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The Renaissance of Juventus

The comprehensive 3-1 win over Fulham confirmed Juve's return to form under Zaccheroni. Following a slow start with draws against Lazio and Livorno, the team has won 4 of the last 5 games, with a woeful defeat against Palermo as the exception. An exception, I say, because it was an aberration caused by injuries and fatigue, and oh yeah, against an excellent rising Palermo. Credit to Palermo for the win, they played compact and tactical, but our bench was decimated and everyone on the pitch had played 90 just 3 days before. With a bit of rotation and a few more days of rest, the team was raring to go against Fulham, and it showed. Determined, tactical, everything aspect we hoped went our way, barring a bit of bad luck. Full review after the jump.

Manninger and Zebina practicing their staring-down face

First thought- Legrottaglie should indisputably be starting alongside Chiellini now, for Juventus and the Nazionale. I've been saying this for a while now, and yes, I have always been a big fan of Legro, but I think even his doubters are being convinced. Cannavaro had a good game yesterday, don't get me wrong, but Legrottaglie was better. I was impressed at how the two worked together, the Legro-Canna partnership has failed pretty badly in the past as they are the same old style of defenders, though Legrottaglie is better in the air. (That's what 4 inches will do for you) I said in 2007-2008 that Legro-Chiellini should be the CB partnership for the Nazionale, and with Nesta out, I think the same way. There are some solid young CB's out there- Bonucci, Bocchetti, Ranocchia, but they are all a bit green to be starting in the WC this summer.

Legrottaglie and Chiellini have the chemistry- on two occasions, last summer and on his Twitter chat, Chiellini said the words "Cannavaro is a great player but Legrottaglie I can play with my eyes shut," and whether Legro is individually better than Canna (I think he has been for the last 2-3 years) the fact is Legro-Chiellini together is much stronger than Chiellini-Cannavaro. However, the two could not have any more different histories and that's why this won't happen- Cannavaro is the World Cup-winning captain of the National team, the most capped player of all time. Legrottaglie is still mostly remembered as being an epic bust for Juventus, a player who was supposed to be a national team regular but disappeared. In both cases, it ain't 2004 anymore, but Lippi has his own ideas.


LE PAGELLE: (Gazzetta's here:)

Manninger: 6.5- Solid save on Hangeland and generally looked assured out there. A few games under his belt, and he doesn't look rusty anymore. The world's best #2.

Zebina: 7- This was his first goal for Juventus, and his 2nd goal in the last 12 years, possibly his 2nd of his career if Wikipedia is right, though that doesn't count cup games. What a freaking goal, I was laughing uncontrollably in disbelief for about 30 seconds after he scored. So was Bettega, it looked like. Not only did he score a brilliant goal, he held his own in defense. A great game, and the Gazzetta named him MOTM. We have officially entered the Twilight Zone.
Cannavaro: 6.5- Zamora is pacey and strong, but between Legrottaglie and himself, they locked him up. There were a few moments where he showed his age, but otherwise, a strong performance that Canna can be happy with.
Legrottaglie: 7- A great aerial threat on set pieces as usual, and defensively was excellent. Nearly a perfect performance, only marred by picking up a yellow for handball that will see him miss the 2nd leg. Other than his goal, the thing I remember about his performance best was an excellent sliding tackle in the box, timed to perfection while running alongside a Fulham player following a cross from Zamora. I've sung his praises, though I agree we need to get a top-tier CB this summer. Legro shouldn't be starting, but as a reserve to step in, he'll be excellent, and I'm sure he will be a good locker room influence and mentor for some of the young kids.
Grosso: 6 The worst of the defenders, but that is not a bad thing given the others performances. His crossing is still pretty poor, he never seems to lift the ball enough, and if there is one lesson I was taught as a fullback, it's that your cross/set-piece/etc HAS TO BEAT the first defender. If it doesn't, it is a complete waste. A good volley-effort on goal that an excellent Schwarzer save denied him from joining the old-man-defense-goleador club. How ironic would it have been if Grosso, Zebina, and Legro had all scored after many of us (myself included) wondered about the age of our defense?


