This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Ciao, amici, and welcome to back to Earth.
After the euphoria of the Chelsea victory, we are once again experiencing the more familiar, if less pleasant sensations that are the lot of any tifoso worth his scarf: anxiety and frustration.
Our second defeat of the season, like our first, came at the hands of a team from Milan. However, They Who Cannot Be Named failed to capitalize on our loss (poor souls) so it could be worse.
On Sunday, Berlusconi’s cronies proved two things, despite their underwhelming season: first, that Juve are certainly not the only ones “benefiting” from generous refereeing this year, and second, that all the dubious calls in the world are meaningless when you can’t score.
Fortunately, there’s a potential tonic for our dampened spirits, courtesy of our old cross-town rivals, Torino, who visit Juventus Stadium for the new venue’s first Turin derby. At the moment, nothing would be more refreshing than taking out our latest goal-drought frustrations on the newly-promoted side.
What does this historic rivalry mean to you? And what should it mean to Juve this year? As always, opinions are welcome.
In the meantime, here’s the news.
Milan is now a distant memory (at least that’s what we’re telling ourselves). As mentioned above, it’s the first-ever Torino derby at Juventus Stadium, as Juve welcome Torino back to Serie A to resume their storied, if recently one-sided rivalry. To that end, Conte and co. are already back to work.
Today’s session will focus on tactical work, following a very intensive fitness test (see below). On Monday, Juve held their first training session of the week, which included the usual warm-down (no more mystery there!) for those who played in Milan, and the normal routine for everyone else.
In other derby news, Juventus Stadium is unsurprisingly sold out for Saturday, general-sale tickets having vanished within a few hours. Should any Turin tycoons relinquish their tickets, they will become available on Friday.
Incredibly Hi-Tech Fitness Tests
In what seems more and more like science fiction these days, Juventus has very intricate ways of determining a player’s fitness levels. Today, the medical staff put each player through some very thorough examinations.
The tests are designed to monitor the players’ “muscular, aerobic and anaerobic qualities, along with their recovery ability.” Here are the details:
There’s an informal prize given to the player with the fastest projected recovery time. According to reports, the Wolverine Award is really just a set of the famous X-Man’s plastic claws bought from a local toy store.
Tradition holds that the player with the slowest projected recovery time has to go out and buy it. My bet’s on Simone Pepe (see below).
Juventus.com reports two concerns for Saturday’s derby: Giorgio Chiellini and Simone Pepe.
Fortunately for Chiellini, there isn’t much to worry about, at least at the moment. Here’s the latest:
Giorgio Chiellini sat out of training today as he continues to recover from a calf problem. The defender is steadily increasing his workload in the gym and is expected to return to full training over the coming days.
However, for the perpetually injured Pepe, the situation is more complicated:
Simone Pepe was not involved this afternoon either after he felt a twinge in the back of his left thigh during the team’s final training session before yesterday’s game. The player underwent scans this morning which ruled out a recurrence of his previous muscle injury but revealed an inflammation of the scar. He will start training again this week and be available for selection only after a sustained spell working alongside the rest of the group.
Get well soon, boys! You don’t want to miss a Torino derby, especially as they’re few and far between these days.
No Excuses, Part 1: Buffon
Gigi Buffon, as diplomatic a captain as you’ll ever meet, refused to blame Juve’s loss on Rizzoli’s dubious penalty decision. Instead, he took a less polemic view, choosing to emphasize the club’s lackluster performance:
The replay is clear, it wasn’t a penalty, but that wasn’t the reason behind our defeat. We had an hour to get back into it and weren’t able to do so. There are many incidents like that over the course of a season. If people want to find excuses for a defeat, it’s simple, but I believe the best way of explaining it would be to say: the opposition were better than us and we deserved to lose.
Still, Gigi cannot point to any specific tactical problems on Sunday:
Having said that, you have to ask why we lost. It’s not easy to work out. We were missing something and that was evident. We had time to get back on level terms but we didn’t ever create the right opportunity.
No Excuses Part 2: Breaking Dawn (with Giuseppe Marotta)
Friends, please excuse the wildly inappropriate Twilight references. I’ve neither seen the movies nor read the books; nor do I wish to.
But I’m no fool: I’m aware of the immense economic power of the tween market. There’s a whole demographic that Juve is completely ignoring, which is why I’m conducting some radical experiments with search engine optimization (as well as superimposing Marchisio’s face on movie posters). In fact, maybe later this week I’ll run that interview with “Kristen Stewart” on what we can expect tactically from Conte in the Torino derby. But I digress.
Giuseppe “Robert Pattinson” Marotta also believes that Juve are not to be excused for the Milan loss:
These things even themselves out over the course of the season. Without the penalty it would have been a goalless shutout. Aside from that, it wasn’t the usual Juventus performance and therefore we won’t make any excuses. We need to get used to competing in a greater number of competitions so tiredness shouldn’t be an excuse. We had four days to recover. The fact remains that we didn’t approach the game in our usual manner.
But Beppe, for the love of Fernando Llorente: Why no offense for two straight Serie A matches?
We’ve come up against two sides whose tactical approaches have given us difficulty in unlocking their defenses.
Well played, sir. Way to avoid talking about the transfer window. Now turn into a mercato werewolf and swallow up a striker.
Leo Bonucci took a slightly different approach in analyzing Sunday’s failure.
Sure, he mentioned fatigue, a Chelsea hangover, a lack of concentration, etc.:
We paid for our midweek performance in the Champions League and didn’t take to the field with our usual concentration. We had an incident go against us, but didn’t see any of the true Juventus this evening.
He even blamed himself, which is a bit harsh considering he overcame a case of the flu to make his 100th appearance for the Bianconeri:
Milan defended deep and on a personal level I made a few too many mistakes.
