Whilst the performance was anything but fluid, Pirlo emerged from his debut champions league bow as a manager with 3 very important points and a clean sheet in what proved a fairly comprehensive victory. Next on the fixture list back home in Italy is a visit from Verona.
I wont make the same mistake as last week and suggest this looks set to be a resounding victory, for it is clear that we are very much a work in progress. And I am trying to accept in heart what my head keeps telling me, namely that if we are to seriously aim to build a new side, the growth can only come through suffering as in all areas of life. In short, we have a new coach, who is new to coaching at any level. A new side. A new system. Add to this the resurgence of AC Milan -which pleases me as I have long been eager to see them return to their traditional position as one of twin pillars of domestic dominance – alongside a vibrant, free flowing Napoli and dangerous Atalanta, not to forget also Conte’s Inter…and the stage is set for a season where we may suffer more than for many moons indeed.
There is a vision. We have re-energised the squad. Perhaps not with the most easily fit together players, but nonetheless, the squad is hungry, youthful and determined.
Pirlo remains still unable to call upon several key players expected to be in and around the first XI. Missing from the squad will be Ronaldo, McKennie, Chiellini and De Ligt. With Chiesa suspended after his red card last weekend.
A system which seems settled – at least for now – will likely continue in the form of a hybrid back 3 becoming a back 4 when out of possession with Juan and the youngster Frabrotta manning the flanks.
Missing from the squad will be Ronaldo, McKennie, Chiellini and De Ligt.
Demiral will replace Chiellini in a rejigged line-up with Danilo moved back to his more common RCB/RB role.
I suspect the reasoning behind Danilo’s initial deployment behind Chiesa on the left in Kiev was due to an attempt to avoid the major gap behind the italian, who is not adept at covering the whole side in both phases of the game. Demiral does not get forward as comfortably and is naturally deep throughout other than for corners or set pieces.
I am still not sold on the formation/system but my trust in the coaching staff remains strong and whilst performances since that opening day resounding victory of Samp have been unbalanced and lacking fluidity, the results have been generally bearable. And we shouldn’t underestimate not just the valuable points gained in Ukraine, but the resolute defensive showing which probably saw us more comfortable at the back than in any previous game. Clean sheets with very few threats faced builds confidence, as do victories. Finding any momentum given the testing circumstances of unfit or unavailable key players will be crucial for us to remain in the hunt on all fronts.
I expect Rabiot to be given some further time to keep sharp and perhaps this is a decent fixture to offer Arthur more opportunity to find his rhythm. Although I would like to see Bentancur become a mainstay as having him sharp I feel is vital for the potency he brings with his vision from deep on the ball alongside his stalwart defensive zeal. The midfield pivot of the frenchman and Uruguayan is tough to break through but against Verona, more creative zeal is the likely avenue to success, which leans towards the Brazilian.
Ramsey is probably to continue, his high level flair and eye for a pass is vital and must be nourished with more game time, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kulu come in for that role – which would be interesting – if Dybala is given the nod from the off.
Up top, Morata is likely to lead the line. With a toss-up between Dybala and Kulu. Will Pirlo use this to help Dybala move through the gears by starting the Argentine or save him for the second half? I feel he could be vital against Barca and hope he is involved from the first whistle.
La Joya has been the subject of some unsavoury debate of late. A brattish whining routine when not allowed to play v Crotone, followed up by some twitter silliness. All of which is small fry for me, and we have no idea of the reality of the contractual discussions taking place, or the reasons for the lengthy delay. All I can close to fathom on that score is that it is disheartening to suspect that the club remain seemingly valuing the player less than many juventini. For he has shown rare devotion to the cause and surely could have left for other clubs over the years yet has dug his heels in and showed determination to prove the club wrong. I have long thought he is a special talent around whom we should be building the attack. Which perhaps would have been the case had we not signed Ronaldo. No attack on the ageing superstar, for he has been superb, its more the trade-off which has bothered me, not just in regards to Dybala, but more-so with the 340m investment leading to cutting corners elsewhere in the squad.
Its a murky scene, so will stick to the playing front and assume zero issues between player and coach, which is all that matters most – at least outside the mercato windows. The real issue for me is where he plays if he starts and the front line was again a little different in Kiev with Juan taking up the RWB role and Kulu a little lost between the attack and midfield and goal.
Finding a fixed role for the Swede and Dybala are big problems for Pirlo to solve. Nobody wants to see Dybala expected to drop away from goal as we have seen this doesn’t work. Put simply, the closer he is played to the 18 yard box, the more potent he proves, yet how does that work if Morata is playing a prima punta role? Only with Dybala as an SS, which makes the TQ position where Ramsey has been operating a little congested and removes some of our width and ability to draw the defenders out of position to create space.
Our opponents appear in faltering form in front of goal, netting just the once in their four games to date. Defensively however they have been sound. Conceding only once.
We can expect a tough defensive blockade, aiming to hit us on the break. Not the kind of game I would hope for before facing Barca, as a similar opponent in attacking style to keep the defence on their toes before the Spaniards come to town would be ideal.
Expected formation –
And for another solid preview, with more in-depth tactical analysis, try Giuseppe and Mo. Decent point made about saving Juan for the Barca tie, which I had assumed would happen had Chiesa been available, though considered that we need to win this game, and the players need sharpness, so at this stage of the season, resting anyone seems not as important as much deeper in the campaign. Points on the board and momentum are what we need.