This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Hello everyone, and welcome back to STTBS, the home of tanto frustrazione.
That’s right, friends. In between anxiety over dropped points and old-school end-of-‘00s panic lies FRUSTRATION.
We’re frustrated two of our best players are out injured. Frustrated that every defender on the left side of the pitch is behaving like Marco Motta. Frustrated that a bountiful assortment of Bianconeri shots never see the back of the net. And frustrated that our opponents’ few scoring opportunities seem to invariably end in celebration.
Still, a slim lead atop Serie A would suggest that the Old Lady’s destiny is hers to control. However, an exhausting schedule of matches over the next two months (five in the next two weeks) will soon test Juve’s spirit, stamina and tactical solidarity.
Next up is a home date with Udinese, always dangerous, always daunting, always Di Natale.
Three points is, just like proper football equipment, obviously mandatory.
Here’s the news.
Early Udinese Updates
Back to work today for the Bianconeri, as this afternoon saw the first tactical training session for the Udinese match.
Yesterday Conte gave the squad a much-needed rest, which should come in handy over the next two weeks, which, again, see the Bianconeri play five matches.
In other news, it’s time this week to place your bets, amici, on who will be the next one-game suspension.
It looks like it’s a two-horse race this time around, since of the four players who are one yellow card away from sanction, only Andrea Barzagli and Mirko Vucinic are locks to play. As you know, Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio are both out injured, though Marchisio may recover in time for Sunday.
It’s a tough choice: Barzagli is usually better behaved than his center-back companions, and Vucinic can always pick up a yellow for dissent. And if Marchisio plays, who knows?
Conte Takes the Blame
Of all the post-match comments after Sunday’s disappointing draw, Antonio Conte’s was the most interesting by far (truthfully, post-match comments are, as a rule, very uninteresting). Regarding Vucinic’s dummy, the move which directly led to the turnover, which in turn led to Parma’s equalizer, Conte was conspicuously more honest than usual:
I told Vucinic to let the ball run, he left it and Paletta intercepted to play Sansone in on goal. I take responsibility for the goal conceded.
Is this the truth? I would say it probably is. Certainly, Conte could have plausibly shouted a one or two-word directive for Mirko to let the ball pass by. On the other hand, sequences and combinations happen awfully quickly, especially on a team that’s so well-drilled.
When it comes down to cases, it’s a moot point. Conte obviously trains the striking pair for these movements, so it is fundamentally his decision, whether he called for it in the moment or not. Whatever happened, it all functions nicely as a screen to deflect unwanted criticism of Vucinic, which is honorable in any event.
Otherwise, Conte was his usual self, diffusing the easy (and accurate criticism) of Juve’s performance:
We always showed desire to dictate the game and not sit back. We were in control of the encounter and it’s a pity to drop two points. If I was angry about how the Sampdoria defeat materialized, today I’m happy with the performance displayed.
Really? “Happy” is a strong word for this performance. Dictating the game is all well and good, so long as the actual goal of the match is attained: scoring goals. Throughout this season, Conte has been very eccentric on this matter, often congratulating his strike force simply for carrying out a game plan, even if they don’t score. And they mostly don’t.
But I digress. Later, Conte added a note of what-if frustration to the proceedings:
It’s a shame because we deserved to win the game. We played against a strong side, unbeaten at home and had every possibility of taking all three points. If it wasn’t for that goal we’d be talking about a Juventus side capable of silencing the Tardini with a convincing performance.
No, we wouldn’t. We’d probably be deflecting criticism for any minor incident which could explain away the win. Remember, caro Antonio, this is Juve we’re talking about.
Bonucci Explores A River in Egypt…
Leonardo Bonucci is media-trained, and he knows how to deny the press the one confession they wish to extract from him. Lately, said confession would be the acknowledgment that the left side of the Bianconeri defense, minus Chiellini, is unbelievably exposed to counterattacks.
