Fantasy Football News

Roma fall 9 pts behind after derby defeat against Lazio and exit Coppa Italia

Of all the defeats Roma can take in a Serie A season the one that will always hurt the most is the defeat in the derby and at the weekend Paulo Fonseca’s team were no match for Lazio.

Lazio ran out 3-0 winners and while the final result looked more like gloss against a game that was closer no one could deny that Lazio were the more attacking side and deserved their win.

A terrible defensive error by Roma’s Ibanez allowed Lazio a glorious chance which Ciro Immobile snapped up to put the designated home side in the lead. That was Immobile’s 12 league goal of the season as he tries to catch up to Cristiano Ronaldo and is only 3 goals away from that target.

By the 23rd minute Lazio were 2-0 up courtesy of Luis Alberto. It was a strange goal as Manuel Lazzari came bursting into the area on the right hand side and he thought he had been fouled for a penalty, the referee waved on. However Lazzari quickly got up and passed the ball to an unmarked Alberto who slotted home well.

The best goal was saved for last in the 2nd half when Alberto placed the ball into the lower bottom right corner from just outside the area and his expression after the goal said it all, he knew it was a special goal and also a special derby performance from his club on such an important occasion.

The result means that Roma have fallen 9 points behind Milan in the race for the title and the Giallorossi are in 4th place on the same points as Napoli with 34 but they in turn are 6 points behind 2nd placed Inter. Despite losing their 4th game of the season Roma are still in a Champions League place but we are not even at the halfway stage of the season yet.

Coach Fonseca was obviously disappointed and a little dejected by the defeat against Lazio. Fonseca said: “We can’t change what happened, but we can start thinking that what happened should not happen again. The team must understand that we can only change the future by changing our attitude in the game. As I said I’m above all disappointed for our fans.”

Roma crash out of Coppa Italia against Spezia

Paulo Fonseca talked Spezia up and said they would be a dangerous side and he was correct. Spezia knocked out Roma after extra time winning 4-2. It was a game full of incident and for Spezia fans and the neutral it was one full of excitement too.

It looked all over for Roma after Spezia took an early two goal lead but the home side were able to pull a goal back just before half time through Lorenzo Pellegrini’s penalty. When Henrikh Mikahitaryan made it 2-2 late on in the 2nd half it seemed as though Roma were easing themselves back into the game and would go on and win it either in normal time or extra time, but Spezia would get the final say.

Roma imploded in extra time and had not one but 2 players sent off within 30 seconds of each other. Gianluca Mancini was given a his 2nd booking after a tripping and then frustration built up and Pau Lopez followed him for an early bath. Although the game was still 2-2 it became stretched and Spezia made playing against 9 men count and scored 2 goals soon after to kill the match. This was a very disappointing result for the club.

Tension mounts after sacking of Gianluca Gomber

Not only did Roma lose in the Coppa Italia to Spezia but they would have in fact been kicked out of the competition even if they had won the game. This was because the club made six substitute choices instead of the required 5 allowed.

The blame did not go to Paulo Fonseca as ‘team manager’ Gianluca Gomber was in charge of the count of subs being made. Unlike for example in England where only 3 subs are allowed, although five in the cup, in Italy and other major leagues 5 are allowed in all the games.

Gomber made the fatal error and was sacked by the club on Wednesday morning, the day after the game. But it doesn’t end there as Roma’s players are furious with the decision. Gomber was part of the behind the scenes team and the players had a close and good relationship with him. The players have made it known that they want Gomber reinstated and that anyone can make a mistake. Watch this space!

Could Fonseca be sacked too?

The big news breaking this week is that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca could be sacked. It is understood that the club were expecting to be much closer at the top of the league but 9 points seems like a mountain and now they have been knocked out of the cup Fonseca could go.

It has been rumoured that Max Allegri and Maurizio Sarri have emerged as the favourites to take over the club and that Fonseca’s job is under real threat. One would expect that if Roma fail to impress at the weekend where again they will face their cup conquerors Spezia he could be walking.

