What could have served as a solid, if unspectacular start to the new campaign, was transformed into disappointment as Polish keeper Szcesney threw away victory almost singlehandedly. And yet even with the promising signs in the first half, the game was overshadowed before kick off as rumours abounded that Ronaldo was benched which turned out to be true…
Whilst an obvious talking point, I did not think much of it, beyond some loose suspicion that all was not jolly behind the scenes. Yet all has not been well at the club for a few years now, not solely of late, so nothing new there. It would be insensible to assume that such is Max’s magic that he could wave his wand and all would suddenly prove amazing. Not my expectation and his task yesterday was not helped by the inordinately late signing of Locatelli, nor of the absences of Arthur, McKennie and Rabiot. Chiesa was another who was deemed not quite fit to start.
Essentially our midfield included 2 players who would be behind all those three if available and rarely anywhere near the starting XI. Still, we set to task fairly well from the off, applied some pressure and created the opener within 3 minutes with a delightful team move involving Bentancur, Juan and the finish from Dybala.
And it did not take long for Dybala to further confirm the promise shown pre-season by sending a beautiful long pass for Juan to chase, collect, dive towards goal and finish with aplomb for 0-2 on 23′.
As the half wore on, we seemed to neither sit back nor try press the advantage. Something in between and it felt like Udinese realised we had no midfield other than Bentancur, as Bernardeschi was nowhere to be seen, Ramsey trying but not comfortably acting as the fulcrum, though at least I may have seen him touch the ball a few times. Add to this the absence of any penetration down the left and we became aiming constantly for Juan, or trying to get Dybala to create something when drawing a bit deeper.
We did not emerge with much confidence after the break, with the wind more in the sails of the home side though they rarely threatened. That was until Tek spilled a shot he should have easily caught, before throwing himself at the opponent to try make amends. It was very poor technique and decision making and a clear penalty was awarded and duly converted by former Juve man Peyerya.
Five minutes later and the introduction of slippery as a damn eel Deulofeu turned the tide against us. His direct running, quick turn of pace and eagerness to get into the box caused us too much trouble. Which was not helped but actually worsened by the subs made by Max. Four players emerging within a 15 minute period caused us to look disjointed with no recognisable system in place. I had little idea what tactical set-up Max had in mind beyond throwing on fresh players and assuming they would balance and prosper.
Despite this unraveling of any shape, we still managed to hit the woodwork twice, through Morata and Bentancur. And yet it really came as no major surprise to find the equaliser appearing. What was shocking, however, was the manner in which yet again Tek displayed very poor judgement and technique, fumbling the ball in possession when pressured by two opponents, and gifting an open goal for the imp to score. No idea why it was at first ruled out, other than perhaps the VAR were Polish? Of course it was a goal and a calamitous one at that to concede at any level of the game.
Late on perhaps Udinese could have won it. As could we with the VAR ruled out Ronaldo goal. And yet it was the home side who celebrated as if they had won the game come the final whistle, as our troops sauntered down the tunnel dejectedly.
Very hard to take much enthusiasm from this match. Though there were a few bright moments and performances.
Dybala looks very much recharged and sharp, took his goal splendidly and created the other with superb vision. Bentancur is another instantly revived and was unlucky not to add a goal to his own creative pursuit for the opener.
Other than which I found no stand out performers. Yet it is hard to judge the side when the midfield includes 2 who I do not feel should be anywhere near the first XI. And the nut of the matter, is that even with this depressing gifting away of a 2 goal lead, had it not been Tek’s worst ever performance in a Juve shirt, and a few inches luckier at the other end, we would have won this 0-5.
Hardly the end of times!
What will be of greater interest to me than the ongoing Ronaldo show in the media, is whether Max decides to give Mattia Perin the chance to impress next weekend at home to Empoli. As some will know, I am a long term fan of the italian and as demonstrated by the stats from last year he was the best shot stopper in Serie A, and not too shabby in other GK skill measures. I suspect he will give Tek first the opportunity to redeem himself but would find it odd that the Pole owns the number one jersey, when Ronaldo is clearly no longer owning any first XI spot. Only one of those two is a superstar and few would point to this man>
If Max is going to build a team, healthy competition is imperative. No player should feel guaranteed a starting spot no matter how bad they perform. Which is my biggest grumble with Sandro remaining at the club with no serious challenge for his spot.
Beyond which, it is a shame that Max preferred to go with Ramsey and Freddy B when we have Fagioli, Ranocchia and even Miretti, who have all impressed pre-season and were all fit and sharp, also more comfortable for the CM roles.
Briefly, on the Ronaldo silliness, which is a bother we do not need – it seems strange that Nedved gave a slightly different version of the story than Allegri did. Also that the Czech appeared throughout the game with his head in his hands, stressed, downbeat, angry. We can only conjecture, but it seems either Max was sending a message to the player, or the player was sending a message to the club.
A point away to Udinese is fine. We all know there is much work to do. The squad is nowhere near sharp. Several key players are missing. We hit the woodwork twice, created a fair few decent chances and La Joya is back.
It is highly unlikely that Tek will gift any games to opponents as he did with this one. And if he does, the emergence of Perin will be welcomed!
A start, not quite to suggest we remain Pirlo’s Juve, nor that we have instantly become Max’s Juve…moreover, very much a work in progress with some signs of promise.