Juventus began its Serie A campaign with a whimper more than a bang, a 1-0 victory away to Parma.
Giorgio Chiellini got his foot on a shot by Alex Sandro in the 21st minute, an awkward deflection befitting of an awkward game:
Perhaps it was always going to be this way, with Juve playing its first league match under new boss Maurizio Sarri. His emphasis on short, quick passes forward with a high line seemed like a workable yet imperfect fit for this collection of players.
This collection meaning last season’s Juventus, which is the group that started the match as the summer signings largely stayed bolted to the bench. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot, who joined on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain, came on just past the hour mark, while marquee defender Matthijs de Ligt didn’t get into the game at all. Former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey didn’t even make the matchday squad due to a reported lack of fitness.
Centralized playmaking is a key tenet of “Sarri-ball”, but then again Ramsey was acquired before Sarri even took over. Incumbent center mid Miralem Pjanic is gifted, too, and tightening the tactics in this regard was never going to be simple.
It speaks to Juve’s overwhelming talent that they still earned all three points on the road. Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have doubled Juve’s lead as the first half wound down, only for VAR to rule him offside by the thinnest of margins:
Ronaldo struggled to combine well with striker Gonzalo Higuain, returned from a loan spell to Chelsea to end last season. Paulo Dybala, the talented second striker who’s been linked with a move away from Juventus, didn’t get off the bench either.
Parma had its moments, but never felt like a threat to nick a point, save for a couple breathless moments in the box late in the match.
What Juventus looks like now will invariably change over the course of the season, and more so given the relative flux taking place at the club.
But this will still likely be the Italian top-flight champion for the ninth year running, and sifting through their setups might provide the most compelling challenge to those chances.
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