You want to endure yourself to your new club even more than you already have over the course of the last four weeks? You need to follow the lead of a certain Dusan Vlahovic. It’s that simple. (Well, in theory, probably not if somebody else tried to do what he’s done.)
Vlahovic, in more ways than one, did that Saturday night.
The headline will be Vlahovic’s first-ever brace as a Juventus player, which proved to be the difference in the Bianconeri’s 3-2 win over Empoli in Tuscany. But it’s much, much more than just the goals that Vlahovic provided Saturday night, and it’s the kind of performance that all of us hoping to see plenty more of come the next few months and years as his career in Turin roles on. I mean, the guy was celebrating shielding a pair of players and winning a thrown-in in the third minute of stoppage time like he just won himself a penalty.
It was grinta to its core, the tremendous give-a-damn kind of attitude you want to see more of at Juventus these days. And it was from a guy who has been a Juventus for all of a month.
Think of all the things that went into this match...
- Juventus with eight players out injured
- A ninth player, Denis Zakaria, getting injured late in the first half
- Juve facing an Empoli team desperate for points
- Adrien Rabiot being on the field
... and Juventus got the win. It wasn’t pretty for large portions of the game. Not that Max Allegri wants pretty much at all. Once Juventus got back ahead 2-1 thanks to Vlahovic’s first goal of the night — and what a pretty goal that was — right before halftime, you pretty much knew what was coming. And once Vlahovic put Juventus ahead 3-1 with an even more impressive goal, you definitely knew what was coming.
Basically this is what I thought a good number of times during the final 15 or 20 minutes: I should not usually be nervous about Juventus trying to close out a game in the final minutes against an Empoli side that hasn’t won in over two months. But this is the reality that we currently live in with our beloved Bianconeri — there is a fine line between winning and dropping points, and Juve sure has loved to test that (and not always succeed) this season under Allegri.
Not that I’m really complaining because Juventus winning is a lot better than Juventus losing. And we all know just how bad Juventus needed a win in this game knowing what things have been like the last couple of weeks, knowing what the Serie A standings looked like before kickoff and what they do now and simply because of what happened midweek in Spain.
Juventus, no matter how it came about, needed this win. And that’s what they ended up getting. Sure, they needed their big new signing to lead the way, but that’s also what Vlahovic was brought in to do, right? He’s a goal machine, and after the Italian press overreacted to him not scoring in THREE straight games, Vlahovic has responded with three of the best goals we will see all season.
Dude is good. And thankfully he’s a Juventus player now. I like that a whole lot better than having my anxiety spike every time he got the ball close to goal when he played for Fiorentina. That wasn’t fun. Watching him score in Juve’s sweet away kit is much more fun.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- ADRIEN RABIOT WITH AN ASSIST?!
- Adrien Rabiot with an assist! And it was a pretty nice cross, too!
- ARTHUR PASSED THE BALL FORWARD?!
- He did! He really did! Tiny circles and all, folks.
- Serie A started this game five minutes late to acknowledge Russia invading Ukraine. I am scratching my head as to how this really impacts what has happened over the last few days, but to see Serie A actually show some support for Ukraine is a pleasant surprise. If only they had that same kind of initiative when it comes to the consistent racism problem amongst its fans...
- The defending on Empoli’s first goal had to be some of the worst defending we’ve seen all season, right? I mean, you have that many dudes essentially swinging and missing while trying to clear the ball, you pretty much deserve what you get.
- The defending and Wojciech Szczesny allowing a shot to get past him on the near post on Empoli’s second goal ... yeah, that wasn’t very good to see all the way around.
- Empoli manager Aurelio Andreazzoli wore a pink substitute bib over his jacket for much of this game. I don’t think I have ever seen a manager do that. I wish we had a photo of it because every time they even showed him at the bottom of the screen I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit.
- Leonardo Bonucci is clearly not 100 percent fit right now. But, basically out of necessity, he is trying to play through it and grit his way through games. He did that pretty well Saturday night, and he played a big role in what Juventus was able to do against Empoli. Dude is gutting it out ... and also leading Juve in clearances and blocked shots in this game.
- Speaking of injuries, who else felt their heart drop into their stomach when they first saw the camera pan to a temporarily injured Matthijs de Ligt? Then who else felt their heart drop even further into their stomach when they then saw the replay of what de Ligt was down injured? Thank goodness he came back onto the field because I really don’t know how I would feel about this team if our big Dutch baby boy became the latest part of this swath of injuries.
- I hate that it was because of an injury to Zakaria that got Allegri to finally pair Arthur and Manuel Locatelli together in the center of midfield, but here we are.
- Juan Cuadrado had to have one of the most free-roamingest of free-roaming right wing roles I’ve ever seen. Dude popped up everywhere in this game.
- Cuadrado also filled up the stat sheet to go along with his assist to Vlahovic on his first goal. That’ll do just fine, Johnny.
- Just inject this into my veins. Just do it now.
- That first touch on Vlahovic’s second goal ... my goodness.
- That move on Vlahovic’s first goal to ditch the guy trying to tackle him ... my goodness.
- Dusan Vlahovic ... MY GOODNESS.
- Dear God if he does anything close to what he did against Empoli when Juve go to Florence in a couple of days ... yeah, you can probably guess what I’m gonna say next.
- Good for Moise Kean. Talk about a dude who needed a goal. And nice to see a headed goal by Kean be a really well-struck one rather than something off a complete deflection.
- Personally, I like when Juventus win. I will take this Juventus win and be happy about the result. The performance it what it is at this point. It truly is the points that matter most right now — and Juventus got all three of them.