What a strange season this one has been.
Juventus – who lost both of their league encounters against Monza – have managed to complete a memorable double over Inter out of all clubs. Filip Kostic’s strike was enough to settle the encounter in favor of the visitors who held firm at the back and harried their opponents on counter attacks.
Now surely the Nerazzurri still have the chance to avenge themselves soon enough when the two clubs collide in the Coppa Italia semi-finals, but thus far this season, the Old Lady has displayed her superiority over her arch-rivals on every occasion.
Despite some key absentees, Max Allegri’s side was composed, effective, and solid at the back, with a glimmer of creativity when required.
At the moment, it seems that the manager has found the winning recipe in the form of a 3-5-1-1 formation, but more importantly, the right personnel in the middle of the park.
While none of them is a bona fide superstar like Paul Pogba, the trio of Adrien Rabiot, Manuel Locatelli and Nicolò Fagioli have built a wonderful and well-organized midfield. The three players compliment one another while allowing the tactician to maintain the right balance between solidity, physical strength and creativity.
It’s no coincidence that Fagioli’s breakthrough in October sparked the positive streak before the World Cup break. For some reason, he never took the field during the humbling defeat at the Maradona, with Weston McKennie starting his his stead.
As for the January’s loss to Monza, it was Locatelli who had left his starting berth for Leandro Paredes in a tactical maneuver that spectacularly backfired.
Admittedly, Angel Di Maria remains the main talisman at Juventus, and his importance to the club remains unquestionable. Nonetheless, the team’s Achilles Heel in recent campaigns had always been the midfield, which is why Fagioli’s meteoric ascent and Locatelli’s massive improvement may just be the most crucial developments of this unusual campaign. Too bad Rabiot might not linger in Turin beyond the current campaign.
So while the three Juventus midfielders all put up fascinating displays against Inter – each in his own fashion – here are some other takeaways from a memorable Derby d’Italia victory:
- Once again, Federico Gatti proved that he has what it takes to make it at the top level. Since we can’t afford to make any missteps, Allegri preferred to rely on his tried and trusted veteran defenders for the majority of the campaign, as the inexperienced Italian is ought to commit blunders every now and then. Yet, he hardly put a foot wrong against Romelu Lukaku and co.
- Matias Soulé is another player who made the most of his opportunity, although he couldn’t direct his shot goalward. The youngster lent a hand to the midfield and worked well in the hole.
- If Federico Chiesa isn’t 100% fit, we must never risk him regardless of the stakes. Let’s hope his latest setback is only a slight one.
- Dusan Vlahovic worked hard for the team while displaying glimpses of improvement. But will it be enough to preserve a starting berth following the return of Arek Milik?