Leo, while understandably sticking up for Peluso and Caceres, is perhaps deluding himself, if he’s not flat-out lying:
Giorgio is an essential part of the team but those who have deputized for him are doing a good job. It’s just bad luck: today they did well to hit us on the break on one occasion, whereas against Sampdoria, it happened twice.
When two goals in two matches are almost identical in origin, does bad fortune have such a large part to play in all this?
Personally, I think that as long as we’re chalking this up to fate, why not start Luca Marrone on the left side? To my recollection, he has yet to make a match-spoiling gaffe, right? And what is the point of keeping him at Juve — an indication of trust and high esteem — and then not exercising that same trust and esteem by placing more responsibility on him?
Can he really have a worse performance than Peluso’s first appearance, or be more miscast and uncomfortable as Caceres was on Sunday?
And if we’re not going to groom Luca for the defense, then all this left-side difficulty brings up an even more embarrassing possibility: Is it possible we let Lucio go too soon?
What say you, friends?
The Stats Lie (Unlike Shakira’s Hips)
Here’s an all-too-familiar story: Juventus dominated in most statistical areas on Sunday, except the one that counted most.
Juve had the bulk of possession, by a margin of 53% to 47%.
654 Bianconeri passes were completed (71%), as opposed to 521 for Parma (64%).
The top four individual passers were all Juventus players: Pirlo, Caceres, Bonucci, Vidal.
Juve had more shots (15-7) and more shots on goal (8-3). Quagliarella had as many shots as Parma had collectively.
All of this domination added up to the 1-1 score line. But there was one silver lining.
No ex-Juve members scored on us, if only because we took back the only one who seemingly could last season (Giovinco). More to the point, Amauri did not score on us; it is a universally acknowledged fact that a goal conceded to Amauri is worth five shame points for a goal by any other ex-Juventino.
To paraphrase Bill Murray: So we got that going for us… which is nice.
Marotta: No Big January Signing
Thankfully, there’s only about half-a-month more to the merry-go-round of nonsense that is the January transfer window.
If you think the summer speculation is deluded and ultimately disappointing, at least there’s an increased impetus on the part of general managers to make a big change to start a new season.
January speculation seems even more draining to me, if only because the risk of drastically changing a squad is often hopelessly equivocal to the risk in sticking with what you have. Somehow, no option really seems worth it, and it’s no surprise that many sporting directors wait until the end of a season.
Example? Giuseppe Marotta, who once again is all but closing the door on a potentially transformative player. And although it can be frustrating to make no seismic changes in attack, it’s true that there is not much out there this month (or this year).
Here’s Beppe on the transfer market, as told to Sky Sport Italia:
I expect the January window to close without any big signings. The right opportunity has not presented itself to Juventus. We are obviously looking around and evaluating the situation of certain players, but our main objective at the moment is to recuperate injured players and those who will play at the [African Cup of Nations].
It’s difficult to disagree this year. Here’s what we can ascertain: one of the parties involved in a possible Didier Drogba deal has been waffling, and the chances of his arrival in Turin seem to recede by the day. Robert Lewandowski’s agent is keeping the door open to a move to Juve, but keeping a door open is his job.
Meanwhile, the Fernando Llorente saga hasn’t seemed to really move at all, as Bilbao are seemingly (astonishingly) not interested in making any money off his transfer; they seem to really want to let him go for free. Is that some kind of local custom, an expression of anger towards a native son who wants to leave?
And as for Lisandro Lopez: Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulus has rejected Marotta’s offer to take him on loan. His statement is worth repeating here, in all its fiscal/familial absurdity:
The Juventus loan offer has not been taken up by Lyon. Only if an adequate proposal is made to meet Lisandro’s valuation will we consider, otherwise Lisandro is part of the club’s DNA, and is not on the market.
Is he part of your DNA or not? Is DNA negotiable? And are you even sure he’s yours? They have tests for that now.
At this point, the recall of a striker on loan would seem the best possible option. If it doesn’t work, off they go, either back to their previous club, or even a new one.
