Juve’s shocking first half should have them worshipping at the temple of the Goddess Fortuna, having managed to escape the Allianz Arena virtually unscathed and armed with a crucial point. On Wednesday night, Ciro Ferrara rallied his troops and headed to Monaco (no, not the French Principality but to the Italian word for Munich) to take on the top seeded side in Group A, Bayern Munich. Having seen Fiorentina lift the name of Italian football, Juve were hoping to follow suit by punishing their own group giants. If only…Barring the great Viola, all remaining Italian clubs were more Ricardo Quaresma than Cristiano Ronaldo – shiny and full of pizzazz but rather useless at achieving the desired results.
Like a woman promised a diamond and only given a cubic zirconia, this was not the Juve that we had been assured would take the side back to great heights. Therefore, it’s hard to dismiss these feelings of disillusionment. Void of real structure and organisation, the first half was simply abysmal. The Bianconeri were passing the ball as if it were a hot potato, in complete chaos. Meanwhile, Bayern, calm and controlled, had countless chances to score and Giorgio Chiellini and the mighty Gigi Buffon were once again the only men to bail Juventus out. Further up the pitch, and Diego appeared to be a better defender than midfielder and the defence continued to bypass the alleged invincible midfield by sending long balls. As for ball possession, forget about it. The Old Lady was simply unable to keep hold of the ball for longer than a few seconds and, as such, allowed Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben shocking amounts of space on either side to whizz up to goal.
Alessio Secco, Ferrara and the entire Bianconeri bunch are all thrilled at having gone to the infamous German ground to tame the giants and earn a golden point. But for how long will the fans of the once-upon-a-time Italian and European giant remain content with such discouraging performances? Most disappointing, were Ferrara’s tactics and his choices for substitutions. Prior to the match, the Coach was brimming with confidence and reaffirmed his desire to have the team play ‘Juve style’. It has been said before and it will be said again, the vital ingredient required to win the coveted trophies is self-confidence. And just before kick-off, Ciro insisted that the critics’ lack of faith in his squad would only incentivise Juve to succeed. But words are cheap, and on the pitch it appeared he, more than anyone, believed the naysayers and played for a draw. Juventus arrived on to the pitch on Wednesday night and respected the opposition too much. They did not play their own game, they did not dominate possession and evidently accepted their fate as the weaker side. The players were feeble but the lack of self-confidence was down to Ferrara.
Forget believing in his team, Ferrara needed to believe in himself. In the second half, Bayern lost all motivation and were visibly tiring out. This presented the Coach with the perfect opportunity to introduce more attacking options and run a few risks. Horribly upset with himself at having fielded too many players back from injury in the game against Bologna, Ferrara decided to leave Alessandro Del Piero on the bench. Perhaps it would not have been be right to hand him a starting shirt, having only played ten minutes of football this season, but his input would have been greatly appreciated. In addition to the massive creative influence il Capitano usually brings with him, he would have used the opportunity to showcase his outstanding individual talent, as is so typical of him when appearing in Champions League matches. Bringing him on would have been a risk but it was one Ferrara needed to take. The partnership of Vincenzo Iaquinta and David Trezeguet was simply not working and communication between the two strikers still requires a lot of fine tuning – perfectly demonstrated when Iaquinta decided to selfishly strike for goal whilst Trezeguet, ideally placed in front of goal, was forced to look on. Had Iaquinta passed, Juve would have been looking at a sensational away win.
Ferrara’s decision to then swap Diego for defensive minded Christian Poulsen, certainly highlighted his intention of defending the draw and more importantly demonstrated his lack of confidence in the team. If Del Piero’s fitness was in question, why not throw on Sebastian Giovinco? The boy hasn’t made the best of impressions but with such limited attacking options available, Gio would have provided that extra bit of pace and creativity that could have turned the whole game around. Furthermore, had Ferrara opted for the 4-2-3-1 formation, the team would have been able to slowly build-up play, carry-out short passes and execute lethal counter-attacks, as Bayern’s strength in the wings was also their weakness. Instead, the Coach opted to play a 4-3-3 formation, a formation better suited to a side that has exceptional ball passing abilities, frightening speed and the skill to retain possession. In case you missed the first half, rest assured these are not the strengths of Juve.
When Ferrara was touted to be Juve’s permanent Coach, his lack of experience was his one negative aspect. This didn’t matter when he was winning against teams such as Siena, but the true test of a Coach is when he is under pressure. Unfortunately, with the eyes of the world on him, the ex-defender buckled and decided to play safe. True success can only come when taking a gamble and if he continues down this safety route then be prepared for a snooze fest of a campaign. However, it is early days and perhaps on Sunday, Juve will return to winning ways as they face Palermo, a side living through their own moment of disenchantment.
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
The cruel blow of lady injustice – September 25, 2009
Haunted by the ghost of last year’s defence – September 29, 2009
We’re meant to be happy with one point? – October 2, 2009