An 87th minute strike from Vincenzo Iaquinta gave Juventus the victory against Napoli by way of a heavenly first-touch. My goodness I'm obsessed with first-touches now more then ever. Can someone tell me if there's anything more fundamentally important to playing the beautiful game than a good first-touch? Nedved certainly can't. Whether you value a player who has great vision for the game, incredible speed, good defensive attributes, or off the ball run-making ability, without a good first-touch your chances of success on the pitch are slim at best. However, in light of my new found desire to express some fundamentals of the game, I thought I should outline the highs and lows of Juventus' past two games as we head into this Saturday's holy war against Inter. Hopefully for Juventus, Iaquinta can once again lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen.
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, in Torino as it is in heaven.
Oh, what a glorious result that was. Albeit it wasn't a flawless one, however there was still plenty to celebrate about after our results on Palm Sunday against Napoli. For the entire first half and parts of the second, we played some of the best football I think we've managed so far this year (and yes, I'm serious). From our defence, through our midfield, and up towards attack, Juventus displayed a cohesive, and patient side. The match against Empoli however, was significantly less of an advertisement for Serie A football than I had expected with another shining example of poor Italian refereeing.
Now as your all waiting with baited breath as to how I can justify our performance vs. Napoli as one of our best this season, you can look no further then these three strategic fundamentals outlined below. Fundamentals that if we revisit against Inter on Saturday, we'll provide us with the best opportunity to spoil Moratti's Easter dinner.
Here are the keys to my heart:
1. Getting open for your team-mates.
2. Making the right pass, which was more often than not, the easiest pass.
3. Not being afraid of going backward in order to go forward.
1. Getting open for your team-mates- Wow such an overlooked key to success with any other level of football, aside from professional sides of course. This is same reason why professional European football is so enjoyable to watch, and at the same time one of the main reasons why that recreational team you belong to (yes I'm talking you fatty) fail to do anything right on the pitch. It's not your fault though, it's your parent's. If you can't grasp the importance of getting open for your team-mates then stop reading this blog, I've wasted too much time writing it for you already. Going back to Juventus, I finally saw them using a lot of their close-quarter passing drills for once. You know the one that's almost like monkey in the middle? Well, Juventus was able to keep possession away from Napoli because our boys were running to the ball, getting open for their team-mates, and with nothing more than two or three short passes (between Sissoko, ADP, and Tiago for example), we maintained a larger share of possession. A huge difference in the success for top clubs.
2. Making the right pass, which was more often than not, the easiest pass. Weird not having to make that cutting-chip-slice-half-volley-one-footed-side-spining pass to set up a breakaway eh? I know, I know me too. But the truth is, in the game your almost always in the position to make one easy pass, or one difficult pass to your forward being defended tightly by three of the opposition. If you weren't Nocerino in the game vs. Napoli, you made the easier one and subsequently, the right one. The game of football, however complex and difficult to master, has always been made more effective by those who can make (believe it or not) easy passes. So don't be a jerk off and pretend to be Andrea Pirlo, give the ball to an open team-mate of yours. You don't have to give that killer ball all the time. Juventus this past season has attempted that crap all year long. They'd cross balls into the box time after time, driving me crazy game after game. But last Sunday they were patient with the ball. Credit goes out to Sissoko who was a shining example of how effective this lesson can be. He was just simply looking for the easy pass in our midfield. Then, when you have guys smart enough making offensive runs for your team-mates, you can turn any defense into Swiss cheese. One of the reasons why Empoli had 11 players defending in their final third.
3. Not being afraid of going backward to go forward. Again, very simple. Sometimes you have to pass backwards to your midfield, defense, or goalie if you have no pass up field. Juventus did that well here vs. Napoli too. Thankfully without Molinaro, we were able to use our backline as sort of a reset button in our attempts at attack. For once as well, Chiellini didn't feel the urge to blast a long ball every time he got a pass. If you're Canadian like me, you're playing indoor soccer 6 months of the year. A big part of the success in 6 on 6 football is your team's ability to use their goalie to build the play, or just as an easy pass. Like in outdoor, using your team-mate behind you can help you with your own attack. If you're being pressured as a midfielder, give the ball back to your defense. Then, using your remarkable instincts to get open for your team-mate, position yourself in a better spot to resume the attack when your defender gives you that return ball. Against Napoli we managed this nicely... for the most part.
