Juversation is back, starting today I’ll be back with match reports every week of what transpires during the season and bits inbetween. Apologies for the hiatus, hope you haven’t missed me too much!
These were the type of games which caused issue for us last season. Games against provincial sides were ones which were a royal pain in the ass. Typically we raised our game for the matches against the so called top sides, but when the time came to face teams of a similar standing of Siena, we crumbled and dropped valuable points as let’s face it, it’s these games and winning them which separates the decent from the good and makes a difference to where you finish at the end of the season – whether or not you win the scudetto or finish 2nd, whether or not you finishing in the UEFA Champions League qualifications places or just outside.
As far as games go, it wasn’t an entertaining affair. You’d show this to a neutral, non-Serie A fan and no doubt you’d get the usual bogus criticisms about Serie A being a boring league on the decline with no attacking flair. Granted this would have done little to dispel those silly myths, but given it was an early season fixture, we as a team are still trying to gel – lack of attacking flair on the wings in Pepe and Giaccherini – and Siena’s coach is known for drilling his defenses into being absolutely watertight, it wasn’t really a surprise.
Siena played pretty well, one must admit, they pressured us well in midfield and they kept hold of possession well during the periods they were allowed on the ball. D’Agostino looked like a player who could play a very important role for them and showed some of the qualities which made Juventus very keen to sign him just a few seasons ago. Granted he wasn’t on form for the whole 90 minutes – often going through patches where he was misplacing passes due to an over tendency to look for the killer pass. Nevertheless, he was arguably their best player on the day and gave our midfield problems throughout.
Enough of Siena and our midfield did alright, although the supply to the strikers was pretty poor. Pirlo did his best to dictate the play, showing some nice turns and good ball retention and whilst he was the best performer in the midfield, it wasn’t the same standard of performance which he showed against Parma a week earlier. He wasn’t particularly helped by Claudio Marchisio, who had what I would call a pretty mediocre game for him. He wasn’t really decisive with his passing, his pressing game wasn’t quite as energetic as normal and he didn’t look at all like he was going to make an impact on the game.
Vidal again showed his worth when he came off the bench, showing that pitbull like ability to snap at the opponents heels and win the ball back in an instance, whilst also making the right decision when it came to retaining the ball, always playing the simple option and his movement and positional awareness provided an excellent outball for Pirlo and Marchisio during the latter stages when Siena were trying to congest the midfield in order to win the ball back to try and spring a counter of their own.
The wingers weren’t anything to really shout about. Both men – Pepe and Giaccherini – worked hard, hassling their opponent whilst tracking back well when without the ball, but they were both quite one dimensional and never looked like beating their full back for a second, often seeing their moves telegraphed and thus were easily dispossessed, or at best they won a corner/played in hopeful cross which was comfortably defended. Pepe was the better of the two, but knowingly he isn’t really a man who can be asked to lead the team in terms of threat from outwide, as Giaccherini right now is looking very provincial in the sense that this is a player who has had to make an almighty leap up.
This isn’t like a Matri case, where the player has come through the youth ranks at a top club – Milan for Matri – and then had to make the drop to a provincial side to gain first team football, this is a player in Emanuele Giaccherini who has come through the ranks at a provincial side in the lower reaches of Calcio and has only 1 seasons of Serie A experience to his name. It shows and patience is needed. He isn’t going to make the grade overnight, but whilst I do feel he should be afforded patience, when we have wingers who have international, european and big game experience on the bench in Krasic and Elia, he shouldn’t be starting in this team at present.
Credit where credit is due though, as both he and Pepe played a key part in the goal which won us the game. Pepe, who attempted quite a few unsuccessful cross-field passes throughout, saw Giaccherini in space and placed an excellent raking pass to find his fellow wideman. Giaccherini brought it down before excellently feeding Mirko Vucinic who made the right decision to cut the ball back when in the area to Matri and it was our Italian forward who would finish it into the far corner of the net. The finish was scuffed, but it didn’t matter, as it nestled in the back of the net and proved to be the goal which gave us victory.
Both forwards were quite subdued, but it wasn’t difficult to see why, given they had very little to feed on throughout the game. However even with that said, the one real opportunity they had as a pairing, they had a good connection and combined to lead us to victory.
Defensively though, it must be said that we were quite excellent. Solid. All of the 5 men who played in the defence during the game did absolutely what was required of them, made very little mistakes and when they did make a mistake, they generally got back into position and made up for them. Grosso deserves a lot of credit for re-intergrating himself with the team yet again and not making a royal mess of things which happened on occasion last season. Barzagli too was arguably our best player – certainly our best defender – who as things stand is making a mockery of those who questioned the logic behind his signing – including myself who thought we should have kept Legrottaglie instead. Buffon in goal had nothing to do, so much so that he got bored and decided to go on a little dribble down the left which nearly went badly wrong – don’t quit your day job, Gigi!
After we scored the goal, we immediately changed to a 4-3-3 to see the game out and to retain possession. I still believe that in the long run, this is the formation which will prove successful for us. Namely because both Marchisio and Pirlo excel – for much differing reasons – in a 3 man midfield. And given the cameos Vidal has been making – poor finish aside vs Siena – it’ll be hard to leave him out of the starting 11 for very wrong. Nevertheless, it’s good that Conte is showing flexibility and is making the correct choices at the correct time with regards to the system. My only real qualms is that I’d liked to have seen Elia and/or I’d liked to have seen Quagliarella up front, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter as we got the 3 points and ground out a 1-0 win.
Starting 11: Buffon 6, Lichtsteiner 6.5, Barzagli 7, Chiellini 6.5, Grosso 6, Pepe 6, Marchisio 5.5, Pirlo 6.5, Giaccherini 5, Vucinic 5.5, Matri 6
Subs: Vidal 6.5, Bonucci 6.5, Del Piero 6