Club Focus – Juventus – Bianconeri stumble over Palermo but there’s method to Del Neri’s madness

Palermo’s stunning precision earned them their first league win of the season as Luigi Del Neri’s poor decision-making – coupled with a fragile defence – saw Juve slide down the table. Buoyed from a triumphant result against Udinese, the Bianconeri started with intent but Javier Pastore’s untimely goal deflated the home side rather quickly, making them unable to reorganise themselves proficiently to mount a serious challenge in the first half hour. Just as they began to find their way again, the referee came between the Old Lady and her equalising goal twice, as Alessandro Del Piero – the only player capable of changing proceedings – was denied both a penalty and a free kick from the edge of the box.

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Unfortunately, Luigi Del Neri did not play his cards right and his tactical changes at half time ended up starving creativity and only served to increase the pressure on the frail defence. Towards the end of the first half, Juventus were creating chances and it was only a matter of time before they would score a goal. Del Piero managed to derive fouls from dangerous areas on the pitch and Palermo spent an enormous amount of time defending their goal from set pieces. Nonetheless, Juve primarily lacked that potent striker to make use of all the crosses that were being delivered as Fabio Quagliarella was largely ineffective up top. Even so, instead of introducing that one goal scorer who could make the difference, Del Neri made a double substitution and introduced two strikers at the expense of a winger who could provide them with the necessary crosses to head in. In one fell swoop, Del Neri asphyxiated the creativity of the squad and replaced it with immobility, leaving the Bianconeri suffering in all areas of the pitch.
Simply put, the Juventus Coach panicked, and, in looking for that equaliser, sacrificed the flow of the team. In addition to harming his side, his tactical substitutions exposed his weaknesses as a Coach and will inevitably invite critics to question his ability to lead one of Italy’s greatest clubs. To make room for the static strikers, il Capitano was forced to play deeper creating a strange formation that was hugely unbalanced. The squad attempted to overcome the deficit but with a miserly supply to the offensive line, no-one quite knew how the home side could penetrate and, instead, ended up conceding another. What Del Neri should have done was stay faithful to his 4-4-2 formation and remained calm in the face of extreme pressure.
On the contrary, he opted for a change in formation. Indeed, quite why Del Piero came off is shrouded in mystery but perhaps the Coach wanted to level out the formation, making it a solid 4-3-3 or he just thought his ageing Captain needed a rest. Most onlookers were hoping that the Bianconeri would just deliver the ball to Milos Krasic so that he would use his pace and vision to score the equaliser. However, in spite of his clever runs and wickedly exciting counter attacks, he failed to make the difference due to his weak shots on goal. It was also unfortunate that he chose to position himself more centrally in the latter stages of the match, thus narrowing play and wasting a delightful pass from Felipe Melo that should have resulted in something worthwhile. It seems that, despite all the hard work put into solidifying this perpetually leaky defence, the Turin Giants still cannot organise themselves effectively to ward off the opposition. The Rosanero full-backs should have left the Old Lady ruing her decision to let them go, as both Mattia Cassani and Federico Balzaretti (who should be an Azzurro) suitably muzzled a Juve side that have scored 10 goals in their last three games. On the right, Juve had the inept passer of the ball Marco Motta, whose fall in the box very nearly allowed his adversary, Pastore, a brace. And on the left, there was Zdenek Grygera who, notwithstanding his ability to overlap Pepe, failed to do anything noteworthy on either side of the pitch. All three goals were the result of poor play at the back. The last was due to a bizarre error by Marco Storari while the first two were almost identical in the sense that they both came by way of rebound and yet not one Bianconero was available to pick up the Rosanero players who were in prime position to exploit Storari’s ball punches twice. The central midfielders simply have to provide additional support to limit these strikes or else the squad will continue to let in more goals than they can score.
Despite the loss, one has to applaud the Bianconeri’s willingness to fight until the end and the fans’ perpetual support from the stands. Last season, such a defeat would have resulted in them setting fire to the stadium. However, it appears the fans understand their club’s limitations this term as they finally see the foundations of a real project.
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