“We have our own fantasista in goal, his name is Gigi Buffon. A great goalkeeper like him does nothing for an hour and then comes up with a decisive intervention.” Marcello Lippi replied when asked how his Azzurri team can cope without a trequarista. And surely enough, in the absence of the Bianconeri fantasista Diego, along with all other creative forces meant that the man behind the sticks was once again on hand to secure victory in Juve’s home match against Livorno on Saturday.
Having just recovered from her disappointing draw against Bordeaux midweek in the Champions League, the Old Lady had to face a plucky Livorno side that held Milan to a goalless draw the week before. Generally this fixture would have almost guaranteed Juve the three points but with an infirmary more packed with injured players than a tin with sardines, the match was not as easy as one might have originally thought. It was a sodden night at Turin when the players took to the pitch and the most notable change to the line-up was that Amauri had finally been benched in favour of David Trezeguet. Meanwhile, barring the absence of Nelson Rivas for the Amaranto, Livorno had a full strength squad to choose from. And as the whistle blew, the visitors immediately began to threaten.
Only five minutes in and Cristiano Lucarelli’s deflected shot turned into an assist for Francesco Tavano who seized the ball only to be denied by the heroics of Buffon. Tavano tried again only moments later but the angle was not ideal and Juventus needed to respond. Surely enough, Mauro Camoranesi, struck ferociously only to see his efforts go just wide to deny the Bianconeri. However, his beautifully delivered cross into the box allowed Vincenzo Iaquinta the opener only seven minutes into the match.
The visitors attempted to react only four minutes later but it was Trezeguet that missed a glorious chance in the 20th minute to double Juve’s lead. He latched onto a free kick taken by Camoranesi only to send his shot over the bar. It was Claudio Marchisio, the youngster that has been omnipresent in every Juve game this week, who finally doubled the Old Lady’s lead in spectacular fashion. Camo, who had so far had a perfect game, was once again the man to provide the assist as he threaded the ball to the starlet who hurriedly dashed down the left flank of the pitch to delightfully chip in Juve’s second. Despite conceding another goal, Livorno continued to press and Buffon was once again called upon to make a stunning save to deny Lucarelli who had found himself clear on goal.
Despite Juve’s healthy ball possession in the opening of the second half, it was Livorno’s half time substitute, Antonio Filippini who came dangerously close to finding the Amaranto’s opener when he delivered a fabulous cross to Lucarelli when on the counter. Buffon again came to the rescue and cleared the ball away. Sebastian Giovinco, who had not had an impressive game, was replaced by Paolo De Ceglie and Juve reverted to the 4-4-2 formation in the absence of a trequarista. Moments later, Trezegol came incredibly close to scoring Juve’s third when he performed an acrobatic bicycle kick that hit the post just past the hour mark and was astonishingly unlucky to have missed. La Vecchia Signora reverted back to their old philosophy of defending their lead as they visibly quietened down and allowed Livorno to pour forwards whilst the Bianconeri remained in their own half for the remainder of the game. Buffon performed yet another brilliant save to cap off his night and Juventus managed to hold on long enough to secure their fourth consecutive victory.
Much has been said on the 4-3-1-2 formation Coach Ciro Ferrara has adopted all season for the Bianconeri. Whilst the formation has been constructed to allow Diego artistic freedom on the pitch, it simply cannot be used at all times. When Juventus’ midfield is stifled, then both Amauri and Iaquinta do not have a creative force to feed them the balls as confirmed in the game against Bordeaux. The formation is brilliant in the sense that it allows Ferrara the opportunity to fully exploit the strengths of his team, but without either Diego or Alessandro Del Piero then the formation lacks the vital component in making it work – ingenuity. Unfortunately for Giovinco, it appears that he requires more physical strength and pace to cope in his favoured role behind the front two.
Despite Seba’s preference of not playing on the wings (as it would require him having to drop back and defend), it has been noted that he is at his most threatening in that position. In the Champions League game against Chelsea, the Atomic Ant caused Ashley Cole all sorts of problems on his left flank and the left-back found it increasingly hard to keep tabs on the speedy youngster. However, the versatile Ant could also feature as a support striker, although he would have to fight off stiff competition for that role. Barring Del Piero, all the forwards available are far too dependent on the midfield to provide the assists. In that respect, Giovinco can perhaps provide the creative influence and aid the midfield in their link up with the strikers. With Diego behind him to provide greater physical strength, the formation would surely be at its best.
Nevertheless, without both Momo Sissoko and Felipe Melo, possession was lost and there was no-one to help win the ball against Livorno. Considering La Vecchia Signora’s shaky defence on Saturday, they were in dire need of a strong defensive midfielder. Hopefully with time, the back four will begin to adapt to working together and slowly begin to improve communication. In the end, Ferrara was absolutely right to change to 4-4-2 system as it was clear that the Bianconeri required width against their plucky opposition. Without Juve’s creativity, it is best to cover the wings and suffocate the opposition.
Thursday night sees Juve travel to Stadio Luigi Ferraris to face a high flying Genoa side that only lost their first league game on Sunday. Keen to get back to their ultimate best, Buffon is right to be wary of Gian Piero Gasperini’s side. The Bianconeri will be playing in an electric stadium that will see them take on a group of players that can rival Barcelona for beautiful football. Nevertheless, Diego will surely have regained fitness and thus a win on Thursday will certainly prove that when it comes to domestic success, no other team can match the Turin Giants.
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