As Juventus fell behind just beyond the hour mark on Sunday evening, Andrea Pirlo took immediate action and introduced Dejan Kulusevski in search of an equaliser. The talented Swede dually responded, needing a little under 20 minutes to draw his side level with a fabulous solo effort.
In his 30 minutes on the pitch Kulusevski transformed Juve’s attack, completing 100% of his attempted dribbles, creating two chances, winning 3 out of 5 duels and finding the goal his side desperately needed.
Rested from the start following an intense fixture list, it appeared evident from early on that Kulu’s attributes were needed in the Juventus attack. This was emphasised further by the opposition's approach off the ball. Hellas Verona’s effective man-orientated press gave the home team problems for well over an hour. Ivan Juric adopted this tactic knowing his side would concede space in deeper areas but banked on his players being able to cope due to their physicality across the pitch.
As a result of Verona’s tactics there were gaps available for Juve to exploit and possible one-on-one situations to dominate, but it required the right personnel to take advantage of it. The Old Lady did threaten on a few occasions when they played quickly into their front line, bypassing the Hellas press, but aside from Alvaro Morata, Juventus did not have another player capable of dealing with the aggressive nature of the Gialloblu defenders. Aaron Ramsey faded after making a great start as he expertly made the most of the space available, but at times Morata was left isolated as his supporting cast went in search of the ball, an issue we thought Paulo Dybala in particular had grown out of.
This is where Kulusevski’s skillset would have been vital earlier on. Coping with the threat of the former Parma and Atalanta player would have given the visitors a very different challenge. A creator of chances who is excellent one-on-one, his energy, physical strength and versatility gives Juve a different dynamic, something that would become very evident once he was on the pitch. We have already seen him play in three different roles under Pirlo, and his ability to do this provides the Juve tactician with solutions to different problems.
It is early days in Turin for Kulusevski but he has made an electric start to his Juventus career. The 20-year-old's swift adaptation to a new club, a new coach and a different style of play has been impressive to say the least. He is arguably the most promising talent that the club have signed in the last decade. It remains to be seen how he will develop and there are many factors involved in this, not just the player himself. However, with a certain No 7 exiting in the next couple of years, the Bianconeri look to already have an attacker that can carry the responsibility of making the difference.
Away from the hype of Juve’s No 44, many Juventini will perhaps already have concerns regarding their team’s results. In reality they have been millimetres away from beating both Crotone and Verona. The key moments haven’t swung their way - on another week its six points and fewer questions raised.
Apprehension for fans should be focused in a different area, that of player availability and squad depth. The Bianconeri have had a number of players unavailable for various reasons since the resumption and before performances can start improving, they need all their top stars available. Team cohesion can only be found with consistency in player selection.
One department they are left stretched is at centre-back. Leonardo Bouncci was forced off with and injury at the weekend and highlighted a potential problem. Juventus have for years had five stoppers in their squad and given the fact they knew that Matthijs de Ligt would be out until November and that captain Giorgio Chiellini is not only injury prone but returning from a serious long-term setback, it was perhaps naïve to go with a man fewer at the heart of their defence.
The games are coming thick and fast at Pirlo and it doesn't get much bigger than Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday. While the football world hopes to see Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi, it is a fixture that provides La Vecchia Signora an early opportunity to showcase their capabilities and place down a marker.