Coming into the final game of 2023, you really could have loaded up the world-famous Spiderman meme and it would have been totally appropriate for how Jose Mourinho and Max Allegri like to play. To no one’s surprise, as Juventus took the lead early in the second half, the grinding out of a 1-0 scoreline began.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the corto muso-est team of them all?”
On this night, it was the team that is, once again, putting league leaders Inter under some serious heat. Juventus were able to grind out another 1-0 win much to the delight of their manager, making Rabiot’s goal stand tall and moving within two points of Inter at the top of the Serie A table following their draw at Genoa 24 hours earlier. The goal was, in a way, a flip of the script from the last couple of weeks when Juve allowed goals right at the start of the second half and either couldn’t recover or needed some magic to make things happen. Instead of allowing it, Juve got the early second-half goal and then Roma couldn’t make much of anything really happen to tie things up.
The end result was not just a win over a rival and not just finally taking advantage of a rare slip up from Inter, but it also means that Juve head into the new year looking at these kinds of situations in the Serie A table:
- Juve are now seven points clear of Milan in third.
- Juve are now 10 points clear of Fiorentina in fourth.
- For added measure, they’re now 12 points clear of Bologna in fifth place.
Sure, the Scudetto hype will only intensify with this win over Roma, but considering the fact that the main goal coming into the season — and still very much is from Allegri’s point of view — was to finish in the top four, Juve’s sitting damn pretty heading into 2024.
It’s a nice spot to be in, don’t you think? I certainly think so!
12 - Juventus have won 12 matches with 1-0 score in #SerieA in 2023, 4+ more than any other team in the period; they are also one of the three teams in the big-5 European Leagues to have collected 20+ clean sheets in this period (with Barcelona 22 and Inter 21). Solid.#JuveRoma— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 30, 2023
Nit-pick all you want about the sustainability of this style of play — and those are valid points a good portion of the time — but on this night, outside of a few occasions, Roma were truly chasing the game. It took deeeeeep into the second half for Roma to record their first shot on target. And while the first shot Roma took all night clanged off the post, it ended up being the kind of game in which neither of those two saves that Wojciech Szczesny actually had to make were all that difficult at all.
The final xG total for Roma on Saturday night? All of 0.36, according to SofaScore.
That’s nothing. That’s just above what Rabiot’s xG on his goal was.
The shot chart may say that Juventus had a slim 13-11 advantage, but when it came to the quality of those chances, there’s no denying that it was Allegri’s squad that had the better of them. And even though Rabiot was the only one who actually converted, there was a good amount of the time when Roma were simply reverting to hoofing in crosses toward Romelu Lukaku or to somebody on the back post (in theory) and hoping for something to happen.
And when Lukaku touches the ball all of 26 times and has an xG of 0.01 (!!!) because he’s the latest striker to be locked in Bremer’s Brazilian pocket or Paulo Dybala really can’t do much of anything because the defense is playing well, that’s how you get it done.
I get that corto muso is not to everybody’s liking. I really do. But on this night and in a battle between managers that love to play this way rather than a more progressive and up-tempo way, the first team to score was the only one to do so. It seemed like it was written that way hours before kickoff even arrived, and that’s how it ended up going. Funny how that works out sometimes.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Gonna be thinking about that flick from Dusan Vlahovic on Rabiot’s goal the rest of the weekend. It was a beautiful thing.
- Always love to get an early scare like Bryan Cristante provided less than four minutes in.
- Very glad Paulo Dybala didn’t open the scoring in the kind of fashion with that effort with the outside of his left foot that would have had him leading pretty much every Serie A highlight package for the next week.
- Also, I have no idea what Danilo was doing on that attempted clearance. Heading it straight to a Roma player in that kind of fashion — in the penalty area no less! — seemed like a recipe for disaster. Thankfully Dybala’s shot was just a foot or two wide of goal.
- Also, I still miss you very much, Paulo. Seeing you in Roma colors, even a year and a half later, is still weird to these eyes.
- I, personally, was not a fan of Evan Ndicka making a great goal line clearance to rob Filip Kostic of a goal to put Juve ahead right before halftime. But that’s just one man’s opinion.
- Gianluca Mancini is always innocent. At least in his mind he is.
- It’s also surprising that Mancini wasn’t the first player to be shown a yellow card. It was our old friend Leandro Paredes! And in the 68th minute, too — which, considering some of the fouls in this one, is a bit of a surprise.
- Roma’s first shot on target, through Dybala, came in the 71st minute. It was an easy save in the end for Wojciech Szczesny despite the fact that it came about through another questionable clearance attempt from Danilo.
- It wasn’t a goal, but at least it gave us a really cool picture:
- Overall, though, this was a really good outing from Vlahovic. He probably would have had a goal in the first half if not for a great block from (ugh) Mancini and was really working his ass off to be involved in the build-up and other aspects. Essentially, you want to see a complete, all-around performance from Vlahovic even when he doesn’t score, this is the one to look at. He was playing with confidence and it really did show. More of this, please.
- We’re now going on straight Saturdays in which Weston McKennie has been denied his first goal of the season. It was the woodwork last weekend against Frosinone, then it was a big kick save from Rui Patricio against Roma. Just so, so close.
- I mean, if there’s anybody who deserves a goal for the way they’ve played this season, it’s McKennie. With all of the goal scorers that Juve have had this season — it’s 12 of ‘em! — it might be a bit of a surprise that McKennie isn’t one of them.
- Let’s just hope that McKennie limping off in the final minutes of stoppage time isn’t anything serious.
- An observation I’m stealing straight from Chuks: Very nice of Dean Huijsen to go over and shake Mourinho’s hand right after the final whistle sounded like he is just another one of Juventus’ assistant coaches. They grow them polite in the Netherlands. Good work, Dean.
- Or, as Chuks put it: “It’s like when you’re looking for the CEO and you get the intern instead.”
- He didn’t have a goal to his name, but this was another positive step for Kenan Yildiz. Hopefully with Federico Chiesa’s knee being what it is, Allegri will slow play it like he has in the past and the result with be Yildiz getting more playing time these next few weeks. Throw in a Coppa Italia matchup in a few days and the chances will be there for him to make a big impact as long as Allegri does his part.
- This was a solid return to the starting lineup for Timothy Weah. Nothing spectacular, but he did a lot of good things well. With Andrea Cambiaso coming back from his suspension next weekend and Kostic really not playing all that well, the battle for playing time is on.
- Another solid game for Manuel Locatelli. For his “reward,” he can take next weekend off. (I know he’s suspended because of the yellow he got. That’s why he can take it off!)
- In conclusion, winning the final game of 2023 was cool. Getting the bonus of the camera cutting to a grumpy Jose Mourinho on the sidelines through the second half made it even better. Happy new year to everybody just for those pictures.