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Where to from here?

Looking back on my brief ramblings after the coppa final defeat sheds light on the framework of my overview for the season and attempt to provide a cynical barometer of our current plight and what can be done…

Juve had the opportunity to put the knife in, and yet Max went back to 8/9 behind the ball at all times. The first penalty was not a penalty, and it is a shame that this proved pivotal. Also, I thought kicking the ball away in frustration was an automatic yellow card?? Perhaps not eh??

Well done Inter, of course and there is a wry smile within me, even as a long term juventino, to find the squad created by Beppe so strong, and solid in every area, both in and out the starting XI. He has done yet another fantastic job and the spiral downwards for Juve is tracked back to when Paratici and Nedved rubbed shoulders and took the Ronaldo deal to Agnelli, sold him a branding dream of modernisation, with Beppe the casualty. Curiously, since then not only has our recruitment been awful to hugely overspending, coaches have been chopped, changed then brought back but also off the field we have looked incompetent and a shambles. The sense remains that Beppe held more together as CEO than many realise…as what has come since has been constant downhill. From the on field failures, messy disconnection between manager and SD for finalising the squad with a few days to the start of the season, to the ugly way Dybala has been treated and the media fed snippets to blame the player and his agent, to Agnelli’s uncouth behaviour towards Conte, then with the apparent incredible absence of due diligence before launching the super league…even the puerile ‘humour’ on social media of making the shape of a oriental face smacked of the same beyond shoddy marketing team management. Yet heads do not roll…

My judge of a coach is mainly how many players does he get to play near their best or improve? The answer with Max this season is very few indeed. Yes there are problems with an unbalanced squad, we desperately need a modern LB, also a modern RB, a natural LWF and yet even with the glaring absence of quality in the middle of the park, Miretti finally given chance and is arguably our best player both games, then is dropped for the whole coppa final instead to see an unfit Loca brought back in and Bernardeschi. Probably also need another high level CB, Gatti must be considered, even if raw. Would hope to see Miretti and Fagioli in the squad next term, as both appear to fit exactly what we are missing but probably won’t find either.

Still the impression remains Juve have serious problems off the field, with the climate behind the scenes far from harmonious or that of a well run business/club.

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The most I have been moved in heart by the club this year was watching Paulo’s grief and torment. He is taking with him a lot of the heart I have left for Juve. Which has been hanging on despite the growing disgust with the upper management these last few years.

That spiteful part of me seeking some kind of revenge sneered to find some sections of the supporters at the stadium jeering and whistling when Agnelli and Arrivabene appeared on the big screen.

As a dear friend https://mobile.twitter.com/theoddjamie added earlier, Agnelli and his Yes Boss crew were likely thinking…

“Stop crying, you make me and our version of the story look bad”

Many others have questioned much of the more common narrative…

Great to see and feel Big Leo reminding he is more than the mind of a child, offering strength and support in clearly a deeply painful moment for a man he surely considers a brother. Whilst evidently not the best fit for commenting on serious social or intellectual matters, Bonucci has always seemed to me a decent lad, his heart is in the right place if not his mind. Suspect he is going to feel a lost soul next season without Chiellini by his side, and very much hope whether Gatti or Bremer or Milenkovic or Romagnoli, we work towards building a partnership with De Ligt to serve as the base of a new side for many years to come.

Briefly (unlikely!) on the Dybala saga…I have never believed the gossip of either player or agent demanding mega wages. I do not trust Agnelli, or his directors, none of them since Beppe was kicked out. Even Max I do not trust, for he is a company man, and will tow the line whatever happens due to his starry eyed devotion to what felt amazing 5 years ago. So when he confirms it was a joint decision, I do not believe him.

Cherubini is an Agnelli favourite promoted to such a pivotal position absent of any demonstrable success in a similar role beyond some vague idea he ‘learned under Paratici’. Which is a hideous, worrying credential, given the dog’s breakfast our former SD made of the squad, from which we are still recovering presently and for some years to come.

Arrivabene appears sent in by Elkann as some form of hatchet man for the financial horrors to be assuaged.

My assumption and inkling is that the club and Dybala (with agent) held discussions last year leading to an agreement, with the management then dragging their heels to finalise the offer, feeding the media snippets with odd contrasting statements. Nothing finalised on paper yet Agnelli suggested him as our future captain. When assuredly knowing they were to kick Dybala OUT.

Still no finalised offer on what was agreed and in January the management decided to renege on the agreement they had reached last year.

Simply put I question the veracity of Agnelli and his directors more than I question Dybala’s love for the shirt or believe he was holding the club he clearly hoped to spend many more years with, to ransom. Something does not fit…

There is nothing concrete to believe La Joya was demanding mega wages.