But there’s still something eating at Leo. Apparently, he’s even considering seeing a therapist:
What counts most is working out what was going through our heads in the first half…
And (looks at watch)… our time is just about up. Sorry, Leo. A presto!
Possession is 1/10th of the Loss
As Adam D. astutely pointed out in his match review, the Bianconeri’s dominance in possession made very little difference on Sunday. A toothless attack is a toothless attack, any way you look at it.
Here are the inconvenient truths from the Milan match, courtesy of Juventus.com:
Juventus’ first away defeat in 28 matches can put be down to their lack of cutting edge in the final third. Once again the Bianconeri saw more of the ball at the San Siro, recording 58% possession, playing 656 balls compared to AC Milan’s 490, and had a pass completion rate of 68%, compared to the Rossoneri’s 58%. Juve also spent 16:29 in their opponents half, more than double Allegri’s men (8:04).
Great! No wonder we won so easily… what’s that you say? We didn’t?
But they had fewer shots: 13 in total, with only 3 on target. AC Milan meanwhile had 15 attempts, with 6 troubling Buffon. The Rossoneri also came out on top in terms of attacks on goal and dangerousness: 60.7% and 44.1% vs. 49.1% and 38.5%.
And the individual stats make a very unpleasant rhyme with the team numbers:
There are only Juve players at the top of the pass completion chart: Pirlo (58), Bonucci (57) and, a little way behind, Vidal, Caceres, Barzagli and Marchisio. On the other hand, it was the hosts who had more shots, particularly Boateng who tried his luck on 4 occasions, followed by Montolivo (3). Nocerino and El Shaarawy shot twice, the same number as Vucinic and Marchisio.
I just can’t believe that one of the weaker Milan defenses of this millennium (Amelia, De Sciglio, Yepes and Mexes) shut us out. It doesn’t get much more depressing, unless maybe Acerbi played as well and locked up both strikers single-handedly.
Somewhere in Paris, Thiago Silva is foaming at the mouth with jealousy…
Just kidding, he really doesn’t care.
Marchisio/Bonucci Twitter War?
One of the interesting aspects of the Chelsea match was the tension between several Juve players, particularly after a selfish shot or an errant pass. At the time, it seemed merely the byproduct of the incredibly high stakes and implications for the European campaign.
But apparently, the Milan match, by all accounts a very frustrating contest, also produced such a moment. I was not aware of this while watching the broadcast, but the media is making the most of a prospective “feud” between Claudio Marchisio and Leonardo Bonucci.
Claudio recently took to Twitter to make light of rumors that he blames Leo for Sunday’s loss to Milan. Here’s the scandalous conversation:
Gotta love the translation. It makes it sound even more inconsequential.
In Praise of Asamoah
Anyone with even a passing interest in Juventus or Serie A has probably taken notice of the very, very impressive performances of Kwadwo Asamoah, a crucial addition to the club and a major reason for the Bianconeri’s continued success.
Football Italia recently ran an editorial praising Asamoah’s impact on this year’s Juve. Here’s the main theme:
The Ghana international joined the club from Udinese over the summer in a co-ownership deal. The fact that Conte’s side fought off Manchester United tells you a lot about the quality of the 23-year-old, but with his performances so far this term, it could be argued that he is now a lynchpin to the Old Lady.
Elsewhere, the article rightly gives no small amount of credit to Asamoah in rightly refuting Fabio Capello’s ludicrous assertion that Conte’s 3-5-2 system marks a regression in calcio (because Capello’s tactics were so progressive?). Indeed, Asamoah’s presence on the left is a key aspect of the system’s fluidity and effectiveness:
Fabio Capello called it ‘a step back’ for the Italian game, but as they proved on Tuesday against reigning European champions Chelsea, Juve have turned the formation into an entirely positive one – giving width and defensive stability all at the same time. Asamoah has been given the task of doing all these things at once, but instead of shrinking in the high-pressure environment of Turin, he has prospered into one of the best wide-men in Europe.
Lest we forget, early next year Asamoah will be leaving for about a month to play for Ghana in the African Cup of Nations. Unless someone else steps up, it’s going to be a long, lonely January in Turin.
Way to Make a Guy Feel Special!
Poor Nicklas Bendtner still gets no respect.
Speaking to RAI Sport, Giuseppe Marotta gave a less-than-flattering explanation for the Danish international’s loan to Juve:
Each deal needs economical reasoning before happening. We were not able to make a big money signing last summer but we wanted another striker in case we suffered from a lot of injuries or suspensions, which is the reason we chose to sign Bendtner on loan.
So Nick, if no one else is available, we’ll definitely call you.
Seriously. You’re the only one for us.
But again, only if everyone else is completely incapacitated.
We knew you’d understand. You’re the best!
Boakye Impressing in Serie B
Richmond Boakye, a Juve player currently on loan to Sassuolo, is lighting up the scoreboards in Serie B. His latest exploit features a brace in the Modena side’s 3-1 win over Reggina, which sees them still in the hunt for a Serie A promotion.
Other Bianconeri prospects to feature this weekend include clean-sheet keeper Carlo Pinsoglio, Manuel Giandonato, Luca Castiglia and Nicola Leali.
Check out the full progress report of all current Juventus loanees, and dream of young Richmond actually scoring for us against Milan.
That’s all for today’s STTBS. Stay tuned for more on the Torino derby later this week. Ciao!
[STTBS]: Juventus News is a daily feature where the JuventiKnows editorial team discusses the JuveNews stories you need to read, without the “Messi signs for Juve on loan thanks to Nike” kind of nonsense. What does [STTBS] mean? You’ll have to guess that for yourself. We wouldn’t tell you even under pain of torture… (though we do take bribes)