Club Focus – Juventus – A vote for Luigi Del Neri

With Rafa Benitez eager to continue his dismal project at Liverpool and Beppe Marotta all but signed, sealed and delivered, Juventus are back in the hunt for a new Coach and have set their sights on Luigi Del Neri, the current Sampdoria Coach.

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For a side who came out and admitted that their season objective was to play cohesive and attractive football with the aim of doing better than last year, Sampdoria have done what seemed to be the impossible and climbed their way up their table to secure a spot in Europe’s elite competition despite having no depth in the squad, an abysmal defence and huge financial constraints. Many will quickly point to the Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano partnership but truthfully, Del Neri, the man that guided both Atalanta and Chievo to success in past seasons, deserves the credit for his squad’s dazzling attacking display this term.

On arriving in Genoa, the first thing Del Neri did was scrap the 3-5-2 formation Walter Mazzarri had deployed previously and put in place a more traditional 4-4-2 formation that focused heavily on the wingers’ input both in attack and in defence. At Chievo, he adapted the wings as his team’s point of attack by relying on Christian Manfredini and Eriberto, dubbed the ‘black arrows’, to penetrate the flanks, providing the important crosses to Bernardo Corradi and Massimo Marazzina who would then go on to score. Meanwhile at Samp, his habitual 4-4-2 formation transforms into a 4-2-4 every time the teams attacks, allowing the wingers to move in next to the strikers.

Having arrived at Samp, Del Neri was aware of the number of goals the side conceded in their last campaign. Walter Mazzarri heavily relied on his scintillating duo up-front to win the games for the Genovese club while the rest of the squad fell apart. As such, the new Coach was tasked with finding a way to aid his feeble defence and stop the leak at the back and he obliged by asking his full-backs to stay close to the centre-backs when defending whilst one of his wingers would often drop back to provide additional cover on the flank. His method worked and Sampdoria have let in 41 goals this season as opposed to the 52 goals conceded last term.

Based on Del Neri’s tactics, Juventus would need to heavily invest on wingers who could create and track back when needed. So where does that leave the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Mauro Camoranesi, Diego and Antonio Candreva? Considering Giovinco’s defensive frailties, the youngster may be benched yet again for most of the season meanwhile Camo’s technical skill and experience could assure him a protagonist role. As for Candreva, he may be asked to give up his attacking initiative to focus on his defensive capabilities and perhaps play as a deep-lying midfielder. Diego’s talent does not seem to fit Del Neri’s tactics but the Brazilian, need not fear. His skill is one to hold on to and as his agent said in response to exit rumours: “Juventus will build their team for the future around Diego and Giorgio Chiellini.”

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Indeed they can. Del Neri has a great record of working with fantasistas from Cristiano Doni at Atalanta to Cassano at Sampdoria. Whilst the latter has been transformed into a clinical striker, Diego is perhaps more of an attacking midfielder than a goal scorer who thrives off providing assists. As such, it will be likely that the tactician would tweak the formation to a 4-4-1-1 and have the trequarista play behind a striker such as Vincenzo Iaquinta and concentrate his attacks through the middle.

Coach Luigi’s greatest strengths are his attention to detail, and his intimate coaching methods. Rumour has it he sits and explains his tactics to his team over two hours the night before every match, to ensure his plans are well understood. He devotes hours in training to individuals to help them raise their game and he understands the true meaning of teamwork ensuring a harmonious atmosphere both inside and outside the dressing room. Nonetheless, do not expect a pushover – Del Neri is more than happy to bench players as he sees fit and demands the utmost respect from his group.

However, one question hangs over his success at Turin – can he cope with the pressure and the inner turmoil of the club or will he find it all too much too handle? At Roma, Del Neri walked into a messy situation that proved too much for him and thus failed to meet the expectations of the fans despite possessing a good squad. You will also notice that he spends much of his time in Press conferences alleviating the pressure off his sides and repeatedly mentioning his club’s low expectations. One would have to wonder how he would cope with the huge demands of the Bianconeri faithful and the enormous pressure Juventus tacticians have to live with on a daily basis.

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