There is nothing concrete to suggest his injury record is simply too awful to consider keeping him>

21/22 – Played 38, 15 goals, 6 assists

20/21 – Played 26, 5 goals, 3 assists.

19/20 – Played 46, 17 goals, 14 assists

18/19 – Played 42, 10 goals, 2 assists

17/18 – Played 46, 26 goals, 7 assists

16/17 – Played 48, 19 goals, 9 assists

15/16 – Played 46, 23 goals, 7 assists

Fair enough to check the minutes played, and this season Paulo was involved in 60% of the minutes. Which ranks 10th in our squad as a whole, nowhere near the worst. And is just shy of Locatelli’s involvement (62%), yet I do not find anyone suggesting Loca was a big mistake due to his obvious fitness issues. Let alone the other 15 in the squad with worse availibility records.

I also contest the argument that he has for many seasons, not fit the system tactically. And it is only because he refused to leave that he has played such a pivotal role in many years of high level success for the club. Almost as if Juve achieved all the silverware in spite of having to make use of that failure pest La Joya? That seems bizarre logic, especially given every manager has used him as much as possible. Only last season when Covid and injuries proved awful, and the first campaign with Ronaldo moving the Argentine, all over the field have his stats been poor in output.

Agnelli Superlega, un binomio storico

The idea that the club have long known they were to get rid of him, were annoyed that they tried and he refused, whilst all successive managers kept choosing to make him a mainstay of their sides??? With the president then publically announcing he was our future captain, when knowing full well they were to get rid of him finally this Summer?? That could well be true, as aformentioned, I do not trust Andrea Agnelli. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that his words were part of a PR campaign. The complete absence of due diligence market research before launching the ill fated Super League confirmed beyond all doubt how disconnected with basic competence the upper echelons of the club have long been become.

Most people follow the headlines, not just in football, but beyond. They are long conditioned to accept as fact, what amounts to allegations designed to suit an agenda of corporate interests – especiall when the same headlines and allegations masquerading as fact are echoed by the government. Which to many still after the very sources of the headlines have been proven as mass deceit merchants to suit their corporate overseer interests, leads them to continue to blindly gobble up what they are told, assuming the government surely cant be lying to us. It is some innate herd mentality tendency to believe in our overseers.

The same lemming majority routine abounds with Juve. Dybala is crying as he realised his mistake in holding the club to ransom?? With no evidence whatsoever to back this up, but who cares for evidence eh? Its precisely the same mechanism in place as the corporate propaganda machine roars and avalanches ‘Putin failed to take Kiev!!!!’ With zero evidence the Russian military were seeking to take Kiev. In fact all logical reasoning of whatever vague facts can be grasped pointing to a very different strategy indeed.

How bitter and pained I feel of Dybala’s departure is not due to some mega hero worship of player over club. It is more a case of the final remains of the passion and heart I have felt carrying me to follow the club for 30 years, departing with La Joya. I simply do not find much emotional connection with any of the players left at the club. Some will know I often defend Big Leo against the dumb rumours and allegations absent of any credible evidence, yet this does not translate to any emotional connection to the player.

Locatelli is apparently a juventino, though I do not see him with mega love for the badge. Still, he is young, has had injuries and has entered the fray during a period of transition.

In short, I am increasingly lacking any sense of bond to the club, to the players, beyond the habit of the last 30 years. With Chiellini and Dybala exiting, the squad, manager, performances, directors, president… all feel soulless, heartless.

Finally, perhaps, of my rambling stumbling tirade…This repeated echo of Juve management mentioning ‘centre of the project’, or similar. I do not hear other managers or clubs talking like this. They may single out some players are special, yet do not steadily trot out this line, instead they focus on the team. As we should be doing. The best managers have a philosophy, tailor their tactics and selection toward this philosophy, and gradually work to bring in more players who suit the system they have found that works between current squad characters/technical ability/ philosophy. Growth is often painful, but it is palpable early doors.

The one time I have seen – in three decades – our club attempt to make a player ‘the centre of the project’ was with Ronaldo. Never before. And it worked out terribly, the after effects we are still living through.

So when Arrivabene told the media that Dybala was “no longer at the centre of the project”, I cringed and snarled. Not because I believe that the whole side should be built around Dybala, but because it seems weasel talk bullshit. Every player should feel they are part of the “project”. If not, why the hell remain at Juve, other than for the money?

Now we find growing rumours abounding of a move for Di Maria. An amazing player in his prime, curious in his physical resemblance to Rizzo from the muppets, yet has scored 1 goal in the last 6 months and proven nowhere near a regular starting berth at PSG, in a much weaker league (we like to believe/assume). He is also 34 years old.