Marchisio: 7- I've given him an extra .5, given the circumstances. For the two days before the match, Marchisio was in bed all day with a fever. You could tell he wasn't at his physical best, but he distributed well, tackled well, and played excellent as the midfield general. If it weren't for a heavy 2nd touch, he would have scored an excellent goal as well. Loved seeing him given the captain's armband, when you think about players like Aquilani and Montolivo who are inconsistent and basically need to grow up, it makes Marchisio's progress look astounding. If you'd told me back in Serie B (or even when he was at Empoli in 07-08) that only 2-3 years later, he'd be a regular starter, on the national team, and wearing the captain's armband, I'd have given you the same look as if you told me yesterday morning that Zebina was going to score a wondergoal.
Poulsen: 7- Like Marchisio, an extra .5 for the circumstances. Due to the suspension of Melo and Sissoko being in doubt, Poulsen was drafted in to start, his first since breaking his ankle in early January against Milan. That's what I cannot understand- How can the recovery time for BREAKING an ankle be the same as twisting an ankle, which Trezeguet did just a few days before Poulsen? Anyways, a tidy and neat display- In the first half, Poulsen played excellently, recovering balls, passing smart and simple (eyes on you two, Melo and Sissoko) and played his mediano role very well. In the 2nd half he obviously tired, but given he hasn't played football in two months, that is perfectly excusable.
Salihamidzic: 5.5- He's really not made out to play as a central midfielder, where his games are not poor, but not really that good either. He's simply not at his best there, but against Fulham it was an adequate display nonetheless, and perhaps most importantly, kept Camo on the bench for the first half.


Candreva: 6- Nice footwork to retain possession for Zebina's goal, and playing trequartista alongside Diego, he played fairly well, though not spectacular. Pushed out left as the game went on, like Marchisio, he is far less effective as a winger.
Diego: 6- Similar performance to Candreva, relatively subdued but adequate enough. Still, Giovinco needs to come back and hopefully give Diego a break, as today was another 90minute performance. Good dipping shot on goal towards the end of the game, and excellent deliveries from corners.

Trezeguet: 7- In recent weeks, just like the beginning of the season, people have questioned whether Trez was past it. Today's performance showed what I've been lose pace with age, maybe strength, but not the poacher's mindset. Had a very good header on target that Schwarzer pushed out for a corner that Legrottaglie scored on, and he was playing as the target man excellently, trapping passes up top and retaining possession. His goal, the more and more I watch it, is just sheer genius. Watch as the corner is booted in, he positions himself perfectly- he knows where the ball is going to go. Then, of course, he smacks his volley against the post, and somehow, in the milliseconds of reaction time given, as he's off balance and falling over, volleys it again into the net. Genius goal, and as Roberto said, "The fucker slammed it off the post on purpose, i’m convinced."

Zaccheroni: 7.5- Juventus looked determined, composed, and tactically sound. It was an excellent team performance, and given it and the win over Fiorentina, there is spreading rumors that Zac will be retained for next year. He's taking it well, saying- "“I won't speak about the future because it isn't part of our current objectives. Now my objective is only to beat Fulham and I hope to be able to look every three days at the next objective until the end of the season." Marchisio and Diego could have been subbed off, but Poulsen and Brazzo needed to come off as well, and he wanted to give Iaquinta a little run out, so no major objections.

Candreva goes for the less conventional goal congratulation, by sucker punching Zebina when he's not looking

Things I think I think:
#1- Team Eats- I think the loss to Palermo was because I didn't participate that game- my friend was in town so I didn't catch the game until on delay, and I was eating traditional New Orleans food with him, not Sicilian. Other than that, since starting with Genoa, we've gotten positive results everytime. English breakfast was solid. How was everyone's bangers and mash?
#2- Roberto, pre-match: "3-1 Juventus… completely baseless." Obviously not baseless...
#3- Fulham didn't play particularly well, and I was a bit surprised given Hodgson's experience, it didn't seem like he had given them explicit instructions. As some have mentioned around here though, I find Fulham one of the least objectionable EPL teams. Maybe it's because of the Yanks that have played at Craven Cottage, or maybe because their fans and players are generally pretty classy, I don't know for sure.
#4- Fulham's Goal: That was the definition of a (legal) bullshit goal. Non-existent foul given against Zebina because he outjumped Zamora, so a poor call, followed by a poor set piece delivery, and an even worse shot. That was going horrendously wide before it took the luckiest deflection ever, completely changing paths and leaving Manninger with no chance. Things were going very well, and Fulham had one shot on target before the goal, a weak one. The only thing I didn't like about the game was the reaction to Fulham's goal...we looked unsure, shaky, and it was like all those games where after conceding, we look defeated. It was an intense 10 minutes where we weathered Fulham's best efforts, thanks to Manninger, among others.

