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Monday February 5 2018
Wk23: Serie A Super Bowl

While Napoli and Juventus steamroller everything in their path, the chasing pack need to freshen up their tactical ideas, writes Susy Campanale.

There are still 15 rounds to go in the Serie A season, yet it already feels as if we’re just waiting for the Superbowl: Juventus v Napoli in Week 34. Both sides are flattening everything in their path, creating a massive gap from the chasing pack, who are now not so much chasing as panting on their knees, watching the front two disappear over the horizon.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. Inter have no European commitments to worry about and a practically unchanged squad, so the stage was set for them to have a real say in the Scudetto race. Instead, Luciano Spalletti has run into the same problems every Nerazzurri Coach has encountered and that is the intrinsically weak mentality of a side that cannot react to setbacks. No Serie A victories since December 3, they were bullied at San Siro by relegation battlers Crotone. If ever there was a sign that you’ve lost the fear factor with your opponents, that was it.

With Mauro Icardi injured, Spalletti had to shake things up and Eder did deliver with a goal in the 4-3-3 formation. The problem lies with their mentality, as after the performance against SPAL followed along similar lines, Inter tend to take the lead and then almost invite a late equaliser.

Roma saw their negative streak come to an end at the Bentegodi and Eusebio Di Francesco also tweaked his tactics. It’s rare to see this oddly defensive disciple of Zdenek Zeman stray from the 4-3-3, but a good Coach is one who moulds the side to suit the players at his disposal. Quite simply, Radja Nainggolan cannot continue to be wasted in midfield. He needs to be further forward and Edin Dzeko desperately requires more support so he doesn’t look so isolated. Could this be the path to a new era for the Giallorossi?

Milan already went through that process once Gennaro Gattuso took over from Vincenzo Montella and Suso confirmed as much in his post-match interview in Udine. Even during the course of a campaign, you cannot be too fundamentalist about tactics, otherwise you risk stagnation.

In theory, Napoli ought to be predictable and easy to neutralise by now. Everyone knows the Maurizio Sarri moves, including a Lorenzo Insigne cut inside to curl with his right foot and the cross to the back post for Jose Callejon. Nonetheless, they march on because the ball is still moved at enough of a pace to wrong-foot opponents. Once the tempo slows, the Partenopei are in serious trouble.

Seeing Dries Mertens limp off in Benevento brought home another issue that could be crucial going forward in this tight Scudetto race. There is no Plan B. Arkadiusz Milik and Faouzi Ghoulam are still a way off fitness and no alternatives were brought in during the January transfer window. The bench once Mertens was injured at the Stadio Vigorito was disconcerting viewing.

Juventus have no such concerns. They proved that Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa, Andrea Barzagli and Blaise Matuidi can all be absent and yet still smash Sassuolo 7-0. Max Allegri hinted he’ll engage in his now traditional February change of tactics to keep the Old Lady fresh going into the crunch period of the campaign. If the Bianconeri do end up taking a seventh straight Serie A title, a lot of it will be down to strength in depth and versatility.

 

We saw more experimentation and evolution this weekend, as Atalanta had to do without Papu Gomez, using Bryan Cristante and Josip Ilicic to support the centre-forward Andrea Petagna. In the same match, Chievo fielded probably the most defensive formation we’ve seen in the League this season. In crisis and desperate for points they may be, but the Flying Donkeys are doing nothing to make neutrals support them. Perhaps relegation rather than hanging on like a bad smell every year would do them good, freshen up their ideas. 

Have your say...
For the future i hope we keep weakening our biggest rivals. Can't stand Inter, Milan, Napoli or Roma so we should buy their best players in the future.

Forza Juve!!!
on the 9th February, 2018 at 8:45am
BOTTOM LINE

JUVENTUS win because they are better than all the other teams in Serie A.

FACT
on the 8th February, 2018 at 1:21am
While juventus are on top serie-a will always be viewed suspiciously. Juve is still run by the same people who engaged in defrauding calcio supporters all around the world. It is mainly responsible for the demise of serie-a as a top tier league. It cant attract new supporter bases in new markets. Juventus cant even fill their stadium. while Juventus are on top there will always be a stench in serie-a.
The penalty they attracted wasn't enough. They should still be in the lower leagues in Italy.
on the 7th February, 2018 at 10:33pm
Maybe the J shape should more correctly being on Squinzi's tongue from licking a boot, rather than being kicked by one?
on the 5th February, 2018 at 10:10pm
Juventus defensive pack has truly improved no end, and obviously the forwards are clearly the Top unit in Serie A, with plenty of choices for Allegri.
on the 5th February, 2018 at 9:40pm
This is progress actually, Juventus is no longer blamed only for their opponent's inadequacies on the pitch, now they're blamed for their opponents inadequacies in the transfer market as well. Pretty soon all their debts will also be Juve's fault. Now that i think about it Hypocrite has been accusing Juventus, Platini and FFP for financially destroying the Milanese clubs for years now :)
on the 5th February, 2018 at 8:40pm
I'm a Juve Tifo, but i Don't like 7-0 wins. They show a lack of sportsmanship, especially over matched minnows.
on the 5th February, 2018 at 8:37pm
Lol..... inter supporters and their she approach because they are victims... that part they got right because they are victims of their tricks which made them look better than what they were then they collapsed under the pressure of expectation....hahahahahaaaaa
on the 5th February, 2018 at 7:55pm
One of the best news of Week 23 is that Claudio Marchisio is back in splendid form.
Mega huge performance by the "Principino".
He showed that he clearly can carry on where Matuidi has done so well.
The magnitude of the Juventus squad never ceases to amaze!
And Higuain's game was bombastic!!!
on the 5th February, 2018 at 7:51pm
That will be one hell of a game. Probably a title decider.
I just hope the injuries don't pile up even more by that time.

@ Anonymous

That Theo guy is a miserable, bitter man. Who happens to be a conspiracy theorist.
Exactly the type of person that people avoid during social gatherings.

No sense in discussing with those types. Just marvel at that mentality.
on the 5th February, 2018 at 6:44pm
Theo so inter trashing Sassuolo 7 twice is fine, but a team like Juventus who most of their players are worth than how much Sassuolo is worth can't do it ??
on the 5th February, 2018 at 1:16pm
Poor Sassuolo, not only were they forced to derail the transfer to Napoli but then Agnelli forced them to sacrifice themselves 7-0 at the next game. Why do I get the feeling Squinzi has a J shaped bootmark on his backside.
on the 5th February, 2018 at 9:15am

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