Now, the bad news. After 75 minutes our midfield stopped running last Sunday. We resorted to those crosses and long balls again. Sissoko, who was the heart and soul of that midfield, began to walk after distributing passes. I felt sick. Ranieri had to do something and opted for the 4-3-3 formation. Luckily, thanks to Iaquinta's first-touch of gold and some ADP cheekiness, we found our deliverance from evil against Napoli.
Now I know what your thinking. If after 75 minutes of playing football according to those three fundamental keys to success, why weren't we able to score until we changed our formation and consequently our style of play vs. Napoli for instance?
Well, great question. The answer here again though is quite simple. His name is Mauro and if you're not a fan of Juventus (for whatever reason) but you admire his quality, you're not a complete waste of life. I've said this time and time again, he is one of the greatest midfielders in the game today. When he's not sidelined with an injury and playing healthy (or playing through pain) his touch and skill combined with his vision for the game make him Juventus' greatest asset and has made him one of Italy's best national team players. What Juventus were missing this past week was his offensive flare, of which when combined with my already outlined strategic fundamentals to football, would've produced those one-sided dominating victories I've come to admire.
To give you some stats on just how offensively potent Camoranesi is, take Trezeguet's recent scoring drought as an example. In the midst of one Camo's worst injury spells, he has had only 10 starts this season out of a possible 29. Trezeguet on the other hand who has enjoyed 26 starts this season, and who has collected goals in 11 of them, has found the net on 6 occasions while Mauro Camoranesi wasn't sidelined with injuries. Clearly Camoranesi is a source of creativity that makes others around him better. Every top club has their impact player and for us, when Camoranesi isn't playing we are unquestionably lacking that knockout punch- simple as that.
Camoranesi and T-Rez will be ready to go for this weekend's Derby d'Italia
Zebina Legrottaglie Chiellini Grygera
Camoranesi Sissoko Tiago Nedved
Trezeguet Del Piero
Solari Zanetti Cambiasso Figo
Maxwell Chivu Burdisso Maicon
Last Five: Inter (D L W W D) Juventus (D L W W D) Weird no?
What's new this week? Well aside from the suicides Ranieri will make his squad run, Tiago has been building a little steam and gaining some form of confidence bit by bit. We all know Nocerino is Ranieri's man crush, so it will be interesting to see whether or not the Portugese is going to have another go against the likes of Inter.
4-4-2 or 'Shock and Awe'? The Tinkerman is living up to his nickname as of late as he's gone and flipped around our rotation quite a bit. Against Inter though, Ranieri only has one move with a 4-3-3 which is 'Shock and Awe' right from the opening whistle. The truth is, when we've started matches in a 4-3-3 formation we've done well by putting our opponents on their heels early. The problem though is that against a quality side like Inter you can run some risks. If your three-man attack is sputtering, your finished. If your three-man midfield is sputtering, your definitely finished. However, given the current state of affairs in the Inter camp, especially after their 1-1 draw against Genoa earlier this week, now might be a perfect opportunity for a little pressure right from the start.
Trezeguet and Del Piero will be at the centre of it all come Saturday. With the Frenchman feeling a little less nationalistic these days after being snubbed by Domenech again, and Del Piero making his 552nd all-time appearance as a bianconero tying the great Juventino Gaetano Scirea, our dynamic attacking duo will definitely feel the need to impress. Let's hope they both get on the score sheet in this one.
Next Match: Inter v Juventus
Where: Milan, San Siro
When: Saturday, March 22, 2008.
Time: 10:30 PM Local Time
IERI... OGGI... DOMANI... SEMPRE JUVE!!!!
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