As Marco Di Vaio’s second goal hit the back of the net on Saturday night, Luigi Del Neri must have known his team were resigned to a second consecutive defeat. After all, the Juventus Coach – for all his qualities – has a reputation for building teams that don’t have the firepower to break down lesser teams.
Bologna upset the odds to take three points from Juve in the same way Lecce did last week. The Bianconeri Coach’s job now hangs by a thread after his players failed to score in those two humiliating defeats, but this is nothing new for the beleaguered boss.
This season was billed as a campaign of rebuilding and progression for Juve. Beppe Marotta was brought in from Sampdoria as general manager and tasked with overhauling his new club’s squad, and Del Neri followed him to Turin from Genova. However, while the Scudetto was a faint dream this term, Juve’s current position of 7th is completely unacceptable.
This campaign, Del Neri has managed to rekindle the memories of a pre-Calciopoli Juventus with some big results against Scudetto chasing opposition. Just weeks ago, they beat Inter in the Derby D’Italia but in true Del Neri fashion, they followed the result by crashing to 2-0 defeats to Lecce and Bologna.
In their two visits to the San Siro, Juve have beaten Milan and got a further point from Inter. Yet, back-to-back defeats to Palermo and Udinese undermined their progress and the latter side are incredibly above Juve in the table. The Bianconeri’s season could be epitomised in their bizarre 4-1 reverse at the hands of Parma earlier in the season, which saw Felipe Melo red carded.
Del Neri’s progress in the Europa League was equally difficult to predict. It may have been a secondary competition which the coach rested players for, but to draw all six matches and crash out at the group stage was another underachievement. Failing to beat Polish minnows Lech Poznan in two attempts was a particular disappointment, even if the away fixture was reminiscent of the ski resorts around Turin.
On Saturday night, as Juve capitulated to lowly Bologna, Juve finished the game with a plethora of attacking players on the pitch. Despite the presence of Milos Krasic, Simone Pepe, Luca Toni, Alessandro Del Piero and Matri, but still couldn’t find a way to goal – a frustrating trait of their coach over the past two seasons.
Sampdoria supporters will not be surprised to see Juve struggle in front of goal. Last season they had a similar problem while under Del Neri’s leadership, during which time the strike partnership of Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini played at the club – a more prolific combination than anything Juve can boast at the moment.
Del Neri’s Sampdoria finished fourth last year, but scored just 49 times along the way. Disgruntled Juve fans should refer to their coach’s Sampdoria who scored just three goals in nine matches in a terrible run between September 2009 and January 2010.
Losing to Bologna this weekend may have had a resonating feeling. Sampdoria surprisingly lost to Parma, Cagliari and Livorno last term with Del Neri at the helm.
Since losing to Bologna, voices at the Bianconeri have outlined the team’s fragile confidence. Marotta, Giorgio Chiellini and Del Neri himself have admitted there is a broken spirit, and no confidence to get back into a game should they concede a goal.
It could be the quality of the players. But worryingly, Juve’s inconsistency is similar to the problems suffered by Sampdoria last season. Del Neri oversaw both clubs’ ability to pull off wins over the likes of Inter and Milan, only to lose to teams near the bottom of the league.
As is the procedure at Juve when the club are adrift of the European qualification places, the manager’s position is under scrutiny. Marotta has confessed he is considering whether Del Neri should be the man to take Juve forward – but he should consider one vital thing before pulling the trigger. His Sampdoria also struggled for goals and to beat some of the smaller teams, but finished the season in fourth. Somehow repeating the feat would mean Del Neri has done his job marvellously, but whether he is given the chance depends on Marotta’s patience.