Buon Anno, comrades…from here in the garden, the hounds set to howling, fire warming as the end dawns of my flurry of too many nights prancing with the vodka vixen and delving deep into my own abyss. More usefully…work has changed, for the worse unfortunately, but the positive there is that I should be able to carve out more time to focus on this community. Appreciate all the support so far, long may it continue!
Plenty of the usual rabid raucous abounding in the media of potential moves for January. More serious than perhaps in recent years given what must be considered a predicament of sorts. For to find ourselves sitting so low in the table, even with the game in hand – which is anything but an assured 3 points – and our last outing confirming that any progress made is built on sand not solid foundations, likely to be washed away with the next tide, is not where the club, players or fans wish to be.
There are of course several key factors to consider. The inexperience of the coaching staff. A haphazardly created squad which remains awfully unbalanced. And our budding Mister’s focus more on fitting the squad into his system, than creating a system which fits the squad. I will not add in the absence of preparation time pre-season, as all the sides have suffered from this. Yes, its more important, even pivotal, with a coach coming in with a set plan of seismic change to our playing style (if style can be used for what we served up last year and even before). Though it was Pirlo’s choice to expedite the transition and implement his plans instantly.
I still feel we are a squad of average to high level misfits. Heavily reliant upon the elite talents of Ronaldo and a brilliantly revived Morata alongside some solid defensive zeal in other quarters. Will also add in the steady form of Chiesa, who has been played out of position, yet his work rate, his confidence, wonderful mentality, is a force of nature likely to make things happen more often than not. For me, it’s his steadfast refusal to let his head drop and confidence in taking players on which offers the greatest value to our cause. His zeal is incessant.
Outside of those players, I remain concerned that very few are performing regularly close to their best. Bentancur has regressed horribly. Ramsey in fits and spurts superb then a lost soul. Arthur even less of a player than last season’s Pjanic. McKennie a powerhouse one game, then poor for the next two or three. Sandro still working his way back to match sharpness. Dybala completely out of sync with…any semblance of form individually or collectively in the squad. With the biggest disappointment the hideous dimming of the formerly dazzling Kulu star…It’s a wretched, ongoing issue that two of our most talented players have no role in our current tactical system. Pirlo must work out how to remedy this as we are wasting potentially match winning assets by benching them or failing to provide the platform to excel.
Whatever the true quality levels of these players, it is evident that they do not naturally fit well together OR that they do not fit the system.
Focusing more on the former, I think of Bruno Fernandes. His cost will likely rise to EU80m. Which is 20m more than we will pay for Chiesa. Fernandes is a player who not only made an instant mega impact for United, he has made that impact week in week out since. Its very rare indeed to not find him scoring, assisting or as a huge and constant threat. And the real success of his impact has been that his skillset and character have both raised the level of other players around him and knit them all together more harmoniously.
Its not just that magic which we need, a player to come in who will raise our offensive threat expansively as an individual but also, mainly, prove a vital connecting force between our disjointed players.
This is where Paratici has failed to build upon what Beppe created. He makes waves with flashy signings, yet does not seem able to value how well a signing will fit into a playing system or established squad. The role of sporting director in Italy is very much of a team builder. And after a fair amount of time, we still have a failing midfield and other problems on the flanks.
Our better performances are based usually on moments of individual brilliance aligned with a welcome increase in positive mentality given by the likes of McKennie and Chiesa.
I cannot help but conclude this season may well be one of very little progress, even failure to qualify for the CL alongside zero silverware. How to fix these dire circumstances, if they eventuate, I can look only towards both the coach and the sporting director.
With an unbalanced squad, no naturally creative CM, two young and talented RWFs who don’t even yet share their natural berth in the side, Dybala a shadow of the player he has long been…the obvious solution is for a coach who can analyse our strengths and weaknesses and create a system to balance defensive solidity against our plethora of attacking talent. I hope Pirlo is that man.
Beyond which, the most pivotal change this club needs is to renovate and replace the sporting director and team. The signings have simply not been good enough despite mega spending. Still very little movement from youth sector to senior squad. We remain weak at RB/RWB. On the opposite flank fluctuating between a long jaded Sandro and young upstart never given a decent run to prove his worth and have very little creativity in the middle of the park. Add to this increasing calls for a 42 year old Buffon to become our number one…and it becomes clear that we have failed on the recruitment front for some time now.
The positive and negative is that we have some strength at the back and enough talent in the final third to be doing much better. The potential is there…but every January I say this, as do many others. That we are going to peak after the new year, that all will click into place. And maybe it will…
I would be overjoyed to be proven wrong on all my aspersions cast of our current state. Sincerely hope I will be.
We are fortunate to have January offer up four of the sides presently above us in the table. It is imperative that we lose none and win most of the matches against AC Milan, Inter, Sassuolo and Napoli. If we were to enjoy victory in them all, through hook and crook if necessary but ideally through impressive team performances…I would likely be experiencing some of that thrill of boyish excitement long lost but still possible…for something might be happening, some hint of a bright future we can see and taste and feel, serious progress would be confirmed. Yet if we fail in these crunch ties – as we might – the questions regarding Pirlo and Paratici will grow in volume and pressure.
What is for certain is that we should not be a side taking positives from a 0-3 drubbing at home to Fiorentina. For if that is what we have become, this period of ‘transition’ – towards what exactly I am unsure- is going to take years before we return to the top, not one season.
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