It is hardly a surprise that Juventus were held to a draw on Sunday. The moment they were faced with an opponent who actually cared about winning, the Bianconeri did what they did best all season and disappointed those who were praying for a miracle and hoping for a fourth place finish.
For a Tactician who is often apt at analysing his team’s performances, it is astonishing that he is yet to remedy his squad’s problems in attack. In the last fixture against Bari, Alberto Zaccheroni watched as his side defeated the opponent in spectacular fashion whilst keeping a clean sheet. This was mainly due to the fact that Zac opted to play one defensive midfielder that was capable of holding down the fort to allow his two accomplices in the midfield the opportunity to venture forward and aid Diego in attack. With a lot more help, the Brazilian trequarista had one of his best games this season and Juventus finally achieved a result worthy of their talent. Admittedly, Bari did not really put up a fight and barely seemed interested in the task at hand, but regardless of their ambition – or lack thereof, the Old Lady was still up against one of the best defensive teams in Italy. With Felipe Melo back in the picture after the trip to Sicily, a creative midfielder was sacrificed to allow for his inclusion and his performance once again demonstrated his inability to keep things simple and pass accurately.
What Zaccheroni cannot seem to understand is that the formation he frequently deploys relies on the full-backs’ input. Without capable full-backs who enjoy roaming forward and delivering accurate crosses, the attacking responsibility lies solely on the trequarista. With Paolo De Ceglie still learning his trade and Martin Caceres still awaiting his return to full fitness, the trequarista must be afforded help in the shape of another creative midfielder that will work alongside him. Last week he had Mauro Camoranesi who was later taken off for Antonio Candreva. With their help, Diego was permitted more space on the ball to intricately work it forward without having numerous defenders tracking his every move. Furthermore, Camo and Candreva, who often pull defenders away from the trequarista, provide width to a team who has suffered from a narrow attack for much of this season. Their absence coupled with Jonathan Zebina’s ineffectiveness in pushing forward meant the Bianconeri were playing with a weakened right wing that seemed incapable of pulling it together. By reinstating Melo into the starting line-up, Zac effectively handed Catania their Serie A staying papers by putting a side on the field that could recover the ball, but were bereft of any ideas on how to pass it around efficiently thereafter.
If the Juventus Tactician insists on maintaining his diamond formation without effective full-backs, then he must play with only one defensive midfielder to allow for some more creativity on the team. Despite the sacrifice of a creative player, Juventus still conceded a goal. No matter how many defensive midfielders Zac plays, the side will almost always concede a goal due to the weaknesses they have at the back. The best defence – with the current players the Coach has at his disposal – is a strong attack. Unfortunately, Zac’s mistakes did not end there. When he decided to take off Alessandro Del Piero – one of the few imaginative players on the pitch – he decided to replace him with Amauri. The Brazilian striker was static and easily recognized by his constant complaints and inability to strike the back of the net. Why would a Coach whose team is chasing the game, bring on an immobile striker when the game is crying out for an injection of width and ingenuity?
The most disappointing aspect of the game had to be the indifferent attitude adopted by many of the players. The only thing left to play for this season was a place in next year’s Champions League and despite the constant ‘I believe’ speeches dished out to the media, hardly any players seemed determined to do all that they could to keep hope alive and allowed a vastly inferior squad keep them for achieving three vital points in their quest for fourth place. Owing to an unsuccessfully conducted transfer campaign, and poor Coaching decisions, Juventus now find themselves in seventh place and mathematically out of the race for a spot in Europe’s elite competition next year. Needless to say, the attempt to understand Zaccheroni’s logic will come to end in two weeks time and Juve can finally start to forget this embarrassing campaign and begin to work on their reconstruction. With Andrea Agnelli’s imminent arrival, next season cannot come soon enough for the Old Lady’ disappointed fans.