The life of a Juventus fan, as currently composed, yields more ups and downs than an elevator controlled by a drunkard riding the Tower of Terror. Amazingly, sometimes even the same incident yields ups for some fans and downs for other fans. Paul Pogba on a free, for example, was variously interpreted as a brilliant move by some and a shot in the foot by others. The Paulo Dybala fiasco comes to mind, too.
There’s a whole bunch of good things happening and a whole bunch of not-so-good things happening. I suppose we can at least console ourselves that we’re not fans of Manchester United. Part of the dumb and obvious answer for this being the case — i.e. lots and good and lots of bad, sometimes in the same event — is that rarely, of course, is an event or transaction or development in this amazing/terrible sport of calcio solely good or solely bad. We’re humans, and this is a human endeavor, framed by human interpretations (unless you’re Real Madrid and you just always win the Champions League; no interpretations necessary for Los Blancos supporters).
With so many threads to follow, I had trouble deciding on just one to dissect and say, “Yes, let’s be excited about this and here’s why,” or else, “Hmm, feels like we should tap the brakes a bit.” Naturally, the first thing that popped into my head is the venerable game Red Light, Green Light.
Red light = let’s tap (or slam, as the case may sometimes be) the brakes on this.
Green light = let’s groove on this, amigos.
The other caveat is that these are, as the great Michel de Montaigne wrote several hundred years ago, “my own thoughts, by which I am striving to make known not matter but me.” Pour the salt on these words, dearest readers.
Green light: the youth movement in the midfield
Count me as one of those who doubted whether any of the club’s youngsters in the midfield would ever turn out to be anything more than a bargaining chip or fringe rotation piece. While there’s still the chance that that future manifests, I’m now a believer.
I’m just not sure which horse, or horses, I’m betting on. Fabio Miretti, Nicolo Rovella, and Nicolo Fagioli have individually displayed promise. Maybe the most exciting part of their sparks has been the fact that they’re each unique players with their own niche in the midfield.
With Rovella sounding like he’ll go out on loan and the club more or less cutting Arthur totally out of its plans, the final roster may only have room for one of these kiddos. But wherever these three play this year, Juve could have a special trio up its sleeves.
Red light: The injury situation is Allegri’s fault
Every time a Juventus player pulls up with an injury, I forget how many medical professionals we as a Juventus fan base possess. It seems that perhaps two-thirds of the Bianconeri faithful have achieved at least a master’s degree in the medical field, given how quick people are to diagnose the specific injury and the macro causes of the injury.
People blame Allegri’s training methods, and I wonder how exactly they know about the intricacies of Allegri’s training methods. People blame the Juventus medical staff, and I wonder how exactly they know what the medical staff does or doesn’t do compared to the medical staff of other clubs.
Call me crazy, but I hold to the belief that it’s bad luck, that Allegri’s training methods are most likely squarely within the realm of “normal” in this professional sport, and that Juventus’ training staff is qualified and able to do their job.
Injuries in sports across the board seem to be pretty atrocious right now; this is at least the case in American sports. And the amount of playing time that these sports require from their players, especially the high-profile ones, is pretty insane.
Green light: Juventus’ win over Sassuolo is a big deal
I was looking for one thing against Sassuolo: progress. I think the club and the coach achieved that and then some.
The performance was far from perfect, but there was undoubtedly progress in every arena where you’d hope to see it. The club’s young No. 9 bagged a brace and had more chances in a single game than I can remember. Bremer, replacing a big name with bigger thighs before him, stepped into a new system alongside new players with a new kit and looked stalwart.
Maybe the area where I saw and felt the most progress? The grinta, baby. The players looked hungry. They looked neither timid nor entitled. They looked like they wanted to win, like they wanted to smash.
Red light: Juventus’ win over Sassuolo is a big deal
Sassuolo is not a good team. They’re depleted with injuries, they were just knocked out of the Coppa Italia, they’re a significantly reconfigured roster, and they honestly would have scored several goals were it not for the performance of Mattia Perin and their own questionable decision-making in the final third.
Sassuolo out-shot and out-possessed the Old Lady in Turin. Taking some of this into consideration, the game was perhaps not as auspicious as it first appears.
Green light: Allegri is evolving
If you thought you were going to watch another year of Juventus playing a 4-4-2 100 times in a row, you were dead wrong! As Max noted in his post-game comments, he made a couple in-game tactics to move the team to a 4-3-3, and it certainly worked.
I have no idea if Max is going to consistently run a 4-3-3 with this team, and I’m not sure that that’s really the lesson to be learned from matchday no. 1. For my money, the most salient nugget to be gleaned here is the fact that Max did indeed make that in-game change. There were times last year when it felt like, no matter the personnel, Juventus were squashed down into a 4-4-2 — or even a 4-5-1 — and Dusan Vlahović was on the loneliest island in the world.
Because of injuries and because of roster units in the midst of serious transition, this year is likely, assuming Max’s flexibility is not an illusion, to feature a number of different lineups. The roster boasts a few players who can play well in multiple positions, Danilo the most obvious, which gives that attack/defense formational switching some degree of credence.
I frankly am not one of those who thinks the coach should stick with one formation or even scheme; I think being a chameleon can be quite effective. This is even truer to me given the amount of injuries the club has currently sustained.
Honestly, what’s more important in my book that schemes or formations, even more than availability or injury, is grinta and belief. What do we say, after all? We say fino alla fine. No single player is bigger or more important than the club. Not Cristiano Ronaldo, not Paulo Dybala, not Matthijs de Ligt.
This is Juventus. I don’t want players who stop their runs when they don’t get fed the ball. I want dogs like Vlahović and Filip Kostic, like Danilo; I want players who step out of nowhere into the spotlight like Perin; I want guys who play in a position in which they’re not comfortable yet still run their tails off, like Weston McKennie.
Through one game, I see the dogs. And the dogs are hungry.