A fairly business-like performance, spurning far more chances than we converted, saw us run out easy winners in the easiest fixture we will face this season.
Ronaldo was in fine form, who we relied upon as usual, taking two headers well, yet missing 3-5 other great chances. Which a fair few others were guilty of. Mckennie missing a free header from 3 yards. Ramsey firing wide when he should be hitting the target. Morata rusty and inaccurate, and whilst Freddy had one shot that was only 5m over the bar I believe he hit a trademark ‘stadium clearance’.
Positives to take
A clean sheet and the defence looked quite compact and solid, though were facing the second lowest scorers in the league. I was pleased to find Demiral and De Ligt in sync – they are the future foundation of the side and I hope we get the chance to see them begin forming a partnership.
When we upped the gears towards the end of the first half we finally began to look as dominant as you would expect when comparing the squads and their budgets. It was inevitable we would score and only a question of how many.
Why it takes us so long to do this is beyond me to understand. So many games show us lethargic and unable to pick up the pace, play on the front foot. Some may call it game management, and suggest it was planned. I don’t think this is the case as it would make no sense to then emerge after HT to significantly drop the intensity again when having the weakest opponent in Serie A on the ropes and unlikely to put up much fight if battered.
Bentancur recovered to hustle well and keep the hell away from receiving the ball in tight position facing his own goal in the box.
Fagioli was a welcome inclusion midway through the second half. The kid showed a quality focus on moving the ball forward quickly and intelligently at every opportunity, covered the midfield defensively and looked to support in the final third. It would be nonsense to demand he becomes a starter, but certainly accurate to suggest that he is earning the right to be more regularly involved, given what we have seen in a very small sample size. His quality on the ball, youthful exuberance, flair and tenacity must be nurtured, allowed to blossom. Promising talent.
We started the match with 5 players aged 23 or younger. Of the subs entering the game, 3 of them were aged 21 or under. The focus on youth is very much underway.
Reasons of concern or ongoing cynicism
Our profligacy in front of goal is nothing new and I am tempted to ponder that our coaching sessions focus little on shooting practice such is the consistency of our failure to prove clinical.
A fair amount of time was spent in the first half coasting around, poor in possession and not playing on the front foot. Much of this is down
Looking ahead…we will visit mid table Verona on Saturday. Who should provide a more valuable indication of where our current form can be placed. Its a game we should win, comprehensively, though without doubt they will prove tougher opponents than Crotone who look a Serie B side already.
Finally…Who is Alessandro Di Pardo?
The Italian midfielder stands 1m82 and has previously featured for the national youth sides at U17, U18 and U19 levels. He was signed by the club in early 2018 after a successful 6 month loan spell in our primavera where he went on to make 35 appearances before moving into the newly founded U23 side aka Juve B.
At senior level, Di Pardo has played mainly as a RM and RB though can also operate in CM if needed (where he performed more often with the primavera sides of SPAL and then Juve). Offering only 4 assists and 2 goals from his 67 games for the U23s suggests he is more defensively minded than a flying wing-back. And yet it is clear that he has a class right foot and the potential to take on opponents with flair and a great turn of pace. The kid is not lacking technique on the ball…Young ‘Sandro mentioned during an interview for the Juve channel back in 2018 that he is most comfortable in a mezzala role .