Juventus vs Cagliari: What Did We Learn About Juve's Depth Players in Cup Win?
On Wednesday night, Juventus beat Cagliari 1-0 in the Coppa d'Italia with a team that featured a number of unfamiliar faces. Players like Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio were given some much-needed rest and fans got a chance to see how their replacements would fare over the course of a full game.
Having depth is crucial in the modern game, as teams like Juventus often play multiple games per week, courtesy of the UEFA Champions League. Juventus have been lucky so far when it comes to injuries, but it is still important to know that you have players able to step right in when your star performers go down.
The game against Cagliari was Antonio Conte's first chance to see how his bench players would handle a start against a quality side, and the results were fairly good. The Bianconeri came away with a win and looked dominant in the process, and several players showed the coaches that they can be trusted when called upon.
In this article, we'll take a look at how each player that isn't a regular starter for the team performed in Juventus' win and try to determine whether or not they have what it takes to play in top games should one of the regulars go down.
It's a shame that Nicklas Bendtner had to leave the pitch with an injury at the end of the first half, because he was having his best game since arriving in Turin during the summer on loan from Arsenal.
Bendtner looked sharp and was involved from the very first minute. For the first time this season, his movement was precise and his runs were timed perfectly.
Paired with Sebastian Giovinco, Bendtner regularly overpowered the Cagliari defense and made good use of his body to counteract Giovinco's movement around the box.
The Dane created several chances for himself and came close to scoring on multiple occasions. Before he went down, he certainly looked like the most dangerous man on the field.
He looked nothing like the player Bianconeri fans have gotten used to seeing in these past few months. I've been very critical of Bendtner's performances this season, but I must say that I was greatly impressed with the Danish international in this game.
Providing the injury isn't too serious, I hope Bendtner gets a few more chances before January. If this is truly what he's capable of and these past few months were the result of him getting back in shape and getting used to Italian football, I'll gladly forgive him for the misery he has put me through in 2012-2013.
Mauricio Isla can't cross the ball. It's really that simple.
The former Udinese man has all the tools in the world to be an elite force on the right wing, but his crossing is poor and, in Antonio Conte's 3-5-2, providing quality crosses is his main responsibility.
Isla was impressive against Cagliari, completely locking down his side of the field defensively and breaking through on the right wing on multiple occasions.
His speed and power are too much for most defenders, and he has impressive vision in the passing game. He does a good job at presenting a target to the midfield triangle and never panics in possession.
Isla is an excellent depth player and someone who should always sit on the bench for the Bianconeri, but as long as he doesn't learn how to cross a ball, I'd rather put my faith in the hands of Stephan Lichtsteiner in the big games.
Paul Pogba is the gem of Juve's bench.
I honestly believe he would be a starter for every other team in the Serie A, but at Juventus, he sits behind Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal. For such a young player, it's really the perfect situation.
I've never seen a young prodigy that's so calm and collected with the ball. It all looks so simple, like he isn't even trying. He makes very good use of his body when shielding the ball and always has his eyes up, looking for where to go with the ball.
Pogba has excellent scoring ability, but his main strength is his defending and his vision. The best comparison for his playing style would be Vidal, who serves as an excellent example for the talented Frenchman.
He has to be one of the best backup players in the world. Juventus couldn't ask for a better midfielder to be waiting on the bench in case one of the members of the MVP triangle go down.
Pogba will be an absolute superstar very soon, and the question is how much longer Conte can afford to sit the youngster on the bench.
Simone Padoin had a fairly quiet game, but that doesn't mean he had a bad performance.
He was very useful in the role of the vacuum cleaner, blocking fast attacks by Cagliari. Most of his work came on the defensive side of the ball, but when he ventured forward he did an excellent job of penetrating the penalty area.
He showed he wasn't afraid to take a shot on goal and wasn't a liability in the passing game, which is a big plus if you look at the guys playing around him.
Fans might not know this, but Padoin was once one of the hottest prospects around Italy and his play certainly shows that. While the Italian might not have reached the lofty expectations he once carried, he is a very useful player to have in case of multiple injuries and the likes.
I also get the idea that his play for Juventus is improving with every chance he gets. As far as backups go, I say he's a keeper.
Paolo De Ceglie
Fans know who Paolo De Ceglie is and what he brings to the team: a steady presence on the defensive side, and very little offensively.
De Ceglie knows this system and the Juve back line like the back of his hand as he was the starter on the left wing all of last season. But there's a reason the Bianconeri brought in Kwadwo Asamoah during the summer: De Ceglie is almost useless as an attacking player.
He lacks the explosiveness to pass defenders and his crossing is far from top-notch. His passing is solid, but nothing more.
De Ceglie has a tendency to lose the ball deep in enemy territory, forcing the centre-back playing on the left side (usually Giorgio Chiellini) out of position. To his credit, he's much more cautious with the ball on his own side of the field.
We all know he's prone to making costly mistakes, but there were no such mistakes against Cagliari.
Overall, De Ceglie isn't a flashy player but with his knowledge of the system and his defensive prowess, he's a good player to have on your team. If Juventus were to invest in a new wing-back, I would not object to De Ceglie being sold.
It seems like Luca Marrone's move to the back line will be permanent. The former midfielder has seen all of his minutes this season as the central defender in Juve's 3-5-2 and has been very solid for every one of them.
I prefer him in midfield, but the team's biggest strength lies in the centre of the pitch and the club's biggest talents waiting for their chance occupy the same position, so Conte's decision to use Marrone as a centre-back is understandable.
Marrone had a great game playing next to Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli and he showed great understanding of his new position—something that was lacking last year. He moves well on the line and is rarely caught out of position.
He uses his body well in duels and has excellent athleticism for the position—something Conte likes a lot in his players. His long ball is good but not great, and his attacking contributions are almost always useful.
He does play scared when he ventures forward, visibly scared of making a mistake, but he will learn to understand he has two star defenders playing alongside him who can take care of things when Marrone loses the ball.
The centre-back position lacks depth for Juventus, so Marrone should definitely be a part of the team. His versatility is a big asset for the Bianconeri.
Time is running out for Alessandro Matri.
I wanted him to get his chance in December, and the injury to Nicklas Bendtner gave him exactly that. Unfortunately for both him and Juventus, he did nothing to show Antonio Conte he can return to the form that made him the team's top scorer last year.
Matri looked lost on the field, running out of position and not presenting a target to the midfielders for most of the game.
He had a handful of small chances but didn't look dangerous on a single one of them. He created very little space for his teammates and did a poor job of holding the ball.
Once Sebastian Giovinco opened the scoring, his lack of pace made him miss out on most of the scoring opportunities the counter attacks presented.
Alessandro Matri needs to get his act together real fast, or his tenure with the team might be over soon. A striker that doesn't score and has no other use on the field is dead weight to a top team like Juventus, and with the January transfer window fast approaching and the team in need of extra funding to acquire a star forward, he could be moved in the next two months.
And if I'm really honest, I think that would be the best solution.