It was Wednesday or Thursday that I remembered at what time in Italy that Juventus’ showdown against Lazio kicked off. Because the last few years of Juve watching has been tough, you could probably understand why my first thought was “This game kicks off at six in the morning where I live and there’s the potential for a really bad Saturday even before breakfast.”
Ahhhhhh. The mind plays tricks on you sometimes, doesn’t it?
This turned out to be the opposite of a bad Saturday at all, folks.
Instead, we saw Juventus go out and pass their first big test of the 2023-24 season with flying colors Saturday afternoon. Not only did Juve come out and set the tone against Lazio, but they absolutely took it to the same team that had just handed the first loss of the season to the reigning champions on the other side of the international break. Thanks to a Dusan Vlahovic brace and Federico Chiesa’s left-footed goal out of nowhere, Juve built an early two-goal lead and locked up a 3-1 win over Lazio at the Allianz Stadium, making a statement of their intentions for what might be to come when things are going right.
(Throw in the fact that Ferrari went P1 and P3 in quali at the same time Juve was kicking off the second half and you’ve got a good sports Saturday indeed.)
It was a complete performance. It was an inspiring performance. It’s the kind of performance that we had been waiting a whole lot of weeks and months for. Juventus, outside of one bad giveaway, did what they needed to do in defense. They were dangerous in attack whether it was through the high press early on or the counterattack as time went on. The much-maligned midfield delivered the goods and had all of the pieces working in unison.
This was the kind of performance that Juve needed to start to make folks a believer that this team is not just a competitor for the top four but maybe, just maybe, something greater knowing that there’s no European football this season and Max Allegri can solely focus on Serie A and actually have time to train his team during the week. There’s no game-every-three-days grind or Thursday-Sunday grind because of Europe. It’s domestic ball only, folks.
And you’d probably like your chances against just about anybody in Serie A with the way that Juventus played against Lazio.
That’s how you make a statement. That’s how you make a statement right before the two teams that are currently atop the table are about to slug it out at the San Siro.
It might not have been something that you considered knowing how both teams went into the international break. It’s not like Juve were struggling by any means, but it’s not like they were flying high like they were in their season-opening win over Udinese. Throw in the fact that Lazio seemed to have snapped out of their early season funk two weeks ago against Napoli and you had the makings of something that could have gone not so great.
Instead, it was great.
Am I reacting too much to the moment in saying this is probably one of the best performances of Allegri 2.0? Who knows — maybe! But when you see just how different and new ideas have made Juve more dangerous, how a healthy Chiesa has made Juve more dangerous and how a confident Vlahovic is looking so full of confidence, there are good things stacking up one on top of each other.
When that happens, wins like Juve just recorded against Lazio take place.
That’s how you announce that the past struggles and past drama — either from last season or the last week — is not going to derail what you’re trying to do in the present and that you’ve turned the page and started anew.
This was a Juventus that did so much right, and I honestly am struggling to remember when the last time I had that kind of thought process after a game. It was that good.
One way to ensure that you can get through a Juventus game while on just a couple hours of sleep? Play like that. My goodness. No bad sports Saturday happening here. It’s just about the complete opposite. That was fun.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Lazio had nearly two-thirds of the possession and lost 3-1. Whomp, whomp!
- Lazio finished with nearly two-thirds of the possession yet Juve had more shots (17-16). Whomp, whomp!
- I could really do that all day. This is a day in which you do it.
- It really is amazing how much a full Curva Sud makes at the Allianz. That homefield advantage was back, the singing from start to finish was back, the atmosphere was back. It’s been a while, but the Allianz felt like the Allianz again.
- Dusan Vlahovic scoring a goal in the kind of fashion he did to open the scoring sure does get the blood pumping a little more at just after six in the morning than it was at kickoff.
- If you thought Fabio Miretti’s yellow was kinda cheap, the one against Bremer early in the first half was even more of that. The ref totally bit on Ciro Immobile’s flop, and that meant Bremer had to play on a yellow for the next 80-plus minutes.
- Wojciech Szczesny’s first save of the day — pretty good!
- Somewhat related note: Tek’s green keeper kit against Lazio ... tough on the eyes.
- Weston McKennie may not be a wingback to the core, but the work he did in the build-up to Federico Chiesa’s goal sure was damn important. Same goes for Vlahovic’s opener, too.
- Thank goodness Adrien Rabiot just decided to leave it off for Chiesa and get out of the way. If Rabiot he taken another touch on the ball, he’s either crashing right into Chiesa or dribbling around him and Juve’s probably still up 1-0 going into the half.
- Oh, and the assist on Vlahovic’s second goal of the day? Yeah, Wes was great on that, too.
- And no, the ball didn’t go completely out as McKennie hung on for dear life trying to keep it in. Serie A has the technology to check that kind of stuff — surprisingly since, you know, Italy is Italy — and they needed all of it to make sure that was still inbounds.
- Juventus xG through 30 minutes: 0.44.
- Juventus actual goals through 30 minutes: 2-0.
- Lazio clean sheets last season: 21.
- Lazio clean sheet so far this season: 0.
- I mean, of course Nicolo Rovella and Luca Pellegrini were brought on for a double change to start the second half. That’s just the perfect way for them to be brought into this game.
- Andrea Cambiaso’s giveaway on Luis Alberto’s goal — not great!
- Luis Alberto’s shot on Lazio’s goal was a thing of beauty. Credit where credit is due. That was an absolute peach.
- Max Allegri’s reaction to Cambiaso’s giveaway pretty much said it all. It’s like he knew that something bad — like allowing a goal — was about to happen. And it did.
- Luis Alberto also had seven key passes. What a player.
- Good thing Vlahovic and Juve as a whole responded the way they did because seeing Lazio cut it to 2-1 with 25 minutes to go could have made for a very nervy finish.
- Manuel Locatelli was great against Ukraine midweek. He was great again against Lazio. Hopefully these two performances within a matter of days get the confidence going because Juve need an in-form Locatelli so freakin’ bad.
- Immobile had one more shot attempted than I did on Saturday. Bremer had him on lock.
- Federico Gatti is an absolute bull in a china shop and I love him for it.
- Gatti and Vlahovic are Juve’s version of the Bash Brothers. Just a couple of big dudes who seem like they’d be one heck of a hang after a win like this one was.
- Tim Weah is fast.
- Suck it, Sarri.
- How about we all do this again next Saturday against Sassuolo? That sounds like a great plan to me. Hopefully you agree!