This does not smack of building a squad to grow together into something strong and successful. It suggests that Dybala was kicked out, and they are trying a quick fix, for a wage that Dybala I suspect would have accepted if given the choice of taking it or leaving. Even less…

I understand that Di Maria appears a stop-gap and has enjoyed a glittering career, yet will likely have a 2 year contract ( I think minimum for Growth Decree requirements??). We are trying to cut wages so ear-mark 20m (Gross estimate) on a fading former star coming off a poor season in France with 1 goal in six months???

Perisic is 33, and far from prolific. The positives are that he is a natural LM/LWF – a position which we need – knows the league and can prove a match winner on occasion, yet not exactly what I had in mind as too old, seeking high wages with no resale value or potential to improve or become part of a team designed to grow together.

The other major attention quickly brewing is focused upon Pogba. How touching that he may well show such love for Juve that he is apparently open to persuasion of an 8+2m offer against an 11m offer from PSG. We should thank our lucky stars??

I don’t think so. For whilst there is no doubt that the Frenchman would hugely improve us, I am skeptical that we will find his best form within this group of players and current state of disarray on and off the pitch. This could prove a very expensive mistake, given the player tends to show his best when surrounded by high quality players, formerly at Juve and also with Les Bleus, yet not at all what he will find with the current or future squad at Continessa.

We lack leaders. We lack players with unerring zeal, lion hearted passion, whose heads never drop, we are often outfought, outwitted tactically, hence why we struggle to beat even the worst teams in the league, and lose to all the sides above us…The mentality of the new recruits we sign is of the utmost importance. As is the focus to bring to the club instant improvement of technical and mental quality in key areas of the field.

LB is glaring as weak. Pellegrini has looked more useful, with however still much to learn whilst Sandro has long appeared already retired. The Brazillian will be very hard to move on as at his age, with his form of recent years and his wage, who will take him?? This is where Cherubini must prove his worth, rather than just assume it is too hard, so we are stuck with those two. The FB positions are incredibly important in the modern game, as they must operate in both halves of the field and on both sides I feel we are way off the top clubs.

Juan is serviceable at RB, little beyond. Also now 34. Danilo is a sturdy RCB, but offers regularly close to nothing going forward.

Neglecting a much needed focus on providing Max with a specialist in both roles once more leads to an unbalanced tactical dilemma to try band-aid not solve. And Allegri has demonstrated this season that he finds the squad too brittle and lacking technical ability and cohesion to control games, even against the bottom pl;aced clubs; its get the lead then backs to the walls.

Similar concerns with the LM/LWF area, as we have Morata, shoe-horned there and trying his best, but we have already wasted too much money on his loan and wage fees, why spend 35m to make an inconsistent player permanent in an unnatural role? Which seems to be the conclusion of the mamagement also as the Spaniard seems now set to leave the ranks.

The club has a scouting network, surely they can find some well priced options to be given an educated roll of the dice? If not, the scouting network needs to be renovated. Alongside the medical/physical conditioning staff.

The club do have options at zero transfer fee already under contract, to potentially improve at least two key areas of the squad. Namely at CM and CB.

Will Gatti be given chance to earn a place in the squad? Despite the absence of Serie A experience which Max has intimated is a prequisite for consideration, though why must it be? Should we refuse the idea of Fagioli, when proving one of the finest talents in Serie B, in a role we need, purely because he has not yet been season long tested in Serie A?

Does Rovella instantly appear higher in the pecking order solely due to Serie A experience, after a season where he played only until the New Year and his last six months have been dire? When contrasted against Fagioli, who has enjoyed a stunning season at recently promoted Cremonese and also Miretti, who has looked as good as if not better than most of our establised CMs in his few games of late for the senior side??

My ideal, yet close to so unlikely as impossible, departures>>> (including those we know are leaving)

Ramsey, Mckennie, Rabiot, Sandro, Kean, Arthur, Bernadeschi, Morata, Chiellini, Dybala, Danilo

To be replaced with Miretti, Fagioli, LB, LWF, experienced high level CM, CF backup to Dusan, RWF, Gatti/Milenkovic/Bremer, RB.

Mckennie is valuable as an attacking midfielder, getting into and around the box and has an eye for goal. Yet less trustworthy deeper in the middle of the park. And if we are not playing with an AM, why would we keep him? Especially when he is one of very few we could likely sell, as the fee wouldn’t be huge nor the wages a stumbling block. Why not bring in his place a specialist in a role??

Many of the others on that list of mine, are very hard to move on. Though that does not detract from my suspicion that Miretti and Fagioli could prove more valuable than Rabiot, Ramsey, Arthur. With major upgrades ideally required over Kean and Sandro. Unless Kean is to be given a regular run of games at CF, which he will not, given Dusan owns that role now.

Expect Danilo to remain and alternate with Cuadrado at RB, with the Colombian also playing at RWF. I just hope this transition nonsense is removed and we can play with two FBs who both attack, rather than ‘transition’ phase to a back 3 with Danilo or Sandro tucking in.

