Juventus 1 – 0 Catania

11 Mar

Juventus v Catania

Buffon-
Showed alertness and his usual classy zeal through mopping up everything thrown at him, commanding in the air, solid with the handful of shots that came his way, comfortable throughout. 7/10.

Barzagli-
He has become a monster. Extremely hard to beat one on one, his physical strength, as with the other two beasts at the back, coupled with a sound footballing mind and fairly quick legs for a big fella make him surely one of the finest defenders in Italy. Also produced several brilliant long passes, a part of his game I have seen emerge more this season. 7/10.

Bonucci-
Leonardo has really matured this term, finally showing consistency in decision making and whilst some of his distribution is wayward, more of it is useful. A fine showing, with little getting past him. In a 50/50 challenge I fancy him every time. And so does the attacker, hence attempts to pass or hold up the ball when faced with Bonucci, rather than attempt to go through or around him.7/10.

Chiellini-
Perhaps due to Asamoah’s awful showing, Giorgio felt it necessary to involve himself further up the field. Whatever the reason, his typically beastly defensive work was marred by the haphazard nature of his forward runs. At times, he bordered on becoming a liability in the opposing half. 5.5/10.

Asamoah-
His worst game in a Juve jersey. Lacking confidence when heading forward, uneasy in the tackle, very few deliveries into the box, seemingly preferring to turn and pass sidewards if not backwards. This wasn’t helped by the lack of presence in the 6 yard area, yet still…Asamoah was poor and with Peluso in such fine form of late, the Ghanaian better up his game sharply or face the bench…5/10.

Lichsteiner-
The old battle-axe fought hard, outshone his opposite on the left flank with his defensive and offensive game. Linked well with Pogba, and was kept busier than hoped for by the pesky little forwards of Catania. Could do with a break against Bologna, but still held the fort in this one. 6/10.

Pirlo-
Another player who didn’t have the best of afternoons, with many a pass going astray. His tendency to lose the ball in key positions is of increasing concern, especially when married to a conviction to turn to the referee whenever he loses the ball, rather than instantly give chase to attempt to atone for his error. Needs a break, or a kick up the arse from Conte.5/10.

Marchisio-
Off the pace, and out of sync with the rest of the team. Claudio seemed lethargic, despite the misfortune of his stabbed effort past the post. A strong case emerged for Pogba/Pirlo/Vidal. However, he is such a wonderful player we can forgive him this poor performance. Did little brilliantly, but nothing woefully. 6/10.

Pogba-
By far the best player on the field. His physique, drive, bravery, pace and heart are all developing at an astonishing rate and its become now, common-place, to see too much class in the 19 year old to believe anything other than he is going to be a world class player. Hopefully, in our colours. Man of the Match for his endeavour, responsibility to defend as well as support and become the attack al aligned with considerable tenacity in the tackle. I haven’t seen such delightful technique and Spartan muscle combined so beautifully since Viera made his debut for Arsenal in the mid 90s…raw around the edges, a true legend in the making..9/10.

Vucinic-
He managed one decent shot. Link-up play was abysmal. Won very little in the air or on the ground, seemed sick, and on occasion it felt like the team gave a collective sigh when yet another ball was passed to him and he either fluffed his lines or ran the wrong way. Should have brought Quags on to replace him after half time. 5/10.

Giovinco-
Appeared more alive than his poorly partner in the final third and certainly buzzed around more, won some useful free kicks, showed good pace and determination, yet ultimately offered nothing more than an eager to please link-man operating between our midfield and the opposing defence. I don’t like these two playing together, no matter what the statistics suggest. Never enough presence in the box for my liking, which narrows the channels of our play going forward. 

We are never going to get the best out of Giovinco if we continue to play him in a role which demands more running back than is natural for his best game to appear, and also, to make matters worse, placing a strike partner alongside him who blows far more cold than hot. 5.5/10.

Matri-
Excitable and desperate to get involved in the fray, with the clock ticking he didn’t once refrain from hustling the opponents and his good work helped in the build-up to the goal. Not long enough to settle into a comfortable flow but did what was asked of him. 6/10.

