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Onwards, ever onwards…

The angst continues to burn hot in many, occupy any media ever focused on Juve, with the same cycle of questions raised.

Is the Ronaldo purchase costing us too much for too little?

Is Pirlo so out of his depth that he must be culled?

Must Paratici and Nedved, even Agnelli take responsibility for the continuing, worsening failure?

Which players must be cleared out?

All are logical reactions to our situation. And yet rather than repeat much of my own longstanding criticism, or focus on any of the above questions, I will instead try to plot a line towards an idea of progress. After mentioning firstly, that I do not agree at all with the conflation between seeking heads to roll and any absence of support or love for the club. The two are not the same thing, for those seeking the changes in management and directors and players are desperate to see us where we all feel we belong – operating at a vastly more successful level on the field.

Right. With that out the way…

We have 13 games left in the Serie A campaign.

Understandably, we will be now fully focused on trying to achieve the highest position possible, with the slim chance of catching Inter at the top still mathematically possible, though unlikely. For it would require Inter slipping up in at least 3 games and us winning all of our remaining fixtures. I say unlikely, as we can only judge the present on the near past and we have not yet managed to put together a run of more than 3 consecutive victories (in the league), let alone 13.

Clearly we need some fresh blood in the ranks. Some quality in key positions and also there is pressure and logical demand to offer opportunity in the first team to the most talented youth players on the fringe of the senior side.

Assuming we will keep the management structure – of the main components at least – in place, I still very much hope that the coaching team is partly replaced with more experienced staff. Pirlo needs more support than he is receiving. What is seldom mentioned are those working directly with the team on the training ground.

Igor Tudor, 42, as assistant coach, I had hoped would organise a solid defence, but this has not been the case. His role is surely under consideration.

Roberto Baronio, 43, as our ‘technical collaborator’ – which other than evoking echoes of the nazis, has an unknown set of duties, but we must imagine is also to be appraised.

Andrea Pertusio, 43, Athletic coach.

Riccardo Scirea, son of former Juve great Gaetano Scirea, is another one in his early 40s, as our Match Analysis specialist.

I could go on, and some of those involved are highly experienced but there was a definite focus on coaches at the start of their careers. And this area is one I feel the club MUST change policy.

Pirlo will continue.

He requires much stronger support from those around him than he has received this year. They may well have done their utmost, but it is enough of a task for an inexperienced coach with a growing number of youngsters in the squad to oversee the larval stages of this new project, without having that inexperience for him to manage also within his own staff.

It is probably not Pirlo’s job to drill the players for defensive wall routines and defensive set pieces. Its up to the coaches to transmit his ideas through their coaching skills. So when criticism is aimed solely at Pirlo, please take a moment to consider the rest of the coaching team. Share and spread the heart ache and venomous rage more towards where it is due.

Fagioli, Frabrotta, Di Pardo, Ake, Coreira, Rafia, De Graca, Ranocchia and Dragusin all should be given as much time as possible in the first team between now and the end of the season.

The annual awards for the Juve youth sector were held recently, which takes voting from 52 journalists, FIFA agents, and FIGC youth specialists who follow the primavera and U23 sides.

  1. DRAGUSIN Radu – 311 (51) points
  2. FAGIOLI Nicolò – 264 (8) points
  3. PETRELLI Elia – 206 (5) points
  4. DE GRACA Marco Cosimo – 173 (4) points
  5. RANOCCHIA FILIPPO – 131 (6) points
  6. TONGYA Franco – 109 (4) points
  7. SEKULOV Nikola – 65 (3) points
  8. ISRAEL Franco – 55 (3) points
  9. GOZZI IWERU Paolo – 43 (1) points
  10. RICCIO Alessandro Pio – 23 (1) points

The winner, by quite a margin, was Romanian CB Radu Dragusin (19). Who has had a sniff of first team action, and has been promoted swiftly from the U17s to U19s to the U23s after impressing since signing mid 2018.

Unfortunately, we have not been quick enough to tie him down to a new contract, and the current deal expires this Summer. Other clubs are circling, some rumoured to be from the Premier League, who can offer both riches and opportunity in the first team. A contract has been offered by Juve, but Dragusin remains yet to sign…How better to persuade him that his future lies coloured black and white than by giving him a few games with the seniors?

