After the nervous excitement of Pirlo’s debut on the bench, on any bench to be fair, in the 3-0 drubbing of Sampdoria last week, we were brought back down to Earth in the capital in a match which demonstrated problems both on and off the field.
The selection was at best curious, for to find Juan on the left instantly felt very wrong indeed, as it proved- for the Colombian had a quite hapless game. His positioning was understandably all over the place and he rarely got up the wing to show support in the final third. Add to this the placement of Kulu out wide on the right operating as a wingback and the inclusion of Morata, who can barely have shaken hands before being thrust into his first start for the club after his return and we had the recipe for the disjointed outing we were served up.
I understand why Pirlo tried these wide options, and as he explained after the match, he has had no pre-season to test things so must do them, albeit in a calculated fashion, in competitive fixtures.
And so this was a double test, as Morata was positioned properly, though with no sync with the rest of the side due to lack of playing time together.
Pirlo’s system relies heavily on the wide players creating width and an overload both high up the field and also in midfield. Kulu is a very offensive player. His natural talents come to life in attack, not in midfield and certainly not tracking back to defend deep. It is a terrible waste of his talents and I hope this outing was enough for the new coach to accept these ideas must be scrapped. For we were outgunned on both flanks for the entirety of the game. Which breaks the system.
To try these plans away to Roma was more than cavalier, it was a gross misjudgement and we paid the price by failing to control any lengthy periods of the game as the home side poured forward in numbers often, created more chances than us and were unfortunate not to win the game by 1-2 goals.
The manner in which we conceded on both occasions was also of concern. Ramsey and Mckennie were not at all on the same wavelength when ceding possession in a dangerous area which led to the ball finding its way soon after into the net. With the other goal bizarre as from a free kick into their box, we were done by a quartet of Roma players attacking at high speed with only Juan as the last man to try fend them off. This was an appalling turnover and not just the coach but the players must take some responsibility for the lack of leadership on the pitch. As I cannot believe that Pirlo had planned for Cuadrado to be the last man.
Dezko should have finished us off not once but twice and it is difficult to single out any players in black and white who emerged from the admittedly well salvaged draw worthy of any praise.
Although, I was pleased to find Arthur appearing and immediately looking promising. And Bentancur receiving more minutes as he works his way back to – from Pirlo’s words on the subject – stronger energy levels. It is these two who I feel are our strongest mix to deploy as the double pivot. In terms of technique, ability to move the ball, hustle and intelligence.
Mckennie is a ball of energy, but as was noted by several of the US pundits I watched speak of his abilities after his move materialised, his positioning is a weakness and his talent on the ball has limitations. This is not to suggest I am condemning the new recruit, far from it…for his high octane zeal and mega hustle is a great addition to the ranks. His prowess in aerial battles is also potent. More a case of we must be patient with him, as he adjusts to a new league, a new club, a new life.
Rabiot on the other hand remains in the decent form we saw late last season and yet still I am unable to see much end product of note when he does bomb forward, where he must improve. His ability to shrug off challenges is valuable, but his overzealous approach to retrieving the ball is a constant flurry of cards waiting to happen, as it did in this match, leaving us playing plenty of the game with 10 men.
Which brings me onto the positive response from the side after the red card. A good sign of squad unity and the ability to close ranks and actually play more cohesive football when circumstances force a change to the system mid game.
Since the weekend, there has been much talk of Chiesa. Which perplexes given the logical assumption is that he would be ear-marked for that RWB role IF Pirlo is going to stick with this system. As with Kulu, the young italian is a final third specialist, not a wing back, so why spend such a huge sum we do not have on a player for a role which does not suit his strengths?
Who is deciding our mercato? Paratici? Cherubini? Pirlo?
This move, if it happens, will remind me of the shambles we found ourselves in at the tail end of last season. A reminder that we have not somehow moved from a mess of mismanagement at all levels to a well oiled machine purely on the basis of Pirlo’s appointment.