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Serie A Probable Lineups – Round 19

BENEVENTO-TORINO

Benevento (4-3-2-1): Montipò; Improta, Glik, Tuia, Barba; Hetemaj, Dabo, Ionita;  Tello, Caprari; Lapadula.

Potential lineup changes: Foulon for Tuia, Maggio for Dabo, Insigne for Tello.

Likely bench options: Falque, Viola,

Questionable: Insigne (foot).

Ruled out: Schiattarella (COVID), Letizia (thigh), Moncini (ankle).

Suspended: Sau.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Remaining Games

BENEVENTO-TORINO

Benevento: they surely had a weird faux pas versus Crotone for a team that had been mostly steady so far. Moreover, their most prolific guy as of late, Marco Sau, got sent off from the bench and the always lively Roberto Insigne hurt his ankle, which makes him very questionable for this match. The only positive note was that Iago Falque managed to return after a long time on the shelf and bagged a lovely goal, the first of his campaign, but he has generally fared well whenever available to play. He remains an option even though the coach stated that he is not ready to start. The injuries could thrust him into a major role this one, while Gianluca Caprari, who was banged up going into the previous contest, will surely return to the XI: he is their leading scorer with four goal. Gianluca Lapadula is their tip of the spear but has not hit the net since early November. With Pasquale Schiattarella and Gaetano Letizia missing, Riccardo Improta and Artur Ionita are set to be their secondary playmakers, but they have not picked up many bonuses so far. Aggressive midfielder Andres Tello could have a big role as well. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 19 – Top Matches

MILAN-ATALANTA

Milan: the Rossoneri keep navigating their several absences in brilliant fashion and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to the XI with a bang in Cagliari, putting together a brace and moving to 12 goals in the season in just eight appearances. The COVID outbreak is getting resolved as Rade Krunic and Ante Rebic tested negative, but their conditioning will have to be assessed in practice and Theo Hernandez was a false positive, so only Hakan Calhanoglu is out, which is a major loss, but at least they are in a better spot numerically and they recovered their stud fullback. Rafael Leao (three goals, one assist in the last five games) will be back from suspension and will likely supplant Jens Petter Hauge that has been pretty quiet despite seeing good minutes. Franck Kessie let Zlatan take the PK in the past game but he will probably re-gain those duties in this one: he has notched six goals and two assists in the season. Davide Calabria is trending up as he provided a great helper in the past game and also hit the net recently.

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Juventus Top Perfomers – Supercoppa vs Napoli

With a little help from lady luck, Juventus took home their ninth Supercoppa at the end of a game they mostly conducted, but without managing to bend the opposing defense. The Bianconeri seized their opportunities, while Napoli did not and that made all the difference.

Wojciech Szczesny: in a surprising twist compared to recent games, the Old Lady did not concede on the first chance created by the adversaries as the Polish goalkeeper denied a point-blank header by Hirving Lozano that would have significantly changed the complexion of the match. He made his presence felt also late on an instinctual save on a poisonous deflected shot. The back-line actually held up pretty well, and maybe Giorgio Chiellini being out there, even though he is not his peak self yet, keeps everybody on their toes with his personality. The rearguard did not leave much room to the Azzurri forwards in the box, but got bailed out by the goalie in the most dangerous situations. Continue reading

Why high flying Wolves could be relegated this season

One of the surprise packages in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons has been Wolverhampton Wanderers better known as simply Wolves. Under manager Nuno Espirito Santo the club hasn’t won any trophies but they have realised personal dreams.

This has included finishing in the top half of the table regularly and even qualifying for the Europa League and doing well in that competition. Last season Wolves really outdid themselves and got as far as the quarter finals before being narrowly knocked out by Spanish side Sevilla.

In the Premier League Wolves have finished 7th in their last two campaigns and have been solid in the league beating teams that finish above them. In short Wolves under Santo have become a team that other clubs even the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City do not look forward to playing. That is the respect that the club have garnered over the last few seasons.

