When Maurizio Sarri – cartons, upon cartons, upon cartons of cigarettes and all – arrived at Juventus he was immediately faced with a footballing ‘first world problem’:
How do you fit so many good players into one starting XI?
The maths never added up, as he couldn’t fit 25 players, all deserving of gametime, into one team of 11 players. That was, is, and always will be, impossible.
However, despite mathematic improbabilities, after weeks of tinkering, Sarri may have just found the best formation and group of players (‘bar Sami Khedira’, screams Juve Twitter), that the club can field.
The formation is: 4-3-1-2 (advocated for by yours truly a few weeks ago).
The XI is: Gianluigi Buffon (replaced by Wojciech Szczesny), Juan Cuadrado, Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Blaise Matuidi (replaced by an actual left back); Adrien Rabiot, Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira (replaced by Blaise Matuidi…calm down Twitter); Aaron Ramsey; Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo.
And this was all worked out during La Vecchia Signora’s win over SPAL.
Yes, while on paper a 2-0 win isn’t that impressive, or in any way unexpected, the performance was. La Vecchia Signora were at their domineering best for the first time in what feels like forever. With Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala, in particular, linking up well in attack; De Ligt seemingly finding his feet after weeks of slipping and sliding like Bambi at the back; and Pjanic being given more protection and less defensive duties, Juve look like a force to be reckoned with once again…
…Even if they only won 2-0…which could’ve been 6-0 had Etrit Fadil Berisha (deserves his full name) not played the best game any goalkeeper has ever played.
Key Talking Point
Gianluigi Buffon making his record-breaking 903rd appearance is one.
Matthijs de Ligt looking assured at the back is another.
But the ‘key talking point’ for Juve fans will be Paulo Dybala’s re-emergence. From being an unwanted footballer with no right foot flogged unsuccessfully to Man Utd, to a footballer now considered as a vital member of the starting XI, the Argentine now looks firmly in Sarri’s plans.
And he’s forced himself into those plans by doing one thing: playing well.
His assist for CR7’s goal (yes, of course he scored), was sublime, as was his link-up play with Rambo.
Dybala is BACK; Juve fans REJOICE.
Starting XI: Buffon (6), Cuadrado (6), De Ligt (7), Bonucci (6), Matuidi (5); Rabiot (6), Pjanic (8*), Khedira (5); Ramsey (7); Dybala (7), Ronaldo (7).
Substitutes: Bentancur (5), Can (5), Bernardeschi (5).
Miralem Pjanic is the new Hernan Crespo. The new volley king of the world, volleying every ball that comes within 20 yards of his right foot into the back of the net.
Armed with the 4-3-1-2, Juventus will face off against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in midweek before facing Inter in the Derby d’Italia next weekend.
Armed with Etrit Fadil Berisha, SPAL will face off against Parma next weekend.