Juventus took part in the second competitive match of their season against Shamrock Rovers in Modena last night. With all the hype that now surrounds the club considering the number of changes they have made throughout, fans were eager to see how their new signings would fare. Unfortunately, the weather was unkind and you would be forgiven for thinking that the Bianconeri were taking part in a water polo match as opposed to a football game. The rain was pouring and large puddles began to form on the pitch which meant playing conditions were horrendous making it difficult to properly evaluate players’ performances.
The Irish started the match with great intent and presented both a physical and gritty dimension to the game especially in the midfield. Juventus who had struggled with width throughout all of last season stayed true to their Coach’s ideas and attacked through the flanks, focusing their passing out wide allowing Diego very little chance to shine in the middle. Furthermore, the heavy rain meant attractive football was not on offer and it also favoured the Irish side as it meant the home side were unable to play the ball to feet and were restricted to long range passes to the top in hope of finding Amauri. As such, little Diego could hardly make the kind of impact he had hoped, constantly losing out to taller or more physical players. That would perhaps explain his sullen face as he watched Alessandro Del Piero – his direct competition for the role as second striker – score a wonder goal and the only goal of the match. The Captain’s flicks, runs and passes improved the game in the second half, leaving his many infatuated followers wondering how Juve will cope without his outrageous skill.
As one would expect with the chosen formation, the likes of Davide Lanzafame stood out as he played with heart and determination and came very close to scoring the opening goal for Juventus. His surging runs, confidence in attacking open positions and technical ability make him a welcome addition to the side. Alongside Paolo De Ceglie, the two seemed to work well together and linked up impressively to dominate the left flank. Of course the youngster who has only just returned to Turin still needs to improve in order to handle the likes of Inter. His desire to make an impact and his ability to impose his speed on the wing will prove vital as he hopes to pose stiff competition to Juve’s new midfield acquisitions.
Conversely, the right side of the field did not possess the same chemistry and Simone Pepe and Marco Motta still need to develop their understanding in order to excel but the defender’s performance was certainly worthy of a round of applause. His brilliant long ball created Lanzafame’s chance to score and he was a constant threat on the right side, brilliantly surging ahead and maintaining good control of the ball. Defensively, he still needs to improve his confidence levels and only time will tell whether he can maintain his attacking prowess whilst concentrating on his defensive responsibilities. However, considering the paltry sum Juventus shelled out for his services this summer, the player has more than exceeded expectations.
Attacking wise, Juventus were still a little stale and considering the opposition, it is a shame that the club still has to look to their veteran Captain to score. Amauri seems to have improved since last year and has the potential to be a complete striker but he has yet to live up to that potential and the Old Lady is becoming rather impatient. One would hope that Beppe Marotta has a viable plan to sign a fresh faced striker. Along with the signing of a new left-back, Juventus are really only missing that one offensive recruit that is mobile enough to take advantage of Diego’s passes, speedy enough to outrun the opposition and intelligent enough to move in-between the defence. If signed, that incoming striker has the potential to make a vastly improve the fortunes of the Bianconeri.
Defensively, the home side were hardly tested but when they were, they appeared sloppy and out of place and had some nervy spells during the match. Leonardo Bonucci maintained the form he displayed that got him noticed in Bari as he covered for those that advanced forward, delivered accurate and important passes and maintained superb ball control at the back. His calm approach to defending provided stability but once again and with all due respect to Shamrock Rovers, it is too early to make an accurate judgement considering the opposition.
It was pleasing to see a solid and compact team that took the pressure off the back-line and Luigi Del Neri has done well to earn the result. The question is, how well will he fare in a domestic league that is arguably more competitive than ever this year?