powering at them at full speed. So dangerous.
- Also, on that first goal: Chiesa’s cross to Dybala was absolutely perfect. You couldn’t have placed it any better than Chiesa did. Dude’s good.
- A midfield combo of Nicolo Fagioli and Filippo Ranocchia one day — a can dream, right? (Don’t roast me for this, you know how we can get when it comes to young players coming through Juventus’ youth ranks — especially lately.)
- Aaron Ramsey as a deep-lying midfielder in this game ... wasn’t that bad!
- Rodrigo Bentancur playing as a box-to-box midfielder rather than a makeshift regista just fits him so much better than whatever the hell he was last season. Hopefully these two positive performances against Barcelona and now Atalanta are a sign of things to come. Having Bentancur be more like the midfielder we saw under Maurizio Sarri two seasons ago would be such a boon to this side. (Especially if they do end up getting Manuel Locatelli.)
- Leonardo Bonucci in midseason form giving away a dumb penalty.
- Matthijs de Ligt in midseason form making up for his teammates’ mistakes at the back. We don’t have stats for friendlies, but the sliding de Ligt clearances were aplenty.
- I know Juan Cuadrado wanted to wear his favorite number again, but it sure is weird seeing the No. 11 as a fullback no matter who it is. Guessing we all should get used to this.
- Also hoping that Bernardeschi can break the curse that comes along with No. 20. Maybe he can channel some of that Italian national team mojo whenever he wears that number.
- Hearing Allegri yelling “KULU! KULU! KULU!” in his Italian accent is going to quickly become one of my favorite things about this team and Max being back.
- Luca Pellegrini’s long ball up to Kulusevski on Juve’s third goal ... not bad!
- In case you didn’t notice, Carlo Pinsoglio got one of the biggest ovations of the night when he came on late in the second half. Yes, Juve’s third-choice goalkeeper is that popular — and rightfully so.
- Seriously, though, having fans back in the stands after such a long period of time — and I’m not really counting those few weeks last season because it was such a small number of people allowed in — was just nice. As much as I enjoyed some of the aspects of no fans in the stadium like hearing the players communicate, nothing beats a lively atmosphere at Allianz Stadium. Just imagine what it will be like for the first home game of the season in a couple weeks or the first Champions League group stage game. Place is gonna be rockin’ even though it will be at 50 percent capacity.
- In conclusion: Good win. I like good wins.