Even in this campaign Wolves had started well and whilst nobody was expecting them to challenge for the league title another top seven finish did seem on. And then December came. But in reality one could go back to last summer when Wolves sold the excellent Diogo Jota. Not only did they sell Jota for just £40m (he was arguably worth between £60-65m) they also sold him to another Premier League rival in Liverpool. It made little sense.

In the Jota deal there was only one winner and it wasn’t Wolves. Of course Jota’s career has been halted at Liverpool through injury, that is just plain bad luck but before his injury he was proving his worth and why Jurgen Klopp wanted him so bad.

Then came a terrible blow in the winter months when Raul Jimenez Wolves’ prolific striker suffered a head injury after a clash of heads with Arsenal defender David Luiz. Luiz only missed a couple of games but Jimenez has been out for 2 months and it has really hurt Wolves. Jimenez scored 27 goals in all competitions for Wolves last season and had scored 4 goals in the league from 10 games before his injury.

Daniel Podence has taken advantage of Jota’s sale and Jimenez’s absence by stepping up and scoring goals and he has been a bright spark for the club although can also be prone to injuries and Pedro Neto is another player who is trying hard for the club.

But there has to be some concern now because Wolves haven’t won a game in the Premier League since December 15th, 2020 when they beat Chelsea 2-1 at home. That was an impressive result and seemed to underline that the club had some back bone to them, much like Leicester for example. But Wolves wouldn’t be able to tie any of the Leicester players boots right now to steal an infamous English saying.

Wolves have earned just 8 points from their last 30 and 2 points from their last 15 and in recent form the club would be 2nd from bottom in the league.

Now fans will be worrying if the club are free falling? It has happened before of course in any league and Wolves have lost their last 2 games in row against Everton and more surprisingly struggling team West Bromwich Albion. They conceded 3 goals at home to West Brom, a side who had previously scored just 12 goals from 18 games. Wolves’ defence seems to be going through a lack of confidence and they have conceded 8 goals in their last 3 games.

Wolves have dropped to 14th and one must be wondering is there any good news on the horizon? Well presently despite Wolves’ poor form the club do have a 10 point safety net from the bottom three. Also one would have to believe that with the players they have and despite the injuries that the club have had to endure that they will hit a sweet spot.

That doesn’t mean European football for next season though however the club may just except finishing 10th this season after this scare.

Manager Santos will be worried though because it could be argued that the club haven’t suffered like this over this extended period since Santos has taken charge. He will understand that one win will kick start his team again.

At the weekend Wolves will play a tricky match against Chelsea, however the Blues are suffering much like their opponents for a lack of confidence and belief in themselves, that game should be interesting.

Wolves should have enough in the tank, but no club as they say is too good to go down and if Wolves don’t start to pick up in their next 3 games a relegation fight could be on the cards. What a season it has been because just 8 weeks ago we couldn’t have seen this story coming from Wolves.

The question will be asked who will save Wolves if results do not go their way in the coming weeks and one light at the end of the tunnel could be the return of Raul Jimenez. No date has been fixed for the talented strikers return but just his presence will certainly lift the dressing room, and a huge lift is what Wolves need right now.

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Inter make a statement by beating Juventus to pile pressure on Milan

Matchday 18 felt like the moment that this seasons Serie A title race turned into a two horse one and there is even more likelihood that a team from Milan will be crowned the winners.

Milan beat Cagliari but all of the plaudits were saved for Inter who beat Juventus in a huge match at San Siro. It felt like a turning point because one could not fathom the problems that would have been borne out of a Juventus victory for Inter. Firstly they would now be six points behind Milan have dropped to 4th and Juventus would be 2nd on 36 points.

But that wasn’t the case and Inter stepped up when they needed too. It was an interesting game though given that neither Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez featured in the goals or even the assists.

The game got off to an incredible start when Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had opened the scoring in the 11th minute but his goal was ruled out for offside. And then 60 seconds later Inter took the lead. Nicolo Barella who has been in good form lately crossed the ball and Arturo Vidal who has taken some bad press recently found some space to head in the cross past Gianluigi Buffon the veteran goalkeeper to put Inter in the lead.

It was a shell shock moment for Juventus given that they thought they had taken the lead only to now be trailing in the game.

