I wonder if those pagan Romans ever worshipped a God of narratives all those years ago when they did that whole Empire thing.
Nevertheless, that perhaps phantom God made the trip north on Sunday night and descended upon the Allianz Stadium for the eagerly anticipated Juventus debuts of Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria.
Each were named in Massimilano Allegri’s starting XI for the clash against Hellas Verona, and what followed was straight out of a cliché Hollywood sports film. While Juve weren’t competing in the Champions League final against their bitter local rivals (Torino?) that would surely be the case in the Hollywood-adapted iteration of Sunday’s events, the pair nonetheless enjoyed the perfect starts to their Bianconeri careers against Hellas Verona.
I prefer the Hollywood version, to be honest.
Nevertheless, the success of their debutants combined with Inter’s defeat in the derby has provoked the idea of a potential Juventus Scudetto charge in the minds of many on Monday morning. The gap between the two sides is now just eight points, while Juve’s victory saw them move into the top-four at Atalanta’s expense. For now, the Bianconeri’s primary objective remains to secure a Champions League finish and a massive fixture in the context of that race takes place next Sunday night as Juve travel to Bergamo.
3 key takeaways from Juventus’ 2-0 victory over Hellas Verona
But before we look forward to that one, let’s dissect Sunday night’s victory over Verona without waxing too much lyrical over the debutants. We’ve done that already! Here are three takeaways from the 2-0 victory.
The midfield role we didn’t expect
Throughout the process of signing Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach, many suspected that the Swiss midfielder would come in and free Manuel Locatelli of the regista function. However, Locatelli’s absence and Weston McKennie’s late return from international duty meant it was Zakaria himself who was forced to perform what the majority believe is the Italian’s optimal role.
The new arrival lined up in Max Allegri’s midfield three ahead of holding midfielder Arthur Melo and opposite Adrien Rabiot. He primarily functioned from the right half-space as Juve’s 4-3-3 shape was distinct in both attack and defence.
The Juve boss has occasionally used this term but his underlying pragmatism has prevented any modern principles the system facilitates from emanating. On Sunday, there was a freshness and vibrancy to the Bianconeri in the opening period with their possession structure as coherent as it’s been all season.
The full-backs rarely ventured forward and if one of them did, it was often Mattia De Sciglio who had been freed by Rabiot rotating into the left-back position. Otherwise, the midfielders rarely interchanged positions while there was some fluidity in the front three. Paulo Dybala had the freedom to drift into a more central position coming off the right, while Alvaro Morata functioned as an inside forward in the left channel.
Perhaps most radically, though, we saw Allegri drift away from the 4-4-2 out of possession shape. The boss opted to retain the 4-3-3 without the ball which meant Juve matched Hellas Verona in the build-up phase. The Bianconeri didn’t engage particularly high, but they defended with vigour and intensity in their mid-block, which was crucial.
Overall, the early signs suggest we might see a new approach from Allegri during the second half of the season with the 4-3-3 potentially emerging as his default system of choice. The manager’s willingness to adjust has never been in question and this alteration should benefit a fresh-looking Old Lady massively.