Throughout the 2023-24, there have been a few times that Juventus manager Max Allegri has been asked about Fabio Miretti’s inability to convert chances in front of goal. His pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Florence was the latest of those instances, with Allegri giving a very direct and sussinct answer as to what has been going on with somebody who is still one of the youngest players in the league
“Where can Miretti improve? He needs to score,” Allegri told the assembled media. “It happens to lots of young players — he just needs to get off the mark.”
About 36 hours later, we can officially say that Miretti is, at long last, off the mark.
In one of the most corto muso matches that will ever corto muso, Miretti’s 10th-minute goal capped an absolutely fantastic team movement from one end of the field to the other and proved to be the only goal in Juventus’ third straight 1-0 win to come out of the October international break. Sunday night’s win over Fiorentina was much like the win over Milan two weeks ago rather than last weekend’s showing against Hellas Verona, with Juventus sitting back and defending like hell once they got said lead through Miretti ... and then defending some more ... and then defending some more.
(Miretti’s goal, by the way, had an xG of just 0.11. That finish, while close to the goal, was anything but easy. Yet, there was Miretti, a player who has certainly been one who’s had a mixed season to date, who was there to finish one of the few chances that Juventus had in 95 minutes of game time.)
Or, in the shorter version: Juventus’ defense bent as Fiorentina saw more and more and more of the ball. But against a team that struggles to break down a low block, that low block led by a hulking Brazilian in the middle of it all never actually broke.
The final numbers were crazy at first glance ...
- Fiorentina outshot Juventus 25-4
- Fiorentina had a 68-32 advantage in possession
- Fiorentina had twice as many corners (8) as Juventus had total shots (4).
I could really go on and on and on, but I will stop there. This was new school vs. old school and the man who is very much old school and defense-first no matter what proved to be the one who won out. And when you had a defense playing like Juve’s did — bending but not breaking — it simply became harder and harder to see Fiorentina breaking through with every cross that met the forehead of a Juventus player.
Fiorentina huffed. Fiorentina puffed. And then they tried to blow the house down but instead Bremer was there to simply smash them away and told them to try again.
Allegri put massive faith in his defense once Miretti found the back of the net and the defense delivered. They’ve now recorded five straight shutouts ever since the disaster that was the 4-2 loss to Sassuolo. They’re closing in on 600 minutes of game time without a goal allowed. The manager who wants to build his team on the back of a strong defense is getting exactly that from his team despite his captain and one of most consistent performers the last 2 1⁄2 years being out injured.
It wasn’t pretty at times against Fiorentina, but when you defend like Juventus did Sunday night, you’re going to have a chance. Is a super-low block and very defensive mindset the way forward and something that will get Juventus to status of true contenders? I am not totally sure because the last few years have been tough to believe it, but right now it’s working. And when it’s working for Juventus and consistently resulting in three points earned after three points earned, then you’re a little more forgiving as compared to when you’re dropping points on a regular basis.
So go on and do you, Max. At the very least you’ve got a team that has to be frustrating the living hell out of just about any opposing attack that tries to score on your team these days.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I am so happy for Fabio Miretti. Just so, so happy. Hopefully seeing that first goal happen can be something that fills him with confidence and he can start a nice run of form. At the very least, we know he’s going to get plenty of chances knowing who is currently not available in midfield.
- This should come as a surprise to no one.
- Like, come on, folks — dude loves a 1-0 win like I love cookie dough ice cream. And I definitely LOVE cookie dough ice cream, so take that however you want.
- The first shot of the game was Arthur trying to volley the ball as it fell out of the sky after a somewhat-failed clearance. It was WELL wide, slowly rolling out for a goal kick. I dunno why, but it being Arthur and it being that result made me chuckle a bit.
- That big pre-game hug between Arthur and Allegri was something I was not expecting.
- Twenty minutes in and Fiorentina had nearly 70 percent of the possession. But then you look at the scoreboard and ha ha ha ha ha it was a much better situation.
- Update at 40 minutes: It’s over 70 percent possession for Fiorentina, folks.
- Around this same time, this tweet from the great James Horncastle was sent out. It’s absolutely wild.
66 passes in 40 minutes from Juve. 1-0 up. Max col minimo— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) November 5, 2023
- Juventus attempted nearly three times fewer the amount of passes as Fiorentina with 105 in the opening half. They completed just 69 of them. I don’t know if that’s actually nice, but it just shows you how little they had of the ball. And when they did have the ball, how clearly unable they were of holding onto it even when they were on the counterattack.
- One Juventus starter, Manuel Locatelli, finished with a pass completion percentage over 80 percent. That just shows you how even with the limited amount of possession that Juve had, a part of why it was that way was because they simply couldn’t keep ahold of the ball.
- Federico Chiesa touched the ball five times in the first half.
- Chiesa finished with 10 touches during his 66 minutes on the field. If Chiesa receives any sort of criticism for how he played, I’m not here for it. This game was never going to be one in which he was ever going to be anywhere close to involved in — especially after Juve got the early goal. He was 100 percent a victim of Allegri’s tactical decisions Sunday night.
- Juventus went 40 minutes in between shots their first two shots attempted, although Miretti’s goal was much more successful than Moise Kean’s attempt on the counter that was blocked.
- Wojciech Szczesny’s first save, a lot like the first one against Milan, sure was a good one. Maybe not as good as the one against Milan, but still incredibly important based on what the score was at the time.
- OK, his second save was better. That’s world-class stuff on a great free kick from Cristiano Biraghi. Just fantastic job of essentially readjusting his body in mid-air to palm the ball away.
- HOLY CRAP BREMER!
- Bremer just recorded another clearance as I typed this out even though the final whistle sounded half an hour ago.
- Bremer had 13 — let me repeat that: THIRTEEN! — clearances when it was all said and done.
- Daniele Rugani, who has been low-key great since coming into the starting lineup for the injured Danilo, had 11 clearances and this is the start of the campaign to get him a call-up to the Italian national team next weekend. Come on, Spalletti, you know you want to.
- RUGANI IN NAZIONALE OR WE RIOT!
- The team leader in clearances for Fiorentina had two. All but two of Juventus’ 10 outfield starters had at least two clearances.
- Locatelli had 10 clearances and is playing pretty well at the moment. That’s good to see.
- Weston McKennie was not great when trying to go forward. But where he came up big time was on the defensive end — which, knowing what Weston does very well, probably isn’t surprising.
- That’s another DNP-CD for Samuel Iling-Junior despite the fact that Juve are down and limited when it comes to wingback options at the moment.
- But hey, maybe that time for playing time comes next weekend seeing as Adrien Rabiot — who is now 3-0 when wearing the captain’s armband — is suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Allegri maybe has Andrea Cambiaso playing as a mezzala.
- Is it safe to say that around the 75th or 80 minute Fiorentina’s attackers just ran out of ideas? Long shots and the same ineffective crosses can only get you so far, my guys.
- Oh look! Another Bremer clearance.
- Take care of business against Cagliari next weekend and Juve will go into the Derby d’Italia in no worse than a comfortable second-place standing. If Matias Soulé and them boys at Frosinone do something wild and get a result against Inter next weekend and maybe Juve’s atop the table. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself, but it’s possible ... right?