Well...remember when I said buckle up? I hope you did Juventini.
First off, I’m not even going to dive into that Milan match. In a massive match in terms of implications on the top 4 race we put up an absolute dud. It’s had me thinking about the mental strength of this squad and how it’s been the most fragile I have ever seen in all my years of supporting the team. We were able to pull out the win against Sassuolo mid week which was great and a must as one more slip up and our fate is sealed. Even though we won the first half was yet another shakey bit of football and Our players were showing the good, the bad and the ugly from one minute to the next. Buffon, who has announced he will be leaving at the end of the season, was easily man of the match and even stopped an early penalty to keep it level. There have been many shouts for him to be starting more matches this season and Tek has been uncharacteristically not up to par this season in occasions more often than not. Another “what if?” Scenario to wonder about if we showed faith in our club legend if we would’ve already been over the line when it’s been clearly evident that we play better and show more organization and at least proper attitude with him out there. We will never know. Hopefully, we still cross that top four line...now, back to that weak mentality, why have we reached a point where we seemingly have zero identity?
Buffon said something after the match against Sassuolo that resonated with me. “Today I saw a Team I like, a working class team that wanted to win and not try to win, and there’s a big difference”. There is a big difference, we as a club have always been a working class giant killer. Somewhere along the line, and I must say only natural, we wanted to close the gap and join the list of giants. During this chase we have lost sight of what made us who we were. A strong close knit group, a family if you will from top to bottom. You here the stories of Gianni Agnelli calling players to ensure all was well and they were ready to work and understood the importance of the upcoming matches and always being very close to the locker room.
Now, if you look at this past nine years, focus on the first half of it and those squads and look at these past 3 and a half to four seasons and that tight knit group feeing has started to fade and where we are now is it is almost completely gone. I have looked at many moves dating back and even at those times stressed on the podcast the impact these moves, whether right or wrong, could have on the group as a whole and potential signings and where the culture of Juventus really started to shift. Let’s go back to Cardiff ( I know I know but humour me). We have a full scale meltdown in the second half of that Champions League Final and lose. The aftermath is sour feelings between some players and Bonucci, one of the leaders at the time, decides he is going to leave. He goes to rivals AC Milan with the idea of leading them in taking our crown. During his time away Mehdi Benatia was playing great football for us. The loss wasn’t as significant as some feared. We maintained our spine and continued on. The next offseason Bonucci realizes what a mistake he made and some of our veterans wanted him back as well. We brought him back...fine but he should’ve been made to earn his spot back. Instead, our manager pushed away Benatia who had filled in great and even during that season in the rare occasions he did play was arguably the better option. We push Benatia aside and he leaves the club. Our spine suffers a bit and as a player I would question if the working class way is what gets rewarded at this club.
Then you have the signing of CR and the complete lack of cohesion at the top on full display. Paratici seemingly circumnavigating his own mentor to close the deal. Then Marotta leaving the club. So we now have a board that was part of a big back stabbing. Ruthless even amongst each other. Another factor is the treatment of legends. I’ve heard “this only matters to fans”. I don’t agree with that however. When you make a living based off the will of players to bleed and give everything for your shirt and you treat them like it didn’t matter in the end, that will in those to follow is already dead before it can even ignite. The last one before this culture shift really began was Claudio Marchisio. Before the season in 2018-19 the year we brought Ronaldo into the fold we decide we won’t need his services anymore. The guy would’ve played for us for nothing and would’ve at the very least been an ambassador for the working class old school mentality. We went into that year with no coverage at the position as well. Mind boggling. It broke Marchisio down emotionally and if i were a player in the locker room I would start to feel like contributions are starting to be taken for granted and that dollar is starting to dictate treatment and decisions. While it is a business and balance must be there we must look at how these dealings are taken place. With a club legend, why not work with them to make a decision that both can be happy with? Let’s apply this to a workplace. If you see a colleague disrespected after years of service would you hold your employer to the same level of respect you had prior? I think most would say no. Now, where do we sit?...players treated poorly, a board member backstabbed, a president who has shifted some focus into more of marketing and exposure. Then you find yourself in a mercato where we get rid of three players all performing well enough where they shouldn’t be the first moved but the poor business decisions prior to this have led you to become handcuffed and they are moved. Two of which were full backs and we went into the next season with only one option at LB.
