I have been out of sorts of late, due to an unexpected, certainly unwelcome, yet ultimately unavoidable motorcycle accident involving a three vehicle pile up in my intended direction of travel. Which has led to…a rather testing time all round.
Throughout which however, supine demanded on a hospital bed, I kept track of Juve. Even then, in truly dire fucking straits, I somehow retained that by now long forlorn spark of hope that all will just click, we will put in a monstrous performance and completely demolish an opponent and finally…we will turn the corner and hope will spring eternal.
Unfortunately, Juve has provided me of late with as much return on my unreasonable expectations as the specialists when speaking of the recovery period before I can re-emerge as a wild beast.
We continue to stumble, lose more players to injury, fortunately grind out slender victories and without Chiesa, look so dreadfully bereft of attacking thrust that I would happily see the whole front line cleared out, and most the midfield. Perhaps also the fullbacks. In fact for long periods in recent games, only the CBs and Tek have appeared in any way average to dependable footballers. Perhaps Pellegrini deserves a mention, some praise, for his tenacity and energy are welcome and in stark contrast to most of his team-mates.
Beyond De Ligt, Bonucci, Tek and Pellegrini…I struggle to find any sign of talent or true grit. Locatelli has been good in patches, yet hardly a major force, though the complete muddle of the rest of the side is not helping him, and it is this that I have to lean on, to some degree, to explain why other players look hapless, when I know they can be better.
Yes yes! I am sure we will be a somewhat different side when Danilo returns who offers security defensively, but very little going forward, and especially with Chiesa back. Though is the italian shackled more by whatever Max is trying to achieve? I prefer to think that he picked up an injury during the international break and has struggled with it since, more than assume our most vibrant attacking starlet is to be stunted in exciting progress and promise.
It is tricky to make concrete conclusions beyond stating that the squad has been very poorly assembled, with too many overpaid clunky components lacking the necessary skillsets to work with each other and/or the right mentality or fitness for a squad with our aspirations and expectations.
And yet…three different managers in three seasons have now failed to produce any cohesion, identity or recognisable development. With one caveat there. Namely Ronaldo. Without whom, it is easy to suggest, even assume, that we would have stumbled sooner than we have.
When did the rot set in??? I have long pointed at that fateful summer where Andrea Agnelli was persuaded by Paratici to take a brave new step. Get rid of Beppe Marotta, bring in Ronaldo, aim for rebranding as a new super club, with the wow factor on and off the field to appeal to the modern generation of digital fans.
I do not think Beppe was absent of mistakes, but he did oversee the building of a squad which took us back to the top and kept us there for many years…until a season or two after he was kicked out. Thereafter he repeated the trick at Inter.
Marotta builds teams. Paratici makes flashy signings without much if any idea of how their talents may complement a manager or the rest of the squad.
Three years of that guileless recruitment has led to a bloated, overpaid, unbalanced squad of poor to average to decent players. With a staggering amount of money spent to achieve this and our form worsening season upon season.
Some say that Pirlo should have been kept. Not me. Many now say that Max was the wrong choice…which is currently all too easy to grasp at, and perhaps has some merit. As despite the obvious problems with the squad, Max has made some very poor decisions…such as playing Rabiot as a LM. Which is at best demented.
Still, the target for the season remains (for me) for the side to achieve 4th. Which is a worrying 8 points away from us presently, with 21 games still to play. Plenty of time to catch up, and I feel we have a chance IF above all else Chiesa can remain fit and regain his momentum. Probably will need Dybala to do likewise. Though we must consider this may not be enough…
As for the Dybala renewal, which has dragged on for years now…He cannot stay fit enough to warrant 10m per year let alone the 8.5m we seem perhaps set to agree upon, with bonuses (remarkably) for staying fit, to inflate that figure further. He is a highly talented player, not captain material, nor the successor to Del Piero so many of us hoped for so long. The club have dragged their heels, after trying to move him on two seasons back, then having him play second fiddle to accommodate Ronaldo, and now we find ourselves either to lose for $0 a very saleable asset – for even with his fitness record, I suspect he could command a decent wage and squad role at an elite club – or to agree to his wage demands and overpay for a player we simply cannot rely upon to remain fit enough to build anything around. The whole saga appears another costly symptom of a squad woefully mismanaged for years now.
