After an hour of listless, uncoordinated failure to string even three passes together in the final third, Pirlo offered evidence that he may still have the solutions to the problems, even if the problems are (partly) of his own manufacture. A sign of promise…

The introduction of Morata and Freddy B changed the match close to instantly in our favour. The two combining within 1 minute of entering the fray for the Spaniard to poke in from close range after a superb ball over the top from Danilo had found the winger making an intelligent run behind the lines.

It was a rare piece of value in the final third from the long maligned italian, and he repeated the trick ten minutes later after Rabiot sent through a quick, accurate through ball to allow Freddy to scurry into the box, pick out Chiesa whose first effort was blocked, scooping the ball home at the second attempt with a falling down scissor kick!

Whilst the defending against Bernardeschi was poor on the first and non-existent on his second assist, I am so very happy for the lad. Month after month, year after year of appalling performances, I had come to consider him a non-footballer. Could this be the catalyst to revive him?? If he can even just focus on doing that, making runs in the 2nd half, into the final third, cutting in, and passing the ball simply, it would be a staggering improvement.

More to the point of our immediate improvement was Morata. He pulls players out of position, has a great eye for a poachers finish and generally speaking, we are much better offensively with him in the side. Rather than just aiming to get the ball to Ronaldo, we become a different beast, with opponents suddenly forced to watch them both, and if we play with two wingers…(which I am shocked it has taken Pirlo this long to understand brings balance) then the opposing defence is even more stretched.

This routine of playing one winger in a midfield with no winger on the opposite flank, instead a CM tucked in and doing what else I am unsure…is wrong. And yet I have seen it over and over again.

The formation had changed, with the replacement of Mckennie and Frabrotta to a 3-4-3/3-5-2 and it looked good. It had balance and width, we suddenly looked a team who were connected and had ideas blossoming between the side from top to bottom.

Curiously, for some time, Ronaldo played more centrally, even more as a RWF, on the opposite flank to usual, but higher up, for a time when we had Kulu on the left and Chiesa on the right.

No surprise to find the side becoming very threatening indeed when we have runners breaking the lines. We desperately need this every game. Not all teams sit back, nor play on the front foot, but we play at our best when on the front foot or in that ultra solid low defensive setting such as against Inter, which should only be used against top opponents when we have a lead to protect.

Nut of the matter is that Pirlo’s selections and starting system are often riddled with mistakes. He does change things in a game, and this time it worked out brilliantly. What is paramount is that he understands the dire need to play a CF. Ronaldo can play there if Morata is injured, just make him, we pay the man 30m per year and whilst you are at it, Mr Pirlo, take him off free kicks. Share them around. Let Morata take some. Ramsey. Kulu. Chiesa…the others who can shoot.

Also what should not be a lesson to learn, for anyone who has played the game let alone is managing Juventus – if you are to play a quick, direct winger who naturally wants to drive into the space and then the box, use one either side. Don’t play only one as it makes the side horridly unbalanced.

Terrible first 60 minutes. Much better final 30. We will see if Pirlo thought the same on the weekend when we face Lazio. Is he brave enough to pick the side and shape which transformed us from a barely animated corpse, easily matched by Spezia in our own backyard to a team who should have really run out 5 or 6-0 winners from moving from neutral to somewhere near top gear for the final 30 minutes.

Brief mentions for Danilo, who looked superb and Bentancur, who finally had a game where he made no obvious errors and showed a hint of what I really would like to see more of when winning the ball late on, and driving forward to create the chance for Ronaldo to make it 3-0.

TGP

And also we have a report from Esteban_el_Chiapaneco

A tale of 2 Juventus

Location:” Juventus” Stadium (we don’t do free advertising on Juve Zone, unless it’s for genuine amici, and a giant insurance conglomerate is no one’s amico.)

In the Stands: Special friends of Andrea and the Ghost of John Charles

The very short version of today’s proceedings: ‘we won, as expected”. But as you know, the very short version usually leaves out some significant chunks of exposition, so a few are following.

The run-up to this match happened amid something close to full-fledged hysteria within many quarters of the Bianconeri fanbase: because we aren’t in first place, because we lost a UCL first tie on the road, fortunately by just one goal, to a squad whose entire payroll probably doesn’t even top Cristiano and Georgina’s annual sunscreen expenditure. It is significant to note that we are still in the mix for 3 trophies, while the clubs above us in the table play fewer matches as their only remaining concern is the Scudetto. So when we discuss this match we have to contextualize it properly.

