Alasdair Mackenzie Date: 28th September 2020 at 2:01pm
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Every day is a school day for Andrea Pirlo.

The Juventus coach immediately enjoyed the perks of his new career last weekend, as Italian football luminaries queued up to pat him on the back for overseeing a 3-0 debut win against Sampdoria.

It was a victory that provided plenty of tactical intrigue thanks to Pirlo’s hybrid 3-2-5/4-4-2 system, which caught Claudio Ranieri cold.

But Paulo Fonseca came prepared on Sunday. The Roma coach, who is facing pressure in his job as rumours of a move for Max Allegri refuse to go away, had clearly done his homework and could easily have come away from a soggy night at the Stadio Olimpico with more than a point.

Some of Juventus’ shortcomings were clear to see as the Giallorossi starved them of time on the ball and sprang lightning counter-attacks to catch them short-staffed in defence.

Pirlo’s selection flagged up some problem areas. Juan Cuadrado started out of position on the left, a week after youngster Gianluca Frabotta was handed a surprise start there.

Dejan Kulusevski was moved to the right wing despite impressing in the front two on his debut, while his replacement in that role, Alvaro Morata, was anonymous on his second debut for the Turin club.

There was no natural playmaker in midfield who could control possession and dictate the tempo, and Pirlo’s side were left looking unbalanced.

Juve failed to convince in either the attacking or defensive phases. They struggled to create chances of note and prise open Roma’s young backline, while they were caught embarrassingly short at times at the back, particularly for Jordan Veretout’s second goal of the night.

Pirlo was willing to admit after the game that his side is still a “work in progress”. It’s easy to forget that in addition to coming into the job with no previous experience, the former Italy international had very little time in pre-season to embed the ideas he has about how his team should play.

In the meantime, he will be encouraged to have seen evidence of two important truths about his team: they know how to fight, and they can turn to Cristiano Ronaldo when the going gets tough.

The clumsy challenge that earned Adrien Rabiot his second yellow card of the night spurred the visitors into life, and the Roma defence were soon left gazing admiringly at the latest flight of Ronaldo airways as the Portuguese soared through the air to head in the equaliser.

Pirlo will undoubtedly be encouraged by the performance of his side with 10 men – they scored their first goal from open play in this period, and comfortably saw out the draw without sustaining much pressure.

Ronaldo’s towering influence was clear to see. The Portuguese led by example, winning and converting the first half penalty before netting the spectacular leveller.

His double triggered a fresh avalanche of mind-boggling statistics. Ronaldo has now scored 450 goals in Europe’s top five leagues, while with 55 strikes he has scored more Serie A goals than any other player in Italy’s top flight since making his debut.

But one statistic in particular highlights his importance to this side: the 36-year-old has been directly involved in 69 Serie A goals for Juventus, at least 43 more than any other Juve player in that time.

For a rookie coach like Pirlo, Ronaldo’s presence is a godsend and, as we saw in the capital, a potential get out of jail free card.

Pirlo’s learning curve will be fascinating to follow this season and he will soon have some big, but welcome, decisions to make with his squad.

Paulo Dybala will return imminently, while Arthur Melo and Rodrigo Bentancur will increase the midfield options and the likes of Matthijs De Ligt and Alex Sandro will eventually return from injury.

It’s a frighteningly talented squad, but Sunday’s draw is unlikely to be the last time Pirlo requires some trial and error to figure out how to best use it.