For once, the scoreline did not matter and at long last, Juventus fans were excited to see their team play in arguably the most enthralling match of the weekend. The Bianconeri faced a Sampdoria side determined to humble them and seek revenge for having lost their most lauded personnel to the giants.
The passion and determination were made abundantly clear on the pitch as both sides gave their all to win the match. In the end The Old Lady had to settle for only one point as the Club’s poor start to the season continued, yet her fans were jubilant as they witnessed a squad with the right attitude who fought hard and played cohesively to produce a brave attacking display.
Were it not for a back-line reminiscent of a Bundesliga team, the Bianconeri would have surely won the match. But once again, and two years on, the defence is still susceptible to momentarily lapses of concentration, devoid of any man-marking skills, and features full-backs who do not have the faintest idea of what it takes to play in that position.
Marco Motta may well be too traumatised to play anytime soon and Paolo De Ceglie, though slightly improved, was most certainly a liability at the back. But with the kind of cohesion witnessed on Sunday, one can only imagine how far this side can go if they had the kind of back-line the Juventus teams of the past have boasted.
If Sporting Director Beppe Marotta really wants to build a team for the future, he should shelve his plans to buy Antonio Cassano and focus instead on purchasing two full-backs to balance out the squad, plus a striker who could take advantage of the activity created by the wingers.
In the first half Juve suffered and were unable to stretch their play across the full width of the pitch. However, after half-time Coach Luigi Del Neri sent out a reinvigorated team hungry to impose themselves on the flanks.
Much has been said about Del Neri’s decision to take both Simone Pepe and Milos Krasic off. Pepe, who has been constantly criticised since his arrival in Turin, seemed determined to prove he can provide the attack with worthy contributions, and arguably had a hand in all three Juventus goals.
As for Krasic, he was the only player on the pitch capable of outperforming Cassano as he outran his counterparts, turned the Sampdoria defence inside out and provided a lovely assist for Claudio Marchisio. Yet despite the duo’s efforts and their continual ability to threaten in attack, they were both taken off to make way for a 4-3-3 formation.
Undoubtedly Del Neri’s decision to mix it all up was puzzling, though one train of thought is he targeted Sampdoria’s full-backs as weak links and felt that by playing his forward line a little higher up the pitch, the wide strikers would exploit their shortcomings and in doing so also pen them in and reduce the threat of a counter.
There is also the possibility the Coach simply wanted to keep Krasic and Pepe fresh for Thursday’s Europa League clash against Polish outfit Lech Poznan.
Whatever the reason for the change, however, it unfortunately failed to bring with it the desired result, though Del Neri’s willingness to make bold tactical changes and alter formations during matches should be seen as a positive rather than a hindrance.
It’s difficult to tell how much the Coach genuinely learned from his re-shaping, as Sampdoria’s leaky defence made life easier than normal for Juve’s often ineffective front-line. As encouraging as their goal tally on Sunday was, the Bianconeri may yet struggle against more defensively organised squads, as was the case against Bari.
However, the match has somewhat renewed hope in this squad, even if Del Neri in his post-match interview suggested his side were not strong enough to win the title. Perhaps he is right but at least this Juventus team is giving its all and winning over the crowd.
On a final note, Alessandro Del Piero celebrated 17 years as a Bianconeri player on Sunday with a typically enterprising performance, and in an emotional post on his personal website, he listed 17 reasons why he is celebrating this anniversary.
Amongst those mentioned are his relationship with the Avvocato, who would regularly wake him up in the mornings, the 5th of May, 2002 when Juventus won the Scudetto over Inter, and his pride at scoring his 200th goal for Juventus in Serie B.
An eloquent man with a deep love for the jersey and a marvellously successful career, Del Piero is a Juve legend – and he’s not finished yet!