Tag Archives: Giovinco

Juventus 1 – 0 Bologna

20 Apr

Approaching this match, knowing that two wins in our next two league fixtures would send us to Rome needing only a draw to clinch our third straight scudetto, there was reason to be both excited and nervous. Especially after our rivals earned a valuable 0-1 away victory in Florence, reducing the gap between us back to five points.

Tevez and Vidal were named on the bench, both players still nursing slight injuries with Bonucci and Lichstiner suspended.

In place of the suspended Bonucci, Ogbonna put in another solid showing.

To the surprise of nobody, Conte lined up with our trademark 3-5-2, offering Giovinco a chance to continue his recent spurt of fine form in attack alongside Llorente. Behind him, Pirlo took up the position of fulcrum, flanked by Pogba on his right and Marchisio on the opposite side of the trident. Out wide in the wing-back areas, Asamoah matched up with Isla (who came in for the suspecneded Lichsteiner). It was Ogbonna who took up the Bonucci role, which at times can seem closer to libero than pure stopper.

We emerged from the traps at a decent pace. Immediately pushing forward and applying pressure to the Bologna blockade. Our opponent’s plan to defend in large numbers, keep 9 men behind the ball at all times and show zero interest in scoring was evident from the first whistle. Even when they were given the chance to counter, we invariably had 2-3 defenders to clean up at the back masterfully.

Pogba was looking lively. Pirlo in fine fettle. Asamoah strangely subdued, although he was faced with a wall of opponents whenever attempting to make in-roads into the final third. On the opposite flank, Isla was seeing much more of the ball, largely due to the dominating physical presence and wonderful technique of the nearby Frenchman.

Most of the first half was taken up with the same slow, deliberate build-up passing game we so often adopt against smaller teams whose prime objective is to hold firm defensively and cut off our supply routes on the wings and through the middle. Llorente found a few useful positions, as did Giovinco, but the two of them are yet to find any harmony as a pair, with both operating on different wavelengths at crucial moments when a chance could have been created and finished.

No changes were made by Conte in the interval. Clearly his thinking was that we would win the war of attrition, continue our laboured, obvious passing game, wear them down, hope for a moment of magic, or a mistake for us to capitalize upon.

Pogba – Possibly the greatest midfield talent on the planet.

It took until the 64th minute for us to finally break the dead-lock. And what a beautiful goal it was, arriving from the explosive feet of Pogba. Picking the ball up in the inner right channel from Isla, the youngster brought the ball down and smashed an unstoppable drive past the keeper from just outside the box. Just reward for an overall performance which stood out for its power, precision and skill. A true rifle-shot of a strike.

The goal caused a momentary wave of added confidence in our ranks and confusion in the Bologna rearguard yet soon enough the status quo reappeared and we reverted to the calm pressure routine whilst keeping things tidy at the back.

Padoin made a late appearance and did absolutely nothing and it was pleasing to see Vidal make a brief cameo in the dying moments. What was somewhat discouraging was the manner in which we spent the final minutes growing increasingly concerned and inviting Bologna onto us. For the first time in the whole match our opponents seemed to believe they could get something from the game and we were on the back-foot until the ref blew the final whistle. Immense relief washed through the ranks and stadium as a whole, with passionate embraces all round between manager and players symbolizing how much this victory meant to the club.

Stand out performers were few and far between since we were hardly tested defensively. And had a mountain to climb offensively due to the stifling, smothering tactics employed by Ballardini in the enemy dug-out.

Pogba was the most potent player on the field. More capable than any other of not only retaining possession when faced with an opponent, but also carving out space. Only fellow beasts can match him physically and his skill-set on the ball is slowly but surely maturing. Less fancy tricks, more successful dribbles. His shooting has never been in question, especially from long range.

At this rate, the 21 year old will soon be regarded as not only a world class talent in the making, but as one of the best midfielders in the world, such is his progress this season. There seems no major weakness to his game. Perhaps the most important transfer of the close season will be a non-transfer, keeping Paul at the club for at least another season, hopefully more.

Barzagli was average on his return to first team action, lacking match-sharpness as to be expected, but our fortunes are greatly improved by his calm presence in the first XI. The quicker he regains form the better our chances of success. Ogbonna was strong in the tackle, decisive and error-free, attempting to replicate Bonucci’s distribution responsibilities in a muted fashion.

I was interested to see Isla. He produced an assist for Pogba, worked very hard on the touchline and was noticeably more involved in the game than his counter-part on the left. The Chilean could have scored himself, after cutting in beautifully and launching the ball goalwards with his left boot. Has he done enough to warrant completing his purchase over the Summer??? For me, not in the slightest. Best to renew the co-ownership or attempt to recoup the 9m initial outlay for the 50% stake. Asmoah looks good value for the 18m we paid. To spend as much on former Udinese pal Isla would be criminal.

