What a night for La Formica Atomica and what a campaign is has been for Gigi Buffon so far this year. Things just couldn’t get any better for Juve fans last night. Firstly, a comical Juventini handed Inter President, Massimo Moratti, a paper Champions League cup to add to his collection of paper Scudetti, giving his pals a real chuckle prior to their Champions League game. And then, Ciro Ferrara finally did it – he allowed his fans a taste of paradise by fielding Sebastian Giovinco alongside Diego in the desired 4-2-3-1 formation. You would be forgiven for thinking hell had frozen over but it hadn’t, Ferrara finally took the courageous step towards glory and it paid off…albeit marginally.
The Israelis arrived on the pitch and took to hacking off the legs of each Bianconero, in a particularly disgusting and violent first-half. Despite the referee handing out yellows like he was giving sweets to kids on Halloween, Haifa were not deterred from executing their rough tactics. A picture says a thousand words and the image of Felipe Melo sobbing on the bench, after Tiago Dutra committed a tackle so horrifying it was on worthy of a scene in the upcoming SAW VI film, painted a befitting picture of the night. This wasn’t a sports match, this was war and many felt that Haifa deserve to be eliminated for their appalling performance. As such, with countless bookings and endless free kicks, Juve’s game was consequently and repeatedly interrupted. Nevertheless, despite what most have said, it was a terrific effort from the ever developing Old Lady, especially considering the torture she endured.
Yet despite her win, Tuttosport ran a headline the next day that read: “Juve, did you see what a Milan it was?” Which, to be fair, was a little harsh. Milan have been nothing short of disastrous this campaign simply because they’re adjusting to life without their icons. So when Leonardo finally took the courage to field an all attacking squad, he did so safe in the knowledge that a loss would be forgiven, after all this was Real Madrid, and so he had nothing to lose. Furthermore, people forget that when it comes to matches between the Italians and the Spanish, Italian tactical astuteness usually prevails as even Claudio Ranieri managed to demolish the Madrilenians last year, during a difficult time for Juve. Ferrara, on the other hand, could not afford a loss to Haifa. So the fact that he threw caution to the wind and fielded this formation should be applauded, especially considering his initial hesitations. Let’s be honest, the Bianconeri’s greatest ailment is their fragile defence and playing wingers such as Seba, who is yet to learn the Italian art of defence, was a risk- the defence could have crumbled. But as Buffon rightly pointed out, these tactics afford a lot more cover to the back and allow the frontline to attack. By handing the defensive midfielders the sole task of guarding the rear, Diego and his accomplices were finally allowed to do what they do best and Juve certainly created many more chances against a team who were determined to destroy all in their path.
Even though Juventus did well, there are many problems that Ferrara still needs to tackle. While some are a question of time, some need to be addressed now. First and foremost, is the simple matter of discipline. The visitors put in an excellent performance in the final minutes as they went in search for an equaliser, despite their numerical disadvantage, but the whole experience very nearly sent Ciro over the edge. If the Bianconeri had conceded a goal, they would not only have lost two vital points but would have completely undermined their boss’s courageous efforts and hard work. Ferrara ran out from his bench and started screaming for concentration that never came. Juve did it perfectly against Roma when they were relentless in their pursuit of goals. But ever since that match, the squad seems to think that one goal is enough and take the time to relax, when they should be taking the time to kill-off the game. It’s this very lack of ambition that has earned the Italian league the reputation of being dull. One goal is never enough and the fact that the players resorted to passing the ball so warily between them, instead of exploiting their numerical advantage, frustrated the fans and very nearly cost them their win.
Secondly, is the matter of finishing, and on this point, Ferrara is not really at fault. David Trezeguet is not the player he was a few years ago and those who have been bought post Calciopoli just don’t cut the mustard. Many firmly believe Trezegol will eventually return to form with enough time but until he does, this formation is the only way forward and should see them though until at least January, after which, a young clinical striker should be sought. But despite the Bianconeri’s offensive problems, Ferrara was a hero that night, if only because he finally fielded Turin’s very own wonderkid. The boy sliced and diced the opposition and his electrifying pace terrified the Israelis, who could only respond with muscle power. Furthermore, it appeared he found his natural position on the left where he was able to cut-in and seek out the goal. Despite his continual pleas to be played as a trequarista, it’s a winger’s role that really exploits his strength as a player. Fabio Capello found a way of playing both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Carlo Ancelotti found a way of making Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba work together. If Ferrara can perfect the Diego – Giovinco partnership, this would be a formidable achievement and may well prove he is a Coach who deserves to have his name associated with the greats. More pressing than an acclamation of greatness however, is the road to the Scudetto, which continues on Sunday, against Siena.
Juventus vs. Maccabi Haifa, 21 October, 2009
Juventus Club Focus 2009/10
Great expectations – August 21, 2009
When in Rome – August 28, 2009
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire – September 1, 2009
World Champions – One in, one out, one remembered – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Children should be seen, not heard – September 7, 2009
Diego lost to injury in victorious Roman repeat – September 15, 2009
The reserves exposed – September 18, 2009
Transforming the formation – September 23, 2009
The cruel blow of lady injustice – September 25, 2009
Haunted by the ghost of last year’s defence – September 29, 2009
We’re meant to be happy with one point? – October 2, 2009
Is it now time to be negative? – October 6, 2009
Ferrara: public enemy #1 – October 9, 2009
Bad or just misunderstood? – October 13, 2009
Let the bitterness commence – October 16, 2009
Oh Ferrara, will you ever learn? – October 20, 2009
Ferrara, thank you for listening – October 23, 2009