An experimental Juventus side tonight beat Arsenal in London by a 2-0 scoreline. Minus his World Cup contingent along with a couple of injured players still working their way back to full fitness, Massimiliano Allegri marked a return to club football as the global showcase winds to a close with a win.
Mattia Perin started between the sticks, with a defence of Daniele Rugani and Federico Gatti joined by youngster Alessandro Pio Riccio. Tommaso Barbieri and Mattias Soule lined up as right and left wingbacks respectively, with Manuel Locatelli anchoring a midfield alongside Nicolo Fagioli and Enzo Barrenechea, with Fabio Miretti and Moise Kean.
It was the hosts who started off better, spurning a number of chances to take the lead, especially with a goal chalked off for offside by Eddie Nketiah, and then caught the Juve defence by surprise to get left with an open goal, but inexplicably hit the post. The Bianconeri took the lead in time added on before the break with Granit Xhaka’s clearance from a Fagioli cross ending up in his own net.
Nketiah scored again in the second half but the goal was once again disallowed, this time due to a foul by Gabriel on Pio Riccio. Juve fell back into the Allegri deep defence as they attempted to hold on to the lead, but received a second late on thanks to another own goal, with Samuel Iling-Junior’s cross/shot deflecting off Rob Holding to make it 2-0.
Allegri started off his post-match press conference with some comments on the game.
“It was a difficult game, they are a technically-gifted team and we had a lot of kids, but we played well defensively. It was a struggle to create chances and could’ve done better, but it is always a pleasure to win, especially in this stadium.”
The coach provided an injury update on his squad.
“Chiesa had a muscular issue, but that’s normal when stepping up the intensity after such a long injury lay-off and we preferred not to risk him. He’ll be ready for December 27. Paul still hasn’t been consistent in training, so I cannot say when he’ll be back. This is the truth and it’s important to say that, otherwise every day we’ll get these questions on how Pogba’s recovery is going. He hasn’t yet started running in training.
“Bonucci won’t be out for long, Juan Cuadrado will only be available after the Cremonese game [January 4th] and Mattia De Sciglio should be back from December 27th onwards. That is also when Danilo and Alex Sandro arrive, while Rabiot and the Argentineans will have a few more days to rest, as they are in the World Cup Final tomorrow.”
There’s been plenty of drama going on at Juventus behind the scenes with the resignation of the entire Board amidst rumours of impending litigation. Allegri looked to separate the on-pitch action from what’s going on.
“The sporting aspect has never changed, so we just have to focus on training and winning games. The rest is up to the club, as always. Juventus are one of the most important clubs in the world, there are 120 years of history here and that will continue.”
Was this an added responsibility on him as the coach?
“Of course not. It’s sad that the President is no longer here, because I have great affection for him, but all it does is put more responsibility on our shoulders and we need even more effort to win the games.”
Did Allegri have anything to say on the passing of the renowned and much-loved Sinisa Mihajlovic, and then tragic news of the death of the journalist Mario Sconcerti.
“There are no words at this moment, I can only send my thoughts to both their families.”