Tag Archives: vidal

Juventus 3-1 Chievo

17 Feb

Could Pirlo steer the troops to victory against Chievo???

Player Ratings-

Buffon – 6

His fate was tied to that of the defence in front of him, which was lacking confidence and security throughout the match. Thankfully, Bonucci put in a solid shift leaving Buffon with very few direct shots to deal with. Several of his decisions to parry and punch rather than catch the ball could of put us in danger.


We are used to so much more from our swiss nazi. His energy levels seemed fine, but the final ball was profligate and I felt that he lacked confidence in Caceres (especially after that horrible own goal!). An off day for the marauding wingback.

Caceres- 5.5

Hardly one of his best showings for the club. I am fond of the lad, for his tackling and determination, but am close to concluding he is best deployed on the flank (where he plays for his country). Needs to work on his positional awareness.


He was the rock we needed in absence of his two regular partners at the back. Cleaned up, covered brilliantly, distributed the ball carefully and made his presence felt in both boxes. Five interceptions, five clearances and two shots blocked. A mature performance from Leonardo.

Ogbonna –6.5

Still yet to persuade me that he is worth the money we spent, but in his defence its his first season and he hasn’t had many games. Perhaps a run in the side would settle him down and bring out his best form. Deserves praise for keeping things simple and the ball moving whenever he received it. He made 98 passes, but the vast majority were over 5-10 yards, which suggests his plan was to sit deep. Which is different to how King Giorgio plays, who despite his lack of technique on the ball, loves to bomb forward and try to get involved.


The most talented man on the field. Drove forward constantly, made himself available as the fulcrum of all our attacking play. Put himself about defensively. Two assists…always a danger from set pieces. He ran the Juve show from start to finish. Tremendous, but its what we have come to expect from the great man…


Never stopped running and gave great support at the back to Ogbonna and Asamoah. I was so happy to see him get on the score-sheet. Never one to complain, just gets his head down and gets on with the job. As mentioned further down, he is a definite second choice for me behind Pogba, but few teams will have such a wonderful back-up.


Dogged in the challenge, but offered little moving forward. Maybe this was partially due to an awkward outing by Lichsteiner, forcing the Chilean to hold the fort more than forage in the final third. He appeared low on steam, yet still dependable. His season has been magnificent, its to be expected to find a run of games where he is below his best form.

Asamoah -8

Probably would have been closer to a 7 but that goal was magical. We don’t see that much of his prowess in that position driving through the middle, and it was one of those moments which made me think he is somewhat wasted out wide. His defensive work was average, and with Chievo heavy in numbers in both fullback areas, he found it hard to make headway in the final third. Wonderful strike though.

Llorente- 6.5

Well marshalled by the Chievo rear-guard, chances were running at a premium for the spaniard. Took his goal well enough but his link-up play with Giovinco was non-existent, the two of them often found far too close together. I hope that Osvaldo’s arrival doesn’t affect his form negatively.


Displayed great enthusiasm but was simply out-muscled or ran into a group of players too many times. His movement was out of sync with the rest of the team, but what can we expect when he hardly plays. Ran out of tricks or into a Chievo wall whenever a good chance seemed possible. The critical reception of the crowd when he was subbed off will have done his confidence no good, which shouldn’t be happening, especially when we are winning a game at home, top of the league and unbeaten in 15 matches. He deserves more respect, yet I assume, the fans feel they deserve more from him…

Osvaldo- 6

Instantly at ease on the field, Danni was given twenty minutes to impress when Chievo were shutting up shop and fatigue was setting in for both sides. He found two chances, one of which he nearly put away, the other, rather wayward. His link-up play with Tevez was present throughout and I suspect he has a chance of starting one of next two games.


Showed eagerness to involve himself and linked up well with Osvaldo. Merely a run-out to prepare him for our tie with Trabzonspor on Thursday.

