Unfortunately, the Sampdoria game went as expected and played out in the same vein as many matches from last season. Sans Angel Di Maria and Paul Pogba, the squad is pretty much the same and devoid of ideas and inventiveness. Filip Kostic on his own isn’t enough to solve that, although having two real wingers was a nice change of pace. The width will eventually come in handy, but the crosses are kind of pointless if there’s just one guy in the box. He should have buried that late chance, but obviously the blame can’t all be pinned on him.
The help is coming from the transfer market, with Arkadiusz Milik already under contract and Leandro Paredes next in line to join. Memphis Depay would have been a more exciting signing, although there are some economic elements involved we aren’t entirely privy to. He wouldn’t have been a deputy for Dusan Vlahovic, as Massimiliano Allegri has long resisted using a no.9 that isn’t tall and physical. But he would have been an intriguing weapon to use in multiple spots, with plenty of top-team experience, although he has stopped short of becoming a superstar.
Instead, the choice fell on the former Napoli marksman, coronating a multi-year chase that got delayed due to the Azzurri‘s determination to obstruct his move to Turin. He’s not a bad player by any means, and he’ll probably wind up surprising a lot of people. He’s really well-rounded and technical and has some traits that make him a strong second-fiddle, akin to Alvaro Morata. The real reservation is whether the management should have spent so much energy, but not money, on a secondary role that could was potentially already filled by Moise Kean rather than seeking more urgent reinforcements elsewhere.
With the Argentine possibly joining as well, it doesn’t look like a permanent switch to 4-4-2 is in the cards, which would have made the addition of Milik more logical. It will pop up here and there when the squad needs to score, which risks being often until the cavalry returns. Asking Paredes to fix all the problems would be unfair. The two box-to-box need to bring a lot more to the table; otherwise, the formation just doesn’t work offensively, and Vlahovic is left stranded. Moving Manuel Locatelli to such role could be beneficial, and he has been spending with Italy when given liberty. Another specialist wouldn’t have hurt in light of Pogba’s injury. Fabio Miretti provided a spark last week after being used only in a less dynamic role last season, and that is something to explore further. Nicolò Fagioli is also quite creative, but the gaffer seems to have made different choices.
Leonardo Bonucci is out again. If the gaffer didn’t trust Federico Gatti against a lowly opponent, it’s almost impossible he’ll do it in a crunch game. While Daniele Rugani held up in the past match, Danilo could play as center-back, with Mattia De Sciglio as a fullback. He’s also a candidate to replace Alex Sandro. There could be some changes in the midfield, with one of the prospects or Denis Zakaria sneaking into the XI for Weston McKennie or Juan Cuadrado, which would make the lineup odd-looking in the second case. Wojciech Szczesny is good to go, but Mattia Perin could stay on goal.
4-3-3: Perin; De Sciglio, Danilo, Bremer, Alex Sandro; McKennie, Locatelli, Rabiot; Cuadrado, Vlahovic, Kostic.
Pogba (meniscus tear), Di Maria (thigh strain), Bonucci (muscle fatigue), Chiesa (ACL tear), Kaio Jorge (patellar tendon tear), Aké (malleolus fracture).
The similarities between Juventus and Roma are quite striking, even down to recent events. They are both led by a veteran coach that was highly successful in the past and might be over the hill, although José Mourinho partly disproved that last season. While they weren’t exactly superb in Serie A, winning a trophy, even a minor one, in a team that hadn’t done it in a long time is an achievement.
Like the Old Lady, the Giallorossi didn’t have a large budget last summer, but that didn’t stop them from going after big-ticket names. They landed Paulo Dybala and Nemanja Matic on free transfers, and Andrea Belotti is forthcoming, Zeki Celik for a small fee, and Georginio Wijnaldum on loan. They haven’t been shy in targeting veterans, as their gaffer requests, focusing on short-term success rather than the future. Though, José Mourinho has been more capable of grooming youngsters than Allegri. They too have already been hit by multiple severe injuries, which is unfortunate. Gini fractured his leg in training, and they will have to wait until 2023 to see him in action. Nicolò Zaniolo just went down with a shoulder injury and will be out for a while. The fact that they have been able to keep him this summer is a slight surprise.
There’s one major difference between the two sides, which spills over to the pitch. The Giallorossi are brimming with enthusiasm emanating from the incredible passion of their fans. That has been the case since the Special One came to town, and their relative success fueled it. Instead, the Bianconeri, and their supporters, have the posture of a fallen noble that can’t quite grasp why they have ceased being successful and accept their new dimension.
The Portuguese gaffer concocted a daring scheme in the first two matches, with an assist from the favorable schedule, as Lorenzo Pellegrini moved to the midfield and Zaniolo, Dybala, and Tammy Abraham all together up front. The results were okay, even though it didn’t generate an offensive explosion. But the quartet bought in and worked hard, so there were no imbalance issues.
We will see whether that could last for an entire season, but that’s something for later on since the Italian starlet is out for this one. It will probably lead to a more traditional formation with two physical midfielders, Matic and Bryan Cristante, and Pellegrini in the hole, where he has been magnificent for multiple years. Deploying Stephan El Shaarawy would maintain the same configuration, but it’s a long shot.
Maybe they grabbed Dybala because they thought Zaniolo would eventually leave, but they can play together in a free-flowing frontline. La Joya performed pretty much as in his Turin days in the first two outings: a few flashy plays, a lot of movement, some inconsistency throughout the 90 minutes, and no end product. Bagging his first goal for his new team at the Stadium would be poetic justice.
Despite the number of attackers on the pitch, Mourinho remains a defensive-minded coach at his core, so the narrow results are no surprise. They have a ton of physicality in the back and throughout the squad. Despite that, their defense has the occasional blunder, either personal or collective, and they aren’t spotless if challenged. Whether the Bianconeri can do that after struggling against Sampdoria, it’s a big if. Their size helps them a lot on set pieces, where they are uber-menacing.
There’s a lot at stake for either team. Juventus already need points to keep up with the other Scudetto contenders. Roma will be looking for a statement result to prove they belong in such circle. Despite the optimism, the good vibes, and the reinforcements, going from 6th to 1st in one season is a giant leap.
3-4-1-2: Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Cristante, Matic, Spinazzola; Pellegrini; Dybala, Abraham.
Wijnaldum (tibia fracture), Zaniolo (shoulder sprain), Darboe (ACL tear).