Juventus vs. Napoli: A tale of two halves

General thoughts

    • Juve were dominant in the first half hour (Grade: A-), below par and belabored in the next 25–30 minutes (Grade: B-), and underwhelming the rest of the match with the exception of a few moments (Grade: C)
    • The offensive firepower is mouthwatering for fans and will strike fear in the hearts of most defenses across Italy and Europe. With only two Expected Goals vs. three regular ones plus multiple shots on the woodwork and half-chances, one can say that Juve’s finishing was much sharper than the previous match and what the statistical models predict.
    • The defense and midfield, especially with some of the new acquisitions, will need time to gel. This explains both the slow introduction of players into the team and the nervous performances by De Ligt and Rabiot so far.
    • The performances of De Sciglio, Higuain, Khedira, and Matuidi so far have shown why the staff has persisted with players who already have chemistry with each other and know how to play in a unit.
    • The high energy brand of football that we aspire to requires time to take root. We’re moving from a football where players are trained for the marathon but conserve their energy for most of the match to one where they need to prepare for both the sprint and the marathon. While this has been effective with smaller squads, it can reach new levels with Juve’s squad depth.
    • Parts of our fanbase, like most fanbases, continues to be fickle. Opinions are often exaggerated and revised based on a few minutes of play here and there. Higuain was terrible just over a week ago and De Ligt was the golden boy. Now De Ligt is getting slammed by many and affection for Higuain has popped up at scale for the first time in over a year. For more serious fans, this is probably more evidence to ignore the noise (or listen but with a critical mind). Thankfully, the staff is much more calm and collected in its approach and we continue to see a stable direction.
    • From appearances at least, it seems as if Sarri was kept away from tactical decisions. One would like to think that he would have been able to redirect things a bit in the second half had he been present. The absence of Chiellini will also take some time to get used to, both in terms of his reading of the game and leadership.
    • Juve survived a critical test without Sarri and Chiellini, and in spite of tough moments for a center back. Life could be worse!

Player ratings

    • Sczczesny (B+): Made a string of excellent saves and had only a minor portion of the blame for goals conceded
    • De Sciglio (NR): Injured early on after playing reasonably well, nothing flashy
    • Danilo (B+; sub): Started and finished the counter-attack for the first goal. Decent with crosses but defensive work can improve.
    • Bonucci (B+): Decent defensive play with one especially fine interception. Took Chiellini’s place as the tough guy with a ball to the face and an elbow to a bloody eye.
    • De Ligt (B-): Good in the first hour, followed by a couple of lapses. Could be a combination of nerves, lack of familiarity with the setup, inexperience, and just plain old drop in concentration.
    • Alex Sandro (A): Great game both offensively and defensively. Seems like a new player this season.
    • Khedira (B+): Good going forward and almost scored a wondergoal and came close with another effort. His offensive threat from midfield remains an integral part of his repertoire in spite of his age.
    • Can (B; sub): Didn’t really get up to the speed of play in the time he was there and looked a bit cumbersome
    • Pjanic (B): Distributed the ball fairly well and had some good tackles, but not much besides
    • Matuidi (B+): Ran up and down the pitch as usual, covered for Ronaldo, almost scored a goal, and didn’t do a whole lot wrong. If he continues playing like this, Sarri may have a real selection headache.
    • Ronaldo (B+): Subdued but took one of the very few chances he had with a Napoli defense focused on keeping him out of the match
    • Higuain (A-): Great goal, some good touches, and did what he needed to to keep his place in the team for now
    • Dybala (NR): One good run but didn’t get the opportunity to do much else
    • Douglas Costa (A+): Man of the match with two assists and an effort that stung the woodwork. Emerging as Juve’s main creative outlet this season. A player that both Juve fans and neutrals can enjoy when in top form like yesterday.

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