10 goals and 3 assists from 17 starts in his maiden Serie A season…


The early stages of the game saw Chievo forced back and a lot of possession at our feet, as to be expected. It became quickly clear that our opponents were making up for their deficit of quality with brute force, with several of their tackles bordering on atrocious. What pleased me was to see how we reacted to the onslaught of hacking and scything, trips and barges. It began with two brilliant fouls by Pirlo and Marchisio, which demonstrated that if they wanted a scrap, we would be happy to oblige. I like that about our team, its one of those those vital ingredients which have been gradually creeping back into our game since Conte appeared on the scene. Its grinta…

The Asamoah goal was a thing of beauty. How often would we see such incisive penetration were he deployed as one of our central midfielders?? It is a good question, which cannot be answered until/unless we employ a specialist LWB. The one-two and the finish were sublime.

Marchisio got the goal his efforts deserved, threw himself into challenges, made himself available all over the field and gave as good a performance as I have seen of him for many moons. However, it was evident for the entirety of the game that our midfield was noticeably weaker without Pogba. It was suggested, by myself as well as many others last Summer, that this season could see il principino deposed from the starting XI and its easy to see why. Claudio is a wonderful servant to the club, technically solid, intelligent, but a weaker player than Pogba, in all areas of the game other than covering and moving around un-noticed. Yet I feel that despite Pogba’s understandable inexperience and greater comfort in the offensive phase of the game, the frenchman is not far off the italian defensively, due in no small part to his physique and robustness of bone and gristle. Whereas Claudio reads the play, senses danger with more zeal, I would always rather be facing him in a challenge on the ground or especially in the air, than Pogba. As with the player I measure as the only central midfielder superior to Vidal, (Yaya Toure), when Pogba has the ball, players literally bounce off him…He is very hard to stop once driving forward. His natural advantage of height and strength allow him more time to think before passing or shooting.

Speaking of Vidal…he is suffering from a lethargy of sorts. I would have preferred to see him rested for this game. He tackled well, but was far from his usual swashbuckling presence moving forward. Part of that problem could well be down to Caceres and an off game by Lichsteiner, both of whom I did not feel played well. Its tricky at times to see how he could ever get into our starting XI, certainly as a CB. He loves to tackle, but positionally, he is often suspect, and can tend to stand off players when worried about what is behind him. Which worries me even more!

Without Pogba to create from the centre and Tevez fighting his way all over the pitch, we became, at times yet again one dimensional, with literally everything going through Pirlo. Adding in another creative force makes us a far more dangerous team.

Llorente toiled hard but often found himself in the same area as Giovinco, which didn’t help matters. Regardless, he got his goal, well taken in the air, where he will become absolutely lethal I am sure, in time. The front two were not working in tandem, which had a knock-on effect for the rest of our play. Not just Llorente, but also Tevez, both act as reference points in the final third. The Argentine is a dwarf, but he not only has superb body strength but he uses it very smartly. Asking Seba to muscle it out with uncompromising centre-backs is a waste of his talents and our tactics. There seems no room for him in our 3-5-2.

If we want to make the most of his natural abilities, we would place him in a role between midfield and attack, not ask him to fight to even receive the ball against giants. That role does not presently exist. Whilst it seems reasonable to assume he will be heading out in the Summer, his final chance at Juve finished, I do wonder how he could perform in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2. And then there is that extremely successful stint at Parma to consider…Something along the lines of 15 goals and as many assists, when deployed often as one of a front pairing in a 3-5-2 (although equally often as an AM in a 4-2-3-1).

Pirlo seems in fine fettle and the Tevez/Osvaldo axis seemed far more dangerous a pairing in the brief time they had to shine, yet some of that was due to their freshness. I get the impression they could be rather handy together.

Defensively we were far from stable. Ogbonna was more impressive than Caceres, but the absence of Chiellini and Barzagli was palpable and at times a major concern. Let’s hope they are both ready for the Europa tie mid-week.

