I had suspected we would face a sterner test than league positions and recent results would suggest. For games against AC Milan are always something separate, beyond and apart from the general run of the league campaign. A different kind of honour is at stake, something noble, proud and majestic, for if there are two classic pillars of Italian football they are found in the ranks and history of these two clubs.
Whilst it was pleasing to welcome back Sandro, and also to see Rugani given his third start on the trot, I was less than convinced of the value of shoe-horning Pogba into the CMR role, when his best work has long been found in the opposite channel. The system we have most commonly deployed demands a different set of duties for that particular role, for our formation is never symmetrical. It is slanted. Much like Vidal, Khedira and Sturaro can both naturally adopt a box to box role, with a greater (or equal) emphasis on the defensive phase than the offensive stage of the game. Both are adept at screening the defence, with the German equally comfortable supporting in the final third. Pogba, however, is not as accustomed to the role.
And so it was Asamoah charged with the Pogba position, and the Frenchman asked to masquerade as Big Sami.
The game started at a lively pace. The hosts clearly setting their stall out to meet us thrust for thrust, jab for jab, Alex fouling Morata every 30 seconds, Pogba well marshaled and out of sorts. Neither side was in true ascendancy. Still, after a few early scares it came as no major surprise when Milan took the lead through a Balotelli corner plundered into the net for 1-0 by Alex. The marking was non existent with several Juve players flocking around Bacca at the near post leaving the Brazilian veteran free to head home. There had been warning signs of the danger of much maligned Balotelli, for Buffon had earlier saved a splendid free kick from the striker. I was increasingly impressed with Mario. His swift probing and flair remain potent, as does his pace.
Rather than let our heads drop, we continued to try piece together quality moving up the field. Lichsteiner found space and produced a half decent shot on goal. Marchisio also let fly from range. Remarkably, it was Buffon who produced the long ball from his own half which led to the equaliser. Mandzukic won the aerial battle, knocked the ball down to Morata who returned the pass which the giant Croatian despatched past the youngster between the sticks. Before the ref blew for half time, Lichsteiner again found good space in the box, yet his effort on goal was lame.
Early in the second period we were reminded as to why Buffon is rightfully considered a true legend of the game, assuredly on par with the best of all time. Bacca found space in the box, drove a strong shot towards goal which was superbly parried by Buffon, Balotelli on hand to apply the finish and yet from point blank range, Santo Buffon tipped the ball up and away to safety. The double save was truly remarkable. A superhuman feat.
We were growing in confidence. Our superior fitness or perhaps confidence driving the balance in our favour. A flurry of bookings for the home side coincided with Pogba finally hitting his stride. Finding himself in the 6 yard box, the ball had to be hit at an awkward angle, yet King Paul prevailed, bouncing the ball off the ground and over the despairing Donnarumma for 1-2.
After which the home side lost heart, the wind was knocked out of their sails.
