Moise Kean’s chance to impress
If there was a slight disappointment on Tuesday night, it was the performance of striker Moise Kean. It was a rare start for the young Italian, with Alvaro Morata benched after his barren run continued on Saturday.
This was the optimal chance for Kean, who has two Serie A goals since returning to Turin in the summer, to impress against one of the league’s worst defences.
There were certainly things to like from Kean’s display. The forward frequently stretched the pitch by running the channels, thus compromising Salernitana’s vertical compactness and opening up space for Juve’s creators. After weeks of seeing Morata play with his back to goal, this was great to see and Kean also held the ball up effectively at times as well.
However, he still looks raw and refinement is required if Kean’s to evolve into a Juventus-level forward. The Italian international lacks the requisite technical security to play with his back to goal, with his first touch a particular weakness and decision-making leaving plenty to be desired.
There was one sequence towards the end of the first half where Kean’s clever dummy fooled his marker and he was able to run off him, with the forward receiving a pass from Federico Bernardeschi. The return to his compatriot was on right away, but Kean dithered, delayed and hesitated. By the time the striker opted to make the pass, the Salernitana defender was able to make the interception, much to Bernardeschi’s dismay.
Eventually, Kean was substituted for Morata midway through the second period.
While the Spaniard is the very epitome of a ‘confidence player’ and has infuriated more than he’s produced this term, he manifested his value in Tuesday’s cameo. There were several clever touches to feed runners in behind, as his near post flick squeezed through the legs of Vid Belec to deservedly double Juve’s advantage. It was his first goal in Serie A since the 1-1 draw with AC Milan in mid-October.
Hopefully, Tuesday’s display off the bench ignites a Morata resurgence, but he has to stop perpetually playing with his back to goal. He needs to add a bit of Kean to his game and re-discover the channel-running that makes him such a valuable asset. His speed and capacity to attack space was on show in the aforementioned goal against Milan.
He should be a dangerous outlet, but he hasn’t played like one this season. Instead, his play has resembled Russian big man Artem Dzyuba. A more dynamic Morata will undoubtedly bring the best out of him, and Juve’s collective will inevitably benefit.
As for Kean, he’ll return to the bench for Sunday’s game against Genoa after failing to convince the boss. However, the young striker was subject to unjust criticism after Tuesday’s win. Sure, he wasn’t as aesthetic as Dybala nor as elegant as Locatelli, but he performed parts of his function well and he played an underrated hand in Juve’s impressive showing in the opening period.
He has plenty to work on, but it’s just wrong to write off a mere 21-year-old who’s earned sporadic appearances this term. Give the kid a break.