It’s far from the perfect situation where all you have is 90 minutes against a team from Serie C to evaluate your favorite team’s brand new manager before the season begins in a week. But as we know about 2020, there are very few things that are actually logical and are easy to figure out. And neither is it easy for Andrea Pirlo, Juventus’ new manager who had never coached a competitive game or a friendly until Sunday, all he has are those same 90 minutes of game action to see where his team needs to improve before Sampdoria show up at Allianz Stadium next weekend.
You can see where this was a little different than most friendlies Juve’s played the last handful of years.
Juventus recorded a comfortable 5-0 win over Serie C side Novara at Juventus Training Center on Sunday afternoon, the last time the Italian champions will take the field before their season opener seven days from now. It wasn’t necessarily the score of the game that really mattered all that much. (When is that really ever the case when there’s a friendly being played, right?) But it was more about what we saw from Pirlo’s squad in terms of the ideas he’s trying to implement in such a short period of time knowing Juve’s 2019-20 campaign ended all of a month ago.
We got the three-man defense that was pretty much the only somewhat expected thing to take place against Novara. (And even that was still a bit of an unknown since we’ve never seen Pirlo draw up a starting lineup before.) But the other parts of the equation — how Pirlo wanted to play both in terms of stylistically and tactically — was a complete unknown.
We saw Juventus playing a lot more direct than compared to the last time when Maurizio Sarri was manager and it was a slow, laborious build-up that usually resulted in not much at all.
We saw wingbacks getting high up the field and contributing in a much different way than they did when Sarri was hellbent on playing with a four-man backline and an inefficient midfield.
And, maybe most important of all, we saw a Juventus — at least when the main starters were in there before Pirlo started rotating players in and out — that had some distinct ideas of what they wanted to do both when they were on the ball and how they wanted to quickly win it back.
This is the big part of the journey with Pirlo — he told us how he wants his team to play weeks before we actually saw them play in a game. This is one game and against an opponent that will be playing the team Pirlo was originally set to manage back in the end of July. So, in that sense, the gulf in quality was pretty much bound to see a scoreline like this, but there was still the fact that Pirlo’s Juve had some really good moments even though they’ve only been together for a few short weeks with their new manager. (And with some of their most important players just coming back from international duty on top of that.)
It was a good first step, one that’s positive rather than something that left you scratching your head as to what they’re trying to execute out on the field.
All in all, I feel relatively good after the one and only friendly this team will play. You can see that there’s a direction where Pirlo wants to take this team. And maybe, just maybe, they can get there with the more time they have with their new manager. That’s part of the catch with this season, of course. This team will (hopefully) continue to develop its new identity as their first-year manager gets more experience under his belt.
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