Juventus 3-1 Chievo Verona: 6 Things We Learned
Juventus returned to winning ways against a poor Chievo side, but a 3-1 scoreline was the least that Antonio Conte could have expected.
In a rather disjointed performance at times, the Old Lady were frustrated by the Flying Donkeys, who had several openings themselves.
Goals from Kwadwo Asamoah, Claudio Marchisio and Fernando Llorente were enough, though, so the calamitous own-goal scored by Martin Caceres did not prove costly.
Here are six things we learned.
Asamoah's Versatility Could Cushion Blow of Pogba or Vidal Exit in the Summer
Kwadwo Asamoah has shown he is able to impact a game through the middle of the pitch in recent weeks.
Whether that is by using Paul Pogba as a decoy overlapping a run on the left wing, or by combining with quick one-two passing combinations to be released into space through the middle when the opposition chooses to man-mark Juve's centre-midfielders.
Asamoah shone through the latter on Sunday—to devastating effect, too.
The Ghanaian broke the deadlock against Chievo with a stunning strike from just outside of the penalty area, proving he can bring this to his game moving forward.
It poses the question as to whether he could return to the position that had originally brought his name to the attention of Juventus whilst he was playing at Udinese.
Should the Bianconeri lose one of their star centre-midfielders—Paul Pogba or Arturo Vidal—Conte will have to decide upon a strategy to replace one of the team's key players.
Claudio Marchisio may return to a starring role, meaning they would probably need to identify a cover, rather than a starting option in the summer.
Asamoah would be able to provide this, meaning that Juve could reinvest the funds raised from a hypothetical sale of Pogba or Vidal to strengthen another area of the team.
Giovinco's Juve Future Is Doomed
Sebastian Giovinco's Juventus career has never taken off, partly because he has never been afforded time to settle into the first team.
"Formica Atomica" has always needed to win a place in the line-up with substitute appearances or during lower priority matches when Antonio Conte has rested the first-choice forward pairing.
It was the latter for Giovinco on Sunday, as Carlos Tevez was given a rest, so the former Parma star was paired with Fernando Llorente.
But the 27-year-old was unable to impress, again, which led to jeers as he was substituted in the second half.
The player was clearly frustrated and looked to make a move for the tunnel immediately, but Conte wrapped an arm around the player and spoke some comforting words.
With Dani Osvaldo brought in on loan, starts will become even tougher to come by for Giovinco. With his relationship with the fans souring from both ends, a fresh start in the summer appears inevitable.
Conte "Giovinco wanted to go down the tunnel & I stopped him because it's not right." - remember Conte has a rule against that (Pirlo).— Tarek Khatib (@ADP1113) February 16, 2014
Conte "Giovinco did not insult anyone, there were cheers for Llorente as he came out & for Giovinco there were ... whistles!"— Tarek Khatib (@ADP1113) February 16, 2014
Chemistry Not Right When Back 3 Is Changed
With Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli missing the game through injury, Conte was forced to change his defence against Chievo.
The Bianconeri's balance at the back without one, let alone two of its starting centre-backs was clearly compromised.
Leonardo Bonucci was joined by Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna, who struggled to adequately fill in the qualities needed of the defence vacated by the absences of Chiellini and Barzagli.
It was a disaster in miscommunication between Stephan Lichtsteiner and Martin Caceres for the own goal that gifted Chievo a way back into the game on Sunday.
It poses the question as to whether Conte should change the shape of the defence should any of the regulars be missing.
Caceres can easily fill in at full-back, while Ogbonna is still not comfortable as one of three centre-backs, compared to the two centre-back formation that he shone in for Torino.
Llorente Is the Front-Runner for Bargain of the Season
Fernando Llorente scored his 10th goal of the season in just 21 matches in the league.
With one-third of the season still remaining, Llorente has matched the highest total in the league from any player during Conte's first two seasons in charge—although Carlos Tevez has also achieved this feat and has three more goals than him this season.
With Llorente arriving on a free transfer, and the fact that he is in the prime of his career, it surely puts him at the top of a hypothetical "best bargains from the summer transfer window" list.
Luca Toni, Ciro Immobile and Jose Callejon are also high up in the goalscoring charts and could rival the Spaniard for the title of "the best bargain from the summer transfer window."
Juve's Added Goals the Key to a Probable Third Consecutive Scudetto
Fernando Llorente added his 10th league goal of the season, meaning that Juve now have three goalscorers having reached double figures this season.
Llorente, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal have 34 league goals between them now.
That is more than the top three scorers over the entire season from Conte's first two seasons in charge.
Last season, Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco combined for 24 goals, while the year before, Vucinic, Alessandro Matri and Claudio Marchisio managed 28 over the course of the entire campaign.
Conte's side are on track to break the team total of goals for a season, too.
In his first season in charge, Conte's side scored 68 goals (1.79 goals/game). Last year, they scored 71 goals (1.87 goals/game), and this season, they already have 59 goals in 24 games so far (2.46 goals/game).
So goalscoring is something that has clearly improved—and the win over Chievo was a good example, as they put three past the visitors without ever finding a flow to their game.
Conte Correct in Reaction to Capello, Juve Better Than Ever, but...
Antonio Conte's Juve proved again on Sunday that they can methodically grind out results and comfortably beat Serie A opponents when they are not at their best.
It was not a scintillating performance, but it is a credit to Conte that his tactics enabled the Bianconeri to overwhelm opponents at times and find plenty of opportunities, even when they aren't quite playing to their potential.
Fabio Capello has criticised Conte and this Juventus side over the past three seasons, in particular their inability to crack Europe.
But Conte reacted vociferously, noting to Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia), "Capello's [Juventus] sides broke records...but I don’t remember their style of football."
Capello said that Conte's side were only dominant due to the poor quality of Serie A lately, but Conte responded swiftly, saying: "Maybe next year I’ll ask us to be enrolled in the Premier League... I’d say someone who makes these comments is annoying and disrespectful."
Conte knows he must bide his time to prove his worth in Europe, with some critics pointing to the failure in the Champions League as a sign that this team is not great.
But although this was not a memorable victory, it proved once again that Juve always react to dropping points—that is the sign of a great side.
To have the character to win the next match on each of the four times that they have dropped points this season demonstrates their mental toughness to never allow a "crisis" to develop.