The interesting part of Sunday night’s Joan Gamper Trophy friendly against Barcelona was that as far as Juventus into its preseason preparations, it doesn’t necessarily feel that way. We’ve been hearing bits and pieces of what Max Allegri has been working with his team, but there also came the major caveat that so much of his team was very much not actually there.
Over the past weekend a half, though, some of Allegri’s most important pieces have come back to Turin from summer holiday and joined up with the rest of the squad. That has, in turn, allowed Allegri to, in earnest, truly begin preparing for the upcoming season even though we’re now essentially a month into the preseason.
That first chance to play somebody with the full squad, well, it looked a lot like you might have expected knowing Allegri has all of a week or so with everybody at his disposal. Juventus showed a few small glimpses, but all in all, a 3-0 loss to Barcelona was pretty the resemblance of how each team played. Barcelona, with everything else going around the club the past few days, looked very much like a team that is ready to start its season next weekend while Juventus looked ... well, basically a team that still has a lot to figure out.
Is that surprising? No, not at all.
As much as we know Allegri is capable of getting this squad’s act together and having them play well for extended periods of time, he is still very much in the cultivation stage of this new project of his. There is work to do, he knows it and now it’s just about trying to find the right end product that Allegri feels like will be the thing that gets Juventus results.
It’s also the simple fact that this game was played on the eighth day of August and two weeks before Juventus’ games actually mean something. The preseason, no matter how many players have or haven’t been there for much of Allegri’s training sessions up to this point, has never been the be-all end-all of Juve’s success. And especially this season, with how normal the timing of when preseason training has been, there’s also the very real fact that this preseason is not normal for a “new” manager who had to wait so long to get some of his most important players back.
Juventus didn’t play well against Barcelona. That’s true and that’s something that even the most optimistic person can deny. The midfield struggled to connect the lines, the attack was crying out for the creativity of a certain Argentinian who wears No. 10 and the defense made a couple of very crucial mistakes. We’ve talked about those three things way too much over the last couple of years that it’s almost because second nature, hasn’t it? Yep, and those things were what hampered Juve on Sunday night.
But it’s one game.
A game that doesn’t mean anything in the standings.
And a game that comes so soon after a good chunk after Juve’s predicted starting lineup rolled back into Turin and started training with Allegri again.
In conclusion, I’ll wait a few more weeks before any sort of serious doubt starts to creep into my mind. It’s the early days of August and Juve just lost a preseason friendly against a team that is further ahead in its preparations for the 2021-22 season. Now is not the time to treat a 3-0 loss like it’s a total disaster.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- So, on the day, Barcelona outscored Juventus 9-0. Not great!
- It’s almost like this team needs somebody like Manuel Locatelli! Who knew...
- Andrea Agnelli had dinner with a couple of friends last night. Wonder what they talked about...
- Federico Bernardeschi just has a great summer with the Italian national team. He gets some confidence going again, playing really well and scoring two incredibly important penalty kicks. He even changes his number from 33 to 20 in hopes of keeping those good vibes going. So what does Max do in Bernardeschi’s first appearance in a Juve shirt since Euro 2020? Play him as a mezzala. Max gonna Max, and unfortunately Bernardeschi will never have a set position when he plays with Juventus.
- A guy who will hopefully actually benefit from being a mezzala is Rodrigo Bentancur, who played rather well in his 45 minutes of action against Barcelona. The most encouraging thing, at least from his adopted father’s point of view, is that those long runs he was going on after being a bulldog defensively, look to be back now that he’s not playing in front of the defense. That is another reason why Locatelli is so crucial this summer — you get him, you get Bentancur playing in his best position on the field, too.
- Danilo played as a deep-lying midfielder in the second half. No wonder he changed to No. 6, right? You also knew that he was playing in midfield and trying to make things happen because it seemed like all of his passes were delivered with so much pace on them that he was thinking there was a brick wall between him and his intended target. There wasn’t much finesse with Danilo’s passing on this night.
- It should come as absolutely no surprise that Juventus’ best stretch of the game came at the start of the second half when Federico Chiesa was running all over the place.
- Sure, Mattia Perin could have done better on Barcelona’s second goal, but Luca Pellegrini’s marking on the back end of the sequence was ... yeah, not very good.
- Which, I gotta say, is too bad because Pellegrini actually played pretty well outside of that very big and very noticeable mistake on the defensive end of things.
- Guess who was the last starter out on the field for either team in the second half? That’s right, it was Mattia De Sciglio. OUR BOY.
- Juventus is clearly losing it if Daniele Rugani can’t win every preseason trophy there is on the schedule.
- Weston McKennie playing as a No. 8. I am, as some might say, very intrigued.
- That strike by Riqui Puig for Barca’s third goal was a thing of absolute beauty.
- Notice who didn’t play in Sunday night’s game? Yep, our old buddy Miralem Pjanic. Surely the Italian press is not going to read too much into that, right? RIGHT?
- Barcelona and Juventus basically had the same amount of scoring chances. One team finished their scoring chances, the other team didn’t. Sometimes this game can be summed up like that. And while this game doesn’t count for anything, that’s pretty much how I feel about that.
- One more friendly to go until the 2021-22 season begins. Let’s see if any kind of progress can be made from this weekend to next weekend. And let’s hope that the return of fans to Allianz Stadium is as refreshing as it was hearing fans in Barcelona on this night.