Do you feel that, Juve faithful?
That feeling, for the first time this season, is a tiny bit of optimism.
After a valiant but futile effort against Paris Saint-Germain midweek to finish their Champions League campaign, Juventus faced their biggest domestic rival in the Derby d’Italia against Inter on Sunday. Considering Max Allegri’s shockingly bad record against top tier opposition since his return and Juve’s consistently inconsistent form you’d be forgiven for thinking that the odds were dire.
Juve’s 2-0 win was not only very much deserved, but easily the best result this beleaguered team has achieved this season. It also represents their fourth straight victory in domestic competition, another three points that puts them in fifth place and within striking distance of the top four in Serie A.
MVP: FIlip Kostic
The fun thing about the pray-and-spray approach of Filip Kostic’s game is that sometimes those prayers get answered and you get games like the one he had on Sunday.
Kostic’s two assists — and it really should have been three if not for VAR — and overall effort was a huge reason why Juventus took the three points against Inter. He was a key performer in both facets of the game — especially after Juve readjusted their approach in the second half to soak up a bit more of Inter’s pressure instead of pressuring themselves, Kostic found all sorts of space to create havoc on the visiting team’s defense.
Kostic has been ramping up in his performances as of late, which is a hopeful sign of him getting more and more comfortable in his new digs. The Serbian International will always be more a of a volume guy in terms of his crossing, but if he can start being a bit more assertive the way he was on Sunday, Juve will have found themselves a pretty valuable player.
Runner Up: Bremer - Led the team’s defensive effort and played just like the guy that Juventus thought they were getting for €41 million this past summer. It’s tough to ask him to play every single game, but it’s undeniable that Juve’s best defense features the big Brazilian leading it.
Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Dusan Vlahovic (10 Points)
Defense Wins Championships
I was shocked once I saw it, but it’s true: Juventus currently boast the no. 1 defense in Serie A, with only 7 goals allowed in 13 matches.
Despite the decline of Leo Bonucci, the inexperience of Federico Gatti and the fact that Daniele Rugani remains under their employment, this is a Juventus team that has found a way to become pretty defensively stout so far.
(It was probably their catastrophe of a Champions League campaign that obscured the fact that their defense has been solid in Serie A, but hey, we are only talking about one competition right now.)
And some measure of credit for that has to go to the much-maligned manager who is squeezing every single drop left of football from Alex Sandro in his new role as a makeshift center back and is exploiting Danilo’s positional flexibility to assemble a defense that, for the most part ,did enough to stifle Inter’s attack.
We are a long way from mentioning Juventus and the Scudetto in the same sentence — they’re sill 10 points off the pace, as a matter of fact — but being a team that is hard to score on is the first step in getting back to that level.
Now if we could only score a bit more ...
Winner: Nicholas Beans
Every professional footballer has already achieved their childhood dream. But there are very few and far between that can say that they achieved it in the exact same way the hoped when they were kids.
Football is a business and if you are a talented prospect and your favorite team is not hiring you’ll play wherever, it’s part of the game. Which is what makes the Nicolo Fagioli goal that clinched the win for Juventus such a cool moment:
Now Fagioli gets to celebrate his own goal against Inter :) pic.twitter.com/2n53hZ4X55— Black & White & Read All Over (@JuventusNation) November 6, 2022
Yes, that Justin Bieber lookalike in the background of the above picture was the very same player that got to celebrate a goal of his own against Inter at Allianz Stadium. And unlike Paulo Dybala, he got to celebrate in front of a packed house of Juve faithful. You gotta imagine that Fagioli’s wildest dreams were not that different than what he got to experience on Sunday night.
That’s pretty cool no matter who you are.
Once Danilo’s goal ended up being disallowed by VAR review in the second half, a part of me was sure that Juventus was going to bungle the result. Because that is what the current iteration of Juve has always done in these types of situations recently.
They fall off, they can’t bounce back after bad breaks go against them, they’re not mentally strong — that’s something that has been used to describe them. So, it was quite a shock when Juve not only did not screw the pooch but turned around and got another — legitimate this time — goal to secure the result.
The juices are flowing after a Derby d’Italia win, and since it’s been a second since Juve got themselves a big win, you’ll allow a bit of optimism. But this sure felt like a different kind of victory. The kind of one we haven’t really seen a lot of in Max Allegri’s second turn as the coach of Juventus.
It feels like we have to say it with every positive result that Juve gets nowadays and it remains true. They still have to be more consistent, they have show it more than once or twice a month for this to be sustainable. But if you want to hang your head in a win that could be the start of something this feels like one.
Parting Shot of the Week
Want a fact that will throw a bit of rain in our parade? Just as Juve is starting to show signs of life there are only two games left in the calendar before the World Cup break.
What can you do, everything for a winter World Cup in the middle of the desert, huh? The best and only thing Juve can do is finish the season on a high and with some luck start 2023 a lot closer to the top of the table than they are right now.
See you Thursday.