"We are Juventus and must live up to this name."
These were the words of Ciro Ferrara when he was introduced as the next manager of Juventus this summer. Those words were sandwiched between the big-money signings of Brazilians Diego and Felipe Melo and raised expectations that this could be the year a serious Scudetto run was in the works.
The problem is, they haven't lived up to the hype. They haven’t looked like the Juventus of old. They haven’t been consistent at all since the opening weeks of the season.
Since the hot start to begin the year that seemed to only raise expectations and hopes, this season has been as rocky as an old roller coaster. Just when we think the team is on an upward tick, they crash right back to earth and everybody is left searching for answers.
The last seven days are exactly why the Juve faithful don’t know what to think of this team. For as good as the Derby d'Italia win against Inter was, the disastrous defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League and the crushing loss to Bari this Saturday were far worse. Just when we thought things were starting to turn around, they are right back where they were before this three-game stretch began.
But what's the problem? Why has a team with so much hope turned into one with so much negative attention surrounding it?
There's no one thing that can be singled out as the problem.
Most will point the finger at Ferrara because he is the manager and that is only the natural thing to do when a team is struggling like Juventus is.
Sure, he has made his mistakes regarding tactics, but that is something that was to be expected coming into the season. A guy who has never had a managerial job in his life can't come in and expect to be perfect immediately. Just like any first-time manager, he not only has to find his team's identity, but he has find one for himself as well.
Right now, neither this team nor its manager has much of an identity. You can’t expect a team that has five new players usually starting, trying to adapt to a new system, and a new coach trying to learn on the fly not to struggle at times.
It may be December, and the season is almost at the midway point, but this team hasn't gelled into the force we thought they could be. Crucial players are either struggling to stay fit or struggling on the field.
Melo and Diego were on fire when the season began—now they're not. Fellow Brazilian Amauri has been in a funk for the entire season. Vincenzo Iaquinta, David Trezeguet, and Alessandro Del Piero have all missed significant time this year, forcing Ferrara to field Amauri whether he wanted to or not.
Through all the injuries, important players with poor form, two things have been missing in the squad—a regista in the midfield and a quality defense.
The Melo signing was not a bad one, but not what this team desperately needed. It was one that seemingly evolved over the course of one weekend when the negotiations regarding Gaetano D'Agostino broke down.
D'Agostino was the kind of central midfielder for a three-man midfield behind Diego needed. Juventus aren't Diego-dependent, but when the Brazilian playmaker struggles to get involved in the game, there is no player behind him who can be a midfield general, legitimately distributing the ball and dictating the offense.
Then there is the biggest need where all of €2 million was spent: the defense.
There, of course, is Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini, who are two of the best at their respective positions, and on-loan fullback Martin Caceres has impressed as the season has gone on. But the other two starters, Fabio Cannavaro and Fabio Grosso, have been as inconsistent as the team has been.
The defense is an area of the field that everybody knew they needed to improve, and Sporting Director Alessio Secco put his faith in the aging Cannavaro and the inconsistent Grosso. They may have formed the ItalJuve defense, but it is also one that can't be relied on to win this team games.
Can this ship be righted? Certainly. Juventus have found themselves in this situation before and seem to find a way to get back to playing with the Juventus spirit.
There is quality on this team, struggles aside, that gives you hope the season can be a successful one. There is a reason why people had such high hopes for them. Now it’s the time to find the identity before the Scudetto is truly out of reach.
The Champions League may be gone, but the chance to get the third star on the jersey still remains.
All for one and one for all, right?