“These are the games where the soul of this group emerges.” Leonardo Bonucci’s words after Juventus-Roma perfectly described the Old Lady.
The Bianconeri beat Roma 2-0 at the Allianz Stadium thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 16th gol in 17 Serie A goal games and a Roger Ibanez own goal. Andrea Pirlo’s side kept their sixth clean sheet in the last seven games in all competitions and their impressive defensive record is surely the key for their run of form since the beginning of 2021.
They won nine matches out of 10 since the beginning of January, scoring 23 goals and conceding just seven.
Watching the Old Lady play lately, one would think Max Allegri has returned in the dug-out. Clearly, he hasn’t, but this Juventus side have once again found the identity they used to have during the five-year spell of the Tuscan tactician in Turin.
The return of Giorgio Chiellini has given the team more solidity and allowed Pirlo’s side to sit back and try to hit on counter attacks with quick transitions.
But there is more behind Juventus’ win against Roma. Cristiano Ronaldo is always lethal. He scored one and came close to netting the second, but hit the crossbar after a Marash Kumbulla deflection.
Arthur bossed the midfield and Adrien Rabiot put in a solid performance and had a 100% pass accuracy. Roma’s possession was way too sterile as Paulo Fonseca’s side were unable to convert it into goal scoring opportunities.
The Giallorossi were without their designated captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, the injured Chris Smalling and Pedro.
Plus Edin Dzeko started on the bench after clearing the air with the Portuguese tactician and had a rather difficult evening once he entered the pitch in the second half.
Overall, Juventus’ win was fully deserved.
“We had prepared this type of match. We knew Roma play very good football, so we were prepared to sit back, defend and then go on the counter,” Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia.
One year ago, Bonucci and his teammates struggled to keep clean sheets. Maurizio Sarri had come in with the aim of giving the Old Lady a new, more offensive identity, but it didn’t quite work.
He wanted his players to press high up the pitch, trying to recover the ball as early as possible and be a constant threat in their opponents’ half.
The Old Lady had highs and lows, won their ninth straight Serie A title and reached a Coppa Italia final, which they lost on penalties to Napoli.
It was not enough for the former Chelsea boss to keep his job after an early elimination in the last 16 stage of the Champions League at the hands of Lyon.
Juventus players were not happy with his methods and they proved they could not cope with his idea of football.
Ironically, it was the same thing Pirlo demanded on his first day in charge of the Old Lady.
“I told the lads two things: you always have to keep the ball and when you lose it, you must get it back quickly,” he said at his unveiling back in August.
In all honesty, Juventus try to have this kind of approach against the so-called ‘smaller’ sides, but lately they have showed many common features with Max Allegri’s side. Especially when they play big games.
That doesn’t mean they play badly. On the contrary, that’s exactly what Juventus have been successfully doing over the last 20 years.
The game against Roma once again proved Juventus feel at ease sitting back. It’s their nature and, more importantly, it’s the nature of their defensive leaders, namely Bonucci and Chiellini. Defence is the best way of attack for Juventus, not the other way around.
While Roma defenders seemed disoriented every time Juventus attacked, Chiellini and Bonucci formed the usual outstanding defensive partnership and conceded literally no chances to Paulo Fonseca’s side.
The likes of Matthijs de Ligt and Merih Demiral may allow Pirlo to have a different approach, but thus far the good old Italians have proved to be the most reliable choices at the back.
They enjoy defending inside the box, as Chiellini himself explained earlier this week.
“I’m very pleased to win a duel,” he said. “When I block a dangerous shot or save a goal, I get an adrenaline rush.
“It’s a different joy from scoring, it’s not comparable, but those saves in the important games, I still have them inside me.” Every time he plays, he seems to pass it on to his teammates.
It happened against Roma and hopefully for Juventus, they will be able to keep this feeling alive also in the next big games of the season.