Up top, Llorente was useful for flick-ons and lay-offs, but rarely came close to a clear cut opening. His strike partner, Giovinco, won plenty of free-kicks, caused a steady nuisance and created a couple of good chances for other players. However, neither player impressed.

A mention should be made of Marchisio, who – as always – stuck to his task diligently, put his health on the line on a few occasions when blocking or intercepting the ball, found himself kicked, scythed, pole-axed and shoved all over the place. He is truly a great servant to the club.

Bologna were very robust in their approach to the game. Our strike force of the spaniard and imp was too weak to break through the brutal attention of Sorensen in particular, but also Antonsson, who pummelled the flimsy front men repeatedly throughout the match. This is one of the main problems with Giovinco; his complete lack of physicality. As for Llorente…I expect better of him, but it will take time to adjust fully to the sharp differences in defending between la liga and Serie A.

Freddy ‘the ice-man’ Sorensen showing off his pretty ear necklace…

It was a very encouraging performance by 22 year old Freddy Sorensen. A player I have admired since he first broke into our line-up in late 2010, merely months after joining our primavera in the Summer. His natural strength and intelligent reading of the game marked him out back then as a player of serious potential and I am glad to see him more than hold his own around far more seasoned professionals. If we are in the market for a centre-back, Conte and Beppe would be wise to consider the Dane. His contract runs until 2016 and I hope we renew the co-ownership deal in the Summer. Whilst his value continues to rise, prudence suggests we maintain the present situation.

The victory was welcome and deserved but our inability to break down a resilient opponent once again highlighted what I see as a lack of malleability or reactivity in Conte’s tactical thinking. He rarely seems to have any Plan B, nor appears particularly well prepared to take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses. Conte’s method is to stick with the 3-5-2, pass the ball as much as possible, left, then right, then left, then right, slow paced build-up. Its all so predictable. And without the muscle, hustle and class of Tevez in the final third, and swash-buckling Vidal forcing mistakes and driving forward at every opportunity we are fairly easily contained.

Still much to learn, but at 44 years of age, Conte is already well on the road to becoming a Juve legend in the dug-out. His third scudetto in three seasons at the club will be a tremendous achievement. But what of Europe??

Conte needs to work on systems which draw such stubborn opposition out of their fortress. Laying siege works most of the time, but as we saw with Copenhagen, our lack of Plan B or C can truly be our downfall. We win by attrition in such circumstances or via a moment of magic as we saw from Pogba last night.

Instead of Padoin, why not bring on Vucinic?? Instead of Vidal, why not send Quagliarella into the fray?? Protecting a 1-0 lead at home to Bologna is understandable at this delicate stage of the campaign, though a step removed from a team confident of their superiority. Substitutions are another area in which as time wears on, I find Conte lacking.

When was the last time we saw him turn a game with a master stroke from the bench?? When was the last time he outfoxed a wily opposing manager through exploiting a weakness in a team we faced??

Its not only the playing staff which needs to improve, collectively, if we are to strive onwards and make moves to return to greatness on the European stage. It is also the management.

Juventus Striker Analysis

7 Mar

When asked of areas of weakness in the blossoming Conte Juve, the general consensus amongst juventini the world over points towards our attacking department. The defence is world class. Our wing backs are quality, the midfield is phenomenal, but in the final third…such superlatives are regularly absent. Whilst we all have our opinions on performance levels and its clear that statistics alone can rarely be used as sole indicators of value, in the case of strikers, whose prime work is focused on scoring and creating goals, the figures can prove useful. Its a lot easier to gain an accurate idea of how well a striker is performing from his stats, than it is with a midfielder, or defender when passing ranges, time on the ball, urgency of the challenge and many other factors come into play. So, without further ado, lets peek at what the season has told us so far in terms of our strikers getting the ball in the net.
(I have stuck with Serie A and Champions league performances, since the coppa italia is the only tournament in which we have not once put out our strongest team…I have also crunched the average for assists and goals combined)

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8 goals and 5 assists from 1803 minutes in Serie A and Champions league – scores a goal/assists a goal every 138 minutes. (1 goal per 225.4mins)

9 goals and 7 assists from 1936 minutes in Serie A and Champions league – scores a goal/assists a goal every 121 minutes.(1 goal per 215mins)

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7 goals and 2 assists from 1012 minutes in Serie A and Champions league – scores a goal/assists a goal every 112.4 minutes. (1 goal per 144.6mins)

10 goals and 2 assists from 949 minutes in Serie A and Champions league – scores a goal/assists a goal every 79.1 minutes. (1 goal per 94.9mins)

My expectations before making these calculations were that Mirko would come out the worst, as in he would prove our least efficient striker on paper. There is also the consideration of his duties on the field, for Conte’s strikers are tasked with aiding defensively, which is always going to eat away at their opportunities to score and create goals. He has appeared, without the stats to be the weakest link of our major quartet in the offensive ranks. And the stats confirm this…For all his wonderful moments, there are many more moments of irritation. For all his smart runs, there are plenty more jogs and shimmys into nowhere. Never sure which Mirko is going to turn up, I would happily see him sold in the Summer, to make way for a player with either more consistent quality or greater potential and determination to succeed.

