Buffon – Little to do, but dealt with all but the deflected goal comfortably. 6
Bonucci – Fairly solid, showed good reading of the game and allowed no clear opportunities when faced with the counter attacks – 6
Demiral – Thankfully no more appalling passes to the opposition in dangerous positions. Maybe has been told to improve his concentration and think a little more, – I would like to believe Tudor is working closely with him – as his tackling was also more conservative. 6
Danilo – Continues to impress, and looked a lot wider than in previous outings, more a proper LB, though rarely needing to venture forward. Pleased with his upturn in form this season. Steady. 6.5
Juan – A lively force up and down the flank. Got into some great positions in the final third and made up the numbers in the rear-guard flattish four when defending. 6.5
Arthur – A high functioning short pass expert very hard indeed to dispossess when given the ball in tight spaces. This may be his main game, and its a very useful quality for the squad which I suspect will go under-appreciated. 6.5
Bentancur – For reasons beyond me to presently fathom, he is moving backwards this season. His passing to runners and wide was less creative, his tackling and hustle a little ragged. Not sure if it’s positional or mental or physical, but from our best CM last season he is becoming of late our least useful. I have come to expect more of him. 5.5
Chiesa – We overpaid for him, as Il Principino rightly though somehow too negatively remarked in the week. And have been mainly using the swashbuckling dynamo of late as a LW/LM when he has long been a RWF and even closer to a SS or even CF last season for struggling Fiorentina. Cannot ever fault his work rate, and he has talent – especially one on one which is vital at any level – as shown for the penalty and assist. A decent signing so far, regardless of the price. 7
McKennie – The more I ponder our current crop of midfielders the more I am convinced he is more important than initially suspected. For the young American is the only true box to box CM we have in the ranks. Makes superb runs forward, is going to get goals and created one unselfishly for Morata. He adds what we have been missing for many moons – threat from midfield in the final third. Concerns still linger of his positional sense when bombing forward against better opposition, but Pirlo has seen this also, hence deploying him as an attacking midfielder rather than part of the double pivot. A strong return to the side. 7.5
Dybala – Still finding his rhythm as La Joya is a player who needs to find his top gears to show his true worth. He is also a player who is at his best in certain positions, closest to the 18 yard area, and I don’t believe we have found that for him yet in this still developing system. Missed an easy chance and yet to his credit, he worked damn hard. Essentially, he is taking time to find sharpness. It will come. 5.5
Morata – Yet again he was offside for goals, and ironically, the goal he scored seemed to be offside but ruled onside. His work ethic and quickly found synergy with those around him is praiseworthy. We are seeing already a more clinical forward than since…he was last her. 7
Ronaldo – He ended the curious and of late becoming all too common knife edge of wayward finishing and vulnerability to counter attacks, by scoring within minutes of entering the fray. Took his goals from open play and the spot beautifully. Demanded attention and focus when defending the box. He is a generational superstar, even in his old age, and we are as fortunate to have him as worryingly dependent on his presence. 8
Rabiot – Some swift foot work from the big chap to take his goal, and offered his usual overly physical approach to shoring up the midfield. 6.5
Ramsey, Frabrotta, Kulu N/A
Pirlo – He must have read my reports…hohoho! For he finally changed the system, just a little, both defensively and with his selection of McKennie as the AM yet also making up a midfield 3. Spezia are one of the weakest teams we will face, yet its pleasing to win convincingly, deservedly, and give away solely a deflected goal and few other half-chances.
I am still not convinced of his system, but we needed a solid victory and that it precisely was what we achieved, so a good response to the horror show mid week.
Reasons to be cheerful
We won handsomely and could, should have scored more. 1-6 would have been merited on the balance of goal scoring chances created. This is always a good sign.
Morata continues to prove more potent than many assumed. We may well have overpaid for his services. He may well have been 2nd/3rd/4th choice for this role, but never mind eh! For he close to scoring every game and some time soon, all these marginal offsides will be found onside, and he will earn the match ball.
This was the most comprehensive victory since the opening game of the season. Pirlo used his bench well, and it led to goals from two he brought on. Some will say that it was the sheer quality alone of the fresh blood entering the game when the opponents were tired, and this may be so, but still, some credit must go to the boss.
Mckennie proved that his ability and tenacity to operate in the final third is potent.
Reasons to consider our current circumstances far from ideal
It was Spezia. A plucky side who admirably play on the front foot, keep throwing men forward and left gaping holes for us to exploit. The result must be tempered by this consideration.
Dybala seems very much out of sorts.
We failed to convert a fair few chances.
We have struggled against perhaps less seasoned at this level opponents of late, and finally we converted enough of our chances into goals. We must see this result as progress, as it proves the system can work, but at the same time it was a very offensive side we faced, who on paper, are one of the weakest in the league.
This result is a small step, but at least one in the right direction. It should breed confidence. And with a visit to the whipping boys elect of the CL group Ferencvaros, and a stumbling Lazio to come shortly, we will learn if we have made any serious progress soon enough.
I am coming to understand more Pirlo’s design. Still feel we need to revert to a more structured, orthodox formation but…the players may well be learning the movements tasked in training and we are recovering key players. So perhaps…perhaps…the Pirlo thesis will come to meet my expectations if not simply hopes, of finding a new identity and style that we can all feel we are growing into and which has serious potential.
(follow me on twitter here)
Other worthy watchings>>>
Song of the Day>>>