Juventus finished their abysmal campaign with another humiliating defeat as they were brushed aside by a rampant Milan side 3-0 at the San Siro. The hosts did not do anything extraordinary but rather the visiting Bianconeri once again were deflated after conceding a goal first.
As has become habit during this season the Juve players dropped their heads after conceding a goal and were not able to mount a comeback. The Bianconeri started the first 10 minutes strong as has become their habit yet they wasted two scoring opportunities and never recovered after conceding the first Rossoneri goal. Without delving into further details pertaining to the match and its major incidents, it is quite fair to say the blame for Juve’s tragic season must be shared by everyone from the management to the coach staff and the players. The management made a mistake by hiring Ciro Ferrara because he lacked the necessary experience to lead such a prestigious side and to copy the Barcelona model under Josep Guardiola would require a united, well-balanced and talented squad which the Bianconeri clearly did not have.
To make matters worse the management opted to sack Ferrara without really addressing the main problems facing the club as the January transfer window would have offered the club the opportunity to bring some reinforcements while farming out the underachieving players. Hiring Alberto Zaccheroni for the remainder of the season was a grave mistake not because of the results but due to the fact the players were unlikely to show the same respect and commitment towards a tactician who is only staying for a few months as opposed to one who will be in charge for the seasons to come. This was a drastic error on behalf of the management considering many of the Bianconeri players have vast experience and some have big egos so there was a need for a confident, authoritative and long-term coach capable of forcing his ideas upon the squad.
Moving on from the management and the coaching, the players, with perhaps the exception of Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon for the most part, were certainly responsible for much of the season’s catastrophic results. Injuries took their toll on the squad but those who played were not deserving of wearing the prestigious Bianconeri shirt as they did not display the fighting spirit which has long defined the Old Lady. The tifosiare not used to seeing their players quit after conceding a goal and their reaction, albeit exaggerated in a number of cases, was somewhat expected considering this expensively assembled squad was expected to challenge for both domestic and European trophies. Instead of fighting for the Serie A title, Juve were unable to secure Champions League football for next season while also suffering two humiliating losses in Europe by the same score of 4-1 to Bayern Munich and Fulham.
Veterans such as Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero were visibly upset with the club’s performances yet there was not much that they can do to lift the spirits of the team and urge their fellow players to fight on because the club missed on one objective after another beginning with the Scudetto, then the Champions League, Coppa Italia and Europa League before failing to grasp the coveted fourth spot in the Italian top flight. There is nothing positive to take from this campaign except the fact the current management will be overhauled in a move which is long overdue because a team of the Old Lady’s prestige and resources could have competed for trophies from last season yet the management kept using the excuse of returning from Serie B to justify some mind-boggling decisions.
Summer signings Felipe Melo and Diego were unconvincing, have certainly disappointed and ought to be classified as flops. Juve should sell the Brazilian pair if they get the proper offers which will hopefully come if Melo can play consistently for Brazil during SouthAfrica 2010. As for Diego, he might be given another season to prove his worth yet he must be surrounded by the proper players if he is to rediscover his best form. The duo were not the only two grave disappointments considering veterans Fabio Cannavaro and Fabio Grosso were a pale version for the World Cup 2006 winners as they struggled to put in two solid performances together in consecutive games. Grosso was below par for the majority of the games he played while the veteran Cannavaro showed a few glimpses in recent weeks but was utterly outpaced and outplayed against Milan. The older version of Cannavaro would have stopped Luca Antonini from scoring the first goal in the match.
Buffon saved Juve early in the season when the club were still on top of Serie A as he performed a series of stunning saves to guarantee valuable points for the Bianconeri or else they would be perhaps now stuck in 10th position if not worse. However, the Azzurri number one has suffered a drop in form due to injuries and other setbacks not to mention the club’s negative situation which affected everyone including experienced players such as Mauro Camoranesi and Del Piero. Unfortunately, no one but Claudio Marchisio emerged as a certain starter for the club next season along with the aforementioned Chiellini. The rough tackling and determined Chiellini will carry the Azzurri hopes in the defensive line considering he will be surrounded by a number of veterans in the twilight of their career such as Cannavaro, Grosso and Milan full-back Gianluca Zambrotta.
In midfield the Bianconeri have failed to impress with Melo going as far as engaging in verbal exchanges with the tifosi and Mohamed Sissoko spending a chunk of the season in the treatment room while Camoranesi’s age is beginning to show. Antonio Candreva showed some glimpses but he lacks the experience and consistency to perform at the highest level and shoulder the responsibility of carrying the side while Marchisio was doing quite well prior to the injury he suffered and as a result was sidelined for several weeks. Marchisio has yet to recapture his early season form. Finally, Christian Poulsen was on the verge of being offloaded early in the season only to benefit from Sissoko’s injury. There is no doubt Poulsen is a hard worker and is dedicated but he does not possess the necessary skills and guile to wear the Bianconeri shirt.
Other players such as Zdenek Grygera, Martin Caceres and Jonathan Zebina were unimpressive when used as starters in the right-back or centre-back position. Only Caceres showed some signs of improvement and played a couple of decent matches but he does not represent the type of quality defensive players the Bianconeri are accustomed to fielding. Finally, in attack the Bianconeri suffered with the injuries to David Trezeguet, Del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta while Amauri was a disaster during the current campaign.
Del Piero did manage to return to full fitness but at his age he can no longer carry the team. The club’s all-time leading scorer ended the Serie A season with 9 goals while Frenchman Trezeguet had 7 to his credit and Iaquinta managed to find the back of the net on 6 occasions in league action. Brazilian-born Amauri who became an Italian citizen during the course of the season was perhaps the biggest underachiever in attack forcing Azzurri boss Marcello Lippi to overlook him despite hints in 2009 that the striker could be included in the squad headed to compete for World Cup 2010.
Besides the disappointment of seeing Melo and Diego perform well below expectations, the Bianconeri had to cope with the loss of one of their best players in the last decade in the shape of Pavel Nedved who retired at the end of last season. Perhaps Nedved should have played for another season but the management was again at fault for not trying hard enough to convince the Czech midfielder of playing on for one more season. Last campaign the likes of Trezeguet, Del Piero, Buffon and Nedved carried the team along with Chiellini to earn qualification to the Champions League. Clearly Nedved’s retirement has been a big blow for the club and it appears the management is looking to bring him back in some managerial post.
The coaching decision expected to be made soon along with the drastic changes in the squad will hopefully have the desired effect on the prestigious club. The Bianconeri have already brought back Roberto Bettega in a managerial role and have chosen Andrea Agnelli as president (He is expected to take charge in June). Alessio Secco will no longer be the sporting director while Jean-Claude Blanc will have a reduced and scaled back role with a focus on finances and managing the club’s revenue. All these moves should have been made following the end of last season when the Bianconeri began to show signs of weakness and the players brought in such as Portuguese Tiago and Danish Poulsen proved to be flops.