La formica atomica has been more efficient in the final third than Mirko. That much has been clear on the field, and the little man should be commended, not lambasted, for to be bettering a more established striker, in his first season in Conte’s Juve is solid progress. He can still get better, and does seem to find himself in goalscoring positions at least once or twice in every game he plays. The difference between him and Mirko, given they are both more naturally SS type players is that his work rate and pace are already superior and he has potential to improve his shooting. Mirko is too long in the tooth to change now. Its been a big enough ask to get him moving around more, approaching somewhere near the minimum levels of effort demanded of every player in the squad.

Now as our only prima punta (its of little use to anyone including Bendtner in this analysis), it is to be expected that Matri would be our most efficient at scoring goals. Also getting in on the act of assisting since he is most active in the 18 yard box and as often looking to get on the end of things as to be the reference point in attack for the marauding midfielders and wingbacks to play off. His form at the start of the season was not great, leading on from a worrying period towards the end of the previous term. However, with the new year arriving, and team form as a whole dipping, Matri regained some confidence, and has since gone a steady run of improvement all round. The 2013 Matri is valuable to our cause and proves the importance of having a player in the team who can not only shoot clinically in the 6 yard box but also, of huge value to the team, make intelligent runs across and behind opposing defences. His lay-offs and positioning have jumped up a level since the dark days of late 2012 and I hope he can maintain his fine form.

Fabio Quagliarella is by far the most efficient striker this season. And yet he has played the least amount of time of the four under the spotlight. His achievements are all the more remarkable considering the lack of playing time, and in turn the lack of opportunity to gain match sharpness and momentum. There is also the small matter of his horrid injury sustained in January of 2011 which kept him out of action for a large part of that year. He featured a fair amount in the last campaign, but not as a starter (9 starts/14 sub apps) and it was hoped that this season, after a string pre-season he would return to the high levels shown before his injury.

It seems that he is returning to those high levels, but his relationship with the management is a more powerful consideration than his value to the team on the field. Ever since those angry words disguised through his jacket, when subbed for Giovinco by Alessio, has our most potent striker been punished???

Now and then I feel a wave of unease wash over me. A wave which hints at a personality cult. For our commander in chief has at times, shown flashes of something a few shades away from what we know as lo stile juve. 

The Elia case seemed reasonable, although more information regarding his lack of suitability would have been welcome. It wasn’t small change we paid for the lad and he had shown flashes of brilliance in his pre-juve career. However, his attitude upon signing seemed…at best youthful and several reports suggested his professionalism was suspect. Ziegler however was a different case entirely. His reputation was one of a solid, hard working LB, which was exactly what we needed. Conte didn’t even give the swiss international one competitive game to prove his worth. He barely attended a training session before his bags were packed, perhaps by Conte himself, and he was shipped off, and that was his Juve career over, before it had even begun. What the hell happened there remains open to debate…

Its understandable that the Mister was wired and volatile after the incredibly unjust ban dished out by the FIGC. Justice has since been done, in a loose, optimistic way, with the same man charged and convicted of ‘failure to report’ recently voted manager of the year by his peers after the amazing team transformation and unbeaten march to the scudetto last year, but nonetheless during and after the suspension, Conte was pushed to the limit. And it showed.

With the embers of unjust trauma still burning fiercely and uncomfortably in mind and heart, it was an unhinged Conte which berated the referee after the Juventus- Genoa game. Its the first time I have seen a Juventus manager behave without dignity or class. I can understand the players behaviour, which still needed censure, but Marotta only made things even worse. He has a lot to learn of lo stile Juve, and Conte also could do with a reminder, for whilst winning is important and expected, its winning with class, with humility, with dignity, which has been the Juve way for as far back as I can remember. 

Is Quagliarella’s card marked??? Cross Conte once and you are finished with Juve??? This could well be the case. Others will point to the useful runs and link-up play that Vucinic apparently brings to the team with enough consistency to warrant his high placing in the pecking order. My own personal inkling is that Fabio Quagliarella is of a stronger ego than Conte wants in the squad. Perhaps the same was sensed in Reto Ziegler. And rather than a case of putting Self before club, which seems to be the common opinion of Elia, the Swiss and Neopolitan may well have both made the mistake of putting Self before Conte.

Personality cult or not, after last season’s herculean recapture of the league title, this term’s magnificent return to the champions league, the situation in the league – even after our traditional dodgy January – still mighty and the consistency and quality of the team during Conte’s absence, I am in no position to criticize, and have many reasons to daily doff my hat to Antonio for he has regained our pride, strengthened majestically our reputation and has our club and team on the fast track to returning to our position as one of the continents elite clubs. And for this, I can only be thankful, enthusiastic about the future and like all Juventini the world over, gleeful to have our former captain as our mister.