Club Focus – Juventus – Is Spalletti a Good Plan B?

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past five months, you have heard that Juventus are searching for a new Coach to start their much anticipated rejuvenation project. Rafa Benitez is seen as the ideal choice by by the Old Lady’s directors, but his foot dragging and demands for complete control and a hefty wad of cash in his pocket are forcing the Turin Giants to look elsewhere. In continuing with our coverage of potential Coaches for Juventus, today we will be looking at Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Coach Luciano Spalletti otherwise known as Italy’s genius tactician.

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Very few can criticise a man who evolved calcio and introduced champagne football to a league deemed too dull and defensive. During his time coaching Roma, Spalletti transformed them into a slick ball-passing squad that worked cohesively with their talisman, Francesco Totti to produce mouth watering spectacles in Serie A. Due to an outrageous number of injuries, improvisation led to Spalletti discovering the 4-6-0 formation, an unusual adaptation of the 4-2-3-1 line-up that became his trademark. With Totti maintaining his trequarista role as well as having the freedom to push forward, Spalletti’s formation allowed for width and produced a squad that left opposing players confused as to who they were meant to be marking. They were effectively a poor man’s Barcelona and his tactical brilliance sent shockwaves through Europe turning him into a star. With Juventus struggling with a narrow attack all season, the Zenit Coach – who is undefeated so far in the Russian league – would be the ideal man to deploy a method of widening out the attack and making use of the space available to the players. The formation with which he is renowned for has long been thought of as the ideal one for the current crop of Bianconeri players and a formation that many Juventini have longed to see all season.

Whilst Juve’s plan B has excelled tactically, he ironically never seems to have a plan B in a match should his initial strategy go awry. As we saw with Barcelona and Inter in the Camp Nou, beautiful football does not always guarantee wins, and for a team such as Juve – who are expected to win every match – Spalletti might suffer. By always pushing forward and regularly leaving gaping holes at the back, Spalletti’s Roma were often punished on counter-attacks. As such, when the capital club faced an opponent that would prohibit them from playing their own game, they would often collapse completely and be left ruing their inability to switch systems in an attempt to recover. The Tactician from Certaldo’s failure at psychological management meant that his sides were left void of any fighting spirit and his inability to implant that spirit within them led their demise in many matches, these instances became known as blackouts by the Roma faithful. Considering Juventus’ embarrassing defensive record this season, a man with a proven record of straightening out the defence as well as instilling the infamous Bianconeri with a never say die attitude is crucial, and in those two aspects, Spalletti falls short.

When it comes to youth, the Giallorossi fans were divided on Spalletti’s talent at nurturing youngsters’ potential. The man started his coaching career with Empoli’s youth side and his success earned him a promotion before he eventually landed the role at Udinese. Many credit the bald headed Tactician for developing Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani into phenomenal players who have earned a place in the Azzurri squad. He was unanimously chosen to take on the role at Zenit by the board of directors who gave him with the role of establishing a youth policy: ‘that leads to the emergence of new local players in the first team’ – a clear message of their belief in his work with youth products. However, there are certain others who feel that when one considers that Roma had long been seen as the peninsulas top team in discovering and nurturing home-grown talent, it is disheartening to see how few players have actually made the jump to the first team under Spalletti.

Although De Rossi has proven to be a vital component of the Azzurri squad, many Roma fans have been disappointed with Aquilani’s failure to live up the high expectations bestowed upon him during his time in the youth sector – although much of that can be chalked up to injury concerns. Juventus currently boast one of, if not the best youth teams in Italy, having won the prestigious Viareggio tournament five times since 2003. With Sebastian Giovinco and Ciro Immobile’s names among a list of players waiting to see their talent exploited, is Spalletti the right man to entrust with Juve’s future stars? Taking into account Spalletti’s lucrative contract in Russia, coupled with his undefeated record, Juventus may never know.

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