Max Allegri tried to warn you all. He tried to warn you that Lecce, no matter their overall position in the league table, were going to be a tough go of it on their home turf. They proved it during the first half of the 2023-24 season and they were going to be no different this time around, according to the veteran Juventus manager.
And for the opening 45 minutes on Sunday night, that warning was very much being felt.
But as has been the case to begin the 2024 calendar year, Juve have just felt inevitable.
That coincided with another run of good form continued in Puglia: Dusan Vlahovic’s hot streak in front of goal that has carried over Christmastime into the new year.
Vlahovic scored his second brace in less than a week, propelling Juve from the first-half doldrums to a second-half performance that looked a lot like what his team has been doing a lot in 2024. The end result, with a Bremer-themed cherry on top, was a 3-0 win and three points that sent Juventus to the top of the Serie A table with Inter off for the weekend and in Saudi Arabia for the Supercoppa. It also extended what has been an absolutely stunning start to the new year when it comes to Juventus’ goal scoring total mainly because they weren’t winning games like this all too often through the first half of the season. They’ve now scored 18 goals in their last five games and pushing for a second and third goal in games with the kind of ferocity so many supporters have been waiting for.
Not only are Juve now in first, but this win means they’re now a whopping 19 points ahead of Atalanta in fifth place, albeit with the latter having a game in hand.
That’s just crazy to think about knowing how much of the season is still left to be played.
It shows just how unpredictable things have been from third place down to ninth or 10th and also just the simple fact of how, while sometimes not looking all that great, Allegri just continues to pick up win after win after win more often than not.
Juve have now won won five straight league games and seven in a row in all competitions. It’s the second time this season they’ve put a winning streak of at least five games together, the first getting underway a couple of weeks after they suffered their lone loss of the season in late-September.
But after a first half in which Juve really looked disjointed and struggled to do much of anything — the two teams combined for all of two shots on target — the good vibes weren’t exactly flowing in full force like they had been in the first four games of 2024. It was looking like it was either a slim victory incoming or a case of dropping points against a team in the bottom half of the table. A 3-0 win? Nahhhhhh, not even with how many goals Juve have scored lately did it seem like that scenario was going to play out.
And yet ...
Once Vlahovic got the ball rolling and scored a volley in the same kind of fashion that Angel Di Maria did a season ago — you know, where it’s not struck all that well but it proves to be incredibly effective — to open the scoring. The lead was doubled less than 10 minutes later, although Weston McKennie will surely have something to say about who really deserved the goal. (And I hope he reminds Vlahovic of it!)
The second-half brace were Vlahovic’s fifth and sixth goals in his last five Serie A appearances.
Not only have Juve waken up offensively, but Vlahovic has done the same just as those who were starting to wonder about where he fit into the club’s future again.
These things seem to be connected. Funny how that works out, right?
But the biggest thing to take away from this night outside of the simple fact that Juve’s now in first place for more than just a couple of hours is just how they win it. This was not a case of the wins lately where they struggled for the opening 10 or 15 minutes and then went off and running. Juve were legitimately not good for the entirety of the first half, yet they were able to shake it off at the half and got back to being the Juve of 2024 right out of the break. And off they went because of it.
Allegri knew of the dangers of playing at Lecce on their home turf — only Napoli and Torino had won at the Via del Mare this season — and his team responded in a way that only seemed to confirm that they are going to be serious players in the Scudetto chase. I mean, they are in first place as we head into the final weekend of January after all.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- This was Allegri’s 300th win in Serie A. The final score was 3-0. The only thing more appropriate would have been corto muso with an 88th-minute winner from a defender.
- But it is nice to see Max adding lungo muso to his corto muso bag of tricks.
- Allegri wanted a clean sheet away from home, and he got it. That’s more like it from the defense. It’s always good when Wojciech Szczesny’s final save total involves nothing that was all that difficult to try and stop.
- At this point, I’m struggling to figure out what Weston McKennie has to do to get a goal this season. On this night, he not only had Vlahovic tap in his would-be goal after a really nice header to the back post, but also a header cleared off the line in the first half. So much of this season has been about the collective whole contributing to the goal scoring numbers rather than simply one dude scoring 40% of the team’s goal tally, so it’s surprising that McKennie has gotten one to his name with all of the chances he’s had. It’ll come at some point, but if there’s anyone who deserves a goal it’s most definitely Wes.
- Credit where credit is due: Filip Kostic’s cross to McKennie on Vlahovic’s second goal was an absolute dime from the right wing. What do we need to do to get more of that from him?
- Speaking of very nice assists: The free kick from Samuel Iling-Junior on Bremer’s goal was pretty nice, too. Same goes for Andrea Cambiaso playing the ball across the face of goal on Juventus’ opener.
- Basically what I’m trying to say here is that Juve’s crossing that set up goals on this day were all pretty dang nice.
- Something else that was really nice: the entire counterattack on Juve’s first goal. The ability to break that quick, for Kenan Yildiz to bring the ball down the way he did and create the initial shot and then for Cambiaso to jump on the rebound that quickly. It was all just so good and had the Lecce defense just so incredibly stretched.
- Here is a very important stat for you to consume:
2 - Dusan Vlahovic is the second Juventus player in the last 50 years to reach double figures in goals in two consecutive Serie A campaign before turning 24 – the first was Paulo Dybala. Prodigy.#LecceJuventus pic.twitter.com/e05yU95pGg— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 21, 2024
- So I have a question to ask after you have read that Opta stat tweet: Is that good? Because Vlahovic doing that seems pretty dang good. Especially the “in the last 50 years” part of it.
- I know I’ve said it a lot lately, but Cambiaso just continues to do stuff that helps Juventus win games. Some games might be better than others, but he is just making important plays and passes at important times, the latest being his assist to Vlahovic on the opener.
- Who led Juventus in clearances? Bremer.
- Who led Juventus in blocked shots? Bremer.
- Who led Juventus in interceptions? Bremer.
- Who led Juventus in tackles? Br ... nah, just kidding. It was Danilo.
- But that doesn’t take away from the game Bremer had defensively. And his goal, the dude GOT UP on that goal. Just another night of Bremer being freakin’ awesome.
- Juve’s defense on the whole was very good and I enjoyed that.
- Is Alex Sandro the new Juventus victory cigar? I think at this point of his career, it’s an appropriate kind of role for somebody who is 32 years old and probably leaving in a few months.
- I, personally, like when Juventus is in first place. Especially when it’s ahead of Inter. By the next time Inter plays a league game, Juve could be four points ahead and it’s not like Fiorentina are an easy out these days. Things are going to be very, very interesting the next few weeks, my friends. I hope you’re ready for it all.