Juventus vs. Udinese: 6 Things We Learned
An imperious Juventus showed devastating intent in Turin Saturday night, against an Udinese team that looked completely outclassed across the pitch. A man-of-the-match performance from young Paul Pogba has got many talking, but the whole Bianconeri squad rose to the occasion and put in a display that will worry opponents across Europe.
Here are some of the key points that's got the Italian media and calcio fans around the world talking.
Antonio Conte Has Strength in Depth
The Juventus manager has an extremely strong squad, and while the search for a world-class centre-forward continues, goals from the midfield and the team's ability to cope with the loss of key personnel like Giorgio Chiellini shows a resilience that the rest of Serie A is lacking right now.
After a disappointing Napoli drew in Florence, Juve are now five points clear of their closest rivals for the Scudetto, and with the ability to rotate players and introduce substitutes of real quality, the Turin giants seem a class above the rest right now.
Alessandro Matri Proved He Can Contribute—but Will Still Be Worried
Juventus' weakest link for some time has been in the striker department, where a string of disappointing acquisitions—Amauri and Bentner to name two—have failed to impress. Alessandro Matri's arrival from Cagliari in 2011 divided opinion, with many feeling that the AC Milan youth product lacked the quality to play for a side like Juve.
Since signing, Matri has been solid if not overly impressive, but even after earning a call-up to the national team, his €15.5 million price tag still seems a little excessive. His goal against Udinese was excellently taken, but it came when his side were already three up and had put the game to bed.
Matri recently added two years to his contract, but even so, at his age he won't want to play second fiddle to any new arrival. Rumours about the imminent arrival of Fernando Llorente should still worry the 28-year-old, as it is surely he who stands to lose out most to the Spaniard.
Udinese Can't Keep Relying on Antonio Di Natale
Speaking of strikers, Udinese's problems up front continue to hurt the Zebrette. Antonio Di Natale was used by coach Francesco Guidolin despite not being fully fit—illustrating how much last year's third-place finishers rely on the prolific 35-year-old.
Totò's goals—he was looking for his 150th in the Udinese jersey against Juventus this weekend—have papered over the cracks caused by consistent player sales in Udine over the last couple of seasons.
But as the side languishes in the mid-table, playing unconvincing football, it's become apparent that losing players like Samir Handanović, Kwadwo Asamoah and Alexis Sanchez has taken its toll on the once-exciting Udinese. It remains to be seen if Guidolin can turn it around following this defeat in his 500th game on bench in Serie A.
Paul Pogba Continues to Impress
Considering he moved from Manchester United for more playing time, it seemed strange that 19-year-old Paul Pogba would fancy his chances of making the team sheet at Juventus, a squad with one of the best midfields in the world.
But since arriving in the summer, the young Frenchman has impressed with hard work and some stellar performances. Against Udinese he was flawless, running box to box and posing a constant threat going forward. His two goals were spectacular, and while the hype surrounding him might still turn into a negative force, performances such as this one will cement a long-term place in the centre for Juventus.
Gianluigi Buffon's Talents Seem Almost Wasted in This Impressive Juventus Side
Juventus's legendary captain had absolutely nothing to do all night against Udinese, and on nights like that it almost seems a shame that one of the all-time great shot-stoppers should have so few opportunities to display his immense talent.
The Italian is unlikely to have it much easier in 2013 than he did against Udinese, but of course, on the rare occasion that the Juve flanks are breached, Conte must be delighted to have Buffon as the last line of defence. His support and leadership doubtless have a key influence on how well the rest of the side plays.
Juventus Are Not in Crisis
"Today is an important victory," said Antonio Conte after the game, before going on to say that it was only Juve's own mistakes that lead to a shocking home defeat to Sampdoria and a disappointing draw away with Parma.
"They are episodes that will not repeat themselves," insisted the coach, adding: "We have to work overtime [but] Juve today responded to all those who said we were in crisis." Upcoming opponents in Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League have been warned.