Much will depend on how quickly we can ensure our place in the top four. Yet given the consistent issues we have faced in terms of finding any consistency, any game where we look from start to finish the dominant side, I do not see a major risk in actually starting some of these players, let alone bringing them on for a healthy tilt in the second half. I am not suggesting deploying a starting XI brimming with youngsters, although if we do reach a point where we cannot win the title and top four is guaranteed, the more we start, the better. A more measured approach is my hope.

Fagioli, Di Pardo, Rafia, Frabrotta and Dragusin all have shown promise when given a start or lengthy time on field with the seniors. And if one emerges from the tunnel from the first whistle, or enters the fray thereafter, and looks comfortable and decent??? Keep them in the side, see how they fare with a run of games.

The balance to be found will be ensuring we have enough experience to win games aligned with a careful focus on giving those on the fringes an opportunity to show what they can do at this level.

For example, with the injury to Demiral and absence of Bentancur, why not start Dragusin and Fagioli against Cagliari? Fill out the rest of the starting line-up with the experienced players. Have Ake, De Graca, Rafia, Coreira on the bench to come on if we gain a solid lead.

With the gaps that now emerge between official games, why not organise some friendlies against Serie C or local sides, and play all of the youngsters under appraisal with those of the first team squad who are working their way back to sharpness?

Whilst the UEFA youth league has been cancelled, the U23s continue their Serie C campaign. After a 4-0 drubbing away to Lecco, the side bounced back with a hard fought 2-1 victory over Novara, Ake grabbing a late, well taken winner. 1 goal and 3 assists from his 7 appearances so far.

Followed up with a 0-1 away victory over mid table Grossetto. De Graca, our Portuguese Sicilian prima punta earning the victory with a great poachers finish sneaking into the box late on. His 13th goal from 18 appearances.

The side sit 7th, within striking distance of the play-offs.

It is fair to say that many of us struggle to agree with Pirlo’s tactics. Also there is growing focus upon Ronaldo, not just the move itself, but his output against Porto and whether he should or will remain at the club. Neither of these reasonable avenues of discussion are going to finalise or change any time soon, hence my focus upon a road-map to make the most of what remains of this generally depressing season.

I know it is hard, very hard indeed, to change the mindset of perennial winners to…whatever we have become. The best we can hope for is hope itself…hope, that as with many major renovation routines, we have to sink low, perhaps even find a rock bottom yet to be plumbed, before we can begin to truly bounce back up and revive. The caterpillar perhaps yet to move to chrysalis, with no sign yet of the butterfly which will then take flight…

We cannot simply demand a firestorm of renewal, to burn down everything we dont like and find fertile ground, the strongest still intact like eucalyptus trees during an inferno, and then a new dawn will be upon us. That is simply not possible, too much risk attached, too many contracts of millions to juggle, too much demand for a semblance of maintaining our minimum financial obligations….and we are already suffering the effects of mismanagement and hasty, unplanned decisions, hence why we are currently paying three managers.

No. We must steel ourselves to accept, even expect, a very rough road indeed. A slow process which may not show any promise beyond the gradual removal and replacement of any elements of dry rot.

Even Paratici, who I have long condemned, should be given another mercato, to prove his worth during the worst financial situation the club has faced for many moons. Not my personal feelings but my pragmatic thinking.

Pirlo will get another year. I assume there will be no changes at Director level. And yet who knows eh!…when the season ends, and only then, anything is possible, nothing is certain. For now, we must continue to believe that a new cycle has begun, and we remain mired in the birth pains of a new era. Its agony, its disheartening, it feels so very wrong, but…it is to be expected, after such a long era of domestic dominance and the decision made to change focus towards a more attacking, more modern style.

All of us demand, in heart let alone head, this would come more swiftly. That there would be no further sinking to lower levels. It was a possibility, though unlikely given the major overhaul required, not only to rejuvenate the squad, but to bring in the players needed to meet our aspirations of creating a fast paced, dominant, exciting brand of football. For Pirlo, or for any manager who demanded and worked towards the same.

We still have CL qualification in our grasp. We still have a slim, albeit improbable chance to apply pressure on the summit of the league. We still have a coppa italia final.

Not all is lost, comrades////

Onwards, ever onwards.

forza juve

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