As the minutes ticked by and the first half went on, I couldn’t help think to myself that this is starting to look like the kind of night where Juventus is going to regret not putting away any one of the multiple scoring chances they had. One after another, chances were created, but it’s fair to say that David Ospina probably didn’t feel all too threatened in the Napoli goal.
And what do you know, even with Federico Chiesa leveling things up on his return to the starting lineup, I’m sitting here at the final whistle with thoughts of this could have gone a lot better for Juventus.
A game that Juve needed to win didn’t end that way, with Chiesa’s goal being the one and only time the Bianconeri found the back of the net in a 1-1 draw against an extremely shorthanded Napoli side that put up one hell of a fight Thursday night. As much as that was the case, though, the same kind of attacking problems we’ve seen from Juventus over the last couple of months rang true again in the first game of 2022 — chances were created, but those same chances weren’t put away. It didn’t matter who it was — Chiesa, Alvaro Morata, Weston McKennie or even Paulo Dybala and Moise Kean in the second half — Juve’s inability to finish any one of their 19 shots on the night is a big reason why they’re walking away from this game with one point rather than three.
Think of it this way ...
Of those 19 shots, Juve put all of four on target. Take away Chiesa’s goal, and Juventus put three of their other 18 attempts on frame. That just simply isn’t good enough, and it’s a situation that we’ve seen time and time again this season.
As much as Ospina saw Juventus players running toward his goal, it’s not like they were putting him under a lot of pressure and forcing save after save out of him. And even then, the saves he had to make outside of that out-of-nowhere volley from Chiesa were all that difficult. This was the kind of game where Juventus did the first part of the equation right, but the back end of things just misfired from the start.
And even then there were still a number of close calls ‚ which is just a little extra salt in the wound.
God, if Diego Demme doesn’t deflect that Dybala cross into the box in the second half. Or if Kean is able to put that stoppage-time header on frame rather than sending it a couple of feet over the crossbar. I could go on and on and on. Juventus had chances, they just couldn’t finish them because they’re a wasteful team who needs a consistent goal scorer so freakin’ bad.
Instead, this is who they are. And in games in which they fall behind 1-0 and need at least two goals to flip the scoreline in their favor, it’s always going to be a task.
They got halfway there Thursday night. Finishing the job, though, was an uphill battle that they couldn’t quite overcome — and the kind of offensive struggle that we’ve seen too many times already this season and bound to see again before the 2021-22 campaign is over.
I hate playing the “What if” or “If only” game, but that is definitely something I’m doing right now. I can’t help. Don’t judge me, people. It just happens.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus has yet to lose a game in 2022 when Zsombor Senkó is called into the matchday squad. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice ... I guess.
- Federico Chiesa led Juventus in tackles, tied for the team lead in key passes, was second in interceptions and was the source of so many of Juve’s scoring chances. Welcome back, Fred. I hope you’re ready to put this Juve attack on your back because it feels like he’s going to have to carry them for however long this season as long as he’s healthy.
- The downturn of Alex Sandro’s form was basically represented on Dries Mertens’ opening goal. Spun around, made to look stupid by the guy he’s marking and just a step too slow to recover when in previous years he’d be right back on top of things. You didn’t think Luca Pellegrini being out in a big match to open 2022 would make you sad, but here we are.
- This was the kind of game where I was just waiting and waiting for that late-game Juan Cuadrado piece of heroics and it just never arrived. Stupid gut feelings. Never liked them anyways.
- Against a complete makeshift Napoli defense full of bench players, Juventus completed all of ... four crosses. That’s not good enough, either.
- You know what would have been fun? Watching Paulo Dybala sink a last-second free kick on that sweet left foot of his. Instead of that happening, Dybala’s shot was deflected out for a corner and Juve never got to take that corner. Sometimes this game is so incredibly stupid.
- I can’t help but think that Max Allegri should have brought on Dybala sooner. Whether it was going to a 4-2-3-1 with the Wings of Fede flanking him or doing what Allegri actually did, this team needed some kind of spark and it didn’t come until the 65th minute.
- In his first game since the swirl of Barcelona rumors started, Alvaro Morata did his usual dirty work but only attempted one shot. Just one. He was one of Juve’s lowest-rated players on WhoScored, a rating system that definitely can make strikers look better than they played. And it was just a frustrating night for Morata just like it was for Juventus. Blah.
- Adrien Rabiot played in this game. Supposedly. He didn’t make a single tackle. He completed all of 23 passes. He apparently took a shot. But when it comes to what I remember Rabiot actually doing out there, it’s not very much at all. That just kinda sums up Rabiot’s season to date, doesn’t it?
- Manuel Locatelli was playing some passes that were truly beautiful. Sometimes it felt like he was playing as deep as Matthijs de Ligt and/or Daniele Rugani, but man was he playing some beautiful passes at times in this game. As we have said for months now, if only he had more of a midfield around him, huh.
- Napoli players missing from this game: 8.
- Juventus players missing from this game: 7.
- Funny, I only heard about one team being without so many players.
- This, clearly, was not that way that Juventus needed to start this big January stretch of games. I mean, it’s a point, some all isn’t totally lost and who knows how all of this COVID drama with other teams is going to play out, but you just got the feeling with how limited in options Napoli were that it was a must-win situation for Allegri and Co. Instead, because this team continues to have the same issues,
- Speaking of teams with issues, Juve face Roma at the Olimpico on Sunday. That should be interesting.