Nearly two decades after receiving a 5-1 hammering on the Adriatic coast Juventus had their revenge on Saturday. They even went one better by thumping six past Pescara. The 6-1 loss was their seventh this term. In their first Serie A campaign since 1992-93 these docile dolphins are toothless in attack – scoring just nine goals – and leaky defensively, conceding 23.
Giovanni Stroppa’s side was a distant second. Mirroring Juve’s 3-5-2, the Abruzzese outfit was all at sea in the opening exchanges. Pirlo was allowed space to dictate. Over the past 16 months this has been a crime punishable by defeat. Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella were in irrepressible moods during the first-half onslaught. Not helped by a number of absent players, including Manuele Blasi and Giuseppe Colucci, Stroppa also benched livewire Vladimir Weiss. Although not suited to the formation he has featured centrally previously and the Slovak could have troubled the Juve defence.
Two goals to the good, Juve nearly coughed up their lead in a chaotic five minute spell. “It’s a shame we conceded six goals, because it does hurt, but in the first half we reacted strongly and created chances even when we already seemed to be done for,” reiterated Stroppa. “There are some positives.”
Juan Quintero – dubbed the Marco Verratti replacement and looking impressive this season – struck the woodwork, Emanuele Cascione placed his header past Gigi Buffon and Matti Lund Nielsen very nearly equalised. But the moment was fleeting. The Coach was later dismissed for excessive protesting.
Pressure had been building prior to this contest. A list of Stroppa alternatives was drawn up before the recent win over Parma. Pasquale Marino, Delio Rossi, Beppe Iachini and Marco Giampaolo were all mentioned.
President Daniele Sebastiani has sent mixed public signals. From declaring Stroppa the man to keep Pescara afloat, he also noted a Coach is the first to go when results do not arrive. Ahead of their meeting with Siena, Sebastiani reaffirmed their faith. “Stroppa is and remains the Coach of Pescara. How many more times do I have to say this? Stroppa is not at risk.”
Riding the wave of enthusiasm created by Zemanlandia last season, Pescara hired a protégé of sorts after the Czech departed for the capital. Stroppa featured for Zdenek Zeman’s Foggia in the early 1990s. Until this appointment his resume included a spell with the Milan primavera and one senior job. Last term he led Lega Pro club Südtirol-Alto Adige to seventh. Enough to bypass the cadetti and step right into the pressure-cooker of Serie A? Probably not.
The Delfini are a far cry from the brazen attacking force of a year ago. A day after the thumping, it must have been galling for fans to witness both Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne score. The two were lynchpins of their Serie B success. Stroppa never got the chance to work with the pair, nor Verratti, their three best players. Immobile was signed by Genoa in a co-ownership deal last January while Napoli recalled Insigne. Pescara took the highest offer made for Verratti, who would pack his bags for Paris.
A number of additional summer changes means the current breed is a mix of raw talent and Serie A journeymen. Stroppa was handed a patchwork squad. As mentioned by the tactician it is one “lacking a clear identity.” To give Stroppa such a squad and sack him before Christmas would be incredibly short-sighted. Why hire an inexperienced Coach only to then dispose of him before he has time to truly adjust?
This is not to exonerate Stroppa of all shortcomings. He has taken responsibility for the heavy defeat. Mistakes were made. Defensively they have looked suspect all season. Yet he also believes the team have taken steps forward. Currently on 11 points, they lie above the struggling Genoa and Sampdoria, plus Bologna and Siena. While it will be a scrap to survive an immediate Serie B return, it would be a change to not see all the blame pushed on to the Coach.