Overall, a 3-1 home victory, with 4 of our starting XI rested, with the only goal conceded something of a freak occurrence, is hardly worth whining about. Still, I have to admit that I felt that same unease as from last season, when we would sometimes dominate games but find it hard to turn our dominance into clear cut chances. Llorente’s goal was fortunate, given the keeper’s position, who should have cut out the cross. Marchisio’s was off a rebound, always a luck affair. One other clear chance for Osvaldo…other than which, not much to show for 64% possession.

We struggled in aerial challenges, no doubt due to the absence of Pogba in the middle, who towers above most players, and also Tevez in attack, whose ability to win the ball in the air, bring it down and play it on, is rarely mentioned but always valuable.

Essentially, we were disjointed in defence and attack. Had we started with Pogba, Tevez, Chiellini and Barzagli I suspect we would have pummelled Chievo. As it stood, we were still worthy winners, yet were scrappy and lacking ideas/ intelligent movement for much of the game.



Derby della Mole – Torino 1 – 1 Juventus

30 Apr

Torino certainly aimed for a counter-attacking routine, hopeful of taking advantage of whatever chances came their way through the rebounds of our constant, ponderous attacking play and possession. I saw that same predictable pressure game, where we move the ball left, then right, then left, then right, trying slowly, slowly to find a through ball. Its an area where we truly have to improve if we are to develop further as a team. Its not a lack of zeal or tactical nous on Conte’s part…more a reflection of making the best of what we have at our disposal.

Vucinic was yet again, as he is at least 3 games out of every 5; pathetic. His touch, vision, strength, pace were all atrocious for a trequartista/lone striker/attacking midfielder…whatever position in an offensive role you can imagine. And everyone who watches Juve regularly will accept that this was not an isolated incident. I hope he is sold in the Summer.

The 3-5-1-1 is an interesting idea, but Marchisio is far from a world class support striker (his best work is more central in the midfield where he can hustle/intercept/begin and be a part of the attack/arrive in the box late) and Vucinic is never a man to lead the line with any potency (for starters his shooting is regularly woeful and he can’t head the ball)

This lack of dribblers, of flair, of players confident enough to take a man on other than with a quick burst of pace down the flanks, will hurt us when we come up against robust defensive teams and also, teams which can match us defensively and dribble past our players in our own half. We have hugely lacked a fantasista since DP left the fold and I strongly expect Beppe, Paratici and Conte to focus on this gaping hole in our repertoire over the summer mercato period. Muriel would be interesting…Quintero is another option. We can not afford the Riberys and Ronaldos and Hazards, so we must take a punt of sorts on a natural dribbler/ flair merchant who is young, hungry and relatively cheap.

Llorente is a great piece of work by Beppe and his team and also a sign of the progress we have made since Conte picked up the reins. The spaniard would not have been short of better paying suitors, but he has decided to invest what are often a striker’s best years age-wise, into the project well underway at piedmont. Our allure and prestige are growing.

Add to the team a proper left back and allow Asamoah to challenge at CM and back-up at LB. Also a fantasista in the channels between midfield and attack or a Jovetic, and we will be making very sure progress.

As for the formation…If we can add some flair and creativity to the front line, a la Jovetic or Muriel, we could well try a Marchisio Pogba Vidal midfield. Also…we will have Pepe back for next term, so a 4-3-3 returns to the table of options.

We have improved this term when it comes to breaking down resolute ten men behind the ball opponents. However it still often seems at times that we win through on the luck we have forced and through attrition, rather than through a moment of magic. A split second piece of fantasy which would unlock any defence and present a clear goal scoring chance. Pirlo’s passing is often a joy to behold, but its not enough. Pogba takes more weight of responsibility to drive forward from Pirlo’s shoulders than any other in our team. That much becomes more apparent the more they play together. Rather than just worry about Pirlo, opponents have to worry about Pogba, whose distribution qualities are blossoming beautifully. Add his brilliant passing and improving creativity to his immense strength, powerful shooting and eagerness to drive forward with the ball at his feet and we have a player on our hands, who by midway through next season I expect to be one of the the first two names on the team-sheet in midfield alongside Vidal. Both players make their presence and ability felt more heavily and more consistently than Marchisio and Pirlo. It would be interesting to see a midfield-attack combination such as…
Vidal Pogba Asamoah
Llorente Jovetic/Muriel

Such talk can wait.

