Its still early days for Beppe’s replacement to be judged. I must also concede that he inherited a squad from his former boss, yet on the other hand he played his own role in forming that squad. So he can have some of the credit for the staggering success with very few failures of the recruitment policy at large before he got the top job as our Sporting Director, pushing out his mentor in the process. I wont go into my thoughts on that here and now, suffice to say that I found the Ronaldo move his play to usurp and move up the ladder, and he won, at the expense of course of Marrotta.
I am a long term detractor of the Ronaldo move. It seemed a marketing move above all sporting considerations, which paints a poor picture of Paratici, for it suggests he simply assumed ‘elite player will make us better’ without weighing seriously in his mind, or rather, absent of critical thinking to understand what the squad needed most and what impact the Ronaldo circus would have on the players and tactics.
As mentioned in my last piece, the financial implications were never as rosy as so many have since expressed, and remain now, I assume, a net loss of hideous repercussions. For an investment of €340m in one player alone has dramatic consequences in regards to how much we can spend elsewhere. Usually, with wages and agents and transfer figures, we need to spend around €40-60m on a player expected to make a difference in the first team. Ronaldo was signed at the expense of 5-6 players to incrementally improve the side.
Moving past Ronaldo, I see some successes, such as Demiral who looks a monster of a defender, and De Ligt who has come good after a shaky start and now looks ultra solid, though the Dutchman did cost €155 – 195m which is a staggering investment I doubt we will ever get back.
Kulesevski also looks a promising purchase, and I hope the scouts have done their homework on ensuring his main attributes to add creativity and support in the final third from midfield, everything we presently lack.
Other than which I see an attempt to emulate Beppe’s famous free signing expertise, and failure on both efforts so far. For yes, Paratici did try to address the obvious and long term midfield problems, by signing Rabiot and Ramsey. Both have done close to zero combined to help us, so often injured or unable to find even a basic connection with the team or tactics that we have basically been forced to rely upon everyone but them.
Removing Mandzukic was a wretched move, not just the manner this was delivered but the lack of any replacement for the front line.
The Spinazzola transfer seemed cunning, but letting Pellegrini go elsewhere was ridiculous as De Sciglio was even then, clearly not part of our plans.
I place Sarri as one of Paratici’s signings. And he must bear responsibility for the lack of foresight, the lack of understanding how Sarri works from a sporting perspective, and from what I can perceive, the lack of support shown in the media for his chosen successor to Allegri. Not a damn peep. I perceive that like Sarri, the suave Paratici works autonomously, never in meaningful synergy with the other elements of the coaching setup and squad, and has Nedved in his pocket, mainly to support his direction he is taking the club.
Where Andrea Agnelli fits into this is curious to consider, for as a President, he delegates hugely to his closest directors, which are Nedved and Paratici, and yet he attends the games, he can see what is happening, and where does this leave him? Well…
I would presume that Sarri’s future at the club is dependent on the next two months. For it is much easier and cheaper to change managers than clear out half the squad and plead to cousin Elkann for more millions to bring in what Sarri needs.
As for his appraisal of how well the successors to the tried, tested and gloriously successful Beppe Marrotta model? I suspect he will give the duet at least another season, taking into account the restrictions and mega losses, and maintaining his confidence in their ability.
Quietly in the shadows with a smile I often hear myself whispering…I hope he has retained Pocchetino’s number on speed dial.
Prospects for this season
The Supercoppa was lost with an anaemic and humbling performance.
The Coppa Italia final we stumbled into, was lost with a wretched and humbling performance.
We beat a poor 10th place Bologna side, who gifted us the advantage with a ridiculous, needless foul, then sat back with their heads drooping, allowed us to come onto them to create a succession of chances, that as usual, we failed to convert all but one of which. Throughout the game we looked suspect at the back where communication was at times as if strangers were playing, the midfield seemed generally invisible and I forgot for long periods that Pjanic was playing – even Bentancur did little other than cover and tackle. Curiously, it was the first time I had seen Rabiot at least steadfastly try to make a nuisance of himself for some of the opening 45 minutes.
This was an improvement in the scoreline, performance of the attack and chances created against a team with zero to play for from the remainder of the season, other than perhaps a new contract. I am glad we showed some added potency in the final third, but against the two sides who did have something to play for – Milan and Napoli – we were second best from start to finish.
The Champions league campaign finds us a goal down and its deflating to be thinking that the lack of competitive action for Lyon will – I hope – help our cause there, at least enough to stumble through to the next round. The problem thereafter is who we might face. We often struggles against spirited weaker, well organised sides. Playing a stronger opponent on the grand stage could see us torn apart for the world to witness.
Domestically, we are one point clear of Lazio, and suffering from what I consider systemic problems running through the club like fault lines, with very little to change the trajectory, given the expanding gulf between Sarri’s one trick pony routine tactically, and the players belief in the system and in themselves.
I had concluded in March we would not win any silverware this campaign, and still feel this is the case.
We barely made a single major opening against an AC Milan side playing with ten men for most the game. In the next outing, we should have lost in normal time, as Napoli forced the only clear cut chances and it was the 42 year old back up keeper Buffon who saved us. Bonucci and De Ligt looked fine, but no surprise when playing against a side who committed nobody forward for most the match.
Still, we now face Lecce (18th), Genoa (17th), Torino (15th) . Three games against weak sides to try gain some momentum prior to far sterner tests:
AC Milan (a) 7th July
Atalanta (h) 11th July
Lazio (h) 20th July
The fixture run looks perfect for a side now eager to find its rhythm, then improving game by game before we face off against Gasperini’s side playing some of the best football across europe this season and of course what could prove the scudetto showdown soon after.
And once the curtain draws down on the scudetto at home to Roma on August 2nd, we prepare for the return match against Lyon on the 5th. By which time we would have played 14 competitive games in quick succession whereas out opponents wont have played even 1 since early March.
You see I remain hopeful of total glory! Well at least of what is left on offer, and really I mean the scudetto alone…
Unfortunately my instincts and head lead to less enthusiasm.
This season is already half a write-off – in regards to the easier to grasp silverware on offer – and the most important question to be answered, damn soon, by the management, is whether they are going to double down on Sarri. If so, they must work with the coach to bring in the players he needs to make his system work. Anything less will lead to another season of painful atrophy.
Responsibility for the quandary where we find ourselves is shared between the board, the manager and the players. They are all accountable. Yet its most commonly the case that its easier to change a manager than a squad, with the sporting director usually a lengthier term cycle which only an appalling run of form and definite failure can push to change.
All decisions now rest upon Andrea Agnelli.
Sarri is perhaps wittingly making himself the sacrificial lamb to the slaughter as he knows no other way, but Andrea will not react with mere emotion, he must consider the scene as a whole. And maybe send a tentative smoke signal to Pocchetino whilst not excusing Paratici and Nedved, but making them understand very clearly, that they have failed as much as Sarri, as much as himself, and if he could get rid of them all and the most obviously failing players, he might, but this isn’t possible or sensible. One more year, prove yourselves, no need to panic but much reason to take serious stock of our situation.
Stern words must be spoken. The club as a whole must come together, take collective responsibility and speak openly without fear just with shared hope, to work on a way forward with belief and pride in the shirt.
We are a much better side than we have seen of late and for much of this ill fated campaign. Its high time they showed this, not just Sarri, not just the players but from the top to the bottom of the club which feels currently like a relationship in the state of an ugly, protracted divorce with moments of brief respite in between the horror failing to dull the steady sinking sensation.
Despite my disheartening predictions, we remain well positioned in the two most important competitions. There is plenty more to lose, and plenty more to win.
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