Buffon – In immense form throughout. In fact without his expertise we would have drawn or lost. Saves from Balotelli, Bacca and commanding his box kept us in the game. At 38 years of age, Buffon remains world class. 9
Barzagli – Strangely subdued, yet came to life in the second half as did many of his comrades. 6
Bonucci – As with Barzagli, Big Leo failed to defend as resolutely as we have come to expect. No major mistakes, yet lacking the fierce drive which makes him an uncomfortable opponent for all who find themselves in his path. 6
Rugani – Given the pressure and spectacle, the youngster did well enough. He continues to pass through the rites of passage comfortably, if not always impressively. Did the simple things carefully and covered, tackled and intercepted as well as any other in the rear-guard. 6.5
Lichsteiner – Another who seemed lethargic, yet the Swiss Locomotive found several promising positions and was solid on the flank. Managed to suppress the normally more adventurous Bonaventura. 6.5
Sandro – I enjoy the brazilian more every time I see him play. Clearly missed Pogba in close attendance, yet stuck to his task, defended resolutely and bombed forward with zeal time and time again. His ball control is splendid as is his pace. 7
Marchisio – Quiet, yet worked damn hard as always screening the defence and attempting to keep the ball moving quickly and intelligently. Until he has a run of games without injury we are unlikely to see his best. 6.5
Pogba – A game of two contrasting halves for the gallic prince. Off the pace in the first 45, struggled to make any meaningful impact, other than a top drawer free kick which hit the post. Clearly collected his thoughts during the interval and emerged a different beast. Began to impose himself as the opponents tired of double and sometimes triple marking him. And once he found more space, it was only a matter of time before he made his technical superiority count. Well taken goal, superb second period showing. We need him to play in such a way for 90 minutes though, not 40. 7.5
Asamoah – After such a brilliant cameo against Empoli I was very much disappointed with the Ghanaian. Perhaps he was trying too hard? Running into dead-ends, losing the ball, his effort and eagerness not yet matched by his sharpness on the ball, which is to be expected of a player who has barely played this season. Great to have him back in the ranks and available, and I know he will come good soon enough. 5.5
Mandzukic – Took his goal smartly, toiled hard and was facing too many foes to conjure any other meaningful opportunities. Finally we saw some decent link-up play between the Croatian and the Spaniard! 6.5
Morata – Battered, tactically, by Alex until he earned a yellow card. Found it very tricky indeed to turn and explode with lightning pace and menace, as his minder was always supported by fellow henchmen blocking a path to open space. Worked himself into the ground, though never truly sparked into life. Smart enough to assist the goal. 6.5
Zaza – Earned his trademark yellow card, other than which offered nothing of value other than appearing aesthetically a cousin to Alex. 5.5
Cuadrado – N/A
Evra – N/A
Aside from the two goals we scored and the manner in which we took control of the game after taking the lead, it must be said that Buffon was by far the busier keeper. In fact, he was the difference more than any other in black and white. Milan were impressive. And we were not far shy of lackadaisical – albeit in patches – for much of the first half.
Balotelli, despite suffering from obvious fatigue, displayed more technical ability and flair than I have seen in any of those chosen by Conte as the attacking options for the EUROs. It is a shame, in many ways, that Il Mister is so pig-headed, for even a barely half fit Balotelli troubled our defence more than most others of his ilk have managed this season. He has astonishing talent. And I can but still hope against reality and my conclusion of Conte, that he will make the cut for France. I believe we need him.
I was also impressed with Alex. Reminded me of Cannavaro, who was a cultured thug of the highest calibre in his heyday. Sinisa clearly set out his tactics to stifle and stride forward with Mario as the fulcrum of creativity. Our key creators of Pogba and Morata found very little space in the first 50 minutes. It was not until their markers tired that we began to impose ourselves. Yet still only managed a slender victory.
We did enough to warrant the 3 points, which is what matters most. Played our part in an entertaining fixture and yet seem to have been struck in the process by yet more injuries. Morata’s stomach is not a serious worry, yet Asamoah was evidently hurt. Dybala continues to attempt to remedy his muscular strain and Chiellini? Who knows when he will return. Still, Napoli have Roma and Inter to face away, whereas we have only Lazio at home and Florence away to contend with as potentially tricky ties. Our journey to the finishing line appears at least on paper, slightly less taxing.
It seemed mildly odd that Allegri opted to deploy Asamoah, moving Pogba in the process, rather than play Lemina (or Sturaro) in place of Khedira. For as we have an option to sign Lemina for 9.5m before the end of April, would it not make more sense to give the lad a chance to impress before that date? Either we are negotiating with Marseille for another loan, we have decided to buy him, or we have decided to send him home. I have not seen enough of the player to make the call. Nobody has (other than the coaches in training) due to injuries. I could not even suggest where his best position lies. Yet 9.5m for a 22 year old who has shown great form in France, has suitors elsewhere and when fit, has performed well in our colours? Seems a steal and at worst a punt unlikely to lead us astray…
I am assuming that Pogba will remain, as will Morata. With this firmly in mind I will ponder the next stage of evolution for our squad.
