Well, another disappointing result. The weekend leading to this match didn’t start well as Cristiano Ronaldo was out injured and he didn’t even travel to Bergamo. Paulo Dybala, who recently returned but didn’t have 90 minutes in his legs yet, automatically started in his place. Vice-captain Leonardo Bonucci also returned but only to the bench so Captain Giorgio Chiellini started his fourth game in three weeks. Federico Bernardeschi was still out due to Covid and Danilo was a late scratch due to a toe injury so coach Andrea Pirlo slotted Juan Cuadrado at RB and started Weston McKennie at hybrid RW.
Juventus (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, de Ligt, Chiellini, Alex Sandro; McKennie, Bentancur, Rabiot, Chiesa; Morata, Dybala.
The host were almost at full strength as only Cristian Romero was absent due to suspension and Hans Hateboer out injured indefinitely. Berat Djimsiti and Joakim Maehle took their places in the starting line-up.
Atalanta (3-4-3): Gollini; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti; Maehle, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Zapata, Muriel.
Our superior individual players started well with the initiative to attack. Although a little bit predictable with the ball either went to Cuadrado to the right or our hottest player Federico Chiesa to the left, it’s a welcome change. The Colombian was particularly agile as he turned his opponent numerous times. Chiesa was double-teamed immediately he received the ball but unfortunately our central midfielders couldn’t maximize the advantage. Atalanta, the more superior team, grew into the game and were more dominant by the end of the first half and the majority of the second half. We actually pushed back around the 60th minute after Chiese went out injured (looked like a hamstring problem) but, again, too predictable. In the end, Atalanta’s super-sub Ruslan Malinovskiy proved decisive as his shot from outside the box hit Alex Sandro and deflected into our net. This season, we have seen that we don’t have what it takes in the last minutes of the games and it’s not different this time. The subs Danilo, Dejan Kulusevski and Arthur couldn’t help swing the result. We dropped to fourth with Milan four points above us in second place and Atalanta leapfrogged us and now have a two-point advantage in the third.
After the game, we learnt that Chiesa wasn’t fully fit to start the game. It explained why he looked a bit subdued. With Alvaro Morata was still out of form and Dybala only recently returned, our entire offense was not 100%. A couple of our midfielders were also not 100% with McKennie and Arthur still carrying nagging injuries. Players constantly take turns being injured and it has been like this since Max Alegri’s second season and it hasn’t gotten any better so obviously, the management hasn’t been able to find the source of the problem.
To make things worse, the style Pirlo wanted has completely disappeared. He started the season brightly with his innovative 3-4-1-2 with players pressing high. It has its moments but the defensive phase has been poor and it hasn’t improved with only seven games remaining. In the last few games, he and his staff has simplified it to 4-4-2. It helps but the problematic defensive phase still lingers and we have become more predictable. It’s not fair to blame all the issues on them as Fabio Paratici also failed to provide the regista and strong no.9 Pirlo needed and the injury-raveged team halted the consistency yet, they do show that they’re not good enough to overcome these issues.
Personally, I still think we’ll be able to squeak by into the top four by the end of the season (providing the key players don’t suffer any significant injuries) but big questions remain in the summer. Changes will be made and we’ll see which direction (no, I’m not talking about the European Super League) our beloved club will take. Forza Juve!!!