Romelu and Zlatan aren’t playing 4 games over an 11 day period. They’re sitting on some pretty expensive couches eating their crisps and watching Pirlo’s platoon grind it out every few days.. But after all this admonishing of everyone to keep the faith, I was, just like most of you, cursing at the screen for virtually the entire first half, as Spezia took the game to us over the first 30 minutes or so. We seemingly couldn’t string together as many as 2 consecutive passes, would recover possession and immediately return the ball to Spezia via innumerable medium to long balls launched to….nowhere in particular.

Pirlo’s line-up, cobbled together with players still struggling to injury or missing the match due to accumulation of cards, again featured Alex Sandro as a center back, but he was steadier this time out. The game’s first decent chance fell to Spezia’s Ricardo Marchizza, after they’d worked it around the left side of our box, and he pinged it wide to the left of Tek’s goal. Frabotta seemed late with his decision-making early on, given his lack of time on the pitch lately.

At the 29 minute mark, Ronaldo collects a loose ball in Spezia’s box and dilly-dallies in his mega-step-over way when he had both Chiesa and Kulu unmarked on either side of him just a few feet away, until he was eventually dispossessed. .

And so it went for most of the initial half. Both Chiesa and Kulusevski were industrious throughout, with Demiral similarly effective at the back. The match turned at approximately the 34 minute mark as we expanded our share of possession and began to assert ourselves. Cristiano launched a lovely ball that clanged off the right post (with replay revealing that Provedel, Spezia’s keeper, had barely grazed the ball with his fingertips, but just enough to direct it off the post.

Spezia held on with dogged defending and quality goalkeeping, and we retained the ability to help squash our own initiatives well into the 2nd half, but at the 60-minute mark, Pirlo sends Morata and Bernardeschi on for McKennie and Frabotta, and a few minutes later Danilo slips a great ball forward to Berna, who streaks down the left side to collect it, than whips a fantastic centering bullet across the goal mouth, Morata races to meet the ball, and we’re off to the races (after the VAR erases the officials’ initial call of offsides.).

At this point, Spezia, who’d put up a great fight the entire match, were on the ropes and the 2 subsequent scores (Chiesa with a gritty effort and CR7 rounded out the scoring. But a bit of late drama still awaited, when Demiral, who’d had a fantastic dominant showing throughout, got bit by the VAR, only to be bailed out in some karmic way, by Vincenzo Italiano, Spezia’s manager, appointing Andrej Galabinov to take the penalty, which he does poorly, and it’s easily collected by Szczesny. And Demiral is redeemed, justly.

Ratings:

Juventus: Szczesny 6.5 Not terrible busy, especially later in the match, but he made the saves he needed to make.

Danilo: 7. Steady at the back and moving forward, and his pass set up our initial goal.

Sandro: 6.5 Doing his best to play wherever Pirlo needs him to play

Demiral: 7. A fantastic showing from the young Turk. We’ll forget about the late foul, since his aggressiveness probably saved more than 1 goal over the 90.

Bentancur: 6.5 Steady

Rabiot: 5. Ran quite a bit and provided physicality, but his feet was where scoring chances came to die. Takes forever to determine what to do, by which time the defense has collapsed around him or he’s run out of room.

McKennie: 6 playing out wide on the left, not his best position, struggled to impose himself at times but showed his quality often in defense and transition, and with some slick, smart passes.

Kulusevski: 7 consistently applied pressure and ran like crazy

Chiesa: 8. Was everywhere; his acrobatic goal was a messy masterpiece of mega-grinta.

Cristiano: 7. threatened often, commanded much attention from the Spezia defenders and rallied the troops. Took his late chance typically clinically.

Frabotta: 5.5 seemingly hasn’t played in forever, and it showed, but he hustled.

Berna: 7 Came on for Frabotta and broke the game open.

Morata: 7 got the goal that gave us the 3 points we desperately needed. When he’s not offside, he scores.

Pirlo: Pulled the right strings at the right time, was able to recognize that the starting lineup needed a jolt of adrenaline.

Spezia: Provedel 6 Worked hard. Kept them in it well into the 2nd half, tremendous acrobatic save on Ronaldo Terzi 5.5 Marchizza 6 (came within a whisker of a goal that would have injected doubt into Juve’s mindset Erlic 5.5 Vignali 6 Sena 6 Maggiore 6 Estevez 6 Farias 5.5 N’Zola 5 Gyasi 6

Other reports>>> ROMAN