A welcome victory in the derby della mole. Let’s crunch Palermo and take the title in style next weekend…

Bayern Munich v Juventus Champions League quarter-final PREVIEW

1 Apr

Every Juventini who witnessed the barbed 1-2 away victory over Inter in the derby d’italia last Saturday will be confronting Tuesday’s champions league quarter-final with confidence, excitement yet also a hint of trepidation. Whilst its fair to conclude that we never looked like losing, those with any objectivity must concede that the victory was in no small way brought about through two world class saves from Buffon and the decision of the referee to refrain from awarding a penalty after a clumsy tackle by Chiellini in the area on Cassano. We won the game, but few worth listening to would have argued had we drawn.

Turning our attention to Bavaria, to check on the progress of the incredibly strong Bayern machine which blocks our path to the semi-finals, we see that their own warm-up for the big match resulted in a brutal 9-2 mauling of mid-table Hamburg. Sitting top of the bundesliga, twenty points clear of their nearest challenger, Dortmund, having amassed a stunning goal difference of +65, Heynckes’ well oiled panzer unit has enjoyed a season of continued success. The debate focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the major European leagues is not for now. Suffice to say, Bayern Munich have been indomitable domestically. Given our own healthy 9 point lead over Napoli in Serie A, the upcoming fixture will offer an intriguing opportunity for the best of Italy to face the best of Germany.

On the European stage both teams have been impressive. Especially our beloved bianconeri, whose table-topping unbeaten journey through a group which included reigning champions league holders Chelsea and the notoriously tough Shakhtar Donesk, represents a top quality début in the competition for Antonio Conte. An achievement rendered all the more spectacular, given the ridiculous scommessopoli trial, which cruelly and wrongly stole 15 league games and the whole group stage of European competition from the manager (Conte was banned from match days but not from training). We were expected to despatch Celtic in the second round knock-out phase, and did so without hitting top gear. Dealing with their thuggish, high tempo approach to the game alongside vociferous home support in a careful, calculated manner then finishing the job at home comfortably. Bayern had a harder time, going down 2-0 at home after winning handsomely in London in the first leg, sneaking through on the away goals rule to break Arsenal hearts the world over.

For Bayern the league title is already won and with Heynckes leaving his post in the Summer to make way for ex-Barca genius Pep Guardiola, the manager would dearly like to add his second personal champions league trophy to his Bavarian legacy. The 67 year old, who in his playing career scored a phenomenal 243 goals in 394 games, won the competition in 1998 whilst manager of R. Madrid and and took Bayern to last years final, succumbing to Chelsea on penalties at the final hurdle.

The story is markedly different for Juve, with the quarter-final ties representing the deepest we have delved in continental competition since before the ill-fated calciopoli scandal in 2006. Before which we were champions league regulars, having won the competition twice in our history and sharing the depressing title of ‘most champions league final defeats’ along with our German foes.

The strength of Juventus lies in the collective. Conte’s is a team which doesn’t lack individual superstars, but adopts a tactical focus always trumping expansive freedom for individual brilliance. Which is perhaps why we have seen so little of the scorer of a truly beautiful goal in the recent derby d’italia, the one player in our forward line who is capable of the magnificent and magical, often from incredible angles.

