Well well well.. it appears as though Andrea Pirlo took a look at my ‘Way Too Early Player Ratings’ criticism and started Paulo Dybala (haha). However, he still started us off in his concrete and dull 4-4-2. It’s ludicrous that a so-called top club even deploys this team shape.
When Piero Giacomelli blew the first whistle, Sassuolo was knocking the ball around with sharpness and precision. They were playing meaningful football. A couple of times early in the first half, Juventus tried to high press the Neroverdi, and they were passed around quite easily leading to changes in the 3rd minute from Traoré and the 6th minute from Berardi. Juventus could not deal with the high press. No passing lanes or proper support comes from trying to play out of the back in a 4-4-2 and that has been one of the continuous knocks that have come throughout the season. The few times we were successful in playing out, the full-backs, Danilo and Alex Sandro tucked in the middle and became outlets. Other than that, loose passes and exhausting long balls were the stories of the early stages of the first half. Poor passes from Danilo and then Rabiot lead to Raspadori being taken down in the penalty area by Leonardo Bonucci. The ensuing spot-kick was denied by San Gigi Buffon. The rest of the half was a bit better. 2 Individual moments from Adrien Rabiot and a special moment for Cristiano Ronaldo separated Juventus from Sassuolo. Rabiot took the ball from the right-wing and coasted to the middle, releasing a pinpoint strike into the right, low bottom corner making it 1-0. The second goal came from a second ball win from Rabiot heading Ronaldo into a 1 on 1 with Marlon. The Portuguese did the rest and scored his 100th goal in black and white. 2-0 Juventus. The score didn’t tell the whole story but Juventus will take any lead at this stage.
Star Player: Buffon
Flop Player: Dybala
You could tell what Juventus wanted to do in the second half against Sassuolo. Sitting and waiting to counter was the second half mantra. Goals were traded by Juventus and Sassuolo with the home side capitalizing early on through Raspadori. Locatelli and Raspadori completed a very lovely one-two on the edge of the Juventus box and the young Italian striker put it past an outstretched Buffon. Dybala scored his 100th goal for Juventus on a counter-attack and great final ball from Dejan Kulusevski. The Argentine dinked the ball over Consigli for a 3-1 lead. On another counter, Kulusevski drove the ball out wide to Ronaldo who cut up Chiriches and smashed the right post. After a few Pirlo changes, it was Kulusevski and Ronaldo upfront with Cuadrado, Bentancur, Rabiot, and McKennie in midfield keeping the 4-4-2 team shape. The second half saw Sassuolo push for goals while Juventus just waited for counters. After 3-1, the rest of the match was just a game of chess with only a couple of half-chances by both teams. Buffon is the reason Juventus won today by making key saves in important moments.
Star Player: Dejan Kulusevki
Flop Player: Alex Sandro
Overall, although Juventus were up 2-0 in the first half, they were quite poor again. There is no bite and no leadership in the squad. The grinta is gone and individualism ruled the day today. This result came purely from some Buffon heroics.
Here are a few thoughts about the 3-1 victory over Sassuolo:
Matthijs De Ligt is an absolute rock.
4-4-2 is atrocious and limiting.
Let’s sign Raspadori and Locatelli.
Arthur cannot play in a 2 man midfield.
Buffon should start the rest of the season.
Sassuolo is nice to watch.