At the precise moment that Juventus scored that free header in the first ten minutes, a demoralising loss was to be expected. Rarely has a team been so predictable but, after such an organised and efficient first half against Napoli in the the San Paolo stadium, the Bianconeri yet again wasted a golden opportunity to go level with Palermo in fourth place by collapsing in the second half to allow the home team an inspired victory.
Despite all the misery, this writer cannot help but feel that this is all for the best. The Harvard graduate in management may know how to effectively manage monetary issues, but when it comes to winning sporting trophies they have repeatedly proven their inexperience at every level. Bluffing can only take these directors so far, and everyone has been anticipating the time when it was all going to come crashing down for a long while. Evidently, that time is now. Perhaps this is one of Juve’s worst ever seasons, but if this iconic team is ever going to attempt to return to its glory days then things are going to have to get worse before they get better.
There is only so much blame one can place on a Coach before we discover the full extent of such a malaise. According to Simon Kuper, tacticians are mainly there to shape the club’s image as opposed to shaping a team’s performance, there’s little a Coach can do with a team that is poorly balanced, low on confidence and injured for much of the season. Despite these views, Alberto Zaccheroni ought to have done a lot better against Napoli. The fans were immediately sceptical as Zac opted for a 4-4-2 formation, one that never pans out well against a heavily loaded opposing midfield. Yet he seemed to get it right initially as Juventus passed the ball crisply and took advantage of the few chances that were carved out. And yet, as to be expected, the team crumbled after half-time. With morale quickly evaporating and the threat of a second yellow card for a highly aggressive Mauro Camoranesi, the right substitutions had to be made to give Juve added impetus in attack.
For a moment, the fans were hoping that Sebastian Giovinco, seen warming up on the sideline, was going to take to the pitch, but Diego was Zaccheroni’s preferred choice. From this writer’s perspective it was not the smart choice, as pace was what was needed to save Juventus, but the choice can be defended all the same. Zac obviously felt that a playmaker was required to move the ball forward and, despite the fact that Diego loves nothing more than to hold on to the ball, he certainly adds flair to the game. However, when Zdenek Grygera was brought on for Alessandro Del Piero, onlookers were baffled by both the choice of player and the defensive substitution which showed that the Juve Coach was happy to take a point from the tie.
Yet, despite the tactical errors and the poor substitutions, the directors are still the men to blame if the Old Lady fails to qualify for the Champions League, a near certainty after today’s performance. Wholesale change is required at Vinovo, nobody at the club should have the luxury of feeling his job is safe. From the boardroom down to the medical team, a massive personnel clear out and a steady re-building of the project must start this summer if there is any hope of restoring pride to this beleaguered team. A place in next year’s Champions League would mean that the board would feel they could get away with another year of mismanagement and delusion.
For Zaccheroni, it should be fairly obvious to him that a contract extension will not be on the cards after Juve’s embarrassing string of defeats this week. As such, he may as well start having some fun by taking a few risks. He needs to leave the side with a good memories, offensive tactics should be introduced, youth products should be introduced into the first team and the old guard should be benched. What is the worst that could happen to him? After all, he’ll only be around for eight more games.