Fabio Quagliarella’s wonder strike left as bitter as sweet a taste in the mouth, for as welcome the goal was, it will likely do little to alter the manager’s convictions when it comes to seeing Mirko Vucinic as a better fit for his system. The Montenegrin is a player who infuriates far more regularly than he amazes. Profligate, mercurial, often more hapless than helpful but at times very capable of wonderful creativity and top calibre shooting. Perhaps he appears more selfless in training??Or his natural game as a trequartista/ attacking midfielder rings more of Conte’s bells?? Neither are enough for me to understand fully his continued higher placing in the pecking order above Quagliarella. My own instincts point to the passionate Neapolitan character of the Italian proving abrasive to Conte’s attempts/demands at footballing socialism. With Mirko more willing to tow the party line…Hardly what I would call a meritocracy. And yet still, I believe Conte when he explains how he ‘knows from the look in a players eye’ who is most ready for the battle. It could well be that Mirko simply manages to look more fired up during training, following Conte’s orders with admirable zeal whilst Fabio is concentrating on scoring in the top corner from 30 yards, less interested in the movements of our wingbacks or runs from midfield from Marchisio.

With Giovinco taking a brutal knock on the ankle from the GBH tackle of Cambiasso on Saturday it remains to be seen whether la formica atomica will feature. It seems horrid to write, but most likely correct to assume that Mirko Vucinic will be playing from the start. Alongside him we should expect the only pure prima punta in our squad, Allessandro Matri, whose form took a turn for the better as 2013 washed across our shores. He is an intelligent player, content to lead the line, poach in the box, drag defenders wide and link up with the marauding midfield en-route to goal. With Llorente arriving in the summer break its a good time for Matri to be championing his own cause to remain a regular first team player.

Our midfield is magnificent. Pirlo remains one of the finest deep lying play-makers in the world game, yet as we saw against Inter, he is prone to mistakes and when they occur, it is of ultra importance for there to be adequate, pacey cover (for his regista position). The manner in which Palacio sliced through our defence, very directly, was worrying, with too many players caught ball watching. Still, Andrea oozes all sorts of class, and will require man marking. Marchisio and Vidal can both play box to box, involve themselves in the final third to devastating effect and appear in fine physical and mental shape.

The strength of the midfield triumvirate is mirrored in defence with Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli offering immense muscle, sharpness of mind and confidence in the tackle. The latter two are both useful on the ball, with my only concern gazing upon Chiellini, whose mad dashes forward and occasional awkward challenges at the back could well land us in hot water. Regardless, he remains the strongest centre-back in the competition and always brings more to the table than he takes.

The wing-back situation is of more interest with the Lichsteiner steamroller sure to return at RWB, but what of the LWB spot? Asamoah has been poor since returning from ACON duty in South Africa, although he looked slightly improved in his last outing. Peluso offers more defensively. In the away fixture this may well be of too great to ignore importance with Ribery and Robben attempting to own the flanks, high up on our list of potential problem areas. Asamoah gives more offensively, and with Chiellini so robust on the left side of the rearguard trio I’d probably opt for the Ghanaian.

Quagliarella’s record in the champions league this season is nothing short of a joy to behold. Played 251 minutes, scored 4 goals, made 1 assist. Especially after both scoring scintillating goals at the weekend and linking masterfully at times, I hope the duo start up-top.

My hoped for line-up::::>>>>>


Lichsteiner Barzagli Bonucci Chiellini Asamoah

Vidal Pirlo Marchisio

Quagliarella Matri

Conte’s main talents as a manager are preparation and the ability to inspire, inject, infuse into his team the same confidence, belief and winning mentality that he possesses in spades. Lest we forget that he lifted the trophy as a player for Juventus in 1996.

We seem to play better with our backs against the wall, and my major worry is that we will be welcomed and made to feel cosy by the Germans, lulled into a false sense of security. Still…the greatest contribution Conte has made to the club, as manager, is to reignite the flame of self-belief, which has spread like forest-fire throughout the ranks. We may not be the 300 at Thermopylae, but we do have a Leonidas as our leader. This game, like every other, is a war. And I smile at the chorus in my heart and soul singing of Conte sending out soldiers who refuse to die…