"Something stinks."

#5- The result: Zac said he wished the scoreline was larger, and it should have been. If not for Schwarzer proving keepers are like fine wine, we would have won 5-1 or more. If not for the bad luck goal, it could easily have been 4-0. Does this get us into the quarterfinals? Not necessarily, but I think we have a toe in. It would take a very, very poor game for us to crash out at this stage. My Newcastle co-worker says typically, Fulham are defensively sound, great at defending set pieces, but don't score too often. The previous two didn't happen, let's hope the third remains true. An early goal at Fulham means they need to score 3.
#6- Next up is either Valencia or interestingly for Diego, Werder Bremen. They drew in Valencia 1-1 in a result that favors Werder, but either team is dangerous. Personally, I'd rather face Valencia- Villa, Silva, Joaquin and all are scary, but we own Spanish teams. Chiellini has marked Villa out before, and Valencia lost to Atletico Madrid 4-1 a few weeks ago, they aren't entirely fear-inspiring. Added bonus for all of you constantly calculating and recalculating Germany and Italy's UEFA coefficients, that'd be one German team out and an Italian progression.
#7- As Romanista Alto pointed in the comments- thus far this season, Serie A teams have beaten EPL teams 5 times this season, with 1 draw, and two losses, both of which were Milan getting crushed by ManYoo. Not bad.
#8- We won, comprehensively, without these players playing a significant role- Melo, Sissoko, Camoranesi, Iaquinta, Del Piero, Chiellini, or Buffon. That is reassuring. Sure, it's a midtable EPL team but you know what? We've looked far shittier against relegation-battling teams in Italy, it's not like we routinely play this well against midtable Serie A clubs either. I'm satisfied.
#9- Lastly, JZ's celebration was hilarious. He couldn't believe he scored it either, and he had no idea what to do- Watch the ITV video below, first he starts to take his shirt off, then realizes oh that's a yellow early in the game, then stands there for a second confused, and then either picks his nose or tells the tifosi to be quiet. Brilliant.



Italy Soccer Europa League

The Coaching Merry-go-Round:

With Fiorentina crashing out of Europe this week, a lot have suggested that it's time for Prandelli to move on. Blanc denies being in contact with him, but I am sure we've asked him if he'd like the job. Prandelli is a very good candidate of course, and while I wouldn't discount Allegri or Gasparini, it's increasingly looking like it'll be Zac v. Prandelli for the job next year. Of course, Cesare is up possibly for the Nazionale gig and there's rumors he's ready to sign a contract extension to quiet all the rumors. Does Zaccheroni deserve the job? He's done very well to turn the team around, morale is high and we look like we're forming an identity, though of course there's all to play for, depending on how far we go in the Europa League and if we finish in the CL places. If he gets us to the Europa League final and in at least 4th place, I think he deserves it.

Alessio’s The Juventus Offside Shitlist:
-Amauri: (3 Weeks)
-Cannavaro: (2 Weeks) Provisionally off the list, with a very good performance, though another poor one will see him get dropped back on.
-Chimenti: (2 Week) Because he's a muppet, and Grygera and Amauri need some company.
-Grygera: (3 Weeks)
-Zebina: (2 Weeks) In Florence, Grosso and Candreva learned that they had been added to the JOS, and clearly that was the motivation that produced their inspired performance. Last week, I added Zebina and retroactively added a week because as you all know, I don't like him. Obviously, the same thing transpired and he was driven to play well to get off the list. Job done, sir, but in the words of Yul Brenner, this doesn't mean I like you.

Zuliani's narration on the radio, if you're interested:
ITV Goals: (ITV actually has smart English commentators)

Mourinho's reaction to Muntari losing the Catania game for Inter (not really, this is from last week)

Siena at home this weekend...let's hope the ragazzi keep the good form going!