Juventus v Sampdoria
Juve went into this one lacking the services of three integral parts of their first team unit. Long term absentee, Andrade, and the blossoming colossus of Chiellini watched from the stands as did the one player capable of delivering pinpoint crosses, Camorenesi. Still, despite those MIA, Ranieri was able to put out a team talented enough, at least on paper, to beat a Sampdoria side whose away form this season has been at best consistently uninspiring.
The first half was one way traffic as Juve exploited the gaps either side of the Sampdoria defensive trio. Nedved was causing havoc with energetic runs down the left flank, combining well with Molinaro, and the Czech wolf-man created several good opportunities for his team-mates to convert into goals. Trezeguet went close on two occasions; firstly when charging by two defenders to place a deft touch onto a pacey cross, which flashed inches wide of the post, and secondly, with a fortuitous rebound off his knee which was cleared from the line by a defender…The best chance of the half fell to Marchioni, who missed an open goal from 3 yards. His failure to capitalize on such a glorious chance to send the Stadio Olympico faithful into wild raptures was truly wretched and must not be forgiven or forgotten lightly…Despite their near total domination, it was the away Side who almost sneaked the lead seconds before the half time whistle was blown, when Maggio got his head onto a corner, which clipped the outside of the post as it trickled to safety…
Iaquinta entered the fray for the second period, in place of Del Piero. Ranieri perhaps thought that the easiest route to victory required Muscle over Guile. But he was wrong…Without Del Piero creating a link between the midfield and attack, Juve’s attacking options were drastically depleted. And so it was no surprise that as the match wore on, Sampdoria began to come into the game as a contender; hardly looking likely to snatch the winner, but comfortably dealing with the constant flow of high balls flung hopefully towards the towering Trezeguet and burly Iaquinta…
The late introduction of Palladino and Almiron did nothing to improve the situation. The highlight of the whole second half was a misplaced penalty call when Marchioni was perfectly dispossessed of the ball as he flew into the box….The match ended with a whimper. 0-0.
On this form, Juventus are going to struggle to hold onto third place in the table, let alone push for second spot. Talk of chasing Inter at the top is now ridiculous. Too many points have been dropped from games which any team wishing to mount a serious title challenge Must win. Sampdoria were on the rack for the first 45 minutes, but after the interval, Juve didn’t manage a single decent shot on goal.
So where do the problems lie, for La Vecchia Signora***
The injury to Andrade and failure of Criscito to quickly transform his obvious potential into current ability, has disrupted any plans of Juve forming a decisive central pairing. Legrotagllie has made the most of his chance to fill the gap left by his injured and underperforming buddies, proving unbeatable in the air and sturdy on the deck, but he ultimately lacks the cutting edge of a truly class Stopper. Alongside him, CHielini has emerged as a rough diamond. His Molotov cocktail mix of swashbuckling never say die attitude and impeccably timed tackling has been one of the few highlights of the season so far for Juventus. With the giant youngster sidelined for a further 3 weeks, Grygera seems capable of deputizing alongside Legrotagllie. At left back, Molinaro continues to show admirable attacking flair, but frailties defensively. He can cross the ball, but his tackling is weak and often mistimed. I would prefer to see Chiellini, when fit, occupying that position. Because he is more solid as a defender, and also harder for an opponent to deal with whenever he roams forward to support the attack. On the opposite flank there is a more pressing need for re-inforcements. Zebina is a wild cat, a mammoth of a man, but he isn’t good enough for Serie A. The right back slot is a natural position for Grygera who I would prefer to see there than Zebina or Birindelli, who played today. With everyone back to full fitness, a defence of Grygera, Andrade, Legrotaglie, Chiellini would be secure. Replacing Legrotaglie in that quarter with a player like Andrea Barzagli, or Olof Melberg, would make the Juve defence breachable only through fortune or World Class flair.
In midfield there are more pressing issues to address. Today, Ranieri deployed three wingers, Nedved, Salihamdzic and Marchioni, who were backed up by one defensive midfielder, Zanetti. It is the first selection of the Juve manager this season, which has made me start to question his tactical understanding of the game. Wingers play on the Wing. Not through the middle…Nedved remains a very useful player, but due to his age, will need replacing next season. Marchioni and Salihamzdic are yet to demonstrate why they were brought to the club. Zanetti is a Serie B version of the player Deschamps used to be when he donned the bianconeri maglia…Only the ageining Nedved and youthful but cultured, Nocerino, of the midfielders, can be said to be having a satisfactory season. The team is missing Camoronesi. He is not going to score many goals. Neither is he in possession of mesmerizing dribbling skills, but what he can do is :Pass the Ball over long distance with unerring accuracy. That skill alone creates several gilt edged chances to score, per game for his colleagues and today, with the big Two out there up front, Juve could have done with his right boot on the field…With Nedved on the left, Camo back on the right, Nocerino should take the place of Zanetti, in front of the back four, and joining him in the middle should be Tiago, or whoever comes in to take his place. The 9 million sterling acquisition from Lyon has failed to show his class over the first half of the season and as a result of that, his sustained inclusion on the Juve bankroll is now dubious…But if he is sold, then someone must be brought in to take a pop at that Attacking midfield position. I will be content if Sissokko joins the club before the January transfer window closes. He is a player of serious potential and I can see him forming a powerful central midfield pairing with Nocerino or Tiago. Every team needs a Madman who fills the opposition with fear that he might just break their legs, and he will do it with a smile on his face…Sissoko is that kind of player. And at 22 years old, he has shown signs of threatening to develop into a new, even nastier, version of Viera.
In attack Del Piero still has enough to offer, in terms of creativity, to warrant floating in and out of the first team. Trezeguet will score goals against any opposition, as long as he is given the Right service. As for Iaquinta, although he has done well when he has played, he lacks real quality…There is also Palladino, who has done nothing this season to make me assume he is going to amount to anything worth Juve holding onto.
There are less than 10 days left before the transfer window closes. Juventus want to assure themselves of third place or above. To do this they must purchase a Centre Back and a Highly Creative midfielder. If a replacement for Tiago isn’t signed, then he must be given a run of games in the first XI. Not just the odd substitute appearance. A proper chance to bed into the team and show his worth…
Grygera, Andrade, Melberg, CHielini
Camo, Tiago, Sissoko, Nedved,
Trez, Del Piero…
That team would finish 2nd or 3rd…
After watching the sorry showing at Catania last week, I was unsurprised but still disheartened by today’s performance. Maybe I am asking for too much, but I want to see Juve get back to the top, and right now, they are looking more like a mid table team, than world beaters….As the commentator surmised the Juventus performance today, ‘they were more hopeful than clever.’