A team that has long been known to have one of the best defences in the world has conceded six goals in two games. This is not just a team with a great defensive reputation, this is an Italian team boasting almost the whole back-line of the Azzurri. Yet despite all the defensive exercises and training Luigi Del Neri has focused on this week, the Bianconeri players sat back and watched as Lech Poznań exposed their shortcomings to devastating effect.
The defence was undoubtedly Juve’s biggest problem yesterday evening. The back-line had no bite, nor did it inspire fear in the heart of the Lech Poznań attack. Consequently, the Polish champions were able to impose their physicality and style of play on a Bianconeri side that simply had no reply for most of the first half. The first goal of the game was humiliating in every sense of the word and it stemmed from a counter-attack – the predictable method used to score against Juventus these days. The visitors broke forward and switched play to the right hand side of the penalty area, where Felipe Melo was stupidly rash and conceded a spot kick with a heinous challenge on Sergey Krivets, subsequently converted by Artjoms Rudņevs.
Melo may have been to blame but where was Paolo De Ceglie at that point? Even though it’s common knowledge the team is susceptible to conceding from a counter-attack, it was still shocking to see the away team enjoying an almost empty final third on the break. Del Neri’s method of play usually sees his wingers act more as offensive midfielders, providing the crosses from the flanks. As such the full-backs should be a little more defensively-minded, yet once again, De Ceglie was nowhere to be seen as his team were stretched down his flank.
The second Lech Poznań goal was even worse. The Bianconeri defence stood like statues and only Giorgio Chiellini attempted to help as Rudņevs scored his second of the night on the volley, much to the despair of the home crowd. Were the Juve players aware they were taking part in a match, or were they too arrogant to think they wouldn’t concede another to a side supposedly not deemed worthy opponents?
There was nothing the defence could have done about the third goal, a truly wonderful strike, but this back-line needs to be changed and Del Neri has a lot of tightening up to do in the meantime. De Ceglie might be a youth product but he is simply not a defender. He seems far more capable in midfield and enjoys partaking in the team’s attacks but is shockingly irresponsible when it comes to his defensive duties.
As for Zdenek Grygera, he epitomised the frailties in the Juve defence yesterday evening. When faced with an opponent, he was often found running backwards instead of challenging the player or committing to a tackle. Unless proper reinforcements are brought in, and quick, it’s difficult to see how Juventus will succeed in any competition this year.
In midfield, it’s uncertain as to whether the Coach decided on a Melo/Momo Sissoko partnership due to sheer lack of options, or because he realised he had to tighten things up after leaking three poor goals against Sampdoria using one holding midfielder. Sissoko added a much-needed physical injection to the side against Lech Poznań, and his ability to break up play was excellent at times. On the flipside, his ball retention and passing range were limited, and by playing him alongside the equally unspectacular Melo, the midfield initially lacked enough spark to open up the opposition defence in the first half.
However, Melo improved drastically after the break and seemed eager to push further forward, while Sissoko’s determination on the night should be praised, even if he is ultimately only a squad player. If the duo can learn how to keep their anger in check, perhaps they can be relied upon more often.
As usual, the night belonged to Alessandro Del Piero and Chiellini. The captain scored with a spectacular long-range strike up there with his best efforts, and provided two assists, while Chiellini’s two brave headers allowed the Old Lady back into the game.
When it comes to trophies, only proven champions will win the games required and this team is low on the quality needed to go the extra mile, most vitally in the defensive third. Manchester City duo Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure still predict Juve will win the group despite their win over Salzburg putting them top but on yesterday’s evidence Del Neri has a lot of work to do if his side are to live up to the ‘favourites’ tag.