As the left side of Juventus’ defense stumbled not once but twice on Barcelona goal in the first half of Tuesday night’s game in Dallas, the very obvious concerns about the shortcomings of this 2022-23 squad as it is currently constructed came to light for everybody to see.
Not that we didn’t know this — Juve’s fullback position has gone from strength to very much the opposite of that over the course of the last four or five years. Even as players have come and gone, the upgrades that have been needed to be made just haven’t been done.
But as much as there were obvious struggles with Juve’s defense, there was a pleasant surprise to come out of Juve’s 2-2 draw with Barca: the much-much-maligned Moise Kean.
Yes, that Moise Kean, the same striker who has become known for what he isn’t able to do rather than scoring goals at a clip that we would have expected him to be doing by now when he first shot through Juventus’ youth academy and into the first team as a teenager. It was Kean’s double that allowed Juve to come back not once but twice after Ousmane Dembélé absolute shredded the left side of the Bianconeri defense — namely Alex Sandro and then Juan Cuadrado — for a pair of first-half goals.
As much as Juve’s offseason has been about filling holes and trying to remake an attack after some very familiar names have left for other clubs after their contracts (or loan deals) expired, Kean has become somewhat of a forgotten man. He didn’t look all that great in Vegas, and his first chance during the Barcelona friendly was, as we’ve come to known, a botched shot that should have been put on goal.
But then, things changed — and for the better, too.
One game in July won’t change everything, but to see Kean be in position — and execute — to score goals was a nice development. Especially since he hasn’t done a whole lot of that over the course of the last year. If anything, getting a little confidence going in Kean would be nice rather and a change for the better than the totally dejected look on his face whenever he has a bad turnover. (And don’t you worry, he still had a few moments in this game, along with some pretty bad touches that led to turnovers.)
That was the good to come out of Dallas. The bad? Well, you can probably figure out bad — how Juventus allowed both of Barcelona’s goals in the first half.
Who knows, maybe it’s because the great Tony Sirico just passed and the Paulie Walnuts lines are so very fresh in my mind, but the amount of times I muttered “oh maddone” under my breath as I watched the replays of Alex Sandro getting turned around multiple times and seeing the ball sneak under Wojciech Szczesny. It wasn’t great, and especially the Sandro part is something you can’t really chalk up to it being the final days of July.
So, in typical July friendly fashion, there was some good, there was some bad and now we wait for the next time for Juventus to take the field and hope that things to a little bit better as the squad ramps up to the second weekend of August.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Since BWRAO wasn’t in the house for this one, I had to rely on Fox Sports 2 for coverage of the proceedings rather than my own two eyes (no matter how questionable my eyesight is these days). This is the starting lineup I saw about 30 seconds after logging onto the FS2 stream:
Excuse me, FS2? pic.twitter.com/0N3PEgwW96— Black & White & Read All Over (@JuventusNation) July 27, 2022
- Hope you all liked what new Juventus striker Nicolo Rovella was able to provide in the attack for the first 75 minutes of this match. And didn’t you know Juve just paid over €40 million for a little-known holding midfielder named Bremer from city rival Torino? Don’t worry because it was a shock to me, too.
- I talk in jest about Fox Sports’ graphic screwing up where Rovella actually played, but this was his chance to play with the starters along the same lines as Nicolo Fagioli got last Friday in Vegas. The result of Rovella playing as Juve’s regista was Manuel Locatelli playing in a more advanced role. And, I gotta say, Locatelli playing further up the field was pretty good to see. He’s a huge reason why Kean scored the second goal in such easy fashion, and just his overall performance overall was damn good. Kean will get the attention for the goals, but Locatelli might have been Juve’s best player in the first half.
- The one thing that graphic might have gotten right was how Ángel Di Maria looked to have been playing more in the hole in this matchup compared to when Juventus faced Chivas last Friday. As we discussed on the podcast this week, Di Maria was drifting both in and out on the right wing in Vegas, and that was the case again against Barcelona but maybe not to the same extent. He was playing more centrally than in Juve’s last friendly, and it just so happened that’s where a lot of Juventus’ best chances in the first half were initiated. If this is going to be a thing, I guess we should get used to seeing Di Maria popping up as a No. 10 as well as out wide. Not that it’s bad thing — dude clearly still has something left to offer this team.
- As a result of Bremer coming into the starting lineup and Danilo getting kicked out to a fullback position, Juan Cuadrado was fielded in a spot we haven’t really seen him at since Andrea Pirlo was totally experimenting during his first few months as Juve manager two years ago. Johnny Square on the left was a source of some good things, but very much a mixed bag overall, especially when it came to defensive performance. I don’t know if this is going to be a July friendly thing or something that will happen while Federico Chiesa is working his way back, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out going forward with Di Maria around.
- No Weston McKennie again in this one.
- No Dusan Vlahovic again in this one.
- Not that I’m all that worried about them considering they both either had busy summers (McKennie) or a slight knock coming into preseason training (Vlahovic), but it’s just unfortunate that somebody like Weston was playing 30 or so minutes from the town in which he grew up in for the first time with Juventus and didn’t get to step onto the field.
- This was a nice early test for Bremer as he enters his second week as a Juventus player. There were large stretches of the first half in which Robert Lewandowski barely even touched the ball as the center of Juve’s defense had a whole lot better of a time than the left side. Bremer looked pretty cool and calm out there playing against an opponent like Barcelona with a lot of attacking talent. Translation: Bremer good.
- And hopefully Bremer coming out in the fashion he did was just as a precaution.
- Mattia Perin: a pretty solid guy to have as your backup goalkeeper.
- Watching Alex Sandro for another season at Juventus is going to give me the kinds of reactions Charles Leclerc had when he couldn’t find throttle after going into the wall this past weekend.
- Basically, am I happy Alex Sandro is going to play significant minutes at Juve this season? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
- It’s a good thing Juventus has options on the left, right? Oh wait — those options are a still kinda-unproven Luca Pellegrini and Mattia De Sciglio. Yeah, this isn’t going to be very fun unless Juventus spends some of that Matthijs de Ligt money on a shiny new left back within the next couple of weeks.
- We may be excited about some of the young players that Juve has coming through the next year or two, but holy smokes is the next wave of Barcelona kids already here. That midfield that they will roll out there is something else, man, and it’s only going to get better.
- But then again, when your club literally has 10 figures worth of debt, can you get really, really, really excited about things? I dunno, asking for a Barcelona friend or two I have.
- It’s back to Los Angeles — or, to be precise, Pasadena — to prepare for the final friendly of the summer tour. Overall, I’d say there’s been more good than bad so far. Hopefully that trend continues over the weekend against the reigning European champions in Real Madrid a the Rose Bowl.