Played 14. Won 4. Drawn 6. Lost 4
An abysmal record belonging not to one of Serie A’s relegation threatened teams but to Juventus against teams currently in the bottom half of the table. It is unacceptable for a club of their stature and a situation which must be reversed should the Bianconeri be serious in their aspiration to improve upon last seasons dire seventh place finish.
The latest result, Saturday evenings 0-2 loss at home to Bologna – a team battling against not only relegation but also a perilous financial position – is the latest in a string of negative results and comes immediately after last weeks equally appalling defeat away to Lecce.
Gigi Delneri must take his share of blame here – unlike against Lecce, a result resting squarely with the players – although largely for the choices made during the game rather than those before kick off. Forced to abandon the usual system with Claudio Marchisio in a mezz’ala role on the left flank (but moving in to support Felipe Melo and Alberto Aquilani) due to the injuries suffered by the Roman and Momo Sissoko. So Delneri started the match with his favoured 4-4-2/4-2-4 system with Jorge Martinez and Milos Krasic on the wings and Vincenzo Iaquinta paired with Alessandro Matri in attack, and while the poor wing play stunted the team going forwards the shape was solid and Bologna hardly threatened.
Ironically his biggest mistake was not his strict adherence to this system but rather his half-time decision to drop it in favour of a loose 4-2-3-1 with Marchisio and Melo as the double pivot in midfield and Alessandro Del Piero joining Luca Toni in replacing Martinez and Iaquinta. This move left the midfield pair exposed both in attack where they offered very little creativity and also in defence where they failed to provide the necessary shield to the back-line.
Ultimately the team became extremely narrow but stretched with huge gaps between the lines and twice Bologna would expose this, their simple passing and occasional ball over the top tormenting Juve, who’s experiment with Giorgio Chiellini at left back must surely be at an end. As good as he is in that position he is a truly great central defender and breaking the excellent partnership he and Leonardo Bonucci had built now looks a huge error of judgement.
While it is very easy for people to criticise Delneri he is working with a flawed squad, not because Director General Beppe Marotta is a failure but merely because the huge problems the two men inherited cannot be rectified in one season. This summer – regardless of whether the club attains Champions League football or not – two or three quality additions are needed, primarily a good right-back and some midfield reinforcements, minor tweaks to complete what is a well constructed group. These thoughts were echoed by Marotta immediately after the Bologna game as he said;
“I would say that there are psychological problems, we often lack peace, especially when we fail to break down opposing defenses. Are the squad not up to it? We have laid the groundwork for a new cycle, next summer we will work to improve the quality.”
That he should publicly touch on the mental fragility of the squad is telling, not only because it shows an understanding that something is wrong, but also because it does not apportion blame. It will mean the group have time to gather themselves ahead of next weeks game, tellingly against Milan which will be motivation in itself and allow for greater focus during their preparation.
One factor that would surely benefit the squad in its current state would be an old fashioned ‘Silenzio Stampa’ (press silence) to allow the players concentration to remain unbroken. A seemingly endless list of players have given cliche-laden interviews over the last two weeks, firstly talking about how the Lecce game was as important as the derby with Inter, then moving to dismiss the loss as a blip to be put behind them with victory over Bologna.
Sadly this has not happened and Sundays papers were filled with more of the same narrative, helping no one while simultaneously frustrating fans who tire of hearing the same worn out excuses. The best place to answer the critics is on the field, to perform regardless of the opposition, a lesson upcoming opponents Milan have seemingly already learned this season.