It seems too simple to me and many others to understand that if we are to play with wingbacks, then we should be ensuring we have decent wingbacks. Yet the management – if rumours are to be believed – are blind to this and appear to have concluded that rather than find players whose natural talents suit the role they will instead spend hugely and awfully on a player with a very different skillset and then see if it works out? Why take the risk? Do we not have anyone in the scouting or coaching staff who is stating the obvious?
Sandro is acceptable for the left and Frabotta looked at first glance an interesting understudy. On the right, Juan is at best average, and often weak, but can do a job as a squad player, hence my repeated focus on the club needing as a priority to sign a specialist RWB.
The initial happiness in heart found from the return of Morata has since given way to uneasy memories resurfacing of his mentality. Again, I am not condemning the move as I like him and feel he can do a good job for us. Yet at what cost to Dybala? Who is a player I feel we have long wasted. His often sublime talents and his love for the cause should have led to him becoming our first true bandiera since Del Piero but this has not proven the case.
After the hideous debacle of last year when the club seemed eager to sell him we now find the one role where he has blossomed – close to goal – taken by a new signing. Which leaves La Joya where exactly? Vying for minutes with the Spaniard? Shoe-horned into the trequartista role where he has rarely succeeded as his game is not fit for hustling deep?
It is for this reason that I would have preferred for the club to have made a deal for Kean, who would have accepted a bench role, coming in to give Ronaldo a break as he can operate as a wide forward cutting in, as well as another option at CF to give Dybala a break. Perhaps I am mistaken and Pirlo understands fully that to get the best out of La Joya he must be played near to goal and it will be the spaniard who ends up playing more from the bench.
My major hope is that we do not persevere with the failed attempt already shown to blunt the talents of Kulu by asking him to convert into a RWB. I will remain positive in regards to his involvement as the AM soon settling into place, a position he can share with Ramsey.
At the back, curiously it is Danilo who has looked the best fit…and yet I have never been as critical of his performances as others. Big Leo however, had a poor game against Roma and Chiellini I suspect will soon be injured long term again as his old legs wont take the strain of playing full pelt weekly. Thankfully we have Demiral and De Ligt to come back into the reckoning so will be fine in that department.
Rugani now gone on what seems a feckless move of a home grown player to simply free up some space and for him to get minutes. Still, I suspect we will see Coccolo as the sixth CB, who is a regular with the U23s and often trains with the first team squad.
Moving on the dross from the squad is proving beyond difficult and whilst Beppe can be included in discussions of some of the poor moves we have made in recent years, he was vastly superior to Paratici in regards to moving players out of the club. Where else do you see any sides at the top level we aspire to be considered held to ransom by so many players? Drop the price. Subsidise the wages. There are options which could be employed but are seemingly ignored. Khedira still at the club? Costa doesnt want to leave? Freddy decides to stay? When did we become so utterly incapable of getting rid of players we do not want? I will loosely suggest this happened when Beppe left and the Nedved- Paratici tandem usurped him.
Rumours abound that the latter of the pivot is expected to leave in October, yet if so, why the devil are we still allowing him to lead the mercato? You do not give a sporting director with such huge responsibility his marching orders then allow him to stay on a few extra months to oversee recruitment. Unless contractually obliged of course…perhaps Paratici is taking notes from the Khedira playbook?
It has been broached elsewhere that Cherubini – apparently an Agnelli favourite – has risen through the ranks to now oversee the other directors…If so, I will presume he is yet to have full control as nothing has changed in our recruitment failings….
We must keep our feet on the ground, avoid hysterical hope and unreasonable despondency for this is very much a major new project. Players need to grow together into the new system. Pirlo needs to work through his ‘tests’ in a more calculated fashion and we will not be able to make any serious appraisal until nearer the turn of the year.
If by then we are some way off the top, then never mind, for my focus is hugely upon the building of a new identity. And if we seem to be moving in that direction, growing as a collective, producing performances which make my heart leap from second to second, this will be enough for me. For I already had Inter as favourites for the title this season, before Sarri was sacked.
The Napoli game will be a major test which we may well not be prepared for so again I preach patience. A new team does not often gel instantly, let alone a new team with a coach with zero experience at any level of management.
In Pirlo, in Juve, still I trust…or perhaps hope!
(follow me on twitter HERE)