This week has seen Juventus overcome Udinese by a narrow 1-0 margin, then be thoroughly outplayed in the Champions League by Bordeaux. Adamo Digby takes a look at another turbulent seven days for la Vecchia Signora and asks if the major summer signing should take a seat on the bench.
For the first few weeks of the season, one name was on the lips of Juventus fans: Diego. The little Brazilian was setting the league ablaze, leading his new club to back-to-back victories in Rome against Roma and Lazio. Since those games, however, Mr. Ribas da Cunha has faltered.
The team has been moulded around him from Day One of the season. A new 4-3-1-2 formation seemed to be a perfect fit during those two victories in the Eternal City. Then Juve stuttered to a number of draws and it was time to start over.
So coach Ciro Ferrara tried again, this time putting Diego in the centre of a 4-2-3-1. Results picked up, but the man in question still floundered. Then the talk was of how the returning il Capitano, Alessandro Del Piero, would fit into the Bianconeri forward line. The new system of a lone-striker being supported by a trident made up of Diego, Sebastien Giovinco, and Mauro German Camoranesi meant someone had to miss out.
The obvious choice was Giovinco; the youngster had been in poor form in recent weeks, contributing little and often being replaced by the more defense-oriented Paolo De Ceglie during matches. During training sessions all week, Del Piero was deployed in the Atomic Ant's usual role.
Come game time on Sunday evening, however, Giovinco was there in his usual role. Juventus laboured to a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Fabio Grosso goal after the four attacking players created few chances. Del Piero did make a substitute appearance, taking over from Giovinco down the left as expected.
Then it was Bordeaux on Wednesday night, who gave Turin's Old Lady a footballing lesson. Juve were never in the game and lost 2-0, a scoreline that hid the true tale of French dominance. Del Piero did start on the left this time, but the whole team struggled, none more than Diego
Ferrara clearly shoulders some of the blame here, struggling to find a system to bring out the best from his players. However, you have to look at the problems besieging the new coach. Injuries have ravaged the squad, while Diego and his compatriot, Felipe Melo, are both struggling for form.
He has spent this week defending himself from all angles. The fans, press, and even Diego have all had their say. Ferrara himself has kept his dignity, stating that his team is "neither unbeatable, nor a disaster," but he needs to find a solution quickly.
Tomorrow's game with Cagliari offers the team and coach a last chance to reorganise ahead of two games that may come to define their season. First, Inter in the league, currently enjoying a five-point gap—anything less than victory there will see Mourinho's machine bully its way to yet another Serie A title at a stroll. Then Munchen, with Juventus needing to avoid defeat to qualify for the knockout stage.
Here is where the coach has to make a few difficult decisions. First, I would say Christian Poulsen ought to start in Melo's place in central midfield. After baffling everyone for well over a season, the much-maligned Dane has found his form at last. He also has stated his determination to prove his worth, a quality seemingly lacking in other Bianconeri players.
Then comes the big one. Bench Diego.
Surely, with him so badly out of form and the side struggling in attack, something has to change. Shaking the belief of guaranteed places never does any harm, and the same goes for rewarding good form. Putting the trequartista out of the side would allow a return to 4-4-2, with Camoranesi and Giovinco continuing out wide, while Del Piero can add more of a goal threat alongside Amauri.
It seems almost sacrilegious to suggest, but I feel that it will benefit the team as a whole. Sissoko is a must, while Marchisio will also play his way back gradually from injury. Anyone believing Del Piero is past his best needs to remember he has been top scorer in the league for two of the past three years.
Bench the €25 million new star, rely on the 35-year-old club legend. Hardly original, but there it is, my solution to my team's woes. In Black and White.