Juventus looked for the equaliser and played some intelligent football in the first half and most of the possession. But Inter were happy to sap up some pressure and had 10 goal attempts in the 1st half alone with half of those shots on target.

Much like the first half the second period started with incident and Inter were celebrating being 2-0 up within seven minutes of the restart. This time Barella went from provider to goal scorer his 2nd of the season but most important. Barella’s brilliant shot flew into the net after a cross by Alessandro Bastoni his 2nd assist of the season and Inter were in party mode.

The second half soon petered out and there were only 3 shots on targets between the two sides with Inter having just one, but that was the goal.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was obviously very happy with the win, he said: “We prepared well and it’s satisfying to see that we were right about the things we thought could hurt Juventus. The lads followed the plan perfectly and I am very happy for them, because these are games that must give you self-belief, let you understand you are on the right path. We already saw fruits of this process last season, we are continuing to see them this term. Juventus were an important reference point, a side that dominated Serie A for nine years, having done exceptional work both on the field and as a club.”

A whole host of players for Inter earned 7 points in the fantasy rankings including Nicolo Barella who was named official man of the match. Barella did lose some points as he was booked late on.

Inter’s next game will be on January 22nd when they take on Udinese away from home. Udinese are in 15th place and have lost 9 games this season and that includes losing their last 2 at home. It will be another interesting game for Inter who will be expected to win. If Milan lose at home to Atalanta then Inter will go top of the league.

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Premier League Game of the Week: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United

The biggest fixture in England was played at the weekend and this match against two teams who have won 39 league titles between them was always going to generate all of the attention, the world over and not just in England. That it ended 0-0 shouldn’t deter from the hype around the game and what it currently means for the league title.

You couldn’t have had a better build up to Liverpool vs Manchester United. Liverpool who haven’t lost a home game in 2 years in the league and, who currently have the best home record this season up against the team who have the best away record this season.

No one could have expected it but Manchester United are unbeaten away and we are almost at the half way stage of the season. They are also top of the league and Liverpool could have bounced back to the top with a victory. In the end it felt as though both teams wanted to keep their fantastic records in check and it wasn’t the most exciting game to watch.

The real surprise for Liverpool was having two midfielders starting in defence. When we will ever see captain Jordan Henderson in central defence again? But somehow he looked assured and for the most part Manchester United were contained.

It was a game of two halves where Liverpool threatened in the first, controlling the pace of the game without really giving United much food for thought. But the way Liverpool were bossing the ball about it seemed like it would be a long afternoon for United.

In the 2nd half though that wasn’t the case and United started to find their groove through the brilliant Bruno Fernandes. His shot from a Luke Shaw assist made Alisson work hard in goal. Indeed Shaw had a terrific game and was all over the pitch and very inspired.

Paul Pogba had another chance after Fernandes but shot the ball at Alisson. This could have been quite a turning point in the Frenchman’s season, the player who scored the winner in Manchester United’s last game against Burnley could have been the hero again. Pogba has had a difficult season at the club and this could have gone some way to redeeming that.

Perhaps the game was telling that Liverpool had 14 attempts on goal but only 3 shots on target, indeed United had one shot on target more and not many teams over the past 2 years have had that at Anfield.

In the end it was a good result by Manchester United getting a point away from home and a disappointing one for Liverpool dropping another two at home. There must be some concern that Liverpool’s most dangerous strikers have gone quiet of late in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

It should say everything about the game that the players who picked up the most points were the goalkeepers. Both Alisson and David de Gea picked up 7 points each for their clean sheets.

Liverpool can still win the league and they remain the danger but th drop off from last season is quite evident and one has to wonder if fatigue has caught up with Jurgen Klopp’s team?

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Defeat to Inter highlights Juve’s problems

Juventus currently lie in 5th place in Serie A yet the most troubling aspect is being a massive 10 points behind league leaders Milan. However, not all hope is gone in the club’s quest to seek a 10th consecutive league title because Juventus have a game in hand on the league leaders and there is at least half of the league’s fixtures left to play for. So where has it all gone wrong and what can be done to fix the Bianconeri’s problems?

