I will cut right to the chase. Success for Juventus against Hellas Verona was judged by roughly the same criteria as me dealing with my 15-month-old’s 102-degree fever, which came out of nowhere on Saturday and is approximately the 402nd illness since the beginning of the fall: survival. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to be inspiring, it doesn’t have to be worthy of a saga that will be handed down from generation to generation. If nobody gets hurt and you take the next step in the journey, you’ve won.
Juventus did just that.
As has been the case with every game since The Penalty, or probably even before that if we’re honest with each other, there were plenty of asterisks heading into this fixture. There were injuries, players returning from injury, players suspended, an opponent against whom Juventus always seem to struggle, and the fact that this game landed right after the international break and before another date with Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia. What did you expect, smooth sailing?
Max Allegri, therefore, did what he had to do: he fielded a somewhat wonky side but got the result all the same. I like the fact that he gave Dušan Vlahović and Filip Kostić some rest, even though that came at the expense of quality on the field, and I love the confidence the manager has been showing in Federico Gatti, who offered another fine and, as Danny pointed out, hilarious performance.
The proceedings, however, did not start off very well. During the first 10 or 15 minutes, the Old Lady looked almost incapable of successfully playing the ball out of the back, and a couple times a wayward pass led to a decent chance for Verona. If Juventus had been playing a team of higher quality, I’m not sure three points would’ve been waiting at the end of the 90. Alas, Verona couldn’t convert, even though they have Kevin Lasagna on their team. Truly legendary name.
The rest of the first half, and much of the second half honestly, was insipid, lukewarm rolled oats. There was a semi-half-chance on a free kick that ricocheted off a defender before rattling the post; that chance and Bremer’s early missed header were about all Juventus could point to in terms of palpable threats in the opening half.
Danny did a wonderful job of describing the goal, but gosh darn if that wasn’t one of the most complete team goals of the season. The passing sequence went like this: Cuadrado - Milik - Cuadrado - Locatelli - Danilo - Miretti - Locatelli - Kean. The run forward by Locatelli was particularly good, recognizing he was unmarked, and the pass from Miretti was as sweet as tiramisu. Very clean finish by Kean to top the move off.
And that’s football, right?
It’s hard to score. Very hard to score.
Even against relegation teams, let alone wonderful defenses. So if you don’t concede a goal, it doesn’t matter if you have zero shots on target for 89 minutes. If you get to the 90th and take a chance, you win. It’s an insane game.
After the goal, Juventus did, frankly, a pretty poor job of controlling the game and putting it away. There were some head-scratching counters that fizzled out, and were it not for a fairly stupendous save by Woj at the end of this game, Juventus would not be nearly as happy.
Wojciech Szczęsny — 7.5. Very, very good save at the end to save two points for Juventus. Every time you start to wonder if Mattia Perin is threatening for the top job, Woj does Woj stuff.
Federico Gatti — 7. The youngster is proving worthy of Juventus, and for a positional unit sorely in need of depth that is a very good thing. I would love to see a long-term partnership with Gatti and Bremer.
Danilo — 7. Steady as she goes. Helped drive play forward to Miretti on the goal.
Gleison Bremer — 6.5. A little shaky in possession and distribution at times, but solid work defensively.
Juan Cuadrado — 6.5. For stretches of the first half, Johnny Square was the only sort of threat moving forward, which tells you how serious the threats were in the first half.
Nicolò Fagioli — 6.5. Nothing terribly special, but nothing terribly terrible. This is the kind of game that’s kind of encouraging to see from a youngster, honestly.
Manuel Locatelli — 7.5. Good Locatelli was back. I like good Locatelli.
Enzo Barrenechea — 5. This game reminded me of some of the games Fagioli and Miretti experienced after breaking into the starting lineup: not great. If the kid has first-team blood in him, he’ll bounce back just fine.
Mattia De Sciglio — 5.5. Well, he certainly played some calcio out there, I think.
Moise Kean — 7. He gets a healthy bump because he scored a lovely goal. That’s got to feel good.
Arkadiusz Milik — 6. It wasn’t the best of games from our Polish friend, but it’s nice to see him healthy.
Fabio Miretti — 6.5. Miretti comes in, Miretti does a dope one-touch, no-look pass for a hockey assist, Juventus score. Nice job on Max for recognizing that the midfield needed a change and picking the right guy. I love the spaces Miretti finds on the field.
Angel Di Maria — 5. This was one of the poorest games we’ve seen out of the insanely good winger, to be honest. Hopefully he torches Inter out of anger.
Dušan Vlahović — 6. Fresh off a couple international goals, the big Serbian didn’t change the game or get much of a sniff at goal.
Filip Kostić — 6.5. It was good he rested, but boy is his presence missed when he’s not on the field. MDS offers about as much going forward as I do if you asked me to diagnose and fix something wrong with your engine.
It would’ve been nice to see Samuel Iling-Junior, and that was really my only personal complaint. I know he’s not really a wingback, but De Sciglio is just not the kind of player who should be seeing significant minutes, even against a team that’s going to be relegated. MDS, if we’re frank, should be relegated to Daniele Rugani status, and I hope Allegri sees this, too.
Otherwise, I think this was a fine display. Juventus probably got the best result Allegri could’ve asked for: all three points but something to bark about. Allegri worked well within the restraints imposed by injuries, rested the fellas he needed to rest, and moved Juventus up the table. It’s kind of hilarious how close Juve are to a Champions League spot despite a 15-point penalty. What does the #AllegriOut crowd think about it?
A Tuesday game against Inter: not something you see every day, but any chance at beating those clowns is worth taking.
No matter what happens in the Coppa Italia, I imagine that Allegri and the rest of the Bianconeri are probably most concerned with the Serie A table. If they can somehow, against incredibly difficult odds, secure a Champions League spot despite the penalty, that would surely be a boon for the future of the club. Even a top-seven finish would be an admirable response. No matter what happens, the team is on a good run with plenty of room left for improvement and consistency. Onward.