This week’s fixture double-header took us past the completion of the first quarter of the season. The quarter-mark is one of those occasions – like a particularly unwelcome birthday or anniversary – which creeps up surprisingly quickly, and when it does arrive, it provokes a sense of worrying realisation – that this is it, this is the moment, this is how it’s going to be – you’d better get used to it.
If you looked into the bathroom mirror on the morning of this particularly unwelcome birthday or anniversary, what would you see? Would you see an Inter? Thrilling nobody, far from complete, yet assuming an air of relative success, partially borne out of others failings rather than your own brilliance? Could a Juventus look back at you? You see potential, you see a winning formula, you see all the credentials of past glories returning, but then you see the unconvincing unit unlikely to deliver the promises. What about a Milan? A withering wreck, old and tired, but with a deep, underlying sense of achievement you are determined to regain? Or is it a Roma, a life in crisis, a shambles?
Two home wins this week mean Jose Mourinho’s Nerazzurri occupy their resident top-spot with a four-point lead over Juve. Well documented on these pages, il Biscione’s problems lie further a-field than their Serie A domain, where already they look the most accomplished side in the league. The first 10 games have taught us nothing new about the Campione d’Italia, but without doubt they remain the strongest and most consistent team on the peninsula. Without regularly ascending to the heights they could and possibly should, Inter’s stranglehold on the Scudetto should remain if they can avoid venturing into the sort of self-destruction favoured by their title rivals in recent years.
Over in Turin and tides are high following a 5-1 drubbing of surprise forerunners, Sampdoria. Following on from the weekend’s 1-0 defeat of Siena, the Bianconeri leapfrogged Samp into second with a sublime performance at the Stadio Olimpico. The destructive performance over a previously impressive Blucerchiati is an indication of the sort of football Juve could play if they can effectively harness the talent at their disposal. Certainly they appear the most likely pretenders to Inter’s crown, and the nature of their humbling of Samp led to Brazilian trequartista Diego to suggest: “The Juve we see today are the Juve side able to win the Scudetto.” Unfortunately, Diego, nobody knows when that Juve is likely to re-appear. Proceeding Samp, an Amauri header was just enough to squeeze past basement dwellers Siena, which was la Vecchia Signora’s first win in five. The first part of the season has seen only brief glimpses of what Juve are capable of, the rest has
been an eclectic mish-mash of nearly men. A disjointed team, changing tactics and personnel, served with a general lack of conviction that they can actually topple Inter. Wednesday night’s offering needs to become the norm rather than the anomaly if Ciro Ferrara is to break the Inter monopoly.
The chance of a Scudetto for Milan seemed a distant wish just a few weeks ago, and despite a mini-resurgence, their prospects have improved little. Three wins from four have lifted the immediate threat to Coach Leonardo’s job, but sat in 5th place, nine points off old foe’s Inter, the Rossoneri’s peerage can be found in the Champions League chasing pack rather than any closer to the summit. The chronic lack of goals has been restored of late – finding the net nine times in the four-match sequence – but the defensive frailties are at large, with six goals being shipped over the same period, including two in injury time as Napoli rescued a point at the San Paolo. The club have this week finally confirmed the arrival of David Beckham back for a second stint in January. Beckham’s arrival will not be sufficient to breach the gaping chasm between il Diavolo and their cross-town rivals, the focus should instead be on securing that top four finish.
If only Roma could have their eye on a top four finish. For 2007 and 2008’s Serie A runners-up, the terminal slide continues. I Giallorossi have now lost their last three games to find themselves mired in mid-table mediocrity. The 1-0 home reverse to Livorno summarises the inadequacies of a team riddled with injuries, poor form and an overall sense of demoralised dissatisfaction. They are still over-reliant on Francesco Totti, and given his medical record, that’s not wise. The ownership issues and rumours of debt surrounding the club will not go away, and supporters are being left to wander will the squad be revitalised come January or broken down for scrap? Given i Lupi have gotten to the knock-out stages of the Champions League in the last few seasons, it’s difficult to see what would constitute a good finish this time around given all going on. European football of some sort, should be attainable.
In other news, if any of the above clubs decide a change of Coach is needed, that figure you see on the horizon dusting down the touchline rain-jacket and scarf combo is ex-Nerazzurri tactician, Roberto Mancini. Mancini has finally terminated himself from his Inter contract, thus allowing him to negotiate with other interested parties. As part of his severance deal thrashed out with President Massimo Moratti, Mancini remained on Inter’s payroll, meaning any club wishing to use his services would have to presumably match his £6m a year annual salary, whilst also reach a compensation package with the San Siro giants.
That arrangement has all been ended now, and as a result it seems Mancini could be about to land himself a new job at Real Madrid, or if he’s not careful, Notts County. Madrid Coach Manuel Pellegrini is feeling the heat following one win in the last five games, including the humiliation of a 4-0 rout by minnows Alcoron in the Copa del Rey. Of course, this hasn’t gone down too well with Florentino Perez and the £200m he’s splashed out on a new team. Just three months into the season and rumours are rife that Perez fancies a new Coach for his new team, with Mancini top of the list. The speculation was not exactly dampened by Mancini himself who told Sky Sport Italia: “At times you never think you will train a certain team and then you end up training that very team. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.”
Pellegrini beware, unless Mancini’s talking about Notts County?
News from the Peninsula
Week 6-7 –
Milanese managerial mess – September 27 – October 3
Week 7-International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus) –
Cannavaro stung by doping claims – October 4 – October 10
International week (Rep. of Ireland vs. Italy, Italy vs. Cyprus)-Week 8 –
Lippy Marcello blasts the tifosi – October 11 – October 17
Inter-spective look at Mourinho’s European Nerazzurri – October 18 – October 24
Life begins at the quarter – October 25 – October 31