Luciano Moggi, the disgraced ex-Managing Director of Juventus, sensationally hit out at his former club’s current management last week. Bellowing his disapproval at the management’s sugar and spice attitude to Juve’s current campaign he roared: “Inter are always winning and I think it’s because the Juventus directors are too nice.” One is usually inclined to dismiss all comments dished out by the very man that sent the Old Lady packing to Serie B and destroying the reputation of Serie A, but on this occasion, fans are finding his comments hard to ignore. The management’s lack of aggression and confidence is not going to bring home the silverware and the only form of aggression that existed in the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night against Inter, came in the form of racist chants from their fans [on a side note, a statement by the Ultras group responsible for the chants (by the name of Drughi) where they refused to apologise, instead trying to justify their actions, coupled with the club’s suggested appeal to the game behind closed doors punishment threatens to make a mockery of the “new Juventus” post Calciopoli].
A few years on, believing the intellectual prostitution and the bitter envious words of her inferior rivals, the Old Lady lost her honour in the very game that required her to fight for it. Without any psychiatrists and with a Coach more concerned with keeping his job than actually doing it, the great, or rather average, Juventus players were trembling on the pitch in absolute fear. Instead of restoring their confidence and stepping into reality, Coach Claudio Ranieri ran to his preferred ‘happy place’ (also known as denial to us realists), by insisting that he is satisfied with the draw. He shouldn’t be – Juventus was both outplayed and exhausted as they searched for an equaliser that in the end came from a defensive slip-up as opposed to a moment of genius, a fast paced counter attack or an outbreak of creativity.
Having played a quiet game of desperation, Juve may have salvaged a point but lost any leftover pride they may have carried going into the match. Watching Tiago get sent off in what can only be described as playground behaviour, perfectly defined him as the foolish incompetent among a sea of players ridden with insecurities. This time, Ranieri can’t get away with it. Juventus would have been better off taking heed of Adriano Galliani’s recent words regarding Milan’s disinterest of second place. This very speech not only took the pressure off the Rossoneri but it demonstrated their confidence and willingness to work and ensure that they are above media mind games and public denials of their failures. Instead, Juve only highlighted their current terrible lack of form with a red card, a captain substituted after a dismal performance and the future of the Bianconeri, Sebastian Giovinco, warming the bench.
Patience is required- after all, this is only the Bianconeri’s second season back in the top flight. But are we facing a new reality, one where Inter, the notorious European under-achievers, control the domestic league? Say it ain’t so. Looking to the future, Ranieri needs to step into reality and realise that the Bianconeri have a problem. This is especially important and must be done quickly as the club has an important Coppa Italia semi-final game against Lazio this week with a chance to win a piece of silverware. This will be tough for the Old Lady who is still calming her nerves after the draw on Saturday night but it is these types of situations that separate the real contenders from the ordinary pretenders. And Ranieri must prove he is not ordinary. Lazio has been in thrilling form in their last two games, having thrashed Roma in the derby and secured an important goal and victory against the mighty Genoa in their back yard. With the latest results, Lazio has proved that they have what it takes.
With the home court advantage on Wednesday, Juve must score enough to send Lazio home to head towards a final to face either Sampdoria or Inter. A positive result on Wednesday and an upcoming tie against last-placed Reggina on Sunday should see them slowly regain their self esteem. First things first, by admitting current woes and seeking the aid of the Old Lady’s current iconic players, Ranieri can regain control of his troops and lead them to a win. He must present them with a full analysis of their problems and entrust them with the united task of finding a solution. Publicised spats inside the dressing room only further prove his inability to handle this once über successful team. And whilst they may not have the most skilled team in Serie A, once united they should be a force to contend with.
Secondly Ranieri needs Giovinco more than a fish needs water. The player is outstanding and dangerous. It was his corner that Zdeněk Grygera scored from and it’s his motivation and hunger that Juve so desperately need. With the likes of aged stars such as Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero hogging the limelight, the future of Juve is withering away and will eventually leave in the absence of full recognition. David Trezeguet is another that needs to be entrusted with the role of taking Juve forward and despite his recent outburst at Ranieri, pride needs to be swallowed and players need to be embraced. The Frenchman must be rewarded for his loyalty to the Old Lady and made to feel that he is still very much, a valued member of the team. No one is banging on the door for other players in the way major clubs still continue to do so for the 31-year-old. If Ranieri continues to snub him then he will not only attract more media attention to their dressing room problems but he may lose the man that stuck with them through their toughest days, an ambassador for the Bianconeri.
This brings me to my third point nicely – media attention needs to be diverted away. Discretion is the name of the game. Whist such attention may be vital when it comes to making money for a club, there is a time and a place for everything. Juve doesn’t currently hold a team that markets exponentially well and that could be to their advantage. Instead of grand speeches of impending glory and announcements of their overflowing current account, the Old Lady needs to close her doors, dismiss media jibes and get on with the task at hand. Respect will be bestowed when her results do the talking and attention will ensue once she has secured her rumoured ‘big’ signings. Broadcasting her desired targets as she has done so with Werder Bremen’s Diego will only serve her fans a large dose of disappointment should Juve be unable to secure his signing. It is important that Juve shop around quietly and respectfully of future targets’ current contracts. Should they decide to continue along this path of public displays of affection, they run the risk of losing their targets to fellow rivals much like they lost Felipe Mattioni of Gremio to Milan in January.
Furthermore, before announcing their targets, they have to determine whether or not their desired purchases will fit in tactically and make the required impact. Diego is currently allowed his freedom on the pitch and is not used to strict tactical football. Much like he publicly demanded, if Juve really want him then they must be willing to change their game for him. Perhaps he may finally inspire them into playing fast paced football or maybe he’ll crumble in a league that has seen the likes of Ronaldinho struggle. Moreover, Diego is used to stardom by being a big fish in a small pond. It would be interesting to see how he will cope when he has to fight off competition for a start up call and whether his ego could take a knock or two and yet still hunger to produce results. Juve is all about team effort and presenting the opposition with a united force, with Diego being a one man show, is this really a marriage Juve need to enter?
Finally, Ranieri needs to rediscover his inner confidence and rise up and act like a man. It is essential he stands up to the management regarding this summer’s transfer signings and ensures necessary purchases are made to bolster the team. What he really needs to do is have a major blowout sale and rid himself of the likes of Tiago and Christian Poulsen and make quality purchases. If they do indeed have the funds to buy big then they should stop shopping at the discount bins and move away from the likes of aged stars such as Fabio Cannavaro. If he’s not good enough for Napoli then he’s certainly not good enough for Juventus.
Once Ranieri begins to lead by example, with renewed self confidence and a fighting urge to prove his critics wrong, then the Old Lady will be well on her way to reclaiming her intimidating presence in Serie A. After all, the Azzurri (many of whom were Juventus players) won the 2006 World Cup in the face of fierce criticism and negative predictions. They did the talking on the pitch, like real men.