Liverpool and Juventus have endured miserable seasons so far with both teams crashing out of the Champions League and struggling to make the top four. So what went wrong for these two sides?
When the previous season ended in May the mood in Liverpool and Turin was upbeat as their respective teams had finished second in the league. The Reds and the Bianconeri were looking at this season as the one to prove their credentials.
Juventus in particular invested heavily in the market with the acquistion of Diego and Felipe Melo. Liverpool were also not too far behind as despite losing Xabi Alonso to the Real Madrid, they bought in Alberto Aquilani.
However there was always a looming fear in the minds of both sets of fans as they felt the teams had not consolidated themselves adequately over the summer. Juve's defensive line was thought too old and Liverpool's midfield still fragile.
The Reds realized their fears almost immediately as the team slipped to defeats against Tottenham and Aston Villa. For the Old Lady things started looking bad a month into the campaign as the side went winless for four games.
Soon enough things went from bad to worse as the clubs started slipping down the table and fighting desperately to stay in Europe. Their European adventures ended in disappointment and currently both sides lie in sixth place outside the Champions League spots.
Surprisingly despite the poor runs for the teams their managers still kept hold of their jobs whilst the frustration in the fans kept growing. Now just past the half-way point in the season the objectives have been drastically scaled down and question marks still remain.
Summer of Discontent
The striking similarity between the sides was that in Liverpool and in Turin the managers were dissatisfied with the transfer policies of their respective clubs.
In Liverpool, Rafa Benitez was cash strapped due to the owners’ massive debts and was effectively forced to make-do with the side that was at his disposal.
In Turin on the other hand, Ciro Ferrara had little or no say in Juve’s transfer campaign as Sporting Director Alessio Secco assumed complete control over the club’s dealings.
Both managers were thus discontent right from the outset with the squad that was being made available to them and believed more work was needed.
Furthermore, the deals struck by the clubs have seemingly gone awfully wrong with the £20+ million purchases of Aquilani and Melo have been hailed as failures in the media.
Whilst Diego and Glen Johnson haven’t been quite the successes that fans hoped they would turn out to be. The former has failed to settle in the league and the latter has struggled to keep himself fit.
The one area where both sides have failed consistently is to develop a kind of cohesiveness and fluidity in their style of play.
The areas of the field have look detached from each other rather than an amalgamated unit and this has seen the sides struggle to express themselves on the field.
In Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, and Javier Mascherano the Reds side has some real quality in it. Similarly Alessandro Del Piero, Diego, Claudio Marchisio are a talented bunch of individuals.
The major issue here seems not to be a paucity of class in the sides but rather an inability to produce the kind of game they are capable of. Whether this is a reflection of their managers’ shortcomings is a question which needs to be debated.
The winter transfer window saw Liverpool buy Maxi Rodriguez to create more options for the front line. Juventus conversely confined themselves to their limited squad with Livorno midfielder, Antonio Candreva, being the only incoming transfer.
The impact of these two signings is yet to be assessed but I wouldn’t bet money on Candreva becoming the next midfield general at the Old Lady.
Liverpool’s only hope for silverware remains the UEFA Cup where they will be facing Unirea Urziceni in the next round. Last weekend’s loss to Reading in the FA Cup was one of the lowest points in their season thus far.
Juventus will also be banking on the UEFA Cup as they face Inter in the Coppa Italia on Thursday night. In their current form one would hardly expect the Bianconeri to get past their rivals.
The main objective for both teams will be securing qualification for the Champions League next season. Failure to do so will only aggravate the current problems besetting the teams.
Liverpool lie only a point away from fourth placed Tottenham while Juventus are four behind Napoli. The Reds have Tottenham and Man City to look out for whereas Juve will need to keep an eye on the likes of Napoli, Palermo and even Fiorentina.
While Rafa Benitez looks set to stay on at the Kop the same cannot be said of Ciro Ferrara – whose job is under an increasing threat day by day. A loss to Inter may just be the final nail in Ferrara’s coffin.
To round off this utterly amazing fall of the two sides is the rumor emerging in the Italian media in recent days. Reports suggest that Benitez is Juve’s number one choice to take over at the end of the season.
If that indeed is the case, this tale of two cities would have truly had a more climatic ending than any in recent memory.