Discipline: One troubling aspect this season has been the accumulation of red cards- some unwarranted while others were silly to say the least. The two red cards which perhaps caused the most damage came against Fiorentina- facilitating a 0-3 home loss to the Florence based side- and the one in the capital leading to a 2-2 draw with Roma.

Against Fiorentina, Juan Cuadrado was guilty of the most ridiculous red card since his challenge came in or around the opponent’s penalty area. The reasons behind this flurry of red must be addressed by both management and coach Andrea Pirlo. The club must institute fines and other harsh measures so this negative aspect can be curbed.

Coaching & Tactics: There is no doubt Pirlo was one of the greatest players of his generation and probably one of the best three midfielders from the last 20 years. I’d go as far as to rank second only to Spain’s hero Andres Iniesta (again counting only the last two decades).

Pirlo helped Milan win in Europe and domestically and even more impressively went on to help Juve return to glory after his previous club cast him aside. He also was instrumental to Italy’s success in World Cup 2006 and was influential when the Italians reached the final of Euro 2012. However, as a coach, Pirlo has done nothing so far and is not a proven entity.

There is a huge difference between being a great player and an elite coach. There are plenty of cases where important players have turned out to be a failure as coaches and vice versa.

Pirlo’s substitutions have come late in certain games while his initial XI and his tactics have proven to be questionable at best on multiple occasions. Pirlo is learning on the job but this is something a club of Juve’s stature cannot afford if the objective is to challenge on all fronts.

Against Inter, Pirlo’s starting XI and his approach were perhaps as guilty of everything positive the impressive duo Nicolo Barella and Achraf Hakimi did against Juve. Simply put, Pirlo needs to adapt to the players available at his disposal. He needs to bring out the best in them and use a system which does that as opposed to forcing them out of their comfort zone.

Defensive Concerns & Goal Difference: One of the foundations of the club’s current run of success has been their defensive prowess and the ability to almost guarantee a win after taking the lead- even if a narrow 1-0 advantage.

The defensive issues started under former coach Max Allegri’s last 18 months and became even more apparent under last season’s boss Maurizio Sarri and now under Pirlo. If you look at the league table last season, then you can easily say Juve had the 3rd best defensive record after Inter & Lazio yet the goal difference for Sarri’s men was 4th behind Atalanta, Inter and Lazio.

The team seems incapable of dealing with any sort of crosses and set-pieces. While this season the club conceded a header from former player Arturo Vidal (against Inter), the Bianconeri look susceptible whenever opponents have a corner, a free-kick or they put in a cross against the defenders.

The absence of young star Matthijs de Ligt due to recovery from injury (and surgery) first and then more recently due to Covid has not helped but above all the club’s defensive rock Giorgio Chiellini is well into his last months of playing football. Chiellini can no longer stay fit and has become even more injury prone. If Pirlo was one of the best midfielders of the last 20 years, then Chiellini has surely been one of the best centre-backs over the last 12 years along with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and former Atletico Madrid captain Diego Godin.

The Bonucci Problem: Leonardo Bonucci has not been the same defender since Cardiff 2017 and that was highlighted during his only season with Milan before his return to Turin. Since returning, Bonucci has had only a few solid performances while this season his defending has been poor to put it nicely.

What is even worse is the fact that Bonucci starting has meant Turkish defender Merih Demiral has played less and the improving full-back (used mostly as a centre-back this season) Danilo has had to do too much while the club copes with Chiellini’s and de Ligt’s absence. Almost every centre-back has had to cover for Bonucci’s mistakes this season.

What is more alarming is the fact Bonucci’s trademark long passes and even at times his forays forward have become such a rarity. So what justifies starting Bonucci over someone who is more aggressive and less error prone as Demiral? Is it seniority? Is it his past with the club? Is it a bias by coach Pirlo who was his former teammate when Bonucci had his peak days? Playing Bonucci raises several questions because Juve look fragile whenever he is targeted and exposed by his opponents. He has become a weak link.