Now we really start to question management and even as a player why wouldn’t you? All this going on and the respect towards the players, legends and what not being sacrificed and no loyalty and no rewards for performance and each of them looked at as more of a number and value, that will to want to suffer and fight for the club will naturally fade. There are many more instances along the way we can tie into this, the Dybala forced move situation, the forcing of Mario Mandzukic in such a poorly handled manner, the scrambling to hire a manager after letting Max go and of course not properly backing the next manager. There was a scenario that cemented this clubs lack of a spine to me personally and the difference in the club I grew up watching. Sarri had made a decision to substitute Ronaldo, this was the second time making it back to back matches, still...not a big deal right?...it happens. Well, Ronaldo left the entire stadium, abandoning his teammates and club in frustration. I was fully expecting any player no matter who to be punished...nothing. A mere “talking to” hinted at by the other leaders of the squad and perhaps a small fine. We have literally sent players to the stand for less. Then in an ultimate contradiction to values we hire a manager who at the time didn’t even hold a certificate.
Culture completely faded. What is culture? Culture are a set of values and beliefs, what are ours? I thought they were to compete to win on all fronts, each and every time you are out there and that the stripes are bigger than the names on the back of the kits. These beliefs and values should start at the top and trickle down from there. Have they been expressed properly from those involved over this span? I don’t think so if speaking honestly and for this I’m not surprised whatsoever we find ourselves in the situation we are in and lacking an identity. From a team that felt like a family to a team of individuals who don’t seem too upset about where they stand (aside from a few). Like any workplace though, if you start to feel that disconnect and as though the values are something only spoken about and not actually acted upon or backed your drive will suffer. Whatever our next moves are, we absolutely must start the rebirth of our core values. That fight until the bitter end each and every second of each and every match, that competition at every position with options on the bench who are chomping at the bit to get out there and contribute. That warrior mentality to fight no matter who stands across from them and will play to win and not try to win and/or try not to lose. Fear must go out the window, confidence must be within or you won’t be cutting it at the club and we will find someone up to the task (also missing this past stretch was the ability to find and replace players with the same or better quality). These characteristics of our club must be found again and for me I would say it’s time to re form our board and find a manager who’s ideas are on point with the directors for some harmony. The disconnect coming from the top has been clearly evident and without a doubt led to the poor planning and preparation from season to season. This must be corrected and as soon as possible. There are some quality names being thrown around for the director role which is great, also some experienced managers which is a must. As for the players...upgrades are required but the quality could suffer there should we not be able to get into the top 4...Inter is up next.
A must win Derby D'italia, they have the scudetto wrapped up but don't think they won't field their best for the opportunity to get the double on us this season and seal our fate outside of the Champions League. If any of our players can't get up for this one, I would question if they even have a ticker in their chest. We must maintain a high level of focus throughout this as we know how strong they will come at us and we must be ready to match their level of intensity and hopefully surpass it. My only hope is that we don't get too caught up in the tactics as in these matches they can easily go out the window and the players will be challenged to win those battles with the players standing across from them. We need another performance worthy of the one and only Buffon's liking. A working class performance where we all fight for each other and all trust one another to do their job and each and every player to execute his job to the best of their ability. I will be watching this one with a high level of anxiety, a nice gin and tonic would settle the nerves but at 9:00am my time my wife may ask some questions and/or be concerned. Let's have some faith in the club and hope they can get this victory and if not I am ready regardless as I've stated before, nothing could ever hurt me more than 2006 and this is nowhere near that. The Old Lady Never Dies!! Enjoy the match Juventini.
Until next week....
Forza Juve Fino Alla Fine