Astute Juve easily handle Chievo
Picking up where they left off, Juventus were in excellent form for their first game of the season against a weak Chievo Verona side that barely provided the champions with a challenge. The only question on everyone's lips is how did Juve only manage a 1-0 scoreline?
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Considering the absences and the fact that the squad and coach are recovering from the flu, Massimiliano Allegro thought it best to stick with the tried and tested 3-5-1-1 formation to make it easier on his men. Not only is it the right shape to play against Chievo, but it allowed his side to start the season emphatically, boasting the fluidity one expects from a team midway through a season.
As Chievo boss Eugenio Corini himself admitted, the Flying Donkeys had tactical issues that they must look to resolve if they are to survive the season. For one thing, the team is not as compact as it should be with vast lines separating the midfield from defence and the attack. On many occasions the Bianconeri were allowed to operate with freedom in midfield without being disturbed, while midfield runners enjoyed their space to make darting runs forward, terrifying Corini's men.
Despite Chievo's 4-5-1 shape, they simply couldn't control the ball or keep possession. They were playing as a group of individuals as opposed to as a team unit, hence creating both defensive problems as well as leaving forwards such as Maxi Lopez looking rather isolated at times. There was no player capable of providing a little creativity to inspire the team to score. Any moment they did enjoy either came by way of a Juve mistake or blind luck, yet Lopez will be disappointed he wasted a golden opportunity to give his side a point.
Disjointed and unaware of what tasks they should be carrying out, they made the Old Lady look even better than necessary. Juve's forward two moved around endlessly, dropping back and allowing the midfield to push up and exploit the space on the channels. Stephan Lichtsteiner had plenty of room to run into on the right before looking for the right cross or pass, while Kwadwo Asamoah, usually so concerned with his defensive duties, pushed forward, showing off his technique and excellent attacking ability.
Yet while much can be said about Chievo's mistakes, the Old Lady deserve to be praised for their attitude and for their insatiable appetite for continuous success. Despite missing two of their best centre-backs and Andrea Pirlo, they still found a way of demonstrating their technical superiority.
Claudio Marchisio, ever the versatile midfielder, did an excellent job of winning the ball back as well as distributing with ease and accuracy. Pushing up when necessary, his tactical intelligence knows no bounds, but his work is undoubtedly made easier when he has Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal alongside him. The Chilean played a game that quashed any concerns one had over the status of his knee. Powerful and energetic, the midfielder played with heart as he pressed to win the ball back and covered plenty of space to remind everyone why the club simply cannot let him go.
Juventus may well suffer this season, but they have a squad that possess incredible tactical intelligence. They simply all knew how to move to make the most of Chievo's weaknesses, while one has to appreciate the fact that even their newest and youngest player, Kingsley Coman, who at 18 years old was making his debut, marvelled with his ability to read the game. Coman's movements made life difficult for the opponent while allowing his team to play a cohesive game.
Coman was certainly man of the match, applauded as he left the pitch. Showing a remarkable understanding of the game, his courage, quick feet and excellent positioning will leave a lasting impression. If he is afforded more time on the pitch this season, the Frenchman will develop into a special player for the Old Lady.
However, despite the impressive performance, Allegri is right to worry about the lack of goals. They hit the woodwork and the Bianconeri were indeed unlucky, but when they dominate a game like they did on Saturday, boasting 74% of possession while executing 21 shots, they should manage more goals or at least more shots on target.
Better opponents will make the most of the opportunities to punish the Old Lady for being so wasteful, thus it's imperative that the coach works on his squad's finishing. A 1-0 was all that was required on Saturday, but in the future, impressive displays should yield a bigger margin of victory.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Minarzouki.