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Roman Past Haunts Bianconeri: Cesena 2-2 Juventus

Did we sack Gigi Delneri and hire Spalletti, and no one told me? Because that game was vintage Spalletti right there- excellent offense, nervy defense, inability to defend a lead, a 5-minute blackout period involving a player sent off and a penalty, aside from playing a 4-6-0, we couldn't have done any better to emulate the Zenit bosses vision for Juve. Maybe Pepe, Aquilani, Delneri, Storari, Motta, and Chiellini all churned out their Roman ties.

It wasn't all horrible. I'm not sure why, but in the last month or so, this team has improved in certain ways...and at the same time, others compensate by shitting it up. Cesena was no different- after 4 goalless games, our midfield and strikeforce finally looked competent, although it wasn't by fluke, with Matri finally fielded as a proper central striker with a seconda punta. While the offense and midfield looked far brighter than their dismal display against Milan, the defense suddenly collapsed. The technical quality of Cesena (what?) unlocked the defense, and I'm not sure if it was nerves or a more basic difficulty against their skill, but the defense looked nervous from minute one. And it wasn't just Traore and Motta, who we all expected little of, it was Chiellini who is supposed to be our rock. When it isn't your season, I guess it just isn't your season...



Buffon: 6.5- I'm tempted to give him a 5, or a 7.5. More on that later.

Motta: 4- Did it surprise anyone that Motta doomed us? Not me. I haven't been a fan since minute one, and he's just getting worse and worse. Today was his first start since January, and if it was Delneri's idea of "okay, you have one last chance to prove anything" then there's no doubt Motta is heading back to Udinese. (not that there ever was) He's not even worth the 1.25mil paid for the next 3 seasons, a damning indictment. Sorry Marco, but you're just dreadful. No other way to say it.
Bonucci: 5.5- Seems to have problems with tricky fast players. Parolo and Giaccherini gave him endless problems, he was saved several times by San Gigi.
Chiellini: 5- Did I see a different game from everyone else? Browsing through some other sites pagelle, they are generally positive reviews of his performance. I thought it was awful. Completely schooled by Parolo for the penalty, had he hauled him down it would have been a yellow. Everytime he was in possession, he was making nervous clearances, poor passes, backpasses that threatened the goal...I was very disappointed in Giorgio last night.
Traore: 6- A satisfactory game, all things considered, but like Motta, there's pretty much no chance of seeing him in Bianconero next season. Offered a bit of forward movement and looked composed enough in defense.

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Pepe: 6- A typical hardworking performance that saw him deliver a few good crosses, get into good position, and horrible scuff his chances. Kidding. Pepe won't offer flash, but it was nice to have a genuine wideman on the left for once.
Aquilani: 6- Quality play in the first half, but simply outnumbered after Motta was sent off.
Marchisio: 6- Ditto for Aquilani. Covered a lot of ground.
Krasic: 5.5- Another subdued performance from Milos. A few flashy moments here and there where he accelerated away from his marker, but pretty much the same performance we've seen from him of late.

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Del Piero: 7- Magical. Seems to have lost his shooting boots, but there is no doubting his quality. It makes the decision to bench him for Toni in the last few weeks look all the more baffling.
Matri: 7.5- Pacey, direct, strong, and clinical in front of net, what's not to like? 5 goals in 6 games for Juventus, and as Adam notes on "It Ain't Over Till the Old Lady Sings" he has scored as many goals this season as Bari's entire team, yet no one seems to talk about him.

Delneri: 5- The starting XI was the right one, Motta aside. After the game, he said "Today we chose quality, and I liked the midfield performance." Very true. The midfield was a quality group, as well as up top, as opposed to Marchisio playing on the left-wing, and Matri-Toni up top. Italian coaches are notorious for preferring hardworking tall players (Iaquinta) over quality ones, and Delneri has been guilty of this very often as well. It's about damn time he chose quality, even if Toni was injured and Melo/Sissoko out, and up until Motta screwed the pooch, we looked good. Let's hope Delneri chooses quality more often.
Grygera: 5.5- A correct substitution, and probably the only one.
Martinez: 5- Useless. But at that point, as much as Martinez has been useless this season, we had surrendered the midfield. He was never going to get into the game.
Iaquinta: 4- It is really depressing watching Vincenzo play.

Check out the shoulder charge Aquilani delivers for Matri's 1st goal to free up Alex...

Things I Think I Think:

#1- Marco Motta needs to walk back to Udinese: Trezeguet was flown in First Class to Alicante. Diego flew coach to Germany. Knezevic was afforded a 1-way Greyhound bus ticket back to Tuscany. Marco? Time to start hiking. Maybe you can hitch-hike with Iaquinta.

#2- Gianluigi Buffon's performance was again frustrating: I called for Marco Storari to be drafted in goal, and took a fair amount of criticism then. I took even more when San Gigi popped up with three tremendous saves, and people asked if I would recant my heresy against Gigi. No. If you misread my earlier post as suggesting Gigi is the root of Juve's issues, or even a significant problem, then I apologize for not clearing it up. He's not the problem. But he hasn't been up to par of late, and if you can say that about any player, if they have a valid alternative, you should consider a switch. Here's the point about yesterday- yes, Gigi kept us in the game late. But he should have sent off for the 2nd time in a month, and that would have screwed us over. Would we have been hammered in the 2nd half if we were 2-0 up still? Doubt it.

It was still a Juve-dominated game until the penalty, then Motta was shortly sent off afterwords. And speaking of that sending off, there's no doubt in my mind that Bergonzi sent him off poor 'ole Marco to compensate for not sending off Gigi, either consciously or subconsciously. Is a high foot a yellow? Yes. Is it a second yellow before the half in a relatively level-headed game? No. The defense deserves a hefty amount of blame (particularly Chiellini for letting Parolo through) but so does San Gigi. He made great saves and it's lovely to see him do that, but he's still making critical judgement errors that are jeopardizing the team. If we go into that half 2-0 up with 11 men, it's a different game.

