Supercoppa Italiana 13/8/17 – Juve 2 Lazio 3
Well what should’ve been a statement of intent, a chance to silence the ever growing chorus of doubters, turned out to be a nightmare. It’s no exaggeration to say we were outplayed and embarrassed. Only Dybala’s individual brilliance made the scoreline respectable when it could’ve been much worse.
I had initially stopped to double check the starting line up just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, but yes, none of the new signings were in there; Allegri clearly trying to make a point by, egomaniacs Alves and Bonucci apart, naming the same side which started the Champions League final in Cardiff. Suggesting that everyone has to earn their place in the starting line up. At least that’s what I think he was doing, the whole thing seemed a little bizarre. That or clearly treating the game as the glorified friendly it is. No bad thing and I certainly wouldn’t question Mister Allegri’s intentions, however it was a massive opportunity lost. Surely playing Cuadrado, Barzagli at right back, Mandzukic on the left wing and even Benatia serves no purpose, they have nothing to prove, but playing Bernardeschi, De Sciglio, Rugani and Costa would benefit the team immensely by helping them to settle and give them genuine match time as opposed to friendlies.
In an eerily similar performance to that of the second half in Cardiff time and again our midfield was overrun, our forwards were forced to come and get the ball in midfield and our back four appeared to be strangers to one another. With genuine first team opportunities fading fast for Cuadrado and Khedira, they failed miserably. Cuadrado in particular played a bizarre ‘spare man’ central midfield role at times and fell into a familiar trap of trying too hard and complaining to anyone who will listen when things don’t go his way. When he is in this mood he’s a liability. Khedira seemed to have regressed to the form of early last season; constantly chasing shadows and weak in the tackle as Lazio attacked and pressured at will. Neither man, particularly Cuadrado, can be considered first team material now.
The case of Khedira is more worrying; vastly improved over the final third of last season he had won the ‘other place’ in midfield next to (or around) Pjanic, last night was a step backwards and cannot have instilled any confidence in his long term abilities. It also highlights the lack of depth in midfield, because who would replace him? Obviously Marchisio, who impressed during pre season, springs to mind, and it is he who should take that other midfield place as soon as possible. However form and fitness have prevented him from completely dominating the Juve midfield, so who is left? Bentancur? Surely too young and inexperienced at the highest level to shoulder this burden? Remember Juve let both Rincon and Lemina go last week, in my mind it seemed as though a replacement was imminent, with a week left before the season starts one can only hope this is true. Although any new signing at the moment would seem to be a panic buy. Matuidi seems to have been favourite for weeks now but at 30 he’s no more than stop gap and certainly not the type of stop gap which Pirlo was.
In my opinion this was our most definite need of the summer, a dynamic box to box midfielder, which even the most myopic of Juve fans could see as Modric and co swept through our midfield in the second half of the Champions League final. Number one priority, without question. Instead of chasing Can, Verratti or even Kroos we have been trying to sign Keita Balde and Patrik Schick, certainly talents in their own right, but not what we need right now.
Now the defence may have had a shock to the system with Bonucci leaving, but that in no way excuses basic defending errors, as I mentioned earlier, it appeared the four were complete strangers. This isn’t the time to be blaming it on pre season rustiness, we’re days from the season starting here. Benatia is hardly a new signing but last night’s performance will surely have harmed his long term hopes of permanently replacing Bonucci, especially as most fans want to see more time given to Rugani, a man who has patiently bided his time on loan or on the bench over recent seasons. Benatia has every right to be worried.
One (the only?) positive was Douglas Costa’s performance, his willingness to create, run at people and pick out a cross was something we have badly missed and something which Gonzalo Higuain will benefit from the most. The two almost combined to great effect last night.
So Juve, not so much striding but limping quietly into the new season, need to re-group and put this disaster behind them as soon as possible. The rest of Serie A won’t forget it in a hurry.