What we learned from Atalanta vs Juventus
Coming off the heels of a sudden late hour absence of Ronaldo, Juventus arrived in Bergamo seeking a vital three points that would keep them in solid position for the top four, (this of course pending if there is actually a UCL next year). Juve fell flat in a game that had its back and forth moments, but in which Juve never had any semblance of resilience or motivation to keep the score other than 0-0. While Atalanta has proved to be a tough opponent on paper, the reality is that Juve has easily taken care of them for years, so this game proves to be another costly dent on a bland season. What in reality was an elite game for the top European spots, it should have stayed the way it was for most of the game, a stalemate, but a nasty deflection, and things can change very quickly.
Let's address the elephant in the room, Ronaldo was indeed missing in the match and sure did look like we missed him. Juve has yet to win a single game without Ronaldo this season. As a player 36 years old, we are obviously in admiration of his form and work ethic, however, we must acknowledge that these sorts of things happen from time to time. Last season, we were increasingly worried about how little injuries would pile up with him. The depth on this team causes absences like this to be deeply felt. Despite this, we should be highly expectant of Morata, Dybala, Chiesa, and Co to deliver a competent performance. We expected this and yet they didn't deliver, as we have seen again multiple times this season. The primary headlines shouldn't be that Ronaldo is out, rather that we have a next-man-up mentality.
This game provided the prospects at thrilling attacking football, Juve’s notable players along with Atalanta’s full field press counters. In the first half, we saw a bit of this and in fact the best moments in the game overall. Juve seemed to have some decent chances as did Atalanta. Juve’s performance in the first was marked by a currently misfiring Alvaro Morata who unfortunately continues to miss key chances. Isolated from Dybala for most of the game the link-ups with little if any on the afternoon. Morata’s best chance came because of a big mixup in Atalanta’s defense (In which Morata should have powered the shot not chipped), while Dybala's came on a spot freekick. Not of these came out of their own fruition, but at the same time, Atalanta did a good job to make sure that they kept them out of dangerous positions.
Perhaps the most worrisome factor in this game was the lack of urgency, motivation, and just always seeming like this team was a step behind. Clearly, Atalanta was most motivated for this game, as seen in their post-game celebration antics. In large part, this was a boring game for most of the second half especially, again in a game expected to be high scoring and attacking, the goods were not delivered. It seemed like that kind of game in the last two or three weeks of a season where everything has already been decided. In a game where we got the bombshell news of the Superleague, it kind of seemed like the players actively were playing like this was already the fact. In the post-game time, we have these many emotions, thoughts, and questions surrounding this superleague which in turn make it seem like we yet do not know what the effect of Juve losing to Atalanta effectively at the buzzer will have in the long term.
Once again we saw a decent performance from our defense when they were playing defense and not going forward. It continues to frustrate me that we seem to play only through one side when we decide to play on the flanks, Cuadrado continues to be a player who opens up space and can dribble by many defenders by himself. He was very unlucky not to score today if it were not for some last-ditch defending by Gosens. In contrast, we have Alex Sandro on the left who continues to be timid in doing any type of forwarding runs. Either he is acknowledging his loss of pace at his age, or he is just scared at turning the ball over. It is a huge detriment to the team, it is largely unmentioned sometimes because again he is playing it safe for the most part. However, we can't have that from him week after week. As rumors swirl surrounding his future, I am more than happy to see him go. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have it anymore, he was a good player for us for a few years, but it is time to move on now. Our center back pairing today I believe actually had a decent game, it is not on them why this loss took place. It is a tough task to find ways to contain a primarily attack-focused Atalanta, they did so for 87 minutes. It is tough to lay blame on Tek as well, in the end, a deflection can kill off an entire day’s hard work.
In a game with big prospects, Juve, unfortunately, fell short once again and was seemingly unfazed at the occasion. No urgency or clear tactical prowess continues to characterize this team as it sulks in an unfamiliar place on the table. It continues to be a shame that the team cannot develop a coherent bench to change matches when the slightest adversity occurs. Ronaldo out before the game, and Chiesa going down hurt in the second half and everyone at that moment seemingly knew that the game was either going to end 0-0 or in a loss. It shouldn't be this way, this is Juventus.