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The Focal Point

#3- It's about time Matri returns to a prima punta role: I had been whining about this for the last few weeks. Matri is a good player- he can play wide, he can play deeper, but it's wasted there. I still think signing Luca Toni is a relatively smart decision, if he plays as a reserve. If he's starting over Alex, it's a mistake. If he's starting over Alex and forcing Matri to play wider or deeper, then it's a crime. Sure enough, we saw Ale-Ale up top, and it was a classic prima punta-seconda punta partnership. Del Piero provided fantasy, and Matri bulldozed through the Cesena defense with acceleration and strength. Imagine seeing Matri-Quagliarella up top next season...

#4- Should Delneri stay until the summer? No doubt in my mind- when you sign a coach and are battling for the Scudetto up until December, you should give him the full year. Sacking GDN makes no sense at this point- it's like canning Ciro Ferrara or Giampaolo Ventura for Bari. If we admit that Champion's League qualification is beyond our grasp (as it appears to be) what is the point in canning him? Last year, we were in free fall when we sacked Ciro, and I said there was little point because this squad wasn't salvageable, so give Ciro some time to work. Sure enough, Zaccheroni, try as he might, could not turn around our fortunes. Same with Delneri- if we missed out on our goal, CL qualification, why sack him? Why not give him until the rest of the season so we can make a qualified and fair judgement on him this summer?

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All Cesena's base are not belong to us

#5- It's irrelevant, as he has the clubs backing: Earlier this week, Andrea Agnelli and his cousin John Elkann visited Vinovo and chatted with Delneri and the players for a while. We discuss this on the podcast, but Agnelli/Elkann are not going to make that trip if they intend to sack him soon, particularly John Elkann who is removed from the day-to-day running of the club. Today the club attacked Tuttosport publicly (as I'll discuss further below) which is further proof that they are backing Delneri. It's the right move, until the summer at least.

#6- Giaccherini: Worst miss ever? Rivals Marchionni's miss v Sampdoria.

#7- Aquilani and Marchisio midfield: I like it. It has a lot of potential, though it's clear they aren't fully accustomed to play with each other. Some say it's too weak, but I think that's the attitude that sees Toni starting up top over Alex Del Piero. It worked well in the first half of the game, and some might say they failed to control the midfield in the second, and that's true. But the midfield was down a man when Motta was sent off, and it's not realistic to expect Juve to dominate possession at that point.


Official Note from Juventus:

Juventus Football Club has maintained an open dialogue with all of the media during this season. The club intends to continue on this line, despite the sporting results that are unsatisfactory as judged by the fans, the technical staff, the management, and the players. Every component is absolutely committed to the improvement of the team towards that deserving of the clubs tradition, however, we maintain that the newspaper Tuttosport has been completely irresponsible, which pretends to be a newspaper "of reference." The newspaper has spread unreliable news, with the only objective to call into question the professionalism of the coach, of some players, and the management. To create a list of 7 names of possible new coaches in 8 days is to simply provoke the emotions, without facts based in credible reports or having credible sources.

Juventus does not have newspapers "of reference" nor "preferred", and the large portion of the Juventus fanbase is the same.

The players, the coaches, the employees, and the management continue to work, knowing that this season will create the base for a work that needs to completed quickly, to bring the Bianconeri colors where the history, tradition, and millions of fans have put it. With passion, with courage, with determination.

An interesting press release from the club, slamming Tuttosport for being full of nonsense. There's a lot of subtext in this, particularly the 2nd paragraph. (I've preserved the original formatting) In some ways, I regard this note as inexperience from Andrea Agnelli, lashing out at the newspapers in frustration. It certainly reinforces the point I made earlier that the management is still backing Gigi Delneri. Others have suggested this is John Elkann who is well versed in the media, turning the tables on Tuttosport. The newspaper does have a lot of access to Juve, and pretty much have been actively working to bring it down over the last two years. It certainly throws some pressure on Tuttosport, and I wonder what the Cazzetta and Corriere will have to say about it.

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I'm going to miss this...

- Gigi Delneri: (1 week) Can he get us out of this psychological funk? He's got the experience...but I haven't been too impressed thus far. Slow improvements, but we need drastic ones.
- Jonathan Zebina: (Lifetime Award) You douchebag. I've waited about 7-8 years to see JZ come to Torino as an opponent, and he gets suspended for the match? He's trolling us, man.
- Marco Motta: (1 week) Too deserving. He'll finish the season on the list and probably end up in the Juventus Offside Shitlist Hall of Fame. He's like the Italian Z3BINA, without the douchiness. Occasional ability in attack, poor defending, utterly average. Today's red card, deserved or not, complicated things immensely. Somewhere someone in Montreal is grinning when I say this- I miss Cristian Molinaro.
- Vincenzo Iaquinta: (1 week) It's sad to put him on this list, because I've been a big fan. In the few spurts he's remained uninjured, he looked like a great striker, and very capable coming off the bench. He has not been the same player since his 100-day injury last season, and he looks completely spent as a player. It's sad, but Vincenzo has to go- even if he gets into some kind of form, he'll likely get injured the next weekend. We spoke about Iaquinta on the podcast a while ago, about how unlike Toni/Del Piero he doesn't "ride the fouls" (to put it nicely) and takes the full brunt of every foul, and that's probably why he's so injured. Against Cesena, he flopped like Toni and angrily rose his arms like Amauri when he didn't get the foul. Awful.

"Alla Juventus vincere non è importante, è la sola cosa che conta"