It’s now official, we are witnessing the worst season opening in the last 10 years. We have equalled Max Allegri`s infamous 15/16 season debut with 33 points in 17 games. Except for the numbers themselves, there is no room for comparison between the teams and…let us state the obvious…between the managers.
At the time, Allegri was coming off a Serie A title (the second of his managerial career) and a CL final in his first season with Juve and he would go on to win another four Scudetti in as many years and record another CL final. Thus, looking back, the 15/16 opening half looks as an explainable blackout, one that paved way for further trophies in the hugely successful stint with Allegri on the bench.
On the other hand, Pirlo is a coaching rookie, with no previous experience whatsoever, with his only achievements being the 3-0 win over a confused Barcelona and a 3-1 win over an unlucky Milan. So, the chances of Pirlo following the footsteps of Max are rather slim at the moment, but who knows…
Anyway, let’s narrow the story to a more concrete topic: Attitude
The ‘wrong attitude’ argument
I do enjoy following the press conferences and interviews involving players and coaches. Apart from usual bla bla, there are some hidden messages that you can depict and thus have some inside knowledge regarding the team. What struck me about Pirlo post match interviews is that almost every mediocre performance, of which we have already seen plenty this season, was justified with the `wrong attitude’ argument.
“We got the attitude wrong from the start and when you don’t have the determination to win the duels, it becomes difficult. We just didn’t step onto the pitch, we were timorous” Pirlo told after the defeat against Inter
This has been Pirlo`s main excuse this season. Blaming the attitude may come in handy, as it is improbable to publicly blame the tactics or the players, whereas “the attitude” seems like a philosophical, mystical enemy. In other words, it’s a safe bet to blame “wrong attitude”.
However, it’s truly worrying that we had the wrong attitude in the Derby d`Italia, a rivalry that needs no introduction, against an Inter guided by our recent heroes Conte, Vidal, Marrotta. Isn’t this enough to inspire the right attitude? Well, apparently it’s not. And when you take into account that we had the wrong attitude against a bunch of other, far weaker opponents, a potential bigger problem takes the stage.
Wrong attitude or wrong coach?
“You can make all the preparations and tests you want, but it’s about putting that into action. We didn’t win a single duel on the field today. Our problem today was that when we were on the ball, we made a lot of mistakes and were constantly giving it away or not finding a way through. We were out-played in every area of the field, we kept taking too many touches, were moving the ball too slowly, we made too many mistakes. It’s tough to talk about tactics and systems when you are so inferior on the night” –
Chiellini said after the defeat against Inter.
Giorgio`s words are to be read carefully. It`s not only a wake-up call to his teammates, but also a strong signal to Pirlo, because whether we like it or not, it is Pirlo’s job to impose the right attitude.
“Coaching is not like playing”, were Roberto Mancini`s words to Pirlo.
“A red light came on for the coach and the club. It must be turned off immediately in the Supercoppa Italiana tomorrow, otherwise it becomes a delicate situation” said Tacchinardi.
My guess – given the hidden messages in the mentioned interviews – is that Pirlo is so concerned with his unimpressive tactical gimmicks, that he fails in other more important duties, such as: transmitting the right energy and attitude to the team, selecting the form players in the right positions etc.
Actually, this guess of mine was a rumour launched in september or october that suggested players being unhappy with Pirlo not talking enough to them, not explaining his methods etc. At the time, it seemed unbelievable that Pirlo, the Maestro, would lack this basic managerial skill of motivating the players and building the right chemistry with them. Now, it seems to be more and more accurate.
The irony is that Pirlo is failing at the same test which made us sack Sarri. Apparently Pirlo`s solution to the team was just a tactical one, whereas the team needed more of a mentor. And even if Pirlo looks as a mentor on paper, apparently he is less of a mentor on the bench.
What is to be done next?
Pirlo’s time is running out, there is no secret about it. And my prediction is that unless he manages to shake-up the team and go on a winning streak, he’ll be gone sooner rather than later. From now on, any slip-up may cause the end of Pirlo`s tenure and with the way the fixture list looks right now, facing Napoli twice, Roma and Porto in the next 6 matches, Pirlo faces an uphill struggle to take this team to the Spring months.
As I said before, the good thing is that Allegri is still out of contract…
(Contributed by Adrain Manole)