The last outing v Inter was the first time this season I felt we had some clear identity. Players were more comfortable in their natural or close to natural roles. They showed more fight, more happiness, more potency to express their core abilities and we barely gave Inter – who needed to attack to reduce the deficit – even a single glaringly open opportunity. Every shot found either a player between the ball and the goal or was so far outside any real threat, it was futile.
The team moved as one. It was a welcome semblance of a truly collective effort. And yes we sacrificed much in the attacking phase, but so what eh? We still threatened, and did not need to do more. Progressed to the final, comfortably.
This was an admirable pragmatism I had not seen from Pirlo all season. So fixated on his hybrid system, which to be fair, has clicked into action often in the final third, yet in almost every single game prior to Roma, we have conceded a handful of chances for the opponents which a top side would take with aplomb. In short, I have seen any progress on the attacking front balanced out by the defensive disarray, with players not having anyone close, been caught out on the counter attack and last ditch defending or fine goalkeeping saving the day.
Most promising was that we achieved this defensive lock-out, threatened on the break, without several key players. Arthur, Chiellini and Chiesa(pretty much!), Bonucci, Dybala, Morata…with Kulu playing the Brozovic blockade, not his natural attacking game.
It appears to make a hell of a difference having a more set back four, as well as the 2 CMs with support always from two other midfielders on the flanks or the FBs pushing up. This avoids the overload when we lose the ball high up the field.
Ideally, Pirlo would consolidate this newfound solidity, and build upon it, slowly tweaking us to become balanced between the defensive wall