Andrea Pirlo was refreshingly honest about the ways Juventus disappointed against Ferencvaros, especially Arthur and Paulo Dybala.
The substitutions proved decisive, specifically Alvaro Morata, who came off the bench to score the 92nd-minute winner after Cristiano Ronaldo had cancelled out the Myrto Uzuni opener.
It was a very hard-fought win for the Bianconeri, although they did hit the woodwork twice with Federico Bernardeschi and Morata.
“We had intended to start with a different attitude, but we know there can be difficulties in games that seem on paper to be simple. We were too superficial at the start and had to chase the game,” Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia.
“Our first press wasn’t vehement, which is normal after so many matches to lose a little intensity, but the important thing was not to get stretched out and allow counter-attacks. We did it a few times in the first half, but then managed to settle down.
“I expected more from the players, but Ferencvaros clammed up, we had to try to move the ball back and forth more quickly to spread them. We moved it too slowly, which made it easier for them to defend.
“Ferencvaros keep a high line and invite you to attack them, but if you don’t do it at the right moment, it plays into their hands. When we got the timing right, we were almost always dangerous.”
Matthijs de Ligt returned from a dislocated shoulder just in time to fill in for injured Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
“We knew De Ligt was already a captain at the age of 20, so we’d been waiting for his return and knew he’d give us a great deal both in defending and in keeping the team tight by passing out from the back.”
Arthur was criticised in the studio by Fabio Capello for passing too short, too slow and too horizontal.
“He got a bit pig-headed today keeping hold of the ball and trying to find more direct through balls when he should’ve spread it wide and tried to spread the Ferencvaros defence. He should’ve opened up the game more to create one-on-one situations. If the ball moved too slowly, it allowed them to get back into position.
“Arthur doesn’t have much vision right now, but he’s learning.”
Paulo Dybala had a rare start, but did precious little to warrant the opportunity.
“Dybala didn’t do that well, but as I said, he was injured and had to take antibiotics for weeks, so it’s natural he needs time to get back into shape. He does need to go beyond his limits in training to rediscover his form.”