I felt an unearned sense of excitement ahead of the new season kicking off this past weekend.
There were very few additions to a squad that had shown severe flaws last season. The manager was the same, most of the players were the same and other than some decent showings in relatively meaningless friendlies there wasn’t a ton of evidence to support me being hyped for some Juventus football.
Yet, within two minutes, Federico Chiesa slotted in a surgical shot near the post to open his tally for the 2023-24 season and let out a celebrating roar that in many ways validated that hype.
Juventus thoroughly dominated Udinese away from home with a 3-0 win Sunday night that saw them author one of the better halves of football that we have seen in the Max Allegri 2.0 era. It’s way too early, but for a team that needed a strong start to shake off some of the malaise that was with them from last year, this game was just what the doctor ordered.
MVP: Federico Chiesa
Federico Chiesa has all the potential to become one of the best players in the world. That is as true today as it was before that fateful day in January 2022 when he tore his ACL at the Olimpico in Rome and lost close to a full year worth of games.
Despite coming back last season, Chiesa never really looked quite like the world beater we knew he could be. While he showed flashes of his immense talent, he looked at a lot of times a bit cautious — which, if you knew anything about Chiesa before his injury, was a pretty big red flag that he was not fully back just yet.
If Sunday’s game is anything to go by, though, it seems like the recovery process is done and the Chiesa of old is finally back. He was a menace all game long, nd despite playing nominally as a second striker he was give the freedom to drift to the left wing whenever he wanted. His easy chemistry with youngster Andrea Cambiaso out on the left created a number of dangerous chances.
It’s a cliche to say at this point, but a healthy Chiesa is almost like a new signing for a Juventus team that desperately needed someone with his creative profile. What a great first game of the season for him.
Runner Up: Andrea Cambiaso - From not knowing if he would stay with the team when the offseason started to being one of the best players on the field for the first game of the season. What a come up for the young Italian. As mentioned above, his chemistry with Chiesa was a treat to watch and the cross to assist Adrien Rabiot for the third goal of the game was elite. Juventus might have found themselves a keeper.
Is this real life?
The general vibe for the Juventus faithful regarding this game was pretty much the same for everyone who was watching.
- Man, this is fun!
- Man, is this for real?
To the first point, I think we all agree. That was fun. Juventus went out and did everything within their power to beat the allegations that they were a boring, offensively barren team in the opening 45 minutes.
There were very few remains of the anemic, pass it around and nothing else offense we saw last year. This team looked dynamic in synch and relentless as they smothered a Udinese side that looked completely helpless to do much. The team cruised during the second half, but hey, when you are up by three scores we can all live with some coasting I think.
Now, for the second part ... maybe? Udinese are far from a world beater, so there’s a legit argument to make that until they play like this consistently and against good opposition this team should still be under a microscope.
Then again, Juventus was struggling against everybody last year. They couldn’t even blow out even relegation battlers, so considering the bar, this is still a good enough display to elicit hope.
The injection of speed and creativity that came with Cambiaso and Tim Weah made that much-maligned 3-5-2 formation sing, and as mentioned above, getting Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic on the same page is a game changer as well.
I don’t think anyone should be crowning Juventus any time soon for literally 45 minutes of great football when we have a two — three? — year precedent of this team very rarely being consistent. That being said...
I want to believe.
When Filip Kostic was being thrown around as a name that could possibly depart the club, it felt like little more that the rumor transfer complex throwing things at the wall and hoping something would stick.
Kostic was one of Juventus’ more dependable players of last season and one of Max Allegri’s stalwarts. Hell, they played him so much that his form dipped dramatically as the season progressed thanks to the absolute brutal minutes load he was on. I didn’t think much of the rumors at first, if the 3-5-2 was staying it’d be crazy to part with your most consistent wingback.
Now, as we sit here after the first game of the season in which Kostic did not feature at all and a preseason in which he was used sparingly ... maybe there was more to the rumors than we could have thought.
The come up of Cambiaso and the lack of European football for Juventus might end up being the death knell for Kostic and what could end up being a very short stint in Turin for the Serbian international. It’d be risky for sure, Cambiaso looks talented but he is untested at the highest levels of Serie A and who knows if he can sustain this form through a whole season. Ditto for Samuel Iling-Junior, who could ostensibly take the mantle for Kostic if he were to leave.
Kostic is a one-trick pony, but he has shown that he can be a very effective one-trick pony when he puts things together. As the transfer season comes to a close, this is definitely something to keep an eye out for.
Parting Shot of the Week
JUVE IS BACK, BABY!
Ok, fine, had to get that out of my system.
We might not be back yet — or at all! — but this was a hell of a fun game to watch. That was something that we very rarely said last season. Serie A looks like it’s going to be a slugfest between plenty of teams who look poised to mount a challenge for the title, and if what we saw Sunday is any indication of what’s to come, there’s no reason Juventus can’t be in that mix.
Juve face Bologna next Sunday. That’s another team that is probably going to be playing in the mid-table all season. Back to back good wins, who says no?
See you Sunday.