After a run of just one goal in eight matches Alessandro Matri looked to be feeling the strain. While he struggled to find the back of the net, new January signing Marco Borriello gave Antonio Conte another option in attack. Matri desperately craved – to no avail – a goal in the Coppa Italia clash against Roma, but answered any critics on Saturday in the snow versus Udinese.
Matri’s two goals were very different, yet nonetheless crucial as Juve overcame the Zebrette 2-1. After earlier spurning a one-on-one opportunity, Matri’s first arrived from close range, where his goal-mouth instinct came to the fore. He then turned Damiano Ferronetti to squeeze his second inside the far post and secure a valuable win for the Turin giants.
The opener was reminiscent of his winner at Lecce. Had it been Fabio Quagliarella or Alessandro Del Piero, would Mirko Vucinic’s shot been turned home? Probably not. Matri’s ability to be in the right position meant Juve secured two extra points. His poaching qualities are not shared by Juve’s other strikers but is a telling habit to hold.
On the back of a fruitful first six months at the club (nine goals in 16 matches, helping crack the 20 goal mark for the season), coupled with his start to this campaign (six goals in 12 matches) comparisons in the media to master-finisher David Trezeguet surfaced. The Lombardy native responded to the evaluation, stating: “Trezeguet wrote a chapter in the history of this club, whereas I haven’t even picked up a pen yet.”
While Matri has some way to match Trezeguet, elements of his style help the comparison. Like Trezeguet, his movement and positioning is excellent. Lethal in the penalty area, perhaps the predatory Frenchman has his heir in that department, given Matri’s goals have all come inside the box. Similar to Trezeguet, he can score with both feet – five have been netted with the right foot, three the left and one a header. Matri excels at using his strength, however Trezeguet often gave the impression he could net any chance; this is not the case with Matri.
Those nine goals see the ex-Cagliari player atop the Juve scorers list, but six behind overall capocannoniere Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Matri’s strike rate of 18.75% is down compared to other leading marksmen. Genoa’s Rodrigo Palacio (11 goals) is the deadliest, converting 31% of his chances, while Ibrahimovic (15), German Denis and Miroslav Klose (both 12) sit at 22%. Edinson Cavani (12) has a rate of 20%, but Antonio Di Natale (14) and Stevan Jovetic (10) are less clinical than Matri, at 15% and 13% respectively. Finally, Emanuele Calaio’s nine goals make up 23% of his total shots.
Former teammate Luca Toni noted Matri is “strong, a great buy and the future of Juve.” He has shown ability as a prima punta in a two man forward line, while also at ease between Mirko Vucinic and Simone Pepe this campaign. Conte’s desire for the duo to stay closer to Matri than true wingers helps. It allows for greater interplay and assists breaking open defences. With wider wingers (ala Milos Krasic), Matri is isolated and has less impact.
Comparisons between the current Juventus side and the class of 1994/95 – Marcello Lippi’s squad which ended a nine-year Scudetto drought – are also prevalent this term. In front of goal, statistics aid the resemblance. While not as prolific as Milan (33 goals to 43), nor were Lippi’s team. They scored less than Lazio (59 to 69) and fewer than tenth placed Fiorentina, with top scorer Gianluca Vialli nine off Gabriel Batistuta. However contributions were all-round, just as this season. They can also look to the fact the last ‘official’ Scudetto in 2002/03 was won with Del Piero’s leading tally of 16, eight behind Inter’s Christian Vieri. Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved netted nine apiece and Marco Di Vaio scored seven. Those are numbers Matri and Juve could well emulate in 2011/12 as the striker proves his worth in Turin.