I’ll tell you what ... Sassuolo’s highlighter yellow kits were not the worst thing on the field on Saturday night at the Mapei Stadium.
In Juventus’ first loss of the season, a 4-2 final scoreline against Sassuolo, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. There’s just a not a ton you can do when your starting keeper gift wraps the opposition two goals and allow a hockey style open net own goal.
This was one of those bury the football, burn the tape, forget about it and move on type of games if I’ve ever seen one.
LVP: Wojciech Szczesny
There’s no other candidate really. Not because the rest of the team had a particularly good game — far from it — but more because Woj had one of the worst games he’s had as a Juve player and perhaps his whole career.
I’ve been debating which one of his glaring mistakes was worse, but I can’t really decide. Sure, the first goal Sassuolo scores is the most obvious one. Armand Laurienté unleashed a pretty straightforward shot that was looking for the top corner but that didn’t quite curl enough to present much of a challenge. Woj jumped in the air and couldn’t decide whether he wanted to corral it or bat it down and ended up doing neither as he just got tangled with the ball and allowed it into the net.
That’s deflating, sure, the game is just starting and you allowed a goal on Sassuolo’s first chance of the game but there’s still plenty of time. Which is why I’m inclined to put more weight on the second huge blunder of the evening as just minutes after Juventus drew the game up 2-2, Laurienté unleashes another long range effort which should have been easily parried away. Which, to Woj’s credit, he did, but he did so right at the path of a completely unmarked Andrea Pinamonti who easily headed the ball into the net on the rebound.
I’m no goalkeeper coach, but I’m pretty sure that parrying shots to anywhere but the middle of the box is Goalkeeping 101.
This is not even counting the own goal heard around the world by Federico Gatti in which Woj definitely plays a part in as well by making a completely unnecessary, ill advised cross pitch pass to the aforementioned Gatti who - granted - panics and mishandles it to completely kill any shot Juventus had of saving some points.
It’s usually pretty hard to blame one guy exclusively for a loss, but this time it’s really not much of an exaggeration. Woj cost the team this game.
Consistency and Execution
More than anything, consistency and execution are the traits that make successful league campaigns.
You can always ride a hot hand, some luck and some favorable matchups and maybe win a cup here and there. But when it’s over 30 matchdays it’s all about being able to be consistently good in order to mount a challenge. After Juve’s great display of last week, the thing they needed the most against Sassuolo was to follow it up with another solid display.
They did not.
Pretty much every single player on the field had a bad game. Bad passes, rough first touches, a complete inability to put the ball on goal. You can survive one or two players having a bad night, it happens. It’s really hard to survive it when most of the starting eleven is simultaneously screwing the pooch.
Once again, this is not about tactics — the approach remains the same as it has been all season and it led to a ton of dangerous opportunities and approaches that were just frustratingly being wasted over and over again. That’s how you end up with 15 shots on the game but only two of those being on target.
The nadir was perhaps Dusan Vlahovic — who was extraordinarily clinical last week — getting a free run into the box with as easy a look as you’ll ever see ... only for him to scuff his shot right next to the post and out of the field.
Until Juventus can nail their execution and finally find consistency, this is a team that has the talent to challenge for titles but won’t be anytime soon.
One of the only Juve players who showed up to Mapei Stadium was Federico Chiesa, as the one thing you can’t criticize him for was a lack of effort and grit.
That being said, we sure got one of the most chaotic Chiesa performances I can remember with all the good that comes with that ... and the bad.
First off the good. I’m ready to call it, I like the Chiesa as a second striker move. He is so much more connected to everyone else on the team and it allows him to attack from everywhere on the field. He is rarely isolated on the wing as he was so many times last year and that makes his impact all that much greater.
He scored his fourth goal of the season which bodes well for Max Allegri’s prediction about him needing to score around fifteen on the year and was an all around problem for Sassuolo almost every time he touched the ball.
Then again, it’s that balls-to-the-wall attitude that sometimes puts him in bad positions, too. He just did too much all game long which led to a lot of dumb cheap fouls while trying to make something happen and a lot of jawing with the refs that is going to cost him at one point or another.
The best example of what I mean is a play that happened in the second half in which after a Sassuolo clearance, Chiesa chased a ball right up to the touchline and slid to stop it from going out of bounds while passing it back to ... no one. This created a straight-up perfect counter chance for Sassuolo who could have easily taken advantage of it if not for a heroic Samuel Iling-Junior tackle at the last possible second to stop the home side.
You have to take the good with the bad and don’t get me wrong, the good far outweighs the bad with Chiesa but his best version is one that is much more focused in his efforts.
Parting Shot of the Week
I still like this Juve team.
They might not be as good as they looked last week but they are definitely not as bad as they looked against Sassuolo. Sometimes you have games in which everything goes wrong. Just forget this ever happened and move on.
Hopefully you won’t have too many games in which so many players put forth so many bad games forth at the same time. I hope so at least.
See you Tuesday.