“I have never officially confirmed that Ranieri will be our Coach for next season,” President Cobolli Gigli advised the public. “It is linked to results.” This past month has been a somewhat tempestuous time for the Old Lady and this statement was possibly the first time the Coach felt his position on the bench threatened. Surely he wasn’t expecting to be guaranteed the reigns of Juve after having lost control of the dressing room. Juve’s poor showing against Lecce not only pushed them further down the league ranking but it jeopardised the future of the loyal Bianconeri icons- most notably Gigi Buffon.
Fans and management alike must have breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that the shot stopper’s wife was pregnant again. After his visible frustration in last week’s match, Buffon began to lose hope in the Old Lady’s pledge to restore glory. So much so that he reiterated the fact that his future would not be guaranteed until assurances were made for next season. With a baby on the way, fans are hoping that their beloved Gigi would not allow his pregnant wife to leave her home for pastures new during this special time.
The ambience in Vinova this past week was dreadful with alleged dressing room rows, a Coach desperately trying to regain control and a team licking their wounds. The Old Lady carried a glimmer of hope as she headed to the San Siro to face a mighty Milan in thrilling form. With publicised comments regarding their impending win, Milan was confident it would overcome Ranieri’s beleaguered troops. The Tinkerman knew that anything less than a draw could see him relinquish his spot in the hot seat almost immediately. As he failed to win the last six consecutive games, the press were buzzing with rumours that Ranieri would be replaced with Ciro Ferrera who would act as caretaker Coach until the end of the season. Despite Juve’s philosophy to never sack a Coach, as they had not done for 40 years, desperate times were now calling for desperate measures.
With that in mind, Ranieri surprisingly dropped Alessandro Del Piero from the starting line-up in favour of Vincenzo Iaquinta and Amauri. The latter was eager at the opportunity to impose himself whilst Iaquinta’s form has improved impressively during the season. Off they went and as the whistle was blown, Juve was instantly set alight. Three minutes in and David Beckham (perhaps a little too excited to be taking part in this match) got the first yellow card for a tackle on Marco Marchionni, immediately setting the tone for an exciting match. Much to the delight of the Bianconeri tifosi, Iaquinta was the first with a chance at goal from a Mauro Camoranesi cross. Buffon was called in a few times and Mathieu Flamini did well to stop Iaquinta from finding the opener but it was the Old Lady who was in control for much of the first half.
Despairingly Juve tifosi looked on as after half time, Clarence Seedorf found the back of the net and the Old Lady found herself one nil down. He tapped in the ball after Pippo Inzaghi managed a classic counter attack. However, it wasn’t over as just three minutes later, a hungry Iaquinta finally managed to keep Flamini at bay (and Buffon a Juve player) when he responded with a diving header to bring the Old Lady back into the game. A few substitutions later and with an injury to Paolo De Ceglie, Camoranesi squandered the Old Lady’s chance at the winning goal by greedily taking a shot when Del Piero was in a much clearer position to slot it in. Milan poured forward in hopes of securing three points to edge closer to Inter despite the sending off of Milan’s Giuseppe Favalli, as a result of a second yellow card. However, in spite of their efforts, the game ended in a draw – a result that did not benefit either side.
They were not the ‘Juve’ everyone remembers but certainly did their fans proud on Sunday, even if they only managed a draw. The Bianconeri can at least console themselves with the fact that they remain unbeaten in the San Siro since 2005. As Juve rises, it is necessary to examine certain aspects of the game – namely the omission of Del Piero from the starting line up. Whilst Juve have plummeted in the league and players have evidently gone haywire, no mention has been made of the Old Lady’s skipper. Surely the point of a captain is to help bring the team together, uniting them in their battle for success. And whilst Ranieri is facing the prospect of losing his job and incurring the wrath of the ultras, it appears that il Pinturicchio has gone missing and left the Tinkerman alone to deal with the mess. His revenge? The bench for Del Piero and perhaps deservedly so.
When Buffon refused to spend the half-time break with his teammates in the match against Lecce, where was Del Piero to drag him back into the dressing room by the ear? Why was he not on hand to calm Gigi’s nerves and alleviate the tension? Surely the Coach cannot have all the responsibility? Above all, Buffon is a friend and was in great need of a calming influence. With Iaquinta publicly explaining Buffon’s frustrations to the media and Camoranesi confronting the Coach, it is the captain’s lending hand that would have helped to diffuse the situation. However, Del Piero appears to have distanced himself from the entire mess – maybe because he’s just become a father again or maybe because he just no longer has it in him. Camoranesi is not usually known for his selfish antics on the pitch, not with his beloved Juve, but his egocentric shot at goal, when Del Piero was clear, could spell trouble for the Juve legend.
Nevertheless, Ranieri committed rather serious errors in the game. With Favalli being sent off, Juve had the extra man and should have added another striker to the mix and made the effort to push forward. Contrary to Juve’s ethos, Ranieri played for the draw, possibly traumatised by the recent leakage of goals. It is these times that test a real Tactician. One must applaud Ranieri as he did a lot for both Valencia and Chelsea and has managed at Juve until now. Nevertheless, certain historic teams, such as Juventus, have a particular philosophy by which they perform. The difference is that when these teams play, regardless of the colour shirt they are wearing, they are easily identified by their displays on the pitch. Ranieri fails to implement the ethos of Juve. The Bianconeri never play for a draw, nor are they known for their thrilling matches. What they are famed for is an organised squad that goes for the goal and ensures the opponent cannot even attempt to go past the defensive wall. They are organised, they are efficient and they will always play for a result. Some refer to them as the one goal team – they will get it, they will secure it and they will fight until kingdom comes to have the advantage.
This ethos is what has brought home the trophies and it is this ethos that has been forever taught to the youth team. Barcelona, another historic team with their own culture, did well to bring in Pep Guardiola. His undying love and perfect understanding of Barca’s philosophy has guided his team to a sensational campaign in both La Liga and the Champions League. The Catalans play in Barca style, noticeable from miles away. A great Coach is one who can use the club’s history to inspire a game and bring together a perfect formation. Therefore, Antonio Conte, might have the required past and teachings to make the necessary impact on the field regardless of the lack of experience. He has lived Juve, breathed Juve and would die for Juve. Ranieri may do better with another team and could even create a winning squad – one that would follow his own philosophy and his own ideas. Chelsea was a perfect example as they are an up and coming team without a celebrated history and in search of their own ethos. With Juve, the oldest of the top three Italian giants, they need a Gian Piero Gasperini or a Conte to take them back to basics and play the Juve style they have mastered.
Next week sees the Bianconeri take on Atalanta at home whilst Milan have tough fixtures ahead of them, the first being against Udinese. With Carlo Ancelotti publicly condemning Pippo Inzaghi’s behaviour at being substituted against Juve, a dressing room bust-up could ensue leaving the second placed spot clear. Perhaps Juve have unloaded their bad luck on to the Rossoneri and left the San Siro with the necessary aspiration to fight for results. If all else fails, they will have an exciting season coming up. They will not fall short of being serious contenders in the next campaign with Diego and Fabio Cannavaro all but secured coupled with the imminent return of the glorious Domenico Criscito. With a little luck and serious money, David Silva may also arrive to guarantee an exciting campaign.