Life is just a series of moments and put together they form a narrative, but it’s the ‘Sliding Doors’ effect: what if that one tiny detail had gone differently? A Scudetto can be won and lost on whether the ball ricochets off the woodwork just the right way to bounce into the net or back out.
If Jorginho’s weak penalty hadn’t been parried back into his path to tap in the rebound, would Napoli have been able to break down Udinese? If Daniele De Rossi hadn’t experienced his now traditional rush of blood to the head by slapping Gianluca Lapadula, would Roma have been held by Genoa? If Nikola Kalinic had managed to put just one of those clear-cut chances into the back of the net, would both his and Milan’s seasons have been transformed? If Felipe Caicedo’s clumsy challenge hadn’t been viewed on the VAR, would Lazio now be title contenders?
The weeks go by and the Rossoneri keep ploughing their furrow of painful mediocrity. Perhaps the only thing more painful than watching this team play is listening to Vincenzo Montella insist in every post-match interview that they are on the right track with only bad luck preventing them from achieving their richly-deserved results. Montella seems to have come down with a dose of Giampiero Ventura-itis, constantly chopping and changing seemingly at random, refusing to use players in their proper positions for reasons known only to himself. I don’t think it’s going to get any better. The more Montella maintains this level is good, the deeper Milan will be locked in a mid-table malaise.
At least Maurizio Sarri and Eusebio Di Francesco have the decency to acknowledge when their teams aren’t playing well. Perhaps Montella and Max Allegri genuinely believe their current performances are worthy of praise, in which case the problems run deeper than first feared. Luciano Spalletti wisely clouded over the issue in Sardinia by noting their “suffering” for the victory was an added bonus, as if relying on Mauro Icardi to convert every half-chance is somehow a long-term tactic. We’ve seen it too many times to be a fluke: just as Inter seem under the cosh and ready to break, that’s when they take the lead. It’s the football equivalent of the rope-a-dope boxing technique.
De Rossi acknowledges his faults, he always has, yet seems powerless to stop that demon rearing up every now and then. He must learn that times have changed and VAR will catch you slapping your opponent in the guise of man-marking. His own attempt to cover it up as some sort of mutual collision by going down clutching his face just made matters worse. He’s the Roma captain now and at his age there is simply no excuse for this behaviour. How many times must be make the same mistakes and never learn from them?
It’s frightening to think how much of our lives, our very existences, depend on that one moment, the fraction of a second, the half an inch, that can go one way or the other. In football the Coaches always say it’s the performance they are most interested in, but everyone else looks only at the result. SPAL receive endless compliments for their style of football and attacking approach, but very few points to show for it. The same goes for Benevento, who inexplicably have zero points in the table despite playing 10 times better than Sassuolo.
Neroverdi supporters ought to be grateful to Hellas Verona for earning that 2-0 victory at the Mapei Stadium when down to 10 men. It proved that there was no future under Cristian Bucchi and the only results they had achieved up until now were largely flukes. They have no ideas going forward and are incompetent in defence, all with largely the same squad Eusebio Di Francesco worked wonders with last season. Beppe Iachini will be a breath of fresh air and it’s nice to have his endless supply of baseball caps back on the touchline.