Juventus will play at home against Atalanta five months after the 2-2 draw achieved with great pain thanks to two penalties converted by Cristiano Ronaldo. Like the July match there will be no fans, but almost everything has changed: on the Juventus bench there’s Andrea Pirlo, still unbeaten in this Serie A campaign, who needs to win to stay close to the leading teams, AC Milan, Inter and Napoli. Although for the new manager it will be the 18th number 18 of the season (including the 3-0 by forfeit against the Neapolitan club), it’s still not clear which is the favorite scheme of the former Maestro.
Andrea Pirlo has never chosen the same starting lineup for two different games and the reasons are many. The first is certainly connected to the ideas of the new Juventus driver, who at the beginning of the season decided to focus on a defensive trio and two high full-backs and only later changed his mind by choosing a traditional four-man defense, especially after the return of Matthijs de Ligt. The second is the result of the absences that hit the whole team, mainly due to injuries: in addition to the Dutch centre-back, who had been out since the beginning of the season, Pirlo had to stay without Alex Sandro (usually a staple) and Giorgio Chiellini, who has suffered numerous physical problems and continuous relapses that seriously question his availability for the rest of the season. The defensive package was also weakened by the absences of Merih Demiral and Leonardo Bonucci, also one who only in very rare cases was not part of the starters. Without considering the intermittent condition of Aaron Ramsey, certainly not a novelty, due to the covid also Cristiano Ronaldo was forced to stop, skipping, for example, the crucial home game against Barcelona.
If we consider the entire squad available to Andrea Pirlo, the players used were as many as 26, including Mattia De Sciglio and Douglas Costa who were later sold at the end of the transfer window, but also some semi-unknown players taken from the Under 23 team as Gianluca Frabotta, Manolo Portanova, Radu Dragusin and Giacomo Vrioni. And the turnover also affected the goalkeepers, given the alternation between Wojciech Szczesny and Gianluigi Buffon. Returning to the scheme issue, therefore, the uncertainty was almost total: considering that the positions are very mobile onto the pitch during the 90 minutes, Pirlo tried the 3-4-1-2, the 3-4-2-1 and the 3-5-2, then also a more scholastic 4-4-2, the 4-2-3-1 with the attacking midfielder to support the strikers and in very rare situations even the attacking trio. If the composition of the midfield players has changed often and no one seems to be sure to play, what is fair is the will to always concentrate on the full-backs’ work, differently from Maurizio Sarri era: the new signing Federico Chiesa was used almost exclusively on the left side while the other newcomer Dejan Kulusevski on the opposite one (even if he’s having a lot of difficulty in making its qualities coexist with the chosen scheme), where instead Juan Cuadrado is simply shining. The Colombian winger, put in the defensive or on the midfielders line, is not only the player with the most minutes played (1263, the same as Danilo), but he is the player with the best performance with 9 assists served for his teammates (Juve score 34 goal) and many decisive performances. Both Cuadrado and Danilo were also put in absolutely anomalous positions: the first as left winger, against Roma, and the second as left-back, against Torino.
The feeling is that Andrea Pirlo by dint of experimenting is slowly finding the best set-up, which does not include Paulo Dybala in the starting eleven, but Alvaro Morata, the only offensive player good at being a strong offensive reference for his teammates. In midfield, however, the odds of Weston Mc Kennie are soaring, thanks to his dynamism and his ability to defend and offend at the same time: the Texan guy is increasingly conquering the manager and the fans, forcing Arthur to see his teammates play from the bench and and obliging Rabiot and Bentancur to take turns at his side. It’s clear that all these indications relating to the first start of the season will be useful to Pirlo who will surely consider the squad in its entirety for such a long and compressed season, and that in the meantime he can learn to get to know his players better and then choose them according to the different opponents and the next complicated challenges.