It’s remarkable that some clubs have an identity firmly entrenched in their very being, which cannot seem to change, no matter how many coaches, players and owners pass through. Inter are the Pazza (crazy) side that will lurch from a magnificent victory to a ludicrous self-inflicted defeat. Roma will always find a way of creating drama and chaos. Lazio forever think like the country cousins in the shadow of their city-dwelling rivals. Juventus grind out results, because winning is the only thing that matters. Atalanta run like the wind, or the Goddess in their club symbol.
The 2-1 defeat to 10-man Bologna was Peak Inter. Antonio Conte can’t change the nature of this club, no matter how much he blusters in Juventus-style tones about a winning mentality. They are up, they are down, they have no in-between. Their colours are black and blue, like a bruise, no room for a grey area here.
Roma are red and yellow, the colours of fire, and like the city when Nero fiddled, they are eternally ablaze. The club burns everyone who steps through it, from coaches to players and Presidents. You can’t rest for a moment when the ground is scalding hot, always on your toes, hopping from one foot to the other, one idea to the next, four-man defence to three, but always reliant on the fire hydrant that is Edin Dzeko. If the Bosnian doesn’t score, the rest of the team may as well be pillars of ash.
Lazio are blue and white, like the sky over the city of Rome, which their fans tend to watch from the outskirts. It’s tradition that the Biancocelesti supporters live around the Eternal City, while Giallorossi are in the urban centre, and that does reflect on their approach to football. Claudio Lotito rescued the Aquile from bankruptcy after Sergio Cragnotti spent his way to success in Italy and Europe, but he wants to achieve the ultimate result with the minimum effort. Lazio are the epitome of the braccino – holding back – providing Simone Inzaghi with the bare bones of a great team and no fleshing out. It might well have worked if the season had followed normal parameters, with the top teams all playing twice a week in Europe and the Coppa Italia, leaving Lazio to focus entirely on Serie A. But that’s the problem when you only have a Plan A – things change.
Juventus brought in Maurizio Sarri, hoping they would blur the edges, bring some creativity and excitement to the side. But no. Black and white it is. Get rid of the stripes all you want, Old Lady, the clear delineation will not change. Coaches and players don’t transform or even influence Juve. The club changes them instead. The Bianconeri monolith is a statue of solidity, practicality and planning. Some might even call that dull, and even the most committed Juve fan would concede that’s a fair assessment.
Winning non-stop, out-spending their rivals, plucking the best elements from the opposition to further strengthen themselves and weaken their enemies. Sarri is on track to win the Scudetto and he’ll still get criticised from all quarters, potentially fired this summer, or he’ll be the one to walk away. He’s had to “convince” Paulo Dybala to focus more on attacking than defending, to stop tracking back and helping out, to un-Juve himself. La Joya means the jewel in Spanish, and Sarri wants so badly for him to sparkle in the spotlight, not be glimmering faintly in a network of ornate ironwork.
Atalanta’s symbol is La Dea – the Goddess – whose hair flows in the wind because she ran every footrace against the men who wanted to marry her, therefore preserving her freedom. Gian Piero Gasperini and his team know only one approach to football: run. And yet, the last two games have seen them keep clean sheets and score only one or two goals. Maybe a leopard can change its spots after all, or at least learn some new skills. Just as Juve are trying to be more like Atalanta, La Dea are taking some tips from the Old Lady.
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