Pressure on Juventus begins to ease after earning first Serie A win this term
Hardly convincing, but Juventus managed their first Serie A win of the season beating Genoa 2-0 away from home. Having managed unlikely success in the Champions League against a team they themselves feel can win the tournament, the Bianconeri have recovered their confidence, but more importantly, their cynicism.
While in Europe, the Juve players worked together and showed great discipline and unity. Against Genoa, there were guilty of relying on excellent movements from certain players but the game from the unit as a whole seemed disjointed as it has done previously.
Once again, Massimiliano Allegri was unable to field his best starting lineup, aware that his men are required to play several games in the next few weeks, he decided to rotate again. So while defensively the side is improving, offensively there are still a few kinks to iron out.
Genoa played as expected. Masking the lack of sheer talent with grit and energetic running, they pressed their opponents high up the pitch and ran relentlessly to stifle the opponent and claim the upper hand. However, energy can only take you so far as they were not really capable of creating any patterns of play that scared the Juve back line, allowing Gianluigi Buffon to take the night off.
Keeping the Bianconeri at bay, they still believed in their cause up until the team went down to 10 men. Then their task of containing talent, despite the lack of fluidity, proved too difficult.
Despite the win, it's clear Juve are still far from the levels they reached last season. However, they do seem to be improving with each game, as on this occasion several goal-scoring opportunities were created with only the final ball proving to be problematic. With Juan Cuadrado available and capable of taking on opponents in front of him, he creates problems and has proved effective for the side with his particular set of skills making the difference. More than that, his attitude and confidence is inspiring those around him.
Sadly for the team, the offensive movements are not being finished off in style as Paul Pogba missed a few chances while Mario Mandzukic seemed to be suffering with his confidence. Having scored midweek, one thought the former Atletico Madrid striker would be firing on all cylinders, but his style of game and the work he does for the team is almost forcing him into being a little blunt when the time comes to score.
Dropping deep, occupying space and bringing others into play have robbed the forward of his usual precision, but it will take him time to find the right balance and better understand how to manage his energy levels so that he can impose his own strengths. The Italian league, despite its reputation, is physically demanding, and coping with the training schedules as well as maintaining freshness is by no means an easy feat.
Thankfully, a lucky own goal allowed Juventus to take the lead. Pogba struck the ball and what should have been an easy finish somehow became a complicated affair, bouncing off the goalkeeper before it went in. After the goal Juve were better able to operate without the pressure piling on their shoulders, and their game improved, with several more chances being created until an overwhelmed Genoa went down to 10.
Experience is vital in any game, but the lack of it was the reason behind the Rossoblu's defeat. They were of course unlucky, and Juve's second goal, which arrived by way of a contentious penalty, certainly didn't help matters. However, experience helps when it comes to managing games and emotions to ensure little mistakes don't end up costing the team dearly.
Mario Lemina is one who will need time to hone his skill and learn how to play the game as opposed to simply fulfilling his positional tasks. Despite managing a good debut, the youngster was guilty of several unnecessary fouls that needn't happen. He must learn how to perform his defensive duties without conceding fouls in dangerous areas or wasting possession. Perhaps the yellow card he received was harsh, but after receiving it his game truly suffered. From then on, he couldn't operate as he liked.
One player who has improved during his time with the Bianconeri is Roberto Pereyra, who made all the difference on the day. Coming on for Alvaro Morata, who went off injured, the Argentine dribbled marvellously and showed off all his technical ability while working for the team, creating opportunities and penetrating a tough Genovese back line with relative ease. After so many wonderful performances he perhaps deserves to start a game, as with a little more consistency he could grow even more.
With Pereyra helping his side claim the win, Juventus will feel a little less pressure going forward and perhaps in time that will translate into more success and more points. However, there's little time to celebrate as Frosinone await on Wednesday.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.