In the case of Manolo Gabbiadini, Bologna are in the bottom half of the table and have refused to part with Manolo, even if he is not being used as much as Juve might like him to be. And though Manolo is shared between Juve and Atalanta, Bologna have the right to a season-long loan, and will see that out.
The most likely candidate for recall is Ciro Immobile (see below). Ciro wants back in, and he plays for a Genoa squad who are heading to Serie B in a handbasket. And while one would think that they could use someone like Immobile, the Gazzetta dello Sport reports that there is “slight friction” between he and the club, “so much so that his place in Delneri’s side isn’t guaranteed.” It seems like the best possible deal right now: Ciro should see enough playing time to state his case, and if not, he can go back on loan. If he makes a splash, then Juve can buy him back in his entirety.
Finally, there is one last option. I invite you to guess the identity of this mystery striker:
The striker, whose contract expires in June, currently earns €100,000 a week and the Bianconeri are keen to get him off the wage bill. According to the Corriere dello Sport, the 33-year-old has decided to stay at Juve until the end of the season after looking at various playing options and will then look for a new club.
Yes, if all else fails, we can always reintegrate Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Talks for Immobile
In a related story, it seems as if talks have advanced today for Ciro Immobile. Here’s the latest via Football Italia:
Juventus will hold talks with Genoa on Tuesday in an effort to snatch back young striker Ciro Immobile. The Italian champions own a 50 per cent share in the Under-21 international and want him in Turin for the second half of the season. Immobile is valued at around €5m and could arrive in a deal that sees midfielder Simone Padoin head to the Stadio Ferraris in exchange.
Sounds like a good deal, especially if it stops Conte from using Padoin to plug holes in the lineup.
Ciro, for his part, has admitted he feels ready to return, though he’s refreshingly honest in downplaying his expectations (Juve’s, the fans, and his own):
Juve? It would be nice to go there because I would be fighting for the Scudetto and not Serie A safety. It is a bit of an exaggeration to see my name linked with those of Drogba and Llorente, but I would be ready for Juventus. It would be a really important opportunity for me.
Stay tuned later this week for updates. In the meantime, I’m excited at the prospect of a) having a homegrown striker back in the fold, and b) not having to write about Drogba and Llorente—for a few weeks at least.
This Day in Bianconeri History
On January 15, 1997, Juventus lifted the Super Cup, throttling Paris St-Germain by an aggregate score of 9-2 (at this time, the Cup was decided by a two-leg fixture between the Champions League winner and Cup Winners’ Cup winners).
You’ll remember that Juve held out in the penalty shootout to beat Ajax for European glory the previous May, setting up this meeting with the then-relatively-smalltime Parisians.
Here’s a concise summary from Juventus.com:
Not only was the Super Cup nearly done and dusted after the first leg, most of the damage was inflicted in the first half. Porrini, Ferrara and a double from Padovano guided the Bianconeri to a 0-4 lead at the interval. PSG did hit back early in the second half via a penalty from Rai but Lombardo and Amoruso responded for Juve in the last ten minutes to end the match 6-1 in front. For the Parisian fans and players, it represented a humbling defeat.
Even though Lippi’s side had more than one hand on the club’s second Super Cup trophy, they did have to play out a 3-1 victory in the return leg before lifting the cup. However, realistically speaking, there was no need to wait the extra two weeks as the trophy’s destination had essentially been decided after the incredible night in the French capital.
Oh, that we could see that many in the back of the net these days!
That’s all for today. Stay tuned later this week for more Udinese updates as they come in. A presto!
[STTBS]: Juventus News is a daily feature where the JuventiKnows editorial team discusses the JuveNews stories you need to read, without the “Messi signs for Juve on loan thanks to Nike” kind of nonsense. What does [STTBS] mean? You’ll have to guess that for yourself. We wouldn’t tell you even under pain of torture… (though we do take bribes)