Juventus Stumbles to Dull 0-0 Draw Against Parma and Giovinco
I'm beginning to run out of things to write.
Throughout the season, this year's Juve squad has struggled to put away weaker opponents, who often park the bus against them.
A team like Milan, or Inter? No worries, Juve can take care of them.
Today, Parma did not necessarily park the bus, but they did not play well enough in general to really affect Juve's performance. Indeed, the Juve players were their own worst enemy.
In particular, Mirko Vucinic seems to have declared war on his shot-to-goal ratio. It's a war that he's winning pretty handily.
Today, not only did Mirko fail to score, but he also failed to even make good shots. He had nine attempts on goal, and only two were on target.
At one point, early in the match, he had two lousy attempts in a row.
The first one, he had the ball settled and was facing goal. Despite the preferential direction, he sent it way over the crossbar. After that, he had another shot which was weakly sent straight to Parma's goalkeeper, Nicola Pavarini.
His finishing wasn't the only poor area of his play today. He was also dispossessed five times, and had two turnovers.
Despite his abhorrent performance today, Mirko will likely remain a core member of Conte's starting eleven.
Why? I don't know.
But Mirko has remained a primary place in Conte's tactics, despite his often subpar play. Sometime, Mirko plays really well.
Indeed, he's not a bad player, but he's also not the deadly finisher that Conte seemingly expects him to be. Nor is he really the visionary creator that some expect him to be.
Vucinic is a good striker, but one that's less clinical than Alessandro Matri, and less creative than Alessandro Del Piero.
Speaking of Matri, he too had a subpar match. Indeed, many of Juve's attacking players had subpar matches.
The central midfielders all played well, but Stephan Lichtsteiner and Marcelo Estigarribia (on the flanks) had mixed games. Lichtsteiner defended well, but he wasn't very effective when moving forward. He had a few good contributions, but he wasn't as much of a force as he usually is.
Estigarribia really struggled in the beginning of the match. His marking and defensive work was okay, though less than stellar. His offensive moves were lacking.
He slowly started to perform better (as he has a habit of doing), but he still struggled in some areas.
He had a few crosses into the box, some of which were decent, while others were terribly off. He was the first Juve player taken off, in favor of Emanuele Giaccherini.
Giaccherini provided a short term stimulus to Juve's offense, and did help unify the midfield and attack, but it wasn't enough to make a difference.
Juve's central midfield, as I said earlier, performed well.
Andrea Pirlo sent a bunch of great long balls forward, and many of Juve's best chances seemed to come from these long balls. When he couldn't provide long passes, Pirlo stepped up to the plate himself and tried to score some goals.
He had one pretty curling shot off of a free kick that just barely curled around the top corner. Then, in the second half, he had an accurate (although a bit weak), long shot that was just deflected by Pavarini.
Claudio Marchisio had a solid, if at times hard to notice, game.
He did have one effort on goal that came incredibly close to scoring, a low shot that went just wide of goal. It came only moments after Pirlo's long distance effort.
Their other counterpart in the center, Arturo Vidal, showcased his work ethic and grinta. The man had seven tackles, 65 passes (the most passes for a Juve midfielder today) and a pair of interceptions.
Towards the end of the game, as it became more and more apparent that the game would end in a draw, Vidal lost his composure and recklessly tackled Stefano Morrone, and as a result received a yellow card.
That card put him over his yellow card limit, and he will be suspended for the next league match (against Catania). Looks like we will be seeing Simone Padoin or Giaccherini taking his place, seeing as the youngster Luca Marrone has been dealing with a thigh injury.
In the back of the formation, the three centerbacks all had superb games. Giorgio Chiellini was a big assest both in defense (where he had five interceptions and four clearances), and in offense. His initial runs into Parma's half helped start many Juventus attacking motions.
His young counterpart, Leonardo Bonucci, also had an impressive match in both defensive and offensive terms. He had nine (yes, nine) interceptions and clearances, and was 17 for 21 in long ball attempts.
Andrea Barzagli had perhaps the worst match out of the three centerbacks, but he still played well. He had four tackles and three interceptions, statistics similar to those of the other two defenders, but on a smaller scale.
Barzagli was sometimes exploited by Sebastian Giovinco and his pace and dribbling ability, but to be fair Giovinco gave all three defenders problems.
Giovinco was considered Parma's best chance to "upset" Juve, and with good measure.
Historically, he has performed well for Parma against Juve, and he's also one of their best attacking players. Today, he provided a few anxious moments for Juve fans.
At one point, he was closed down by two Juve players, just at the edge of the 18 yard box. Giovinco managed to keep control of the ball, manically dribbling to save possession. Nothing came of it, but it was an impressive move by Gio.
Perhaps the scariest moment happened after Gigi Buffon came off his line to stop Giovinco.
Giovinco was on Buffon's left side, and Buffon's move off his line failed, and Giovinco retained possession. Giovinco was now only a few meters away from the goal, and the goalie was MIA. He immediately sent the ball laterally into the box for a teammate, but Barzagli was there to block his pass.
Later on, he turned around Barzagli, with the ball. He was in the box, with Barzagli trying to catch up to him. Giovinco took a dive as soon as Barzagli got close, and Barzagli touched him a bit as he was going down.
Parma's players appealed for a penalty, but the referee did not award them one. Later, Pirlo would go down in a similar fashion, and the ref again awarded no penalty.
Overall, it was a poor performance by Juventus.
They had a real ability to gain some ground over A.C. Milan while they make up the games they had missed due to inclement weather. There is still the make up game against Bologna, but this Parma game is yet another missed two points for Juve.
An undefeated team is impressive, but Juventus cannot draw their way to the Scudetto.
Over at the JuveFC.com Blog, I am previewing the rest of Juve's fixture list. It's these games, against teams like Bologna and Parma, that Juve need to win. Their fixture list is about to get real messy, and here's why:
Conte and his squad are about to embark on a rough three week stretch, with two matches per week.
The team needs to beat these small sides so they can have some room for insurance when they start facing the tougher sides again.
Otherwise, they may meet the same fate that the Perugia side of the 1978-1979 season met. The Perugia side was unbeaten all season, but still finished in second place.
I do not think that Juventus are destined to finish like that, but if they keep drawing against the small sides, they may be the heirs to Perugia's infamous accomplishment.
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