With Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 victory over Sampdoria, Juventus officially has its first two wins in Serie A, its first win on its home field and, after weeks of waiting, an actual winning streak no matter how small the size of it is. The problem is when you try to see those two first Serie A wins this season, there’s a very concern trend that’s only continuing to roll on.
Juventus’ defensive struggles are only getting worse.
Against inferior competition, it’s been Juve closing the game in a nervy fashion rather than the club that is very much a mid- or lower-table side.
And, maybe most concerning of them all, no matter how many goals that Juve scores, no lead actually feels safe because this team is struggling mightily to close out games no matter what Max Allegri does to try and ensure his team gets three points these days.
Oh, and here’s the cherry on top that Wednesday’s win over Spezia didn’t have: Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata both went off injured against Sampdoria — which could very well mean Moise Kean is the only healthy striker Juventus has when defending European champion Chelsea comes to town for the biggest game of the Champions League group stage thus far.
(UPDATE: Allegri has essentially ruled out Dybala and Morata for Wednesday’s game against Chelsea during his post-match interview with Sky Sport Italia.)
So, yeah. Juventus won a game, that was nice. But so many other things about this win did not scream out “FUN! FUN! FUN!” In fact, it was just about the opposite — especially when it’s a 34-year-old Antonio Candreva giving your defense issues for more than one or two occasions in the second half as Sampdoria were trying to make some sort of comeback.
I guess the good part in all of this is that Juventus didn’t actually fall behind like they did against Spezia a few days earlier. They didn’t need to pull a rabbit out of their hat and make a late-game comeback like they did in the final 20 minutes against Spezia. They got ahead through Dybala’s wonderful opening goal, got a second via Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty kick and took it from there.
But there’s no denying that Juve weren’t able to keep the quality start going once Dybala left injured. Maybe that wouldn’t have been possible regardless, but you could definitely tell just how well things were flowing with Dybala on the field and then what happened after he was subbed off all of 12 minutes after his goal. And it’s not like things were all that better in the second half, really. Even though Juve were up the entire way, it’s not like Sampdoria was ever completely put away for good.
That’s why we were left sweating out another amount of stoppage time.
No matter what, though, it’s three more points than Juve had a couple of hours earlier and a second win in a row entering arguably the biggest test Juventus will face in the first half of the 2021-22 season. Now we just hope and pray for a couple of decent medical reports and a European showdown on Wednesday that doesn’t involve a whole lot of pain.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- That’s now 20 league games without a clean sheet. That’s officially over half a season’s worth of not recording a shutout. This is starting to get absurd.
- That’s also 10 goals allowed through the first six league games this season. That’s most definitely absurd.
- Sampdoria had five shots. Three of them were on target. Two of them found the back of the net. That’s not Mattia Perin’s fault. Blame the dudes in front of him in defense and midfield because they continue to show us that they can’t defend consistently AT ALL.
- That said, Perin the one save Perin actually had a chance at making was really good.
- Upon thorough review, Sampdoria’s jerseys never miss. Never ever.
- This is the picture of a man who knows he’s probably not playing against Chelsea on Wednesday:
- It’s just another chapter in the ongoing debate about whether Dybala is truly a player you can rely on for extended periods of time. This is his second injury of the season after the muscle injury he had in preseason camp. He was starting to play really well and then ... bam, he’s hurt again. Look, I love the guy and I love to root for him, but seeing him injured again is pretty damn frustrating because Juve are a better team when he’s on the field as compared to when he’s watching the game from the stands because he’s hurt.
- Who had Leonardo Bonucci next up on both the wearing of the captain’s armband and the one to take penalties after Dybala went off injured? Because I can tell you there was at least one that I didn’t expect to happen.
- The awareness of Manuel Locatelli to know exactly where Dybala wanted the ball while also trying to control the rebound of his shot that was just blocked just speaks volumes to how good he is. Juventus needed a midfielder like him so freakin’ bad.
- You think that goal meant something to Locatelli, by the way? That’s a boyhood Juventino living out a dream he’s waited much of his life to make a reality. Good for him. That was awesome to see.
- Boy oh boy did Emil Audero make some really nice saves in the first half. He’s been with Samp for such a good amount of time now it’s hard to forget he’s still just 24 years old.
- And that save Audero made on Rodrigo Bentancur in the second half ... my goodness.
- We’ve talked about him a lot the last few months — and rightfully so — but there’s just something different about Federico Chiesa when he’s on the ball this season. He’s always been a very direct player and loves to take dudes on when he’s dribbling, but it’s almost like he wants to crush a defender’s soul every time he’s on the ball. He’s just attacking with so much authority and aggressiveness. He’s so direct. It’s awesome to watch.
- Interesting to see Allegri go 3-5-2 to close this out knowing full well it meant taking off Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi while also bringing on known defensive wizard Aaron Ramsey. (OK, so that last part is a bit untrue.)
- And, seeing as Candreva made Juve’s defense look like Swiss cheese, it’s not like the switch to a 3-5-2 worked all that well.
- If Sampdoria could do what they did against Juve’s defense, the kind of talent that Chelsea has might rip Juve’s defense apart. That’s not good.
- It obviously was not an ideal situation, but credit to Dejan Kulusevski for playing as well as he did after coming on for Dybala.
- Is it a good or a bad thing that Dybala finished tied with Juan Cuadrado for the most key passes on the team despite playing just over 20 minutes?
- Seeing as this game started at 3:30 in the morning my time and my vision is so fuzzy I can barely read my computer screen as I type this sentence out, I think it’s time to call it a day. Have a nice Sunday, everybody.