Club’s Management: While left for last, this is perhaps Juve’s greatest worry at the moment because management- particularly Fabio Paratici and those who work with him- has the club running in the wrong direction.

First of all, Juve’s glaring concerns at full-back (particularly the left-back position) have not been addressed since Cardif 2017. Alex Sandro has stagnated since the 1-4 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final yet he has remained as the club’s only option as full-back with no one challenging him either because management chose not to sign a left-back or because no one else is worthy of starting in his place.

While Luca Pellegrini is unproven at the big stage, he was immediately loaned out instead of being given an opportunity to push Sandro. The starter against Inter Gianluca Frabotta does not seem to have anything on Pellegrini yet the latter was inexplicably shipped out on loan to Genoa. In fact Pellegrini has more Serie A experience than Frabotta.

Perhaps management’s biggest error is trying to paper over the weaknesses in midfield. Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and of course Andrea Pirlo were never replaced in way or another. It’s near impossible to replace them as a whole unit, but at least signing a couple of elite midfielders would have helped. Instead, only Miralem Pjanic could be considered as an established and quality midfield signing when he joined Juve from Roma. He initially did well before he faltered in his last 18 months.

Without going into detail because the list of midfielders signed to complement or replace the departed Pirlo, Vidal, Pogba and Marchisio includes some very mediocre players including Stefano Sturaro, Mario Lemina, Hernanes and Tomas Rincon.

Even the two signings who were supposed to lift the club in 2019 Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey have come at a heavy cost. While both joined as free signings, they are both among the top earners in terms of salary in the Italian league. This means it is also hard to sell them and find a potential new club if they need to be moved.

Ramsey has the skills and can be a delight to watch but he is often unfit and the stats show he cannot play more than 60 minutes so signing him to begin with was a massive gamble. As show in the graph below, only 2 of his starts saw him play at least 90 minutes this season:

As for Rodrigo Bentancur, well he has stagnated and has shown little improvement during this season. In fact, Bentancur’s most telling contribution this season has been the accumulation of yellow cards. He already has 4 yellow cards in league play compared to 9 yellow cards for the entirety of the previous league season.

Only Weston Mckennie has shown great potential and has performed well in a number of games in Serie A and the Champions League. However, he needs to play regularly to grow into a consistent and reliable option for Juve’s midfield. At least he is heading in the right direction. The same cannot be said of Juve’s other off-season signing Arthur who joined from Barcelona (in the deal to offload Pjanic) and has not impressed despite his clear ability to keep possession and move well in tight spaces and when marked by an opponent.

Against Inter, the two goals came from midfielders- Vidal and Barella- while Juve’s midfielders looked inept and incapable of tracking their opposing midfielders who were able to freely roam and score from two opportunities presented to them. In fact, Barella was able to dictate play and perform almost as he wished while the likes of Rabiot and Bentancur looked both uninspired and toothless.

Why did Juve not make a move for Sassuolo’s impressive midfielder Manuel Locatelli who not only is a regular for his club but has also grown into a reliable midfielder for the Italian national team under Roberto Mancini. Locatelli played 6 times for the rejuvenated Azzurri in 2020. Juve could have perhaps tempted his club to sell in exchange for players or perhaps a fee and one player of Sassuolo’s choosing from the likes of Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Rugani, Luca Pellegrini, Gianluca Frabotta etc…

I would not mention the likes of Douglas Costa because he earns a massive salary (for what he provides) and he probably does not fit the profile of players they would sign on top of the fact Douglas may want to player for a bigger club.

So management has erred by overlooking the dire need for a left-back as well as not strengthening the midfield with at least one quality midfielder who can make a difference and help Juve compete better in Europe. Another name linked with Juve is Lyon’s Houssem Aouar who can solve many of the club’s issues from retaining possession to creating on top of being young and experienced enough after several impressive appearances for Lyon in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

A main hurdle to signing Aouar is obviously the fee involved, but perhaps Juve could tempt Lyon by negotiating a move of certain players in the opposite direction- someone such as the aforementioned Douglas Costa or even Federico Bernardeschi and Sami Khedira (expiring contract soon). Other options may include sending out someone as Dejan Kulusevski on loan for a season in return for facilitating the move of Aouar to Turin.

