The victory against Inter was not backed by a vintage performance but served as a reprieve for Ciro Ferrara who is under intense pressure from the tifosi to bring glory back to the Old Lady following a summer spending campaign which included the signing of Brazilians Diego and Felipe Melo for considerable sums.
Ferrara was expected to help Juve complete the transition from a side recovering after some catastrophic seasons which included an enforced stay in Serie B, yet the Coach himself seems to be wilting under the demands of managing a top side. The former Azzurri defender has no coaching experience at the professional club level and despite his expertise on the field, he has yet to show the tactical flexibility and knowledge off the pitch.
The victories last season following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri enabled the club to qualify to the group stages of the Champions League without having to go through a qualifying round. This was crucial as it gave the club’s players additional rest and more time to accommodate some of the new signings who were expected to make a major impact on the season. Those initial victories achieved under Ferrara last season were courtesy of the shock caused by the sacking of the unpopular Ranieri as opposed to the managerial skills of the young Ciro.
This season he has shown time and again his inability to alter games whether through his substitutions or even his choices for the starting lineup and the initial formation. The club players have struggled to adapt to this tactics and the players at his disposal do not seem to fit in well with the strategy employed by the Coach. The victory against Inter came following a moment of magic from rising midfielder Claudio Marchisio and not because of some move designed by Ferrara or tried in practice. Actually Juve deserved to win because the players gave their best and on the given night on-loan defender Martin Caceres was playing his best game for Juve while the ever reliable Giorgio Chiellini was in the lineup.
Against Bayern Munich, the defensive rock Chiellini was absent and frankly the writing was on the wall. For once there was not much Ciro could do as Fabio Cannavaro is clearly past his best while Nicola Legrottaglie is best suited for a top 10 Serie A side and not a title contender. Perhaps the biggest concern for Juve is in the midfield area where the absence of Momo Sissoko often leaves the side’s defense unprotected and scrambling to clear its line. The absence of both Chiellini and Sissoko was visible against Bayern. This does not provide an excuse for the comprehensive and humiliating manner in which the German team’s players manhandled the Bianconeri.
The Old Lady’s players displayed none of the fighting spirit and pride which used to be hallmarks under the leadership of Fabio Capello and Marcello Lippi before him. This implies Ferrara is unable to properly communicate with the players or perhaps there is a communication breakdown at some point as he does not appear to do well conveying his message to the players. Starting Alessandro Del Piero and then subbing him with the unpopular Christian Poulsen was another grave mistake. Why did not Ferrara give Giovinco the opportunity to start and then use Del Piero in the second-half once the Bayern players tired? Del Piero has just returned from a long layoff dictated by injuries and certainly is not 100% fit or even close.
The other problem is once again the lack of alternatives to Chiellini. The Juventus management must make it a priority to sign a central defender and a right-back as Jonathan Zebina, Zdenek Grygera and Martin Caceres are all average players beset by injuries, lack of form and inconsistency. The best of the three has been Caceres who after a solid performance against Inter turned in a pedestrian display highlighted by the meaningless penalty-kick given by him during the first-half.
The most alarming factors which are becoming more apparent as the season progresses are the decline of Diego and the disastrous displays of Felipe Melo. Diego started the season off with some magnificent displays, particularly against Roma and Lazio, which probably placed higher expectations on his shoulders yet he is now performing below any acceptable form. Is he not fully fit after suffering from injuries? Only the Juventus coach staff can answer this quandary because the Diego who started the season is visibly superior to this one.
As for the other Brazilian, he has really struggled with the exception of a couple of games. Melo is both poorly used and not a man who will command the midfield with some eye piercing passes. Basically, Juventus signed another Sissoko despite the players having a different approach to the game. Why play two midfielders who are not the best at passing the ball in the middle of the park? This causes a high turnover ratio and a bunch of stray passes from both Melo and Sissoko which often lead to dangerous and costly counter attacks against Juve. At this point of the season, Melo’s signing has proved to be both a costly and meaningless one. He did cover for Sissoko’s absence but he did not offer any improvement on the Mali international’s performances. In fact, Sissoko has played better despite his injuries this season.
All the blame cannot be placed on Ferrara’s shoulders because the management once again invested in the wrong players with the exception of Diego who will bounce back based on his age and skill level. The capture of Fabio Grosso and before it Cannavaro were hailed but at what expense? Both players are not as good as they used to be and they are on the wrong side of 30. The club should have invested in a young left-back instead of bringing in a temporary fill-in. The right back position was also left uncovered and most significantly how can the leadership of the Bianconeri leave the forward lineup limited to the ineffective Amauri (he is struggling to score), or the declining Del Piero and Trezeguet? Vincenzo Iaquinta was carrying the attack prior to his injury and since his absence the players have struggled to find the net consistently despite Trezeguet’s goals.
The blame must be shared between Ciro Ferrara, Alessio Secco, former club president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli and current one Jean-Claude Blanc. The transfer campaign has been quite erratic. The players must shoulder part of the blame but injuries have again taken their toll which raises the question about Juve’s training and fitness regiment.
On the brighter side, the Bianconeri have beaten the Nerazzurri and can now focus on winning the league title. The squad is blessed to have Chiellini, Marchisio and Gianluigi Buffon amongst its members as well as the promising Diego. The irony here is the first three players are Italian and were all brought in or were part of the club prior to the current management’s unsuccessful buying spree.
Look for the game against Bari to be another decisive clash for Ferrara and his troops. A win will give him more time but the future of the Old Lady will eventually lie in other hands.