Juventus had their second fully satisfactory outing of the season (after the Sampdoria one) against Dynamo Kyiv, quickly bouncing back from a lackluster performance in Crotone that cost two more points. Given that the title race could be tight, the Bianconeri need to go on a run in Serie A play to make up for the ground they lost so far. The schedule does ease up a little, but last week’s game was very feasible and there will not be much room for missteps. The squad is a work in progress and is hopefully bound to improve in each fixture as they learn the coach’s system and he makes adjustments.
The most positive development out of the Champions League clash was that, despite losing Giorgio Chiellini early, the defensive phase was much more stifling than what seen against Roma and Crotone. Despite the uptick in scoring across the League, it is still key to concede as little as possible and the way that side of the ball was operated before was simply unsustainable, as the opponents were allowed to have good chance after good chance. It starts with the back-line but it does not end there, as the whole team needs to take care of that aspect for it to be successful. Chiellini did not pick a major injury but will still be out for a couple of matches but, besides the gulf in charisma, there is not much separation between him and Merih Demiral at this point of his career.
Another encouraging sign is that Alvaro Morata got off to a brilliant star in the early days of his Turin comeback. He was still a puppy in the previous spell but, while it was a weird habit for him to be effective in Europe, he had never shown this kind of clutchness. Hopefully he will be able to keep it up and the difference with last year’s version of Gonzalo Higuain could not be starker. It remains to be seen how the fit next to Cristiano Ronaldo will go, but his arrival has been a boon so far. Furthermore, it is nice to see that Federico Chiesa got rid of the antics from his late Fiorentina days and simply put his head down and went to work. The red card was unfortunate, and a little harsh, but his motor and versatility are going to come in handy.
Next up for the Old Lady is a home clash with Verona, likely still without CR7 due COVID, while Weston McKennie was recently cleared and could make the bench either here or on Wednesday. Paulo Dybala will make his return to the XI as second-striker, replacing either Dejan Kulusevski, who could use a breather, or Aaron Ramsey, whose momentum luckily was not halted by the recent thigh issue. The Swedish starlet could also move to the flank, making up for Chiesa’s absence and playing in lieu of Daniele Frabotta.
The other doubt involves the central midfielders, which is going to be constant and will involve McKennie as well soon. Arthur begun on the bench Tuesday, so he should get the nod here: Rodrigo Bentancur is not all the way back yet after a slow start due to injury, but he offers the most upside out of anybody in that position. His growth and Dybala’s one will be crucial to raise the overall ceiling of the team.
3-4-1-2: Szczesny; Danilo, Bonucci, Demiral; Cuadrado, Bentancur, Arthur, Frabotta; Ramsey; Dybala, Morata.
Ronaldo (COVID), Chiellini (thigh), Sandro (thigh).
Verona have surely lost a lot of talent in the transfer market, but the machine has kept churning and in the first rounds they proved to still be at a superior level than the average relegation struggler after their top nine finish in 2019/2020, It looks like that the key man for the system to still be in place and function well is Milan Juric, which they found a way to retain.
Several of their top guys from last season have moved to greener pastures: Marash Kumbulla was poached by Roma, Sofyan Amrabat and Amir Rrahmani had already secured their moves to Fiorentina and Napoli last January and Matteo Pessina and Valerio Verre stayed at their respective clubs, Atalanta and Sampdoria, after productive temporary spells. Fabio Borini did not re-up his contract, while they let go Giampaolo Pazzini and Mariusz Stepinski.
It is a lot of turnover for one short transfer market window and they went with quantity over quality to replace who left, especially the five cornerstones. As pointed out by the manager himself, they perhaps missed an opportunity to build a new core as they invested a small sum compared to what they brought in and few of the newcomers joined on loan. However, they are surely in a better spot compared to a year ago, when they took a bunch of gambles and, credit to them, nailed most of them, they have more established players, but probably not as high of an upside.
They have been hit by injuries and COVID, some contributors only joined late and in imperfect physical condition, so the hierarchies have yet to be set in multiple roles. They are depleted at all levels: they are unlikely to have Mert Cetin, Koray Gunter, Pawel Dawidowicz and Giangiacomo Magnani in the back. They are fairly deep after the addition of Federico Ceccherini and they are giving good minutes to Matteo Lovato, a very promising prospect who was playing in Serie C up to ten months ago. Alan Empereur will likely fill out the back-line like last week: chemistry could be an issue.
The question mark in the midfield is the recovery of Miguel Veloso, who is a big hub and a quality set piece taker. However, it looks like they pulled off two quality purchases in Adrien Tameze, who was spent some time at Atalanta and Ivan Ilic, who was acquired from Manchester United. Tameze, like Ronaldo Vieira who was brought in from Sampdoria, provides the necessary amount of muscularity in the midfield, but he has above-average feet as well, while Ilic has already shown he can be a quality distributor.
Nikola Kalinic was a coup related to their caliber and, while he is not the most trustworthy player from the fitness standpoint, he adds a type a striker that they did not have. Juric often opted for a false-nine last year, now he has a mobile and experienced forward that should certainly be more prolific than Samuel Di Carmine. Andrea Favilli, who has not had a ton of success in Serie A, represents the more physical option.
A lot of their offense is generated by their dynamic flank game, powered mainly by Darko Lazovic, who has however been a little subdued to open the season due to a lingering knee problem. Marco Faraoni is more workmanlike but he is a factor as well and the cross from one wing-back to the other is a staple. Federico Dimarco has gotten good minutes as well and he is very gifted in the final third.
The rest comes from their two attacking midfielders: one is generally more of playmaker, usually Mattia Zaccagni or Antonin Barak, the other a slippery player that quickens their pace, leads the counters and tries to take advantage of the room opened by the teammates: Eddie Salcedo and Ebrima Colley both fit the profile and have a ton of potential. However, Tameze can also be used there to have a stouter posture and that could be the case here. BArak
Milan Juric is a Gian Piero Gasperini disciples so the principles are the same as Atalanta’s ones: a compact 3-4-2-1 that relies on intensity, aggressive pressure and where everybody participates to the offensive phase. They clearly do not have as much talent as the Bergamaschi, especially when it comes to attacking, and they do not take as many risks in their coverage and as a matter of fact, despite the absences, they have given up just one goal so far.
They also have not scored much, but mostly because they have had some finishing issues rather than for lack of trying. They can have some overwhelming waves and have a diverse array of weapons at their disposal, so Juventus will have to pay close attention there despite their numbers.
3-4-2-1: Silvestri; Ceccherini, Lovato, Empereur; Faraoni, Viera, Ilic, Lazovic; Tameze, Zaccagni; Kalinic.
Veloso (calf), Cetin (thigh), Benassi (calf), Gunter (COVID),