Watching Alessandro Matri is not too dissimilar to the childhood days of perching in front of the TV and awaiting the Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera cartoon called ‘Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines’. Centred on the efforts of Dick Dastardly and his canine sidekick, the duo were desperate to prevent the Yankee Doodle Pigeon from carrying secret messages to the other side.
Dastardly, as the principal character of the show, was the accident-prone ‘nice guy’ who never managed to carry out his plans effectively. Regularly found uncovering new ‘fool-proof’ schemes to Muttley in hope of finding success, Dastardly always failed and his canine partner had to be on hand to save him when he fell, often after hearing the infamous words: “Muttley, do something!”, or, translated into Italian: “Muttley, fa qualcosa!”
Juventus fans, with a penchant for all things Hanna-Barbera (lest we forget the Atomic Ant), held perhaps the wittiest banner of the season on Saturday –‘Matri, fa qualcosa!’– a tribute to a man who is already becoming their new hero and at least partly quelling the frustration at watching their equivalent of Dastardly, the hapless management who have failed to fulfil their ambitious plan for success last summer. Despite all the gloom, the Bianconeri faithful appear to cite Matri as their ‘Muttley’. The striker has captured their hearts and become the man they feel is the only player capable of rescuing the team.
The banner, wrongly adjudged by certain factions of the media as a frustrated jibe aimed at the club’s most recent purchase, was in fact a clever play on words as ‘Matri’ sounds much like ‘Muttley’ in the Italian version of the show. As one of the few Bianconeri players consistently performing for the team, he has become the fans’ new canine sidekick.
The ex-Cagliari forward has managed five goals in seven appearances for the Old Lady, and all sorts of banners were held up in his honour around the Stadio Dino Manuzzi, including those of little girls requesting to be his new ‘Velina’, a word used to describe the scantily clad showgirls found on Italian TV shows, one of whom Matri is famously dating.
Described by Luca Toni as “strong, a great buy and the future of Juve”, Matri appears to have made the jump up to a big club seamlessly. Apt at moving around the pitch freely and often diagonally, the striker has a knack for excellent positioning and has proved himself to be a fine finisher, especially when teamed alongside a mobile second striker like Alessandro Del Piero, as was witnessed against Cesena. Tactically and technically the duo make the perfect team as both understand the effect of clever movement.
Fielded alongside Toni and it’s a different story as both seem static and unable to understand what roles they must each undertake in order to make the partnership work. They rely too heavily on the midfield to provide service. The only time their partnership worked was against Inter, simply because the duo played a pressuring game dependent on their energy levels to effectively mark the likes of Ivan Cordoba out of the game.
However, despite Matri’s stunning brace, it was not enough to clinch Juve’s first win after a hat-trick of disappointments, and the player spoke of his dissatisfaction at the result. On the plus side, at least he is already the new icon of the Bianconeri tifosi, and one of the few whose place in the squad is not under threat.