Take a deep breath.
It's a thought I posed earlier this week in the comments section after the Milan debacle, and it looks like others in the press have wondered the same thing.
Last summer we signed Marco Storari, a journeyman goalkeeper who has had an exceptional last few years. Through his heroic efforts for Sampdoria in the second half of the season, he was rated by the Gazzetta dello Sport as the best keeper in Serie A. With Gianluigi Buffon out long term, Marotta and Delneri handed the gloves to another fellow ex-Samp man. And he did them proud- with a few shaky moments here and there, Storari was excellent in the first half of the season, he probably deserved a recall to the Azzurri.
This January, with Buffon's return imminent, rumors swirled that Storari wanted to continue playing, and was considering leaving the club to find space. We've learned time and time again that whatever Delneri says, he means the exact opposite, and he strung Storari along insisting that "Buffon would have to win his place back" and he would not automatically take over a starting shirt. San Gigi made his return from injury, and Storari was immediately benched. The decision was a correct one- Buffon means a lot to this club, and when he's on form, he's the best keeper in the world, one of the best in Italy. Storari is a very good keeper, but being the best in Italy doesn't compare to Gigi's record.
The team has slid massively ever since Gigi's return. In a clear case of "correlation does not imply causation" no man in his right mind would blame Gigi for the slump in performance. But we find ourselves in a very delicate situation; the word "crisis" is often thrown around in Italy haphazardly, but there's no doubt we are in a crisis right now. And Gigi has not been the rock at the back we want. It might be harsh, but he may have lost us two of our last three games- his sending off against Lecce complicated things enormously, as we battled for 80 minutes down a man. The game against Milan was rather disappointing, as Gattuso's effort was quite tame, it's Rino and on his weaker foot, and while I've never been a keeper myself...Buffon should have done better.
I don't think it's a case of Gigi carrying an injury, he just hasn't ramped up into form yet. Remember, he was out of action for six months or so, and rust builds up over that amount of time. (Paolo De Ceglie is looking at nearly 4 months out now...) No one expects a player to immediately return to form after an injury, that's why Vincenzo Iaquinta has been positively worthless to Juventus for the last two years.
But as I said, we're at a delicate moment here, and Gigi is perhaps not as assured at the back as we'd like. I'd like to repeat that he's in no way responsible for the woeful performances the rest of the players have delivered. There's no question that Gianluigi Buffon will be Juve's #1 for the next few years. But in the crisis we find ourselves in, every small thing matters. A vital stop can deliver 3 points, which helps boost badly needed confidence and morale in the Juventus camp. It's certainly not the first thing to focus on, getting Krasic and Martinez to actually cross well would be high on my list of priorities, but a draw v Milan and Lecce result in a different team right now.
A temporary changing of the guard?
Personally, I would give the gloves to Storari for a game or two, and see how he does. It'd reaffirm that at Juventus, you have to win your shirt, and I don't think San Gigi would take it too badly, though the rumor mills of him buying a house in Manchester would surely resurface. As Adam notes in his piece on la Vecchia Guardia, unlike the others (save perhaps Trezeguet) was still at the peak of his career, yet chose to remain at Juventus during Calciopoli, during Serie B, and has repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to the club despite all the mediocrity since. Buffon has not done very well in his last few games, and a few small differences between him and Storari could lead to some vital points, and a vital recovery for the team.
If we weren't in a crisis right now, then certainly Gigi would continue playing, and hopefully give him some time to return to form. But I'm getting the uneasy feeling that we're at a critical point now, where either we'll recover and finish decently, or perhaps careen off the cliff like we did last year...