There have been a good number of points through the first half of the 2023-24 season in which we’ve openly wondered what it would take to get Juventus’ strikers going again. It seemed like nothing but defenders or midfielders were scoring goals, with the two guys up front — namely Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa — not exactly lighting things up.
Talks of goal droughts, what to do with how Max Allegri loves to play and always having to have the cloud of corto muso hanging over us — it was just the same thing week after week even though Juve were winning after suffering their lone defeat of the season back in late September.
That same team that handed Juve their lone loss of the year, Sassuolo, was who rolled into Turin on Tuesday night as Allegri’s squad looked to keep their 2024 full of good vibes going.
And, lemme tell ya, those vibes are looking about as good as Clemenza’s meatballs and marinara sauce right about now.
The difference between Juventus and Inter atop the Serie A table is back down to two points after the Bianconeri’s 3-0 win over Sassuolo at the Allianz Stadium. It was not only the kind of Vlahovic-inspired win that cleansed a little bit of the lasting memories from the first time Juve played Sassuolo this season, but it was another example of how Juve have been approaching games a little bit differently in the new year. The goals were absolute things of beauty from Vlahovic to build a 2-0 halftime lead and then Chiesa to close any chance that Sassuolo had of coming back late in the second half. Throw in the fact that one of the major players in Juve’s horror show back in September, Wojciech Szczesny, made a pair of fantastic saves to keep Sassuolo off the scoreboard and you’ve got the makings of another quality win that suddenly has Juve looking about as dangerous as they’ve looked in ... years?
Maybe? MAYBE? MAAAAAAAYBE???
Throw in there that Inter off this weekend due to their participation in the four-team Supercoppa mini-tournament in Saudi Arabia, there is a very real possibility that Juve — albeit with one more game played — could be ahead of Inter in the standings when the two teams meet at the San Siro during the first weekend of February.
That is still two weeks away, though.
For now, we can enjoy the success — and goals! — that Juventus has only continued to show during the new year.
Let’s just do a quick dive into what Juve has done through their first four games of 2024:
- Fifteen goals scored
- Two goals allowed
For comparison sake, Juventus scored seven goals in five December games. They scored four goals in three games in November. They scored four goals in for games in October. It was corto muso to the core and Allegri, for the most part, seemed like somebody who was more than happy to have his team grind out win after win no matter if it was an opponent competing for a spot in the top four or somebody in the bottom third of the Serie A table.
But 2024 ... man, 2024 is hitting different.
OK, so the competition they’re facing has not been very good. Sassuolo, much like Salernitana and Frosinone before them, is nowhere near something you would call “very good form” or really anything close to it. But we can point to all of one or two months ago when this same Juventus team was trying to go 1-0 against these same teams and then having to scramble if anything else throws that plan of its axis.
That didn’t happen Tuesday night. Instead, it was Vlahovic scoring his seventh and eighth goals of the season in about as fine of a fashion as any Juve player has done all season. Sure, it’s not the hat trick that Arek Milik scored just a few days ago, but you look at the quality of those two strikes from the angles in which they came and it’s simply remarkable that those two goals — which had a combined xG of about 0.3 — were both successfully converted.
The audacity to try both of them from those two spots that weren’t so far away from each other. The skill and the simple curve on the ball it took to score both of them. The precise placement where they Andrea Consigli had absolutely no chance in saving either of them. Every bit of those two goals to give Juve the two-goal advantage was world-class kind of stuff.
It was just another quality showing in a January that has started in completely different fashion than December ended outside of the fact that Juve are still winning.
Now they’re winning and scoring more than one or two goals a game? Oh my!
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Personally, I liked this performance against Sassuolo much more than the last one. That’s just me, though. Feel free to disagree! I won’t hold it against you!
- (I’ll be here all week. Make sure to fill out your comment cards before leaving.)
- How I feel when Juventus has scored as many goals as they have through the first couple of weeks of 2024 ...
- LET’S TALK THAT TALK, PEOPLE. IT’S TIME. WE’VE GOT THE MEGAPHONE AND EVERYTHING. FRED CHURCH IS HERE TO LEAD US AS WE’RE LOUD AND PROUD. SAY IT FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK DAMMIT.
- Tim Weah’s reaction to Vlahovic’s free kick was great.
- Kenan Yildiz’s reaction to Vlahovic’s free kick was great.
- The whole stadium erupting in unison in reaction to Vlahovic’s free kick was great.
- It was a great free kick and one that deserved the reaction it got from Vlahovic’s teammates, coaches and Juve supporters alike. Just so, so good.
- I’m still just shaking my head in amazement that Vlahovic was able to score that free kick. The ability he had to sneak it in off the crossbar — with a kisssssssss! — was simply fantastic. This was the kind of night in which Vlahovic reminded everybody why Juve paid all of that money for him two years ago this month.
- The last four or six weeks has seen Vlahovic really take a step forward with his level of play. On this night he was rewarded with a pair of goals. Other games he’s gotten the deciding goal when Juventus needed it desperately. Hopefully this is the true turning of a corner we’re seeing from a player that is starting to make a big, big difference on the field.
- Sassuolo finished with three shots, two of which were on frame. Both saves Tek had to make in this game proved to be very good ones, especially the second one to keep Domenico Berardi from scoring. It was made even the more difficult with the deflection it took after Danilo and Szczesny having to immediately change which direction he was about to dive to. When you consider how the first game of the season against Sassuolo went, that save had to feel pretty damn good.
- Oh, we’re getting Fabio Miretti assists now? I’m all for that development.
- More Manuel Locatelli assists, too? Sign me up!
- This was just another great all-around game from Locatelli as well. He’s really taken a big step forward the last couple of months and is giving Juve some hugely important stability in the midfield. As much as things have changed around him with injuries and suspensions this season, Locatelli just continues to be a calming yet very important influence on this team.
- Another shutout with Daniele Rugani in the lineup. Don’t say it’s not a trend.
- Also, who else was surprised to see Rugani pinging a couple of cross-field passes out to Filip Kostic and Kenan Yildiz on the left wing? That was something I didn’t expect — at all.
- Bremer good.
- Danilo good.
- Juventus’ pressure to force a turnover that allowed Chiesa to score, also good.
- Funny how this is probably the quietest start Yildiz has had over the last month and he still had a couple of simply brilliant individual moves and nearly broke the ankles of a couple of defenders. I know I’ve said it a lot lately, but this 18-year-kid just wants to take your soul whenever he’s dribbling at you and it is very, very fun to watch. I’m happy he’s a Juve player.
- Juventus at home in Serie A this season: 10 games, eight wins, two draws, league-best 26 points. Yeah, that’ll play.