Last night Juventus needed to prove that they were not Milos Krasic dependant and that they could maintain their momentum by defeating a Salzburg side thought to be suffering a crisis. However, they managed neither as a Krasic free first half only proved that Juventus were low on pace whilst Salzburg were high on motivation. In an effort to save the old Lady’s blushes, the Serbian was introduced, immediately the balance of the game as he struck the back of the net within a few minutes to put the Italians back into the game. From that moment on, he was the only player worth watching on the pitch, once again using his electrifying pace to good effect by running at defenders and exploiting space. The blonde winger’s great finish rescued a point for Gigi Del Neri’s men but the Coach should be very worried – only a minor injury and Juventus’ season could well go down the drain.
The main problem for Juve in the first half was the somewhat non-existent midfield that allowed the home side so much space to impose their own game. Momo Sissoko seemed overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work he had to do. His tendency to lose possession with such ease should attest to the fact that the Malian is perhaps only suited for the role of a substitute. Meanwhile too much defensive work from the likes of Claudio Marchisio and Simone Pepe meant that the attack was receiving paltry contributions from the men needed to inspire the forwards. Lack of chemistry and understanding between Jorge Martinez and Alessandro Del Piero, highlighted by the Captain’s sour words aimed at the winger, further suffocated the attacking potential of the squad.
The attack was in a terrible state as neither forward possessed the pace to initiate an effective counter-attack. Del Neri has made incredible strides with the team thus far, turning the Bianconeri squad into a goal-scoring engine. His preferred 4-4-2 formation was designed to focus heavily on crosses from two wingers who would work the flanks in order to create and dominate. However, without the right winged attackers, Juventus seem at a loss for ideas as only Krasic seems to possess the set of skills the Coach requires to make this formation work. The tactics are also made to suit Amauri’s method of play and yet his lethargic input in attack only served to frustrate both the Coach and the many fans that were expecting an easy win. Del Piero is far too old to run at defenders and initiate counter-attacks but he can still create, so if the Brazilian wants to try to reach the 20 goal target he has set for himself, then he needs to take advantage of the help the players behind him are trying to offer. Far too often he was caught procrastinating in front of goal when a shot was required and his headers lacked the kind of power to trouble a goalkeeper. Many coaches have taken a patient approach to the striker but his performance tonight unashamedly proved that whilst the player always makes the effort, he simply cannot produce the desired end product. It may be time to banish him to the bench, or perhaps even to the stands, whilst the team makes way for another, even a youth player, for the time being until a suitable purchase is made up front.
The second half produced a better Juve side, simply because the Serbian came on to the pitch. His determination and ability to lift his fellow Bianconeri players, who are so reliant on his skills, were enough to rescue a point for the away side. Immediately upon his arrival Juve began playing with a little more belief and the players were eager to push forward certain of his ability to follow through. His goal came thanks to a delightful pass from an improved Paolo De Ceglie who put in an impressive performance on the night, both in attack and in defence. Unfortunately, Zdenek Grygera’s failure to close down space, coupled with Leonardo Bonucci’s slip at the back, allowed the home team to register their first point in the Europa League.
Del Neri has every right to be furious, as the squad did not produce a performance worthy of the Juventus name. A less than mediocre Austrian side very nearly won had it not been for a superb Alex Manninger save – a goalkeeper that was ironically a Salzburg youth product. Juventus need to succeed in this competition, if only for the sake of calcio, as no Italian side registered a win on the night.