Juventus struggle for a point against Fiorentina
“Super Fiorentina” roared the front-page headlines of both Tuttosport and La Gazzetta dello Sport. Finally the black and white winning machine had ground to a halt thanks to a superhero performance from Vincenzo Montella’s men who were more deserving of a win than a draw.
Having hit the crossbar in addition to creating the better chances, only a truly gifted ‘number 9’ restricted this Fiorentina from snatching all three points. It had been 14 years since Juventus won in Florence and had it not been for lady luck, the Bianconeri would have seen Adem Ljajic score a sitter and Stevan Jovetic overcome the crossbar.
However, it wasn’t to be and the Old Lady can still boast the undefeated title – perhaps undeservedly so. Slow, lethargic in their movement and clueless in attack, the Bianconeri could barely muster up any clever attacking passages of play whilst Fiorentina executed their footballing strategy perfectly. Playing a 3-5-2 formation, they ensured they pressed the opponents high up the pitch, remained concentrated throughout the game and ensured that whenever Juve had the ball, at least two Viola players were there to press them in hopes of winning the ball back. Juventus were faced with an opponent who played their own game and had the energy the Old Lady lacked due to a hectic schedule.
With such tactics, Fiorentina enjoyed marginally more time on the ball, were more accurate when it came to their passing and their desire to stifle the Juve game meant they tackled more, committed more fouls and were better at winning the aerial duels. Antonio Conte’s men simply couldn’t play and had to make do with stopping their opponents from scoring.
Montella and his men deserve the plaudits as in a few short months, the Coach has created a team that, unlike last season, have the confidence and will to perform well and collect the points. Always offensive in their approach, they play a similar style of football as Juve that looks to overwhelm their opponents. As described in the preview, they favour short passes, a midfield that works hard to exploit the strengths of their ball players and in Jovetic they have a magician who can both create and score even if he couldn’t to finish on the night.
Juventus were suffering and Gianluigi Buffon was left exposed to Fiorentina’s relentless shooting. The Old Lady on the other hand, appeared to create nothing in attack. However, statistically and according to whoscored.com, Juventus managed just as many shots on target as Fiorentina but the home side did produce more shots overall.
Of course, the crux of the problem is Andrea Pirlo’s form. As this blog once wrote, ‘No Pirlo, no party’, and the playmaker has been severely missed. Whilst the Old Lady has managed to continue creating despite the absence of Pirlo’s genius, his ability to hold the ball, dictate tempo and find the key pass has been heavily missed. At the moment, we are witnessing a subdued playmaker who is effectively marked out of the game.
After Zvonimir Boban opined that the Italian ought to retire from International duties due to the ‘loss of his brilliance’ of having to play so regularly, Italian media have all now asked the question: Is the player too old to keep making the difference? However, even a mediocre Pirlo is better than any playmaker in Serie A so for now, Juve will need to stand by and hope he rediscovers his magic.
Whilst the game was described as pleasant by most, the dramatic action happened in the stands. Fiorentina fans put up banners and chanted such things as ‘Conte, the most appropriate location for you is in Sollicciano’ (the famous prison in Florence) in relation to the problems of getting the Juventus Coach a place to sit and watch the match. Meanwhile others targeted the Tactician’s previous balding issues, telling him that if he was to sit next to them, they promise not to touch a hair on his head. As funny as the above were, a certain number of those in La Curva Ferrovia, took it too far by allegedly chanting “I love Liverpool, I Love Liverpool’ in reference to the Heysel tragedy that killed 39 Juventus fans.
Rivalries aside, one has to agree with Beppe Marotta’s comments in which he insisted: “The tone around this match is a little over the top and the fact Conte can’t sit in the stands is a negative advertisement for Italian football. We put in the effort, but everything around this match seems exaggerated.” Perhaps it was but what can one expect from such a fierce rivalry in a football-crazed country?