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Juventus 1 - Bologna 1: Initial reaction and random observations

That wasn’t what we were hoping for entering the weekend.

Juventus v Bologna FC - Serie A TIM Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images

So, what could Juventus do for an encore after last weekend’s big win over Udinese to open the 2023-24 season?

Unfortunately, it was a crash back to reality. That meant a lot of the same problems that we’ve seen the last couple of years, and a stark reminder that Juventus is still very much the flawed team we all pretty much expected them to be before a single minute was played this season.

Not even an improved second-half performance was enough for Juventus to get past Bologna on a rainy Sunday night at the Allianz Stadium. There really wasn’t much room to get any worse after a first half that saw Juve look completely out of whack and basically the polar opposite of what we saw in the opening 45 minutes just seven days ago. For all the good that happened to open the game last Sunday in Udine, it was a totally different story in Turin for Juve’s home opener — so much so that the sold-out crowd at the Allianz was rather grumpy as their favorite team headed into the locker room down 1-0 and looking all kinds of out of sorts no matter if it was in defense, midfield or attack.

They had good reason for it, too.

I guess if there’s anything positive to come out of this one it’s the fact that Juventus didn’t drop all three points when it looked like that’s the way things were heading.

Thank goodness for Dusan Vlahovic’s head. And Samuel Iling-Junior’s left foot. Those were good. The rest, though? That is where things gave you flashbacks to so many games from last season ... or the season before that ... or really any point of Juventus looking terrible ever since they last won the Scudetto.

It’s not an over-exaggeration to say just how bad the first half for Juventus was. They had a 60-40 advantage in terms of possession, but what they did with that possession was virtually nothing, which the 0.04 xG they recorded in the opening 45 minutes only confirming what your eyes saw. Vlahovic, a man known to not hide his emotions while out on the field, was completely isolated up top. The press was there, but the results that came out of the press last weekend wasn’t anywhere close to being replicated. The midfield was all over the place — and not in a good way. The defense, one that is prone to a mistake or two no matter how well Juve’s playing in other areas of the field, had one of those self-inflicted wounds to give Bologna the lead.

Even in the second half and Bologna doing nothing close to what you would consider attacking anywhere close to consistently, Juve still failed to put much on goal. Other than the Vlahovic goal that was called off due to VAR and the Vlahovic goal that stood because there was no need to VAR, the only shot that Juve had Łukasz Skorupski scrambling was Timothy Weah’s long-range bolt. Other than that, it was a lot of hoping and crossing and reverting to a lot of the same things we saw from this team last season.

That’s not what you want at all when you’re either chasing a lead or trying to break the tie.

But that’s what we saw Sunday, and luckily Vlahovic was able to get the goal that pulled Juventus even.

Coming off last weekend, there was so much hope that things could be changing for the better and that an improved product over last season might be in the cards. Yet, it didn’t take long to see that the start from Udine wasn’t being replicated in Turin and Juve’s same old problems were back again. Just like a year ago, a bright start in the first weekend of the season is now replaced a second weekend in which things took a big step backward.


  • I’m still trying to figure out what Alex Sandro was doing on Bologna’s goal. No matter if it’s the over-committing on the pass or trying to be the hero in his recovery only to go crashing into Bremer — who was not looking very good in the minutes after the collision — and leave the left side of the penalty area wide open for Bologna to take advantage of. Yep, all bad.
  • I initially thought it was on Andrea Cambiaso as well, but then when you see that it was just Sandro freestyling all over the place and it’s hard to blame the kid for not knowing what the hell was going on, too.
  • Sandro is the kind of player who is on a very diminished set of skills yet still plays the same kind of way that he did five years ago when he was in his late-20s and still considered a reliable player. He is not that now, but unfortunately Juve have no other left-footed players capable of playing on the left side of the three-man backline in this 3-5-2.
  • Oh, right. That Juventus midfield. Sheesh. That was a mess.
  • Not a great night for Manuel Locatelli, eh? When saying “not great” that might be putting it a little lightly, too — especially in the first half.
  • You know what’s disappointing? When Federico Chiesa doesn’t even attempt a shot. He was more involved in the second half, but that’s still not the kind of performance Juve need from their best offensive weapon.
  • Dusan Vlahovic had fewer touches in the first half (13) than both goalkeepers (15 and 17, respectively).
  • That header from Vlahovic on his header, though ... thing of beauty.
  • Samuel Iling-Junior’s cross on Vlahovic’s goal ... also a thing of beauty.
  • Adrien Rabiot being just barely offside (and potentially obstructing the keeper?) on what should have been Vlahovic’s first game-tying goal of the day ... not as pretty. (I understand it’s the letter of the law, but if he’s not obstructing the keeper — who didn’t complain one bit after the goal was first scored — then it’s just another reason to crash your head against the wall because of VAR.)
  • There were many frustrating things about this game, but seeing Rabiot commit stupid foul after stupid (and unnecessary) foul after being shown a yellow was toward the top of the list.
  • Filip Kostic, the man who led Juventus in assists last season, has not played a single second through Juventus’ first two games this year. If that’s not a sign that he’s on the transfer market, I don’t know what is. It’s too bad because Kostic is a good player, but there’s also financial things that need to be taken care of if the big boys aren’t going to be leaving.
  • I can understand Paul Pogba trying to do what he can to make something happen late in the game when you’re trying to get the win, but the tricks and flicks weren’t working today. Not one bit. And it’s especially more noticeable when you’re not landing those flicks and they’re resulting in turnovers in front of the penalty area.
  • On the other end of things: Pogba is also able to work himself out of a complete mess with four Bologna players around him and make the pass that set Iling-Junior loose on the left wing to set up Vlahovic. He’s just unique that kind of way.
  • I really don’t know how Bremer was able to continue after Sandro smashed into his lower leg because that was not pretty at all.
  • Yet, there was Bremer flying through the air on the header that was across the face of goal and hitting Vlahovic’s foot before VAR got involved and made us grumpy.
  • Of course, Bologna will be mad there was no penalty called on Iling-Junior late in the second half and I can’t say they’re totally unwarranted in that anger. That was a close one.
  • Nicolo Fagioli looked very much like a player who had absolutely no preseason and didn’t take part in any of Juve’s friendlies. He’ll be better as time goes on. This was not a good one, though.
  • Mattia Perin was not busy at all and that’s what makes this result all the more frustrating.
  • I miss last weekend’s performance. But, this is a Juventus managed by Max Allegri, so when things are good they always seem to come crashing back down to earth quite quickly.