“Juventus looked downright ordinary.” Those were the haunting words of the ESPN commentator at the end of the Old Lady’s match on Sunday. Has the bubble burst or were the fans overreacting as Juventus suffered their first league defeat since Coach Ciro Ferrara took over the reins? The Bianconeri travelled to Sicily to take on Palermo, who have been far from impressive this season. Having picked up only six points from six games, Coach Walter Zenga’s job was rumoured to be on the line, and thus, a win at home was vital. Prior to the match, a physically and emotionally drained Ferrara finally lost his nerve and hit back at Jose Mourinho’s continuous Juve mutterings. His heroic rant may have pleased many of his fans, as it should have provided the necessary motivation to succeed. However, if you witnessed the match on Sunday, motivation appeared to be the last thought on anyone’s mind.
Once again, the same problems surrounded the Bianconeri’s squad. Devoid of rhythm and creativity, Juve were once again unable to keep hold of the ball and gifted their opponents 62% ball possession, in addition to vast amounts of space, allowing the opposition to run the defence ragged. With the absence of the influential Claudio Marchisio, for whom a rest was long overdue, and with Diego so heavily marked, the visitors seemed powerless to create any chances. Despite Palermo’s control, Juve held on. That was, until the last ten minutes of the first-half… As if inspired by the Godfather, the Rosaneri slaughtered their opposition in the final minutes of the first-half, striking incessantly and forcing the Bianconeri fans into shielding their eyes. In just over five minutes, Palermo scored twice to humble their black-and-white counterparts and the Juve tifosi were on their tethers as they feared further humiliation.
It was neither the loss to Palermo nor the endless amounts of ties suffered that have disappointed the diehard fans. The source of distress is simply the manner in which the great Juve have played lately. Perhaps Ferrara, a long term pupil of the Old Lady, wished to stick by the Juve ethos of playing for a result as opposed to playing to entertain. However, this was certainly not what the Coach preached prior to the start of the campaign. He assured the fans that we would see an exciting Juve this season, one bursting with creativity and he purchased specific players for this particular reason. If entertaining, fluid and attacking football was the aim then one cannot help but question the Coach’s tactics on Sunday. Perhaps enormous pressure finally cracked the Old Lady.
Walter Zenga got his tactics absolutely right when he decided to field a 3-5-2 formation. By foregoing a defender and loading up the midfield with players who knew exactly how to stifle the Bianconeri’s middle, he allowed his side possession. With Palermo’s numerical advantage in the centre, Diego’s influence was restricted and Juve’s fullbacks had their hands so full with defensive duties, they were permitted neither space nor time to initiate attacks. Thus, without the creative influence of the midfield or the aid of the fullbacks, both Amauri and Vincenzo Iaquinta did not touch the ball. In hope of tackling the pink formation, Ferrara decided to introduce David Trezeguet – fielding three forwards in order to force the home side to drop a midfielder into the fullback role. Intelligent thinking, had any Juve strikers possessed an ounce of ingenuity. But without their captivating captain, the squad was left with three forwards void of imagination and who relied heavily on the midfield to feed them the balls.
Therefore, with the limitations of the strikers in mind, why was Sebastian Giovinco not selected? Amauri has failed to score in seven months but continues to have the Coach’s faith. While the Atomic Ant, who only disappointed in two games, has not be allowed further chances to impose his talent. What happened to believing in youth? Had he been bought on to join Amauri and Iaquinta upfront, perhaps his pace and artistic influence would have seen Juve push up with greater intent. Furthermore, with the Rosaneri asphyxiating the midfield, how did Ferrara assume that his squad could pull one back by fielding an array of static midfielders in the middle? A link between the midfield and attack had to be forged, so his decision to take off both Diego and Camo and replace them with players who are unable to link up with those at the bottom of the pitch left many mystified. Is it crazy to think that perhaps one should have been left on?
Despite the poor performance and questionable substitutions, Juventus actually never arrived to the pitch. After playing back to back matches, coupled with international games, the players were exhausted. But despite ongoing concerns regarding the depth of the squad, the real problem seems to be their current levels of confidence. The Scudetto is still very much a realistic objective but if they truly want to defeat all opposition then faith in their abilities is a prerequisite. As such, the international break could not have arrived at a better time. Although the lads will want to go out and score in order to recover from the poor result in Sicily, the break will allow both the Coach and players much needed time to reflect on their mentality and begin to seek solutions for the problems they have faced. Perhaps in this analysis of the game, the critique is harsh, so your forgiveness is a request. However, in the words of Diego, Juve’s future legend: “We are Juventus and that is that. We should fear nobody.” Therefore, dear Old Lady – begin acting like the champion you are. Humility is a wonderful quality but do not let others mistake it for weakness.
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