Plenty of rumours abound of signings the club wish to make. Stands to reason, given our situation.
Ideally we need as close to certain as possible improvement in the goalscoring stakes, as we are profligate as a side. It’s not just a lack of creativity, we simply don’t convert many chances.
Icardi seems a viable option, on loan. He is a goalscorer, 18 yard expert, and would add some potency in front of goal. Although he could only be a success IF we are able to find him goalscoring positions. As he appears surplus to requirements at PSG and knows the league and culture the move makes sense from a few angles. His mentality may be cut-throat, but who cares if he arrives and scores the goals?
Also rumoured to be potentially of interest is Martial. A player I have long liked and felt has been misused at United. Pace, power and at times he does look an elite finisher, yet his stats do not really back this up unless looking solely at his output when playing as a pure number 9. Which shows 89 goals/assists from 168 appearances. At 26 he is nowhere near finished and he still has much to prove. Questions remain of his mentality however. Wages could be an issue.
The central midfield area is a dead zone currently, with barely any flicker of life. Now and then from Mckennie, brief flashes of his ability to get on the end of things, but little else. Other than which Locatelli has become an average dog of war, with not much chance to play his more natural adventurous role getting higher up the field. With Bentancur showing flashes of grim determination as a defensive force, with barely nothing going forward.
Arthur and Rabiot have seemed a complete loss whenever appearing. The Brazilian looks tidy, but achieves very little and has since fallen foul of Max.
We have missed Danilo, who again will shore us up defensively when he returns and allow for a LB to bomb forward more and a RCM to do similar, yet when he plays, where do we put Juan? Who is one of the more regular goal threats?
On the other flank, I am glad to see Pellegrini getting some game time, and his enthusiasm, energy and grit are welcome. Though LB is another area where we need dire improvement to bring us anywhere close to even the top sides domestically, let alone beyond.
CBs and Gk are fine. The very least of our concerns.
Witsel has been mentioned numerous times. Whilst rather long in the fang, he is very experienced and I believe the Belgian would instantly improve the balance in the middle of the park. A stop gap measure, but probably within our price range and current level of allure.
It seems too big a stretch to imagine we can challenge for any of the other lauded gems such as Tchouaméni or Zakaria. With Genoa also unlikely to release early Rovella, who is set to play a prominent role in their bid for survival.
I would feel more confident of achieving 4th in the league and the side developing any semblance of form with Icardi/Martial and Witsel. Hardly the signings to excite the masses, but we are not in a period where many players will want to join nor do we have sizeable funds. And there is another problem to ponder. Namely, how the devil do we make space for these potential new signings?
The club would probably like to get rid of Rabiot and Ramsey, likely also Arthur. The frenchman may have some takers. Ramsey will be very hard to shift at anything other than a huge loss. With the brazillian perhaps of interest to some decent clubs with money.
More likely seems – out of desperation for funds – the sale of Kulu. Which I am strongly against. As I feel there is a fine talent in the lad, yet we are over-stacked in attack, thanks to Paratici. If he goes, I would hope a buy back clause is included, though unlikely. It is a buyer’s market in January…They can call the shots, if they have the money.
Mckennie possibly has some takers, but is the only CM who seems alive in the final third, so perhaps he will stay.
It is going to be very hard to wheel and deal in January. A huge amount of pressure now falls on the shoulders of Cherubini. Who has a grand total of barely half a season in the role of SD, at any club. Some will suggest that he learned under Paratici, which concerns more than fills me with enthusiasm.
That move by Agnelli struck me as instantly worrying, for when I find the recruitment the most glaring issue at the club, the very least we needed was a battle hardened, proven expert. Which isn’t Cherubini.
I suppose my hopes for the season have not changed since August. We have somehow emerged from the CL group as winners and now have a decent tie against the spaniards, with a chance to progress further. Which presently seems unlikely, but we can hope, that by late February, we will be in better shape.
The other aim, beyond the knockout stages of the CL, was and remains to qualify for the tournament next season. I fear this may well depend on the winter mercato.
We very much appear in disarray, from the top to the bottom of the club. Have we yet reached rock bottom? Or is there more misery to come? And what exactly, or even vaguely is Arrivabene’s role and expected impact?
All is not yet lost…
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