The defending Serie A champions ended Torino’s unbeaten start to the campaign, whilst extending their own with a comfortable 4-0 thrashing in Turin against ten men. Juventus’ display was convincing, but what did we learn from the encounter?
Pjanic-Matuidi midfield pivot continues to settle
It was always going to be interesting to watch how Pjanic and Matuidi complimented each other’s attributes across midfield for Juventus after the latter’s arrival was announced in July.
The more adventurous of the pair; Matuidi’s surging runs forward pose problems for opponents to contend with – whether that be on the ball, or equally without it. Pjanic was highly sought-after at Roma and despite a shaky start with the Bianconeri last term, he has shown his quality in abundance since then.
An excellent passing range, coupled with the ability to dictate the tempo with consummate ease makes the Bosnia international a joy to watch. On this occasion, he combined well alongside Matuidi as both balanced attack and defence well – which is easier said than done, especially given the level of concentration and spatial awareness required at the highest level.
Matuidi is the more defensive-minded of the two and despite committing three fouls here, effectively lessened the responsibility off Pjanic’s shoulders: allowing him to do what he does best – create chances from a range of different areas on the pitch. Breaking up Torino’s attempted attacks and utilising his long-lasting engine while doing so meant the visitors were effectively stifled even with a man disadvantage for large periods.
Pjanic netted Juve’s second before the break and also created Alex Sandro’s headed effort with a well-delivered corner too. The metronome who continues to make them tick, Pjanic tallied 120 touches and 96.2% pass accuracy throughout the 90 minutes, with four key passes and five interceptions too.
His work defensively has come under criticism, mainly against the best sides but you can see he’s quietly taking steps to improve over time. With experience alongside the Frenchman, there’s no reason why they cannot combine to pose and also quell threats across the middle third against anyone.
Juve backline collectively proving their worth, strength in depth and quality
Following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise summer move to AC Milan, sceptics would’ve suggested Juve’s backline would suffer without the 30-year-old’s presence. Andrea Barzagli (36) and Giorgio Chiellini (33) continue to age and against tougher opposition, it’s increasingly hard to envisage anything less than a gradual decline by the centre-back pairing.
To Allegri’s credit, he’s made attempts to resolve this issue by acquiring shrewd defensive reinforcements. They exercised an option in Medhi Benatia’s contract to sign him for £14.4m from Bayern, while convincing Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes to join on a season-long loan, with a similar future fee inserted into the deal.
They now have five central defenders in the senior ranks, having kept Daniele Rugani, despite reported interest from Arsenal during the summer window. They’ll be keen to replicate last season’s success, while also aiming to do one better in the Champions League by winning it. All of that is virtually impossible though without regular squad rotation and their depth is strong enough to aspire high.
Keeping players fresh and available will be thoroughly appreciated as the season progresses with matches set to arrive at a relentless pace. In addition to the rotation set-up, competition for places is never a bad thing either and encourages players to work 10% harder than they perhaps would if their spot was comfortable and uncontested. Bonucci’s departure, as surprising as it was, highlights just how quickly things can change at the top – who will step up and deliver when called upon? That’s the most important question that will soon be answered.
Torino stifled here, but have shown plenty of promise
Daniele Baselli’s dismissal for a second yellow card just 24 minutes into the contest effectively ended Torino’s hopes of earning a better result than the 1-1 draw they managed during the Derby della Mole last season.
Paulo Dybala’s smart finish from range had broken the deadlock after 15 minutes, as Torino relinquished possession in their own half. Though it was a well-taken opener, the encounter was still far from over at that stage.
There was plenty of time to recover and pose the hosts all sorts of questions in the final third. Up until Baselli – already on a yellow – committed a needlessly high challenge on Pjanic.
Iago Falque was sacrificed shortly afterwards with the visitors needing another midfield presence. As a result, Torino’s attacking options were not only reduced, they were severely isolated.
M’Baye Niang had to work harder defensively and wasn’t granted enough opportunities to get forward while Adem Ljajic’s influence in the number ten role weaned as Juve’s dominance increased.
Andrea Belotti, who captained the side once more on this occasion, was an isolated figure without adequate service. Forced to drop deeper, he struggled to create much of note and couldn’t help inspire an unlikely comeback.
Torino were stifled for large periods and reduced to chasing the ball, especially after the interval. Juventus were not only on top, they controlled the tempo and effortlessly picked their opponents apart. Supporters began the olé chants midway through the second 45, making it almost uncomfortable to watch as a neutral. As the commentators’ eluded to, this wouldn’t have happened had Baselli kept his discipline.
However, there’s plenty to look forward to. Between Torino’s aforementioned attacking quartet, they’ve netted seven and created 42 chances in total this term, after six fixtures.
They’ve strengthened in defence, by signing both Nicolas N’Koulou and Cristian Ansaldi on loan deals. In addition, resolving their goalkeeping issue was important – they’ve done so. Acquiring both highly-rated youngster Vanja Milinković-Savić and Salvatore Sirigu (free) is impressive business.
There’s still work to be done, though supporters are confident that Siniša Mihajlović will help this side achieve their potential.
Stats’ source: Squawka and WhoScored