Juve have also an opportunity to sign someone such as Lyon’s other star Memphis Depay who will be out of contract in the summer of 2021 yet the club continues to be linked with older, makeshift and unimpressive attackers.

There is no doubt another problem created by management’s mistakes is the financial situation. The club cannot afford to spend without selling first. Obviously signing players on a free transfer helps but such moves are often negated when you are paying massive annual salaries to the free signings (again examples are Ramsey and Rabiot).

The club has also moved into the direction of signing stars, expensive ones for that matter, over methodical and opportune signings that were the hallmark of Juve’s rebuilding and rejuvenation process early on in the current successful era. There are plenty of examples including Andrea Barzagli (now retired), Pirlo (mentioned previously) and Paul Pogba as well as the key signings of Vidal and Carlos Tevez who came for relatively low fees.

So the club has signed the world’s biggest sport brand in Cristiano Ronaldo and the best young centre-back in the world in de Ligt but both came at a very high cost. Surprisingly, the club did not sign another high profile player (upcoming star just as de Ligt) in the form of BVB’s young star Erling Braut Haaland.

Another mistake by management was the initial hiring of Maurizio Sarri- his profile certainly does not fit with the ethos and the standards set by Juve over the past 8 seasons prior to his signing. He was expected to revolutionize the club’s performances yet he stumbled to the league title relying heavily on the likes of superstar Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and de Ligt.

The club had to fire Sarri after his seemingly distant relationship with a number of the squad’s players, the poor run in Europe (exit at hands of none other than Lyon) and the unimpressive performance throughout the season with very few exceptions, including that impressive 2-0 win over Inter punctuated by Dybala’s delightful goal.

The club compounded the situation above by hastily assigning the novice Pirlo as the next coach. However, for management Pirlo serves as the perfect ploy because if Juve fail then he can serve as a scapegoat while his initial hiring would be accepted by the club’s fans since he is a beloved figure based on the not so distant successes under both Antonio Conte and Max Allegri. In addition, Pirlo’s hiring and potential firing would not cost the club’s coffers anything worthy of note when compared to Sarri’s wages (by the way Juve continue to pay his salary).

Hence, it is a trifecta of errors by management summed up by three key elements which are the missteps in the transfer market, the hasty hiring for the coaching position last summer and this one and of course the financial constraints inflicted on the club due to the management’s policies.

Will management rectify the mistakes done since 2017? In fact, the club began to move away from a trusted process even before the disaster in Cardiff in 2017. Gonzalo Higuain was one example- the record signing by an Italian club prior to the addition of superstar Ronaldo by the Bianconeri of course. Higuain- just as CR7 after him- was signed to expedite Juve’s rise in Europe and to supposedly bring the Champions League trophy back to Turin.

Has either move turned out to be a success? That is a divisive topic depending on how fans perceived the signing of Higuain- many were for it but there are some who were against it. Higuain did not help deliver the much desired European trophy. The same applies to the signing of CR7 with the majority being for it yet there are some who are  against splashing such massive sums that could in turn be detrimental to reinforcing other positions in the squad such as the midfield.

The same dilemma arises when questioning whether management’s philosophy in recent years- in terms of transfer campaigns, branding and financial planning- has yielded the desired outcome or perhaps turned hostage the club’s future standing.

Time will tell… and obviously how far Juve will go in Europe will have a big say in this assessment.

Cagliari 0-2 AC Milan: Three things we learned as Ibrahimovic brace seals important win

Milan restored their three-point margin at the top of the Serie A standings this evening, beating Cagliari by two goals to nil away from home. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the big hero with a brace and despite a red card in the second half, the Rossoneri managed to hold on and secure another clean sheet. 

It didn’t take long for Ibrahimovic to get back on the scoresheet, winning a penalty after just six minutes. Although Franck Kessie is the penalty taker, the Swede felt confident and decided to take it himself. A good decision, as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and easily slotted in the first goal.  Continue reading