We have 8 games remaining in the league. Atalanta sit 1 point behind us in 4th spot, with Napoli 3 points away in 5th. Lazio have a game in hand and could be 4 points away if that match is won. Suffice to say this match is crucial to our top four aspirations.
Whilst a draw, or even a loss would not signal complete ruin, it would send us into RED ALERT, by which I don’t mean the Russians are coming…though if you ask Sleepy Joe, he may well offer a different view that has been programmed into the circuitry embedded in his long dead brain by his controllers.
As a brief aside from the football, I strongly advise anyone interested in a media platform offering logical and decent proper journalism, always well cited with sources, with zero connection to a billion$ corporation or any state to start watching The Grayzone>>>
As much as I would very much like to continue my own Pirlo-esque hybrid and transition routine, morphing global affairs reportage with football, I will lean back and stay focused hereafter upon the chaps kicking balls around and our shared devotion to that scene…
Atalanta have proven the most exciting team in Serie A for the last two seasons. Gasperini has done an amazing job in Bergamo, producing entertaining, attacking football and always lots of goals. They surge forward in numbers relentlessly and seem to focus on the swashbuckling idea of worrying less about defence and 100% on outscoring opponents. There is little chance they will be heading to Turin with a plan to contain us, sit back and park the bus. They will be upon us from the first to the last whistle.
How we have found ourselves in the current precarious position has been long discussed. All that matters now until the end of the season is that we play on the front foot, feel the troops heading out to battle with every game a cup final. Pirlo has broken (finally) from his failing system and whilst we have not looked like world beaters, we have been since far more solid from the top to the bottom of the side through using a basic 4-4-2.
It remains a fear, however, that Pirlo will revert to type, yet surely not? Just keep the same system we have recently adopted and found some balance with, especially in central midfield and defence. Please, Mr Pirlo! Now is most definitely not the time for more lofty idealism never proven to work beyond your mind…
The temptation is there for the coach to keep flogging the dead horse of Mckennie ostensibly at RM yet tucking in and supporting in the final third through the middle. With Juan behind him. Which is precisely the system which has left our central midfield looking listless for much of the season. Yes, the american helps with the attack, and we look great going forward often, albeit prone to profligate, yet this hybrid role and routine in the phases tremendously weakens the defence and spine of the side. This is why Pirlo’s system has simply not worked. It offers no balance.
The big news from Pirlo’s press conference is that Ronaldo is out of the squad due to a flexor muscle issue. The coach also confirmed that Paulo Dybala will start, we will assume alongside Morata up top. There is plenty of conjecture appearing regarding the ‘shock’ exclusion of Ronaldo to an injury nobody knew about and some believe is a smoke screen. Yet a smoke screen for what? I imagine the club kept it quiet as a tactical ploy of sorts, or because they very much hoped he might be able to play, though I doubt it makes much difference, if at all, to Gasperini’s game plan.
Given Gosens is a major threat for Atalanta, it bemuses to ponder that we will essentially open up that flank by potentially playing Mckennie, who is never a wide midfielder, never a winger and will play his natural game box to box wherever he is positioned. If Juan is our RB and also our RW that will leave holes at the back, which Gosens can exploit. It will also stretch the CBs leaving gaps for Zapata and Pessina to exploit.
Playing Danilo at RB, in his natural role, with Juan ahead of him seems the best way to shore up that flank. Especially when we have Sandro and Frabrotta who can both play at LB in their natural positions, with Chiesa ahead of them less tasked with dropping deep to shore up the flank defensively.
In the middle I will hope to see De Ligt and Chiellini. With Bentancur and Rabiot, not Arthur, ahead of them. I have liked what I have seen of that duo with a more settled 4-4-2. It is no surprise to see them both improve when the balance is there on either side and behind, absent of the confusing transitions Pirlo enjoys to deploy but which always create a damn muddle.
If Pirlo sticks with the proper 4-4-2, deploys Juan as a RW with Danilo behind him, leaving only Chiesa as out of natural position who is still very dangerous indeed on the left flank, we have a decent chance of winning this match.
If Pirlo moves back to his master plan of failure, we are likely to fail.