Juventus suffered a dreadful start to 2011, and with the Club missing out on first-choice transfer target Giampaolo Pazzini to snare what seemed to be a costly Alessandro Matri, criticism mounted – the fans made it clear this project was not working. As Juve sank below the Champions League places in Serie A, Beppe Marotta and the inflexible Luigi Delneri were the men many blamed for what was becoming a crisis. As such, the win against Inter on Sunday night not only potentially rescued the Bianconeri’s season but also vindicated the work of Marotta and Delneri.
In one winter transfer market, Juventus somehow managed to solve their problems to create more of a compact team that is no longer heavily reliant on the strength of their midfield. The cheap purchase of Andrea Barzagli has allowed Delneri to fix the perpetual problem at left-back by moving Giorgio Chiellini there while also creating a more balanced centre-back partnership.
The problem with Leonardo Bonucci and Chiellini is that they possess too similar traits. Both are impulsive and physical and by placing Barzagli alongside Bonucci, Delneri has introduced a calm and composed presence at the back, allowing for a more complete partnership and perhaps one that could last the distance.
The Coach lined up the defence perfectly. Bonucci and Chiellini started their relationship, whilst Barzagli’s experience perfectly complemented Frederik Sorensen’s youthful raw talent. As a result, the four centre-backs’ narrow play and balanced set of skills allowed them to stop Inter in their tracks and often doubled up against their opponents.
At the other end, Matri is proving to be the ideal man to complement the Coach’s tactical vision. With a physical and a predatory nature, his ability to actually score from a cross added a whole new dimension to Juve’s attack, further proving that it was a lack of personnel rather than poor tactics that caused the mini slump.
For once, all three departments were working in tandem, each fulfilling their own responsibilities without requiring others to cover for them. Juventus were able to keep their concentration and remain alert until the very last moment without being exhausted, and much of that is down to the Coach and his psychological powers of motivation.
Nonetheless, the match was decided by individual errors and Leonardo’s defence also lent a helping hand to the Juve attack. Whilst his recent appointment has allowed Inter to fire on all cylinders offensively, questions have to be asked about the lack of organisation at the back. Despite the centre-back pairing seeming rather ineffectual due to a poor understanding, the main problem lay in how long it took the team overall to get back into position after losing possession.
Juventus, on the other hand, erected a strong defensive wall and marked the main Nerazzurri players out of the game. Unfortunately for Leonardo on Sunday, his bench offered him little options to dramatically change the method of play, and if he wants to continue down the path of success, back-up plans must be constructed.
However, with Juventus relying on collective strength rather than individual talent, not much could have been done to topple them at home. This is not the Juve of last year – this is one clearly embarking on a project, so perhaps the Bianconeri faithful can now be hopeful that a new era is around the corner.