Caceres, Zaza, Cuadrado, Hernanes and perhaps Padoin will leave. I would not be surprised to see Pereyra added to that list, yet given his season of injury, we will make a sizeable loss on his value in monetary terms.
Caceres, Zaza, Cuadrado, Hernanes, Padoin, (Pereyra).
Berardi, Saponara, Mkhitaryan, Vrsaljko, Benatia (or Tonelli) and one other, of an attacking nature.
Even assuming Pereyra will remain, as he most likely will, the other five changes will improve the squad hugely. Its up to Beppe and Fabio to make such moves, yet the signs are very positive. I have full faith in that duo.
If Lemina is sent home, we will have another space in the squad to fill. My instincts suggest he will stay put.
We have 7 games to play. The double is yet again within our grasp and bearing in mind we lost 3 established world class players last Summer, have suffered our worst series of injuries for the whole season, if we were to claim league and cup, it would be a tremendous achievement.
Next weekend’s matches at the top could well prove decisive. We have Palermo at home whilst Napoli travel to Inter. Despite Fiorentina’s wretched form, they seem unlikely to be caught by Milan or Sassuolo for the final European place. Further down…it would be interesting to see Carpi survive and Palermo once again head down, and who knows eh…perhaps Juve can thereafter reunite Vazquez with Dybala!
I dont see the point of adding both Saponara and Mkhitaryan. I agree with Vrsaljko and Berardi looks very likely to come. Benatia should come only if it is on loan though so we can properly assess him, as he has been a shadow of his former self at Bayern. I still think we must add a world class CAM, but then it will be difficult to fit Berardi in the starting XI, so instead I would push for another world class CM to play on the right side (Gundogan maybe), unless Khedira can somehow prove that he is capable of lasting a whole season. More than anything though, I have trust in Paratici and Marotta to find the right players they think will push us to becoming real CL contenders.
Potential starting XI 2016-17 (4-3-2-1):
Buffon; Lichtsteiner-Bonucci-Chiellini-Sandro; Gundogan/Khedira, Marchisio, POGBOOM; Berardi-Morata; Dybala
It is always preferable, ideal even, to have two players competing for the same spot. Normally there is a more established player and an apprentice/challenger.
I cannot see Hernanes staying, and we are perennially linked with trequartistas and attacking midfielders. Perhaps Pereyra will also be moved on, as he has been ever so poor since returning from injury. Which would leave two spaces for two AMs.
I would hugely prefer Tonelli over Benatia, for the italian knows the league, has enjoyed a sterling campaign, is used to playing alongside Rugani and would not be expecting to instantly displace one of the three established veterans, all of which I expect remain first XI players next term, unless that is we truly morph into a back four. Still, Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini would be the first 3 in line for the 2 positions I assume.
Berardi indeed with Cuadrado heading back to London. A move which makes perfect sense on many levels for Berardi is of far greater potential, a tender age and italian.
I highly doubt we can afford the Armenian. The most consistent creator of goals in the bundesliga will have far richer suitors in the premiership. Spurs, Arsenal, Man City could all pick him up ahead of us and offer champions league football and a fight for domestic honours. Below them, Liverpool and Man united might be able to offer some european football, and can both easily outspend us. Chelsea offer no Europe, but again, will trounce any offers we make for layers they like.
As I wrote here…
From next season onwards, if we continue to win Serie A, our domestic league TV revenue (huge part of our income) will be in line with the the bottom ranked Premiership side. Absent of a lengthy Champions run, this is going to alter the buying power of Juve and other Italian clubs considerably.
Players will simply be able to get much higher wages in the premiership, even at those teams nowhere near European competition.
Our allure remains bright in terms of prestige, history, tradition and the current crop of players. Also the opportunity to challenge in Europe. However, in the money stakes, we remain barely in the top ten clubs and this is assuredly going to change. Which makes our recruitment policy of ever more immense importance.
