Juventus cruising along in Indonesia
In front of 88,000 spectators in Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Juventus won their first friendly match with Massimiliano Allegri on the bench. Thrashing the ISL All-Stars 8-1, the new coach used this opportunity to improve fitness levels and played some of his stars to lift spirits and give the side confidence after mediocre displays in the past two friendlies.
In a heaving atmosphere, those present chanted words of encouragement, sang the club songs and even took time to thank Antonio Conte and make their feelings on the potential sale of Arturo Vidal clear. Indonesia loves Juventus, and this Asian tour is not only a way of increasing revenue by growing the brand worldwide, but it has provided the side with the opportunity to witness firsthand how much their fans outside of Italy support and love them.
Like chicken soup for the soul, the supporters who stood outside the hotel to catch a glimpse of the stars reminded the players of the club's prestige and worldwide appeal, reinforcing their bond with the Old Lady. Sharing pictures and words of gratitude via social media, the tour has not only strengthened the players' belief in the project, but has encouraged a family-like atmosphere to lift spirits after what can only be described as a dramatic summer.
A great opportunity to raise fitness levels and improve the cohesion of the squad, it was evident this was a more confident Juve side that moved the ball quicker and with greater accuracy. Playing their stars, the Old Lady immediately demonstrated her defensive weaknesses before she began to truly play her own game, destroying the opponent that struggled to keep up and limit the offensive movements.
In essence, considering the great difference in quality, one cannot get too carried away with assessments. It was hardly a tough challenge and from a tactical point of view, these friendlies cannot provide the answers we covet. Yet one could see the improved understanding between the different departments, quality play in the wide areas, as well as the weaknesses Juventus must tackle -- including their inability to adequately defend set pieces. It also provided certain players the chance to shine and integrate themselves within the squad.
With Juve playing Antonio Conte's 3-5-2, the fans were able to watch Patrice Evra make his debut and appreciate the qualities of newcomer Kingsley Coman, who continues to impress his new coach. Already demonstrating an understanding of the tactics deployed, the French youngster offers the Bianconeri a range of skills they have been lacking, including great speed. Dribbling with impressive skill and capable of converting with ease, his quick feet may have dazzled audiences, but it is his great desire to grow and make an impact that has most impressed Allegri and the directors at Juventus. Highly professional and eager to earn his place within the side, Coman could just be Juve's secret weapon going forward.
Demonstrating great movement, Fernando Llorente was man of the match as he scored a hat trick and recorded an assist. Having suffered in the early stages of last season as he looked to integrate himself within the squad and its exhaustive tactics, one hopes that with a year of experience under his belt, the Spaniard can make the desired impact in his second season. Boasting confidence and clear understanding, he may not have been up against the toughest of defences, but his desire alongside his generosity provided the coach with clear ideas going ahead.
However, the night belonged to Simone Pepe, who after two long painful years in which he barely played a match, returned with a bang, scoring one as well as providing an assist. Allegri is happy to have recovered a player who is not only tactically versatile but determined to make up for lost time. Passionate by nature, Pepe may be targeted by several Italian clubs looking to lure him away, but he's desperate to win back his place in the squad.
Overall, Allegri spoke of his pleasure in watching a determined squad and expressed his gratitude at the reception the team received. Having touched down in Australia, the coach has a few days left to put into practice a few of his ideas, and it's reported he will work with the side in view of testing a four-man back line in the upcoming games.
Alessandro Del Piero may be awaiting the arrival of his former team, but the squad is keen to continue improving and utilizing the opportunities this tour has given them both on a sporting and marketing level.