What we learned from the Coppa Italia Final win
Juventus had one of its best performances at a time when it needed it the most. In a game where Juve improved as the game went on, they walk away deserved victors, giving Buffon a well-deserved proper sendoff with a trophy. For moments this match it truly felt like the match could go either way, a true spectacle for the neutral viewer, back and forth for a large portion of the match. This season has given us Juventini so many lows, it is finally good to soak in a bit of good news. Although we didn't win Serie A, winning a trophy for many years in a row is quite the achievement that other clubs in Italy can only envy us for. We come away again with a sense of achievement, hope in the future as seen in our young protagonists today, and the celebration of the culmination of a true end of an era. As I mentioned in the past game, at times this season I have been shocked at our play because in reality, it could be so much better, the potential has always been there. Today showed a team that knew what it was playing for, there was better connectivity between them and ultimately a desire to finish off a team that provided a formidable foe today.
At many moments during this match, we faced the complete onslaught of the Atalanta attack, a very nerve-wracking start meant opportunity after opportunity for the squad from Bergamo, despite the addition of two yellow cards by De Ligt and Chiellini, the defenders held their cool and grew formidable as the game went on. Nerves were noticeable during many instances in the first half, however, it seems like this game was largely characterized by two halves. Yes, Juve did get a marvelous goal in the first half, but they were getting outplayed during many instances. There was a constant battle between De Ligt and Zapata that honestly felt like one of them would eventually get red-carded. A large portion of Atalanta’s game goes through Zapata, as we have seen in all the previous matchups with Atalanta this season, De Ligt was in charge of putting away his threat. He did great today, despite the yellow he was still able to keep Zapata from causing chaos in the box. The same goes for Chiellini, as the game went on he was also able to gain control from a defensive perspective, especially as Cuadrado ventured forward. Much of the game especially in the first half consisted in Juve being able to absorb the Atalanta threat, although this meant that Atalanta was able to gain some gameplay attack through the wings, they often found crosses without a target. This is a formula that has worked for Juve many times this season, especially in its notable wins. Today was the pinnacle of this gameplay.
Chiesa and Kulusevski gave a glimpse and hope for all Juventini for the future, a future with promise goals, link up, and most importantly, heart. This game was won by Juventus’ new signings, big-money signings in a year in which fans were highly expectant of them. Kulusevski has had a bit of a roller-coaster season, his presence again in the starting 11 in a final was shocking even to me. I am glad he proved me wrong and he was one of the best on the pitch. Not only did he score, but he also provided a great linkup one-two for the assist for the second goal and he remained active on many attacks throughout the game. This is why he was signed, although we have criticized him on multiple instances in his many lows this season, he proved himself in the most pressurized of situations. His curler characterized many of his goals we had seen from him at Parma last season, his first-time effort had so much curl I believed he had actually missed wide due to the camera angle. Finally, what else can be said about Chiesa, he has proven his worth time and time again. While we all lamented his miss of the post, he came right back and finished the next chance that came to him. A good engaging performance all around, typical Chiesa. It is still fascinating to see that both Federico and his father have both won Coppa Italias with Buffon, truly something a historical feat that will be difficult to ever repeat.
Defensive organization and work rates ensured that not only Atlanta couldn't score a second goal, but also they were almost eliminated from the game entirely. Even as the time waned and Atalanta opportunities at an equalizer diminished, Juve held firm and didn't even allow big targets to get a clear chance at goal in the closing moments. Juve closed out the game in the fashion that we have become so accustomed to. Such was the frustration that built in the Atalanta attack that they then just resorted to fouling and rash tackles, the ones you typically see when nothing is going in your favor. I have to give credit to all the defenders here, they all grew as the game went on. As I mentioned earlier, the early moments were very nervy especially between De Ligt and Zapata, and on top of that, both De Ligt and Chiellini had yellow cards in the first 40 minutes. They however kept their cool, did their clearances, and block key opportunities. Danilo grew as well, he was exposed heavily especially after the Atalanta goal which should have been blocked as no one really made an aggressive effort at blocking Malinovsky’s shot. In the second half, he largely controlled the flank as did Cuadrado. What can be said about the Colombian’s performance? He put in his typical show of skills, flair, and some key tackles. In fact, the first goal came off a ballsy tackle winning the ball in a 50/50 challenge, it was a complete 180 because it was a key Atalanta attack immediately cut off and finalized in a Juventus goal. Although Atalanta’s goal showed many of the defensive problems we have seen many times this season, Juventus found a way to come back, to organize themselves after the half, and put away the game. Midfielders were also key today, as a whole, I would say they get a passing grade for their performance. While we often have low expectations, they didn't make any major mistakes and did a good job in recovering the ball on multiple instances especially through Rabiot and McKennie. Rabiot specifically has surprisingly been actually good the last few games, if he has any chance at remaining on this team he will have to pinpoint his latest performances to prove his worth.
Juve is Coppa Italia Champions and despite our many lows this season, this cannot be taken for granted. Yes, we are almost certainly going to clean house with many players this coming offseason, but we have many things to look forward to. Chiesa, Kulusevski, and De Ligt provide hope as younger players towards a brighter future. We also see the sunset on the careers of some of our most beloved players, so from the bottom of our hearts thank you to the GOAT Buffon for a legendary career as a Bianco Nero and also to Chiellini who was battled like a warrior for these black and white stripes. As we look at the culmination of this season, only the pending potential Champions League qualification remains, lets hope the boys can make it happen next week, with help of course. For now, let's enjoy what has been a well-executed Coppa Italia campaign.