Despite the one way traffic of the opening 20-25 minutes – with 6 corners conceded in just 11 minutes – I felt that we looked quite solid. That Max had got the shape right and selection far from as bizarre as our last outing. And Napoli were growing bothered, after conceding the early goal which Morata took splendidly, then finding our lines too hard to break.
Tek really was not tested with anything serious in the first half, barely any clear cut chances created, and we looked at least somewhat capable on the break. I was quite impressed with Pellegrini, and even De Sciglio, who both did well on the flanks, offering very little to zero going forward, but stopping either wide channel being over run.
Still, cometh the hour, cometh the same player who threw away 2 points v Udinese, and now attempted to throw away 2 points v Napoli, with our Pole in the goal flapping awfully at a lofted long range effort from Insigne (who always looks comically small, close to a dwarf) spilling for an easy finish for Politano.
It was depressing, and is now becoming less of a surprise. Still, Napoli perhaps deserved something for their effort, and had come out the dressing room once again on the front foot. Regardless, it was a gift, and not the only one we had to provide for the hosts!
Unfortunately the up until then solid back line was then cut apart, with Pellegrini heading off with cramp. Made no sense to me to not have another fullback on the bench. Why not include Matteo Anzolin? Or Jean-Claude Ntenda? If the shape was in any way tactically important, it made more sense to have a replacement for each role. Not the case however. And the introduction of De Ligt, with De Sciglio going to a LWB role and Freddy moved to RWB took us quickly into a defensive shambles.
The main reason for which was Freddy proving hapless in that position, with virtually no help from a Mckennie who was very poor throughout the game and should have been hooked far earlier.
The winner when it came was bemusing. Kean brought into the action far too late, heading back to where he assumed Tek would be waiting, but not quite where expected. The keeper’s flap at the ball gifting Koulibally the opportunity to karmically end his demons from that ill fated own goal from yesteryear.
Tek – Gave away 2 points yet again with a howler. It is worrying to find Max still talking of him as ‘our starting goalkeeper’. No player should be guaranteed a spot, else what incentive is there for others to fight for a starting position? He has thrown away points in 2 of our 3 games so far. Perin deserves a chance to show what he can do, but it does not look he will get it, as will only be called up if Tek is injured. What a terrible waste of a talented keeper, and awful way to run a squad. 2
Bonucci – looked solid until the back four changed to a 3 with uncomfortable/hapless defensive cover out wide. 6
Chiellini – Same as above. 6
De Sciglio – Kept deep yet did his job fine at RB, then muddled at LWB after the reshuffle. Offered nothing going forward but sound defensively for the first half. 6
Pellegrini – A strong debut, could have done with more adventure, but may have been asked to stay deep and was pushed back constantly. A decent debut for the kid who did not look out of his depth. 6
Locatelli -Lively throughout, combative, attempted to move the ball quickly and intelligently, respectable start during a wretched time for the club. 6
Mckennie – Worst game of his Juve career to date and in a pivotal role in CM. Other than one snap shot screwed wide, he offered nothing defensively, no presence in the middle nor anything up top. His mind is perhaps not on his game presently, and should be kept out the side until he regains his focus. 2
Rabiot – Hustled and bustled, and looked a little more alive and perhaps enough to meet the average…6
Freddy – At least showed some energy and eagerness when out wide up top, though didnt produce much of note and when forced into a much deeper RWB position, his game fell apart entirely. 4.5
Morata – Took his goal superbly, won free kicks, never stopped running and moving, but should have been replaced far sooner to give Kean chance to bed into the game. 6
Kulu – He is not a CF, nor an SS, nor is he particularly effective at LWF. The young Swede has prospered previously as a RWF at senior level with Parma. So he is playing out of position. With this in mind, I felt he fared okay, constantly tried to make things happen and was caught out mainly when dropping deep to try get the ball and charge forward with it, but with nobody to pass to, trying to do it all himself. An average effort in an unnatural role. 5
Ramsey – Certainly looked more useful than McKennie, but I suspect even I would have proven the same given the American’s complete no show. The welshman got stuck in, but it was of little use with no recognisable system in place, and another experiment with a 3-5-2 which was at best, muddled. 5
Kean – How wretched for the lad, to have so terribly misjudged where Tek was standing, and I hope this does not haunt him for too long. No real surprise given he has perhaps had no time to get organised in a defensive system from corners, and was just trying to help. Though it was a dangerous header to make. Not in any way connected to his teammates, no communication with Tek, and I wish he had been introduced at 60′, not 82′. A chance to get the flow of the game and build some momentum. 5
Max – The plan seemed to be working fairly well until we self destructed then changed to a system which left us all at sea defensively. I can sympathise with the selection issues though also it is fair to assume Max had spent pre-season planning on a system which utilised Ronaldo and since he has left, its very much now back to the drawing board. Experimentation in every game so far, some forced, much due to not having a firm idea of what works. 5
The squad remains a shambles legacy of Paratici. The corners cut to finance the ronaldo deal, and the focus since then on his goals as the focal point are now very much coming home to roost. We do not have a natural LWF, nor a specialist holding DM nor much quality on the flanks at the back, other than when Juan plays. Rabiot has yet to prove he is anywhere near the top midfield we need and Mckennie was atrocious. I would assume with all the missing players returned and available, Max will be able to find a system that works and we will see the side improve. How long this might take is very hard to tell.
Any side missing 5 of their best bets for a first XI spot is going to struggle to some degree. We were not hugely outplayed as Napoli didn’t impress that much and probably wouldn’t have won the match, maybe even grabbed a point, had it not been for individual errors gifting them goals. I imagine they will flatter to deceive this season, look set to be aiming higher than ourselves but not as title contenders.
The only positive I can take is that we have Malmo on Tuesday, presenting a opportunity to turn the corner. On one hand, still little time to prepare the side, but we will have most the squad back so Max should be able to deploy, at least on paper, a much stronger side than our opponents.
I remain convinced we can set our heights this season no higher than 4th. Can but hope that we are able to find some form and an identity before even that starts drifting out towards the horizon. It is going to take 2-3 years for us to fix the squad, cut loose from the Paratici legacy and hope to regain a position of strength and dominance. Meanwhile, the best we can hope for is for Max to find the formula to give us a team that works hard, fights hard and shows a clear idea of what we seek to become.