Cagliari 1-4 Juventus: 6 Things We Learned
Cagliari put in a spirited display against the champions, but ultimately, like last Sunday, it was too much Juve!
It has been something of a trend lately, with the Italian media often summarising the Bianconeri's performances with Troppa Juve! (too much Juve!).
Fernando Llorente bagged a brace, with Stephan Lichtsteiner and a Claudio Marchisio screamer securing an 11th consecutive victory, a new club record.
Cagliari entered life without Radja Nainggolan, and there were some positive signs (more of which later), but Juve are a different beast right now to anything else in Serie A.
Here are six things we learned.
Defensive Organisation Missing Without Barzagli
Andrea Barzagli's absence today through suspension illustrated exactly what he brings to the Juve side.
The Azzurri international brings organisation and a calming influence when the Bianconeri set up to defend set pieces and crosses.
Throughout the 90 minutes against Cagliari, Juve struggled to stay tight to their markers, most notably for Mauricio Pinilla's opener, when Giorgio Chiellini was caught sleeping.
There appeared to be a lack of communication throughout, and Barzagli's return will ensure that the defence is better prepared to deal markers who are mobile and interchange positions in anticipation of the delivery.
More Crosses from the Wide Areas Will Bring the Best out of Llorente
An obvious point to notice, but one that will be important for the rest of the season and also into the summer when deciphering which players should be targeted in the market.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, himself an excellent crosser of the ball, displayed how effective Fernando Llorente can be when he is provided with the right service.
A ball with height and pace for the Spaniard to attack will bring plenty of goals for the Old Lady, as Llorente showed great leap in his jump to rise high and drive home the equaliser.
Kwadwo Asamoah rarely demonstrates a similar delivery when positioned in advanced, wide areas of the pitch, which could signal a push for a left-sided player of Lichsteiner's ilk in the summer.
David Moyes May Not Have Been Convinced from What He Saw
David Moyes was in the stadium for the game, and according to Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, the Manchester United manager was scouting several players: centre-back Davide Astori and forward Victor Ibarbo from Cagliari and Juve's Arturo Vidal.
Obviously, he would have likely not learned anything new from Vidal, a world-class player widely regarded as the most complete player in Europe.
But Astori may not have totally convinced Moyes, with Cagliari succumbing, eventually, to sustained Juve pressure and shipping four goals.
While Ibarbo, recently returning from an injury, was brought on as a substitution, the Colombian made little impact with the space between Juve's midfield and defence limited. With a significant lead, the Bianconeri dropped deep before the end.
This nullified Ibarbo's best asset, his pace, meaning rarely could he stretch his legs and expose Juve.
Given United's weak midfield, perhaps Claudio Marchisio would have impressed Moyes enough to take note.
Il Principino gave Juve the lead with a thumping strike from range and his ability to ease Juve over the line by keeping things moving smoothly and generally looking after possession tidily will have been noticed.
Lichtsteiner Back to His Best
Stephan Lichtsteiner spent two months on the sidelines injured, but the Swiss international is now back to his best.
Lichtsteiner's end product is reliable, and it makes for a perfect outlet to build Juve's attacks from.
With the midfielders and strikers knowing exactly when to time their runs, or pull out wide to link up with the former Lazio player.
It is no coincidence that Llorente was constantly finding half-chances inside the penalty area, as the Spaniard trusts the ball to be delivered, unlike Lichtsteiner's replacements while he was out.
Marchisio Gives Conte Some Food for Thought
Claudio Marchisio put in a stellar cameo against Cagliari to remind Antonio Conte what he can offer.
Marchisio demonstrated his ability to strike the ball from range on goal and generally ensured that Juve's possession was moving smoothly.
His movement, particularly once he has released the ball, is also impressive, always offering a return ball for a team mate and an angle to maintain possession.
Displacing Pogba, Vidal or Pirlo will be tough immediately, but it may dissuade Conte from even contemplating a sale at this point.
Cagliari Need to Restructure Their Focal Point After Nainggolan Departure
Cagliari played for the first time without Radja Nainggolan, who joined Roma last week.
The Isolani lost their most important player and must now look to the future and decide whether to replace him like-for-like or to focus on building around a player in a new position.
On the basis of the game against Cagliari, it should be the latter.
Daniele Dessena and Albin Ekdal flanked Daniele Conti superbly, creating a solid foundation for the side to build from.
Perhaps some additional cover should be sort, but Cagliari would profit from basing their game around a trequartista, given their ample depth at centre-midfield.
The arrival of Brazilian Adryan, from Flamengo, should give the side this opportunity, or at least push Andrea Cossu to rekindle his best form.
With Victor Ibarbo's pace and the clever movement of both Marco Sau and Mauricio Pinilla, somebody with guile and creativity will be just the man to help Cagliari rebuild.
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