Serie A has become a stepping stone financially speaking, and the stone is getting nearer the shore and smaller year upon year, with boulders appearing nearby…
The only positive is that there are a finite number of spaces at the richer clubs. Man City do not have room for 10 LBs. Arsenal cannot field 8 CFs. Therefore we get more viable access to their off-cuts or those a step behind their own desires. Or those who have long dreamt of playing for Juve since childhood…but then again, player of that ilk are thinning out, for their dreams are bought out by the mega millions of the Premiership.
Pastore and Isco are other options for the trequarista/ ACM role. The Argie is the cheapest, the Armenian the most impressive, the Spaniard somewhere in between…for it’s easier to play fancy feet in La Liga, than in Italy.
There is also Bentancur worth a mention who is enjoying a solid season with Boca and other decent sides have been sniffing around of late. We do have an option on the player…
Thank you for your detailed response. I’m always impressed by how well you articulate your thoughts, and I can only envy your passion for this club.
While I understand how frustrating it can be when mediocre teams in the Premier League are able to offer higher wages than us, I’m not too fussed about it. It makes sure that whoever does come to us actually wants to be there. Otherwise we would be a club like Arsenal. Full of talented players no doubt, but not with any real incentive to be champions. We are fortunate to only have players who care, and we should continue to invest in those players.
Berardi is an Interista, and this is a trait far more despicable than his knack of getting yellow cards and getting suspended for doing stupid things on the field. Do you think that would partially affect his desire to perform to his maximum for us? I’m very certain it won’t, but I would like your opinion.
Also regarding the AM situation, I think only high class players will suffice, which is why I am against Saponara at the moment. Isco/Gotze/Mkhitaryan would be nice, but I understand that actually getting them is much trickier in real life.
My 25-man squad for next season, based on us playing a 3-5-2/4-3-1-2/4-3-3 would be this:
GK: Buffon, Neto, Audero
Def: Licht, Vrsaljko/Darmian, Leo, Barzagli, Giorgio, Rugani, Tonelli/Benatia/Caceres, Sandro, Evra
Mid: Lemina, Sturaro, Khedira, Marchisio, Asamoah, Pogba, Pereyra, Isco/Gotze/Miki
Att: Dybala, Morata, Mandzukic, Berardi, Zaza
Great to collide and collude, ADP!
I do not know of all juve players as juve fans from boyhood. In fact I know of few stories of players playing for their boyhood club at the top level. And so for me, it comes down to how serious Berardi is as a professional footballer. Rooney was and remains a life-long Toffees fan yet left them for dust when a greater stage was offered. I suspect that such allegiances do not come into play in thought or action during a game against their boyhood clubs, other than perhaps through avoiding celebrating a goal against them. Out of respect.
In saying that, given the rightful animosity between the two clubs, justified as it is on our part by the horror-show calciopoli routine instigated by Moratti and his pals, I cannot help but wonder if signing for us may prove a betrayal of sorts for the young mind of Domenico. Still, I side with reason and find it illogical that a move to the champions, a stage to perform on the grandest level would go amiss due to allegiances off the field.
It made sense in the past to leave him be, to further develop, to level out, yet there seemed more than loyalty to Sassuolo in the payer’s words. It didn’t seem a case of ‘Sassuolo got me where I was and I will stick by them until the right time to leave for Juve’. Perhaps the words were close to this, other than the mention of Juve, yet they seemed stern. Strident. Almost defiant of the opportunity afforded him.
I hope I am mistaken with such inklings. For Berardi is young, has such room for development, knows the league and is Italian. And is already a fine talent.
Isco/Gotze/Mkhitaryan? Any of which would be immense, yet I feel we will end up with Vazquez. And Saponara. Which will still provide improvement in terms of quality.
Dont forget Valencia’s Gomes, who is apparently also a target for us. Same goes for Dragovic of Kiev, Witsel of Zenit and well a whole bunch of less reported deals xD
I really hope to add Berardi to the ranks, he adds another creative dimension. A RB to challenge Lichtsteiner too and a class CM/CAM.
