An unsettling ambience engulfed the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara on Saturday night. No, this wasn’t because Massimiliano Allegri’s throwback Juventus came to town, but due to the eerie mist that descended upon Emilia-Romagna.
The murkiness inhibited our viewing experiences somewhat, but perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. This was 2021/22 Juventus in a nut-shell: unwatchable without Paulo Dybala, but remarkably effective. Allegri’s side were comfortable for the most part without seizing total control. Until Juan Cuadrado scored the Bianconeri’s second midway through the second half, Juve could easily have sleepwalked into yet another disappointing result.
This time, however, they were able to grind out all three points and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to five games. While the performance characteristically stuttered, the result was imperative and Juve have a great chance to close out the calendar year with a bang when they host the lowly Cagliari on Tuesday.
Before that, though, let’s debrief Saturday’s victory by noting three key takeaways.
Matthijs’ monstrous display
There had been several mitigating factors to Matthijs de Ligt’s troublesome start in Turin. But, as we enter the festive period of his third season at Juventus, there’s no questioning that the dominant Dutchman has found his feet.
His 2021/22 campaign up to this point has been quite brilliant barring the rare blip and it seems that Max Allegri has finally realised that the 22-year-old is his star centre-half. On Saturday, De Ligt had to be at his best to deter Bologna’s multi-faceted attack. Their front two of Marko Arnautovic and Musa Barrow provide alternate problems for defences, but De Ligt, who was aided by veteran Leonardo Bonucci, dealt with the pair rather comfortably.
There was a period at the start of the second half where the visitors succumbed to sustained Bologna pressure. Juventus couldn’t get out. But thanks to the stern box defending of their two centre-halves, Wojciech Szczesny was rarely tested and the hosts were limited to a mere 0.84 xG.
De Ligt’s performance was littered with stellar defensive sequences, but the statistics don’t do the 22-year-old’s commanding performance justice.
Post-match, De Ligt spoke like a player destined to become Juventus captain as he spoke of the importance of a strong mentality. His leadership qualities for a player of his age are freakishly impressive and Allegri is blessed to have him.
De Ligt’s potential is a reason for optimism amid the club’s painful rebuild. A beacon of hope amid uncertain times (let’s just hope he doesn’t succumb to the gluttonous desires of Mino Raiola, eh?).