It was like a thunderbolt to the heart as the Juve that thrashed highflying Sampdoria came tumbling down, falling prey to their ailing defence and perhaps destroying any hope of a league title this year. Saturday night in Turin saw Ciro Ferrara take on his former team, Napoli, in an entertaining and highly agonising match. This was the time to prove the critics wrong and demonstrate the consistency of this Bianconeri team and after an awe-inspiring display against the Blucerchiati, only a vital consecutive victory was going to truly send a clear message to those at the top of the table. But rather predictably, after scoring two goals, the Old Lady allowed the visitors three damning goals in the space of 23 minutes, as the defence and midfield fell to pieces.
So what went wrong? A number of things, to be frank. The lack of quick defenders, the absence of Momo Sissoko and then Mauro Camoranesi for a large portion of the game, undisciplined players that continue to forget their positions and the lack of a quality right back. The formation used was undoubtedly the best the team has deployed thus far into the campaign, as it finally released the burden of scoring – but it’s only perfect for the 11 that started against Sampdoria. If you were to replace just one or two players then the whole team is thrown off balance. Without Sissoko the defence was left hugely exposed and Zdenek Grygera was left fending for himself. Perhaps had the Bianconeri possessed a stalwart right back then the Malian wouldn’t be so gravely missed. That’s not to say that Grygera was the only problematic defender that night. The trio that he played alongside might be the best Italy have but they are not the best Juve can get. Giorgio Chiellini is unquestionably the future of the Old Lady’s defence but he desperately needs a speedy partner at the centre to offer the backline a further strength. Fabio Cannavaro has been great for the Old Lady so far but what Juve need is a man to offer something different to the table, and Canna doesn’t. He’s too similar and lacks the necessary pace that Chiellini is also missing, to give Juventus that essential impenetrable defence.
Without Camoranesi, the midfield fell to pieces and Tiago made it crystal clear that certain players are simply irreplaceable. Christian Poulsen and Tiago are not necessarily bad players but it just seems that they do not fit in with the current squad and do not possess the missing ingredients Juve need. The Dane shouldn’t really play as a defensive midfielder and Juventus will never field the type of formation that Poulsen will excel in. As for Tiago, he has improved a lot this season but still doesn’t possess the strengths this squad needs. What Juve need is a right winger that can easily take over the reins from Camoranesi, a defensive midfielder that is either as creative as Gaetano D’Agostino or as defensive as Yaya Toure and a second striker that can continue Alessandro Del Piero’s work. Right now, the Bianconeri have players that are taking up vital spaces in the team that should be reserved for others.
Injury, of course, has played a great part in Juve’s inconsistency and it’s awfully hard to find the right tactics for the uninjured players. Poor Ferrara feels that if Juventus play a defensive formation then their attack is stifled and if they opt for offensive tactics then their defence is left exposed. Ciro, although usually blamed for his team’s weaknesses was not really culpable that Saturday night. However, that is not to say that he is completely innocent. Marcello Lippi was quoted by the media as saying: “He is one of those people that whatever he turns his hand to, he will do it well because he is smart, charismatic, intelligent and has a strong character.” Yet one cannot help but wonder if Ferrara’s likable character is proving to be more of a weakness than a strength.
You only need to look at the final 15 minutes of the Maccabi Haifa game a fortnight ago to see Ciro going absolutely mad on the sidelines as he called for focus. The team did not obey his command and only Gigi Buffon rescued the points by producing a miracle save. Players do not fear this pleasant Coach and many do not seem to listen to his instructions. Felipe Melo is constantly surging ahead to score another goal, Chiellini, who recently tasted the joys of scoring, has now taken it upon himself to morph into a striker and other players continue to find themselves out of position. The squad is simply undisciplined. The likes of Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson have excelled at their jobs because they will not make room for disobedience. Their players understand that if they don’t perform, they will be benched and they will suffer the consequences. Silly mistakes, like the one Tiago made that allowed for Napoli’s third goal, should not be tolerated and the players must be made to feel that these errors could risk their place on the team. Ciro’s motivation, his love for the team and low salary is what makes him so perfect for Juventus but he’s no Pepe Guardiola. That man would never allow any complacency on the pitch and happily dismissed Samuel Eto, and others, to prove a point to his squad – no player is safe from expulsion.
Next up is a trip to Israel to face Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League match for the second time. Considering the difficulty the Bianconeri experienced in Turin, this match will only prove to be worse as the Israelis will be at home with their own fans – so Juve should prepare for an even bigger injury list. Time is running out for Ferrara and in the words of Jean Claude Blanc, no more mistakes will be allowed.
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
Is it now time to be negative? – October 6, 2009
Ferrara: public enemy #1 – October 9, 2009
Bad or just misunderstood? – October 13, 2009
Let the bitterness commence – October 16, 2009
Oh Ferrara, will you ever learn? – October 20, 2009
Ferrara, thank you for listening – October 23, 2009
Sampdoria will provide the real test – October 27, 2009
Introducing the real Juve – October 30, 2009
Why are we not surprised? – November 3, 2009