Where to from here is a difficult question to answer.

I have not seen any progress towards a system which works. We have won games through attrition and moments of individual quality, almost in spite of the shoring up of our defensive frailities through playing often 8/9 behind the ball. Close to always this happens when we gain a lead. Which smacks of tactical instruction as we often look quite good, even likely to destroy opponents, when flooding forward in numbers. Is this Max fearful or the players fearful?? I suspect the former.

We win these wars of attrition against opponents of quality high and low (reminds me of that classic Balzac novel everyone should be made to read – A Harlot High and Low!). Struggle as much against Inter as when facing Genoa. And whilst I remain convinced the Paratici legacy of appalling incompetence has created an unbalanced squad of overpaid players, the general conclusion, taking into account what I watch of Serie A, the premier league and CL, is that plenty of managers are doing much more and much better with much less.

And so…the outlook for Juve appears grim to okay, maybe a little better.

We lack quality. Have a manager unable to get the best out of more than 1-3 players of a squad of 25. Our best player has been kicked out, in tears flowing from his agony at been cut loose when he has long wanted to stay with our club for many more years and given far better service than many moron hapless ‘commentators’ would have you believe.

Added to this we have a Sporting Director, who earned his position not in any way through demonstrable expertise, but loyalty to the boss…working alongside a director, seemingly sent in to cut costs after causing a fair amount of bother at Ferrari. Then Nedved, who is rumoured to have been rageful of late, at everyone, and yet his sole value seems to have been to give Raiola the keys to the contract meeting room, which leaves his role now as???

Icing on the cake is a manager, who will tow the corporate line out of some misguided devotion to a cause where he felt previously the finest moments of his whole career, who has failed to improve us (since returning) any meaningful way towards what any right minded fan would expect of a post-Ronaldo season. So poor have we appeared, so often, I have begun to lean of late towards finding criticism of myself when responding to social media posts of ‘Pirlo not just could have done better, but was doing better’ with my instant responses alluding to the major difference of losing one the elite players on the planet.

Regardless of my cynical bastard routine, I do consider Cherubini and Arrivabene an improvement upon Paratici. They have a period of grace. And will be given at least a few bags of gold to correct what is failing. And so nevermind Dybala, by far one of our best players leaving, for whatever the reasons, there is some money to spend. They have the opportunity to continue renovating the squad, and I assume the very least is that we will improve steadily. If we do not, then I will hope that Andrea Agnelli is finally replaced.

It may be time for me to focus more upon my beloved Gills from back home in England. Yes, we were relegated on the final day of the season, and I watched the defeat against Rotherham. It was harrowing, for most of the side looked like unfinished products, as in they could pass left but not right, they could head but not kick, they could tackle but not pass…

Other than this horror, the manager who came on the final day of the transfer window late January, Neil Harris, made a staggering difference to results and performances. Demonstrating beyond any doubt that the manager is often the most important element of a squad.

Moments after the defeat which sent the plucky Gills down, he wasnt towing the line of the chairman. He was reaffirming the club and fanbase meant something to him, and they all deserve so much better. Adding that of the 7 contracted players left, he didnt want any of them!!! Admittedly, a few days later, he had calmed, and suggested some of those 7 may remain (contractually he cannot simply cull them!). Point is, he loves the club and wants to improve every aspect and give the fans and local community something to be proud of and feel a part of. Offering always honest appraisal of how the club has been run through his direction and previously the guidance of others. Does Max do the same???? Not in the slightest. He is simply smiling to be the Juve manager, ever able to tow the line, protect his bosses…Obviously there are magnitudes of financial differences between the two clubs. I daresay some of the Gills squad certainly earn less than even myself, yet the zeal, the integrity, the obvious passion for the community, club, fanbase, alongside the demand that every single player under his guidance gives his absolute everything for each and every moment he steps onto the field…This is not just to be found in lower league managers, many parallels are to be found in Klopp and Ferguson and Lippi.

My fear is that we cannot find this kind of manager, whilst Agnelli remains as President. Conte was the nearest we have found, not quite what I mean, but still mega passionate and demanding this zeal as a bare minimum of all of his players.

I am not suggesting Juve should be seeking Neil Harris, but I dare say he would do a better job than Allegri…

A manager apologising to the fans. Accepting its not good enough. Asking for fans to stick with him as he wants to make it better.

And many twitter fans fawn over the wannabe Don Arrivabene…”“Winning is the only thing that matters, today or tomorrow. During a reconstruction phase, reaching the Champions League is a good thing.”

Who repeats the nostalgic mantra, then confirms winning doesn’t matter, and we must celebrate CL qualification.

Selah

(follow me on twitter HERE)