“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”
Well, where to begin? Pretty much the entire build up to the Derby was negative, and that’s being polite. If fans thought that going into the ‘Derby della Mole’ on the back of a defeat against Benevento was as bad as it could get, boy were they wrong. Paulo Dybala was at the centre of attention, and once again it was for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, rumours of Dybala rejecting a contract extension (nothing new) and potentially leaving for free once his current contract expires in June 2022. This news was quickly followed up with reports surfacing later in the week that Weston McKennie, Arthur, Paulo Dybala and several guests got together for a party or dinner (depending on whose story you choose to believe). Ironically this news broke on April fools day, unfortunately for everyone the only joke was three footballers and not the news itself. On the surface this doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you take into account that we are still living in pandemic times and that Italy currently has a curfew in place between 10pm and 5am. Rightfully so, all players have been punished with fines and Andrea Pirlo also dropping all three from the squad list for the Derby. Not an ideal build up to your local derby with crucial points needing to be won.
Torino began the day one point above the relegation zone whilst Juve knew that dropping points could ultimately go on to cost them Champions League football next season, this is the low that Juventus has reached this season. Juventus would also go into this game not only without the three players mentioned earlier in McKennie, Arthur & Dybala but also Demiral & Bonucci who would miss out due to testing positive for COVID. Despite this, Juventus began the game brightly with early chances from both Morata & Chiesa, who has become one of Juventus most important players this season. In the 12th minute Chiesa would add more credence to this opinion by firing his side ahead 1-0 after a surging run forward that never ended until the ball hit the back of the net. Torino however also showed signs that they were far from lying down to their city rivals by creating chances of their own, with Belotti in particular at times proving more than a handful for De Ligt. Prior to Chiesa scoring the opening goal Torino could feel justified in believing that they should have had a penalty with the game 0-0, as De Ligt commited a lunging tackle inside the penalty box on Belotti in what could easily be described as of of those “well, you’ve seen them given” decisions. Thankfully for Juventus no penalty was given, but it was indeed a signal of things to come for the Old Lady. With over 20 minutes played Torino had another chance to draw the game level, as unmarked Rincon got on the end of an Ansaldi cross for a shot on goal, fortunately the shot was blocked by Alex Sandro. But again, the warning signs were clear for all to see that Juventus could not rest on their laurels and would need to fight for the three points up for grabs. Six minutes later Torino would finally make the Old Lady pay, as again an attack that began from the wide area was not properly dealt with, this time the ball falling to Mandragora who had a shot on goal from long range, Szczesny dove down to prevent the goal but his decision to palm the ball straight back into the danger zone instead of out towards the side for a corner proved costly, as the ball rebounded into the air for an alert Sanabria to head in the equalizer.
The second half would also begin with a goal, unfortunately it would not come from a player playing in black and white but maroon. Sanabria once again the man to capitalize and a Juventus mistake and score a goal for Torino, thanks to a sloppy pass from Kulusevski to give possession away that resulted in Szczesny picking the ball out from the back of his net for a second time. There would not be much to be said for the second half from a Juventus perspective until Pirlo finally made changes after 70 minutes of play, with Bernardeschi & Ramsey coming on to replace Kulusevski & Danilo. Shortly after these changes Juventus would finally score, Berardeschi’s low cross finding Chiellini who swiped at the ball to assist Ronaldo who headed the ball into the back of the net to draw the game level, however this would not be confirmed until a VAR decision was taken to decide if Ronaldo was onside, which he was. With the scoreline level at 2-2 Juventus pressed ahead in search of a winning goal, which begged the question why hadn’t they played with this determination earlier in the half? Sirigu would go on to deny a late effort from Bentancur to make the game 3-2 in Juventus favour, however Szczesny was also called into action late on to make two great saves preventing both Sanabria (who would have completed a hat trick) and a Baselli free kick to prevent a Torino win in the Derby for the first time since 2015.
PIRLO : HERO TO ZERO
So, with the match report out of the way let’s quickly take a look at the bigger picture. Juventus once again drop points in a game that 9/10 they would be expected to win, and just as bad they put in a poor performance that completely warrants the inability to see out a game for three points, a common theme throughout this season. Some might say that this once again is nothing to do with the manager Andrea Pirlo and more so on the players themselves. Except that Pirlo is the one in charge of tactics and player positions. Why persist with a formation/tactical setup that is not working? Why wait until over an hour has been played before attempting to make adjustments to a team that is clearly playing in an incoherent fashion? Danilo playing midfield? Really?. After the game Pirlo made some interesting quotes “As usual, we make life complicated for ourselves.” the question has to be asked, is this due to management or the players themselves? “At the moment, we are making too many horizontal passes and that makes us predictable.” well, why is that? Surely with barely two months of the season left to play this problem should have been addressed by now?. As seen on several occasions this season, Pirlo lacks the experience to manage games at this level, especially when it comes to in game management such as tactical changes and substitutions, and for this reason despite what the likes of Paratici and Nedved say publicly it is difficult to see Pirlo in charge of Juventus next season. Upper Management also plays a part in the club’s current circumstances, as Nedved, Paratici and Agnelli are the ones that replaced Sarri with Pirlo to begin with. Few would argue with the dismissal of Sarri after the 2019/2020 seasons conclusion, however a clear strategy in the aftermath was necessary to justify the change, but so far no strategy can be seen. Instead fans have been left with a stop gap change to compensate for the expenses used on showing Sarri and his staff the exit door. Considering that Pirlo reportedly makes one-third of what Sarri would make with his deal as Juventus manager, it’s clear that Pirlo was the quick fix cheap option for Agnelli & co in a pandemic era of football. But in the end will it be a price worth paying? Ultimately once the 2020/2021 season is over the common narrative taken will be to blame Pirlo for all of its failures, but make no mistake that board level members should not escape the finger of blame for appointing Pirlo in the first place with no solid long term goal in place.
(kindly contributed by Graeme)