Pirlo exposed again but others really to blame for Juventus problems | Nicky Bandini | Soccer

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Pippo Inzaghi put his arm around Andrea Pirlo’s shoulder before kick-off at Allianz Stadium. It was an instinctive moment of reconnection between two men, who played together for a decade in Milan. They were brought to San Siro by the same agent, Tullio Tinti, in the summer of 2001 and have shared over 200 matches side by side.

As players, they have reached some of the highest heights in football. In the footage of Milan’s 2007 Champions League final victory over Liverpool you can see them in an identical pose, Inzaghi pulling his friend close to him as they walk to the locker room at half-time. He had scored the first goal of the game moments earlier, deflecting Pirlo’s free kick past Pepe Reina.

The stakes for the weekend were different. Less, in the most obvious sense, but perhaps higher in others. No trophy awaited the winner in Turin, but Pirlo needed a win to keep Scudetto’s hopes of Juventus alive and to prevent his first managerial season from being seen as a catastrophic failure. After nine consecutive Serie A titles, the Bianconeri lags Inter by 10 points in the standings. It was their only game in hand.

Inzaghi faced a different kind of pressure as he looked to break an 11-game winless streak. Benevento, who was only playing in Serie A for the second time in history, had far exceeded expectations in the first half of this season but now found himself sliding into the relegation zone.

They were without their highest paid player, central defender Kamil Glik, as well as central midfielder Pasquale Schiattarella. Inzaghi would later admit that he had prepared the statement he would give in case of defeat, “partly for superstition, but [mostly] because I need to be rational.

Defeat seemed to be the most likely outcome. Juventus, despite all their disappointments, had so far won 10 of the 13 league games in 2021. They could call on a world-class squad of players, led by the man who had just passed Pelé in the league table. all-time scores. Cristiano Ronaldo received a commemorative jersey before kick-off, bearing the acronym GOAT (Greatest of All Time).

Maybe those truths made Juventus complacent. They dominated possession and number of shots on Sunday, but there was a lack of intensity, a presumption that a goal would eventually come. Instead, in the 69th minute, Arthur played an unnecessary superfluous pass through his own penalty area. Benevento’s Adolfo Gaich intercepted and exploded a shot past Wojciech Szczesny.

Too late, Juventus discovered their urgency. Federico Chiesa was denied a penalty and Cristiano Ronaldo kicked over the head. The champions racked up the expected goals, but couldn’t find any and fell to a 1-0 defeat.

“We could stay here for three days to try to understand why we played like this,” said Juventus director of football Fabio Paratici. Only a third of the time, then, that he and his colleagues took to promote the rookie coach hired to look after their Under-23s to first-team manager last summer.

Pirlo is not primarily responsible for the regression of Juventus. That responsibility lies with Paratici and his fellow directors, whose team building over the three years since Ronaldo’s signing seemed driven more by name recognition than by a cohesive vision.

The manager’s inexperience, however, played an important role. Pirlo’s inability to tailor his ideas to the players at his disposal was only further revealed by this meeting with Inzaghi – who also jumped into the depths when he took his first managerial position at Milan in 2014.





Benevento coach Filippo Inzaghi storms the sideline to celebrate the victory at Juventus. Photography: Matteo Bottanelli / NurPhoto / Shutterstock

Despite a two-year apprenticeship as coach of the club’s academy teams, Inzaghi has always struggled, finishing 10th at the end of a season that featured indignities such as his boss, Silvio Berlusconi, surrendering in his locker room and orders him to shout “Attack!” To his players over and over again.

Six years later, Inzaghi continues to learn on the job. He has had some success – taking Venezia to the promotion of third in 2016-17, then leading Benevento’s barn race to the top of Serie B last season, when they finished with an 18-point lead. In between, he made a dismal save in Bologna, winning two of 21 matches.

What stands out about this campaign is its flexibility. Benevento started playing the same gung-ho football that earned promotion last season. They came from 2-0 to beat Sampdoria on the opening weekend, but found themselves on the wrong side of the 5-2 losses to Inter and Roma. When Benevento faced the Giallorossi again last month they drew 0-0. Inzaghi has learned that sometimes it pays to be careful, swapping four fullbacks for five.

“We had lost touch with reality a bit,” he said on Sunday. “By setting all these Serie B records, then the numbers we had in the first half of the season, some people were wrong. ”

It would have been difficult for anyone involved with the club not to get carried away again on Sunday. Benevento are the first promoted team to win away from Juventus in eight years, and the first to keep a clean sheet in their stadium in nine years. They have taken four points from the champions this season, having drawn at home against them.

Club sporting director Pasquale Foggia jumped off the bench full-time and rushed into the stands to give the club president a hug. “He had the brilliant idea of ​​trying to come and get me, but then he felt something behind his back,” said Oreste Vigorito. “He forgot that I weighed 70 kilos. Lying on the steps of the stadium, we discovered that it was wonderful.

They deserved to take center stage, but the stage was stolen on Sunday night by Massimiliano Allegri, appearing at Sky Sport’s Calcio Club. He has given few interviews in the two years since his split from Juventus, so it was the time of his re-emergence, with his former club at its lowest level in a decade.

Allegri’s interview was extensive and he spoke with characteristic eloquence of the struggles of Italian teams in Europe and the qualities that he believes need to be cultivated in managers to ensure better results in the future. He also shared his observations on the current Serie A season, highlighting the traits that impressed him in Antonio Conte’s Inter.

Parme 1-2 Gênes, Spezia 2-1 Cagliari, Crotone 2-3 Bologne, Rome 0-2 Naples, Fiorentina 2-3 Milan, Udinese 0-1 Lazio, Sampdoria 1-0 Turin, Juventus 0-1 Benevento, Vérone 0 -2 Atalanta.

Headlines were made, however, by his remark that he plans to return to management in June. Allegri said he was fascinated by the idea of ​​training abroad, in England or in Spain, but also that he would gladly return to Serie A. Asked about Juventus in particular, he deviated, stressing that they already had Pirlo.

“Being a manager is very difficult,” he reflected at one point. “You can’t explain how to do it. There are managers from Monday to Saturday, which is a job, then Sunday is a whole other thing because you have to navigate the unexpected. So it has nothing to do with technique and tactics, you won’t find the answers in a book. A manager lives on his feelings.

The dominant sensation among supporters in Turin on Sunday night was the desire for his return.

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