Quagliarella-
One save at point blank range which he could have done better with, and then a decent shot from just outside he box. A shame not to see him arrive on the field far sooner, preferably from the start. More at ease playing with Matri than Giovinco was with Vucinic, whatever that may means…though we had tired our opponents by this point in the game. Which counts for something, to some people. 6/10

Giaccherini-
I proudly take the credit for adorning the squeaky imp with the nickname ‘the little goblin’ many moons ago, which I have seen since adopted by many others. One of those moments of inspiration which come regrettably too seldom…The same winds responsible for my attempts to disseminate Frederick’ Kruger’ Sorensen, given his apparent idolization of Nightmare on Elm Street hero Freddy Kruger…Still, back to the little goblin…
…He was useful last season. I concluded quite quickly that he was not a great footballer, but extremely fit, pacey, a bit of a wriggler and capable of doing exactly what Conte tells him, in terms of where to run and when. He managed some very useful goals in games when our lack of outstanding talent in offence was directing us towards a draw, and he kept pestering and hustling and sliming his little goblin paws all over the opposition, until finally, he triumphed. His major value is persistence. As proved the case yesterday. I was cursing him, watching him lose the ball time and time again, his passing not good enough for Pro Vercelli let alone Juventus. I almost started to feel sorry for him, but settled upon cringing. Shaking my head in disgust, he scored the goal…from a 4 he jumped up to a 9, because that goal, for which we had been hunting high and low for the best part of 93 minutes, put us 9 points clear at the top of Serie A. 9/10.

Conclusion-
We dominated -mostly- but Catania held their own admirably. A little more luck and we would have won the game long before Conte made the substitutions and Giaccherini scored the amazing winner right at the death. It must be especially demoralizing to have played so well, often pinging the ball around with pace and accuracy and intelligence, and then, be undone so late on, by of all players, the little goblin. I have sympathy for our opponents. Only teams like Inter and Napoli and Lazio to some degree, deserve to suffer ‘defeat by Goblin’. 

Pirlo, Vucinic, Marchisio and Asamoah were all off the pace, with Pirlo looking worse only because he is the main pivot of our team, with everything flowing through him. Perhaps I have been a bit harsh on the marvellous gypsy-queen, but he has set very high standards and I expect more of him than the repeated petulant turns to the ref whenever he is tackled and dispossessed. 

Peluso must come back into the line-up next week for the ghanaian has returned from south Africa, not even half the player he was when he left us. We can’t afford to be nursing players back to form in this crunch period at home and in Europe. Conte may well have to make some tough decisions. Peluso for Asamoah isn’t one of them, but the following will be-

Vidal has been in fine form, arguably one of the best midfielders in the champions league this season. His league efforts are of comparably high standard. Pirlo has to play, given his incredible technique on the ball, but what of Pogba? The Frenchman oozes class and completely over shadowed Claudio in this game. I am not suggesting he is a better player than Marchisio, only that he is in brilliant form physically and mentally. 

Vucinic was poor yet again, at times atrocious. After bearing witness to the basic but potent connection between Quags and Matri in the week, it was horrible to see Mirko so unable to connect well with anyone in the final third. One wicked effort is all he had to show other than plentiful poor dribbles, failed hold-ups and slothful runs. Matri and Quags both seem more eager, more determined and more capable than both Mirko and Giovinco. La formica atomica played well enough, but he needs a stronger running front man, to really show his best, and also, better support on the left flank coming out of defence. Asamoah’s horrors-how didn’t help matters there.

I’d be tempted to go for a-
Buffon
Lichsteiner Barzagli Bonucci Chiellini Peluso
Vidal Pirlo Pogba
Matri Giovinco/Quagliarella
next week, away to Bologna.

With our attempts to bite and rip up-front lacking incisors, I focused instead on the positives, which were all about the defence. Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini are one of the greatest back lines I have known, not just at Juventus, but of all teams. Their physicality was a nasty experience for the Catania forwards and wingers, as it often is for whoever faces them. Barzagli’s passing was worthy of Matthaus. Or Beckenbauer. Bonucci remains jagged at times, but that famous lack of composure has improved dramatically and his calmness and tackling abilities make him immensely more valuable than when we first snared him. Nothing much needs to be said of Giorgio. His attacking play is sometimes useful and sometimes wretched, the latter today, but in his own backyard, he was his usual indomitable behemoth. As a unit they keep getting better…The purchases of Bonucci and Barzagli both now seem like genius business by a much maligned transfer director…

A hard fought win, which came about with several key players performing well below their high standards. Constructive moves from the bench by Conte, and I can’t fault his selection. We haven’t played amazingly well very often since the new year, but have found ourselves 9 points clear with 10 games left. Many reasons to be cheerful…

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