Andrea Pirlo’s latest Serie A setback will have been a tough one to take. A 95-minute Felipe Caicedo equaliser for Lazio resulted in Juve squandering two more points and recording their fourth stalemate in seven league outings. However, the manner of this latest draw came off the back of an improved performance and left a positive outlook in spite of the frustrating ending.
For well over an hour the Bianconeri looked more assured than in recent weeks, they had an element of control over the game and gave fans a glimpse into the potential of Pirlo’s Juve. The left side of the team did particularly well. Danilo continues to impress in his hybrid role at the back and he was complimented by the balance that Adrien Rabiot and young Italian Gianluca Frabotta offered ahead of him.
Balance within the team is a subject that’s already been raised on a few occasions in the early part of the season, but Pirlo is beginning to find that much needed stability in his starting XI’s. The absence of Federico Chiesa due to injury perhaps aided Pirlo on Sunday. The aforementioned Frabotta may not have been outstanding but he helped his team in both the attacking and defensive phases.
Accustomed to starting from deeper, Frabotta was diligent defensively. His positioning and tactical awareness assisted in The Old Lady in forming a better defensive unit, whilst he also timed his forward movements well, quickly supporting attacks. Juventus have been easy to beat under Pirlo so far but for the first time against Lazio, they looked like a cohesive outfit without the ball.
The Italian champions were tested defensively on a number occasions, spending spells of the match camped in their half but they looked comfortable under pressure and afforded Lazio very little in the way of quality chances. A clean sheet would have been a welcome boost after a much improved defensive display.
To complement their improvement without possession, going forward we saw a few excellent passages of play, particularly in the first half. A neatly created Cristiano Ronaldo goal aside the incisive move that resulted in CR7 crashing his shot off the frame of the goal was the best of the day and a moment that arguably would have won Juve the game.
Juve’s inability to finish Lazio off always had the potential to come back and haunt them but it was only after Pirlo’s second half substitutions did this look like a possibility for the capital outfit. The momentum of proceedings changed, the Turin giants lost energy and forward impetuous.
With Ronaldo and Dejan Kulusevski exiting play around the 75th minute, Juve lost two superb ball carriers and forward runners, something that neither of their replacements – Paulo Dybala and Weston Mckennie – could replicate. Considering Kulusevski only appeared for around 15 minutes of the previous 180 did his coach really need to replace him at that crucial stage?
Pirlo later admitted that Dybala was struggling with illness so the injury to Cristiano perhaps forced his hand in introducing the number 10 when he was not in the appropriate condition. Either way it was another poor cameo from La Joya who played an instrumental part in Lazio’s goal at the death.
Dybala’s place in the team is not for the first time coming under increasing scrutiny. The international break where he will stay in Turin comes at an ideal time for the under pressure Dybala. A concerning trend has developed with Paulo over his time at Juve, one that cannot continue.
The exit of Ronaldo coincided yet again with Juventus struggles adding further weight to the argument that La Vecchia Signora are over reliant on their number 7. They average less goals, win fewer points without him and his presence on the field has a profound effect on not only his team mates but the opposition. Losing one of the world’s best players would affect the majority of sides but Juve must learn to cope without him when these instances occur.
Pirlo needed to make changes, but he had limited options and the personnel he called upon lacked the energy required to make a positive impact. Injuries continue to hamper Juve but they do appear short of a player in two in the squad. Rotations will be pivotal this campaign, players will need rest and number have already clocked up a great deal of minutes in a short space of time. With January soon approaching it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see another new addition or two.
Mister Pirlo will reflect on this as a performance to build on and with a friendly looking fixture schedule coming up, he will be hoping to string together a few needed victories.