I had planned on conjuring my analysis of the chaotic Carpi match from many pages of notes I made during the game. Yet all I find is the rabid rantings of a lunatic. Passages of writing which have no place on your screen which must be cast aside as some form of accident. I was drinking. Of Course. Still, the action remains fresh enough in my synapses to offer an outline for those who missed the game and points of discussion for those who witnessed the haphazard performance.
The match settled instantly into the hosts bedded into their own half, offering very little going forward, soaking up wave after wave of Juve possession. As is always the case when Cuadrado plays, we looked more 4-4-1-1 than 3-5-2 for he offers nothing defensively, and rarely tracks back to produce anything substantial in our back line. Carpi appeared awful. Bereft of creativity, technique and belief. Still…they were playing catenaccio, waiting to pounce.
Despite the early ascendency, it was the home side who took the lead. Cuadrado played a brilliant pass to the opponents when we had committed men forward in great numbers, which left us wide open for a swift counter-attack. In an split second, Carpi showed they could play. Bonucci was left with what seemed a simple blocking job against Borriello, who turned him and scored with a solid strike past Buffon.
The goal caused Juve to instantly move up the gears and within 3 minutes we were level. A rare piece of forward pressure from the largely absent Khedira releasing Cuadrado, whose ball in found the German, then Dybala and finally Mandzukic who turned brilliantly in the box before despatching the equaliser.
As we approached the half time whistle, Chellini found Evra on the left wing, who waited for support to appear centrally then chipped in a beautiful cross which Mandzukic attacked and powered an unstoppable header into the net for a deserved 1-2 lead.
Five minutes into the second half Marchisio spotted the run of Pogba and found the Frenchman in the box with a marvellous long ball from inside his own half which was slotted past the onrushing keeper for 1-3. And it looked like we had found our fourth on 62’ when Rugani stuck out a boot to poke a Cuadrado cross past over the line, yet it was rightly ruled out for offside.
Substitutions were made, the game was under our complete control with Carpi rarely trespassing into our rear-guard. And then…on 92’ Bonucci, under no real pressure, redirected a cross past Buffon for 2-3. Which led to a worrying final few minutes and Allegri rightly going berserk on the touchline.
Reasons to be bothered
Big Sami Khedira was virtually invisible throughout, other than his efforts for the equaliser. He is nowhere near match fitness, laboured with his running, barely showing in the final third, made few tackles and was carried by the team. This is not good enough for a central midfielder. He has to impose himself on the game, and if not fit, then don’t play. I was screaming for Sturaro to replace him, or Asamoah, anyone with some bite and tenacity, who loves to get involved. There is so much more to come from Big Sami, but this was his worst performance thus far in our colours.
Cuadrado is a right winger who can cross but do little else. He showed little flair, his dribbling was lame and as is always the case, he offered nothing defensively. Whilst he appeared a bright light in the dark days of earlier this season, I suspect that was more a case of others failing than wonderful play from the Colombian. He is a decent option as a right winger, yet has not at all done anywhere near enough to justify the reported 20m+ required to make his presence at the club permanent.
It has been a poor season for Leo Bonucci. His mind does not seem as focused, the passion in his belly less fearsome. As I have noted in recent times, the responsibility to bring the ball out of defence has moved to Chiellini, who is doing a fine job of that duty. Whereas Bonucci was an decent libero in recent seasons, so far this term, he has lost that ball playing focus, in fact his focus in general seems wayward. No surprise to see him score the own goal, which was poor and could of cost us more dearly than it proved.
As was our problem until the tide turned in November, we gave away cheap goals due solely to individual errors. These need to be addressed for we will be punished by stronger sides who will also offer more resistance to our attacking verve. As to how? The obvious suggestion is to drop from the side any players guilty of such errors. Give another player a chance to prosper and offer a rest, an opportunity to refocus for the error prone. This isn’t punishment, its simply a meritocracy. Those who perform well play more, those who don’t…play less. Unfortunately we do not have the capacity to rotate the CBs in this manner, for other than Rugani we have no seniors capable of stepping into the breach. I am assuming Caceres is to be moved on in January, and hope that in his place we bring in a CB. Or we could promote Romagna from the primavera…
Reasons to be cheerful
Mandzukic is improving game by game, showing now consistently why he was purchased. Not only his physicality and hard running but his touch and positioning in this game were both excellent. The Croatian is much more than merely a battering ram, although his brute strength is a major asset for the side. Pulling several defenders out of position whenever he strode forward and indomitable in the air. At this rate its going to be very tricky indeed for Morata to replace him in the starting line-up.
Pogba is slowly but surely returning to the heights he reached last year. His responsibilities are once again less cumbersome, which is in no small part due to the upsurge in form of Marchisio. His forward movement, link up play and goal all dripped with class. As for Il Principino…he was imperious, from start to finish, the fulcrum of the team. Close to the fabulous consistency of top drawer performances which made him by far, my player of the season for the last campaign. We missed him more than we could miss any other player during his injury bothers and its no surprise to see our fortunes dramatically improve soon after his return to the side.
Worth mentioning Rugani, who appeared in place of Barzagli, suffered a few nervy moments, but otherwise seemed solid. His second game in a week is surely great for his development and eagerness to find sharpness. I must add that Barzagli – especially when Cuadrado plays – is an odd CB/RB hybrid, covering both positions, which made Rugani’s job more tricky in this match. I’d like to see the youngster in the middle with Chellini and Barzagli either side. Where I feel he will be at his most comfortable.
This was our 7th league victory on the trot. A magnificent feat at any level for which Allegri and the players deserve praise. We are playing now like a side who expects to win, pounding opponents, applying constant pressure and finishing our chances. Many players are hitting full stride with more to catch up in the New Year. Whilst Dybala was tired and ineffective in this game, we must expect this at times given his age and his efforts during this most encouraging of runs have been phenomenal. We look a team to be feared, respected and ear-marked for glory.
Only the home game against Roma of our next 7 suggests any semblance of a worthy rival, which leads up perfectly to the Valentines Day massacre against Napoli…
Given the horrid start we had to the season, I believe that Allegri should be celebrated and applauded. Many others could have capitulated under the pressure. Yet the boss weathered the storm superbly, showed no signs of anything but belief that we would climb the table, encouraged and calmed the players and the results have come alongside improving performances. He is a very under-rated coach, even by our own fans, some of whom were calling for his head as recently as October! When you look around Europe at the top clubs, the top managers, Allegri is never mentioned. Yet he should be. We are fortunate to have him. And I have full faith in him to continue to drive this blossoming new Juve side onto bigger and better things.
The New year will bring more than a chance to recover energies and find nourishment in the festive cheer. It will also deliver a gift wrapped Pereyra, who could still prove a huge player for us this season. His ability in the final third to connect the midfield and attack is a mouth watering prospect to find at our disposal in January.
Before closing the 2015 book, I must add that our primavera, still marshalled by Fabio Grosso, confirmed themselves as Winter champions in the league yesterday, with a dominant 2-0 victory over Genoa.
Its onwards and upwards, on all counts…
Buon Natale and forza juve.