The month of March began in pretty dramatic fashion. After the utter meltdown against Inter in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal, Juventus almost pulled off a similar stunt with a nervous display in Bergamo a few days later. As fantastically entertaining as the Coppa game was for the neutral, the Atalanta game was a poor and drab affair where Juve flirted with disaster until the late cracker by Mario Lemina shut down the game.
The Sassuolo victory was a welcome return to routine before the emotional ending to the month with the infamous game in München. The wonderfully-entertaining Turin derby was a comforting, albeit slightly hollow-feeling, closure to the month’s action. I think it's fair to say that the month of March was an extremely emotional ride for all Juventini.
So it is with the myth of Icarus, the legend of a boy who fashioned wings from feathers and wax, daring to fly into the heavens. His father was fearful and warned Icarus to be careful, begging him not tempt to fate by flying too close to the sun. But in the end, the boy couldn’t resist. His waxen wings melted from the sun’s rays. And he plunged to his death.
Why did Icarus fly to the sun? Did he want to break away in order to have something so beautiful, so powerful, and so seemingly unattainable? He came so close to it, so close to the sun, until its power ultimately overwhelmed him. For some reason, this story emerged so strongly in my mind after the Bayern Munich game. All the odds were against Juventus, they weren’t expected to break away and come so close the winning, so close to the sun. Ultimately, we were painfully and badly burned, but we were desperately close…
However, this team has shown that it is capable of extraordinary things, capable of surprising even the most pessimistic of spectators. We have proven that we rightfully belong amongst the elite of Europe. The sun really isn’t that far from our grasp.
Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own – Mad Men
I want us to fly to the sun again. Not to look at it, marvel at its beauty, and ultimately get burned by it...but to harness its power that belongs to us. This team is capable of this. This team deserves such glory.
Success and power: Time to pivot
From three competitions to only two. One dream has faded, so now we’re at the point where we have to ask the one tough question: What constitutes success for the rest of the season? There have been some claiming that a Coppa-Scudetto double is a minimum for the remainder of the season. Others might disagree and consider the Scudetto sufficient. Others simply have no opinion. Again others believe that even a domestic double would still be deemed a "failure."
Success is a tricky beast — tame it once, and it becomes only harder to tame again afterwards. Juventus' domestic domination of the last few years has served to constantly raise fans’ expectations and demands, while making it ever more difficult to satisfy them.
Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn't see the difference.
Frank Underwood (House of Cards)
My opinion on the matter? I touched upon it above, but it’s straightforward stuff. I want to dominate. I want to crush teams. I want even the slightest thought that we are not the best in Italy to be vanquished. We win, but at all times we win with honor. We won four Scudetti in a row? Good, now let’s win a fifth, a sixth, a seventh, and seven times seven more. But no matter what, I will celebrate in and recognize this team’s every success, a success that I so desperately want.
What do I want? In one word: Power.
Won't you come home again?
Roberto Maximiliano Pereyra. His bright start to the season was unfortunately hampered by a serious hamstring injury that sidelined him for months. Nevertheless, his return from injury was rightly touted as being like a new signing, so we all patiently waited for him to come home again.
The underwhelming performance against Bologna (in February) was fairly attributed to rustiness and a lack of match fitness. The 81-minute run-out against Atalanta was more encouraging, although still not quite as sparkling as we’re used to from the Argentine playmaker. However, given the injuries, and his unique skill set, I genuinely believed he could play a strong impact role against Bayern, but man was I disappointed.
That game was the point where I became worried about El Tucumano. He had the freshest legs that game and a skill set that should have perfectly facilitated our counter-attacking game by providing the crucial out-ball to turn defense into attack. Here was a man with a point to prove as well, given his lack of sustained form since his injury. But he huffed and puffed and, ultimately, disappointed.
Pereyra has reached an interesting point in the season. We all know of the quality that he can provide on the pitch, but he absolutely must finish the season on a high to remind everyone of why we so dearly longed for his return. Juventus is only going to reinforce the squad in the summer so he has to solidify his position in the team in order to remain a valuable asset in the team.
Come home, Roberto. We miss you.
A Captain's Message
If anybody wants to know why I'm so emotionally-connected to the game, this is one of the best examples why. Who knew that Gigi Buffon was so wonderfully poetic? But then again, who knew that a game like this could mean so much to so many? To put so much emotion into something that, to the plain eye, looks so ordinary is absolutely moving. It speaks to me of giving your full heart and soul for even the simplest things in life, no matter how rudimentary they may seem to the average person.
We have always been opposites yet we are complementary, like the sun and the moon. Forced to live side by side without being able to touch. Team-mates for life, a life in which we are denied all contact.
Grazie, Gigi, I could read the purity of your emotion in every syllable and every letter of that beautiful message of yours. Grande Capitano!
But not in Andalucía this time. No, I’m talking about our boy Álvaro Morata. It’s fair to say that he’s had a difficult, challenging season so far. A lack of confidence and goals on the pitch and some unfortunate issues off the pitch. Add to that the arrivals and performances of Mario Mandžukić and Paulo Dybala last summer, and you can see how Morata has had all sorts of problems to face this season. There have been flashes of positivity here and there, but he hasn’t been able to maintain and build on that momentum. I feared the worst for Morata; forget about a lack of form, I feared that he might fall into a deep spiral of negativity and lose the enthusiasm in his play.
But then I saw his performance against Bayern. The confidence to run rings around 3 Bayern defenders in their very own stadium. The audacity to lob Manuel Neuer for an exquisite disallowed goal.
And then his goals and, most wonderfully, his subsequent celebrations against Torino.
The genuine joy in his face. The positivity of his body language towards his teammates. I smiled for him because these were not the signs of a man that I thought would be broken, negative, and void of joy. These were the signs of a man that has not yet given up and that will not give up anytime soon. These were the signs of a man that, once he tightens the laces of his boots, smells that fresh, green grass of the pitch, and pulls on that beloved shirt, puts all other things to one side and puts every fiber of his being into his play.
Surely this speaks towards the support system that Morata has in place in his life. Of course, this largely consists of the environment at Juventus and his day-to-day interaction and relationships with his teammates, but also outside of that. He clearly must have the genuine support, love, and strength from those closest to him that is helping him battle through a difficult and potentially defining period of his career. And that is something we can all learn from.
Going forward, though, my question to him remains the same: Are you going to stand strong for long like that old stone building, or are you going to fizzle out and fall apart like that McMansion on Sarasota?
Quote of the Month
Totally unrelated to Juventus, but I just heard it on one of the weekly podcasts I listen to and thought it was hilarious:
Joining a Facebook group about productivity is like buying a chair about running.
What are your thoughts about March?