Indeed, comrade…there are other names linked. I was focusing on the main targets, as wanted to move on – in the comments section – to further debate about the competition we face for our top targets and why.
We seem to work, as most clubs probably do, on an A-D ranking of players ear-marked for each position we wish to renovate. Fabio and Beppe do most their work before the end of the season, working out who we can get, what price, other interest, likelihood of success, sounding out each and every option as carefully as possible. However, with the EUROs coming up, a lot of players know they will be in the shop window, for a decent showing in the tournament could raise their value and in turn the wage they can find and the club they can sign for.
The RB area seems focused upon A. Vrsaljko, B. Widmer, C De Sciglio and D.? Perhaps the Milan lad is D! I hope so.
Clearly our most pressing issues are –
1. Securing Morata. I was discussing the latest rumours on this with the Chief earlier and agree that if we have to fork out another EU20-25m he will be worth the money.
2. A RB, hence the aforementioned crowd.
After which, there is the Lemina story to deal with. Hernanes to be replaced through the search for a top drawer AM/trequartista and perhaps another CB. Also the midfield, elsewhere though I suspect only one major addition and perhaps Mandragora?
Yes yes! The Berardi question will also be answered.
All I can hope for is season upon season of improvement. Trust in Beppe and Fabio!
Always such a joy to read TGP’s thoughts, post match – I find myself looking at the game in a different way, often reassessing how a player might have performed or looking at the game as a whole, in a different light.
First of all, i’m glad to see Rugai got a fair rating – The italian papers were unfairly cruel to the young defender, largely based on his heading out the ball for a corner that ultimately led to us trailing early on. Put that aside and you’ll be hard pressed to see a more assured young defender in the world today. He has grown in stature and confidence, all under the expert tutelage ofofof Allegri, and of course the BBC wall that we call the Juev defence. Rugani kept Bacca, Milan’s main attacking threat this season, so guarded that i barely remember seeing him create anything of note. Bravo Daniele – This young man is a player on a quick rise.
I;m also inclined to agree RE: Pogba playing CMR – I know Allegri knows best….but when Lemina and Sturaro are fit, surely they should be first in line, ahead of Asmoah, who, despite my respect for his efforts, seems a player one match away from another injury. Surely it was better to let him rest and fully recover this season with a view to either selling him the summer or possibly using him as part of a transfer…..or possibly even keeping him. Granted, it was a game against Milan and perhaps the decision was based on experience……but still, it’s not the same Milan. They are prone to fits of fine form before capitulating under the weight of the club name…..or more likely some unwarranted interference from Zio Fester and the pervert Berlusconi.
I digress….Pogba should stay on the left where he works so well in tandem with Evra or Sandro – there’s a harmony there – I’d argue that it’s the safer and more reliable of our two flanks because of that understanding – I adore lichty, but at times, the right side seems a little rigid and unimaginative…..but thats a rarity in a team where we’re spoiled for choice at present.
Moving on the mercato…..well perhaps i’ll save that for another day, sufficed to say, the rumour mill is churning out all kinds of bs already – how much of it can we believe? The only player i am reasonably confident of arriving is Berardi – I’d love the likes of Isco and Gomes to be realities….but that PL monster is always lurking in the background, ready to throw money at any young talent that might look their way. Sigh. these are the times we live in……..I’m suddenly reminded of Mario Lemina…..it may be early to say….but i am inclined to redeem the young man’s contract and bring him to Turin. I love players that do simple things and do them well – Lemina is the perfect example of a young player who learns quickly – One flashy game at the start of the season made way for a composed performance where he showed a little of Vidal mixed with a little of Pogba….and a style of his own. The goals were also quite decent as a i remember (Napoli and Atalanta) – I feel there’s a lot more this kid can offer and the price seems a steal in these heady times.
Palermo await us next weekend – Once again, not a straight forward game….but my hope is young Dybala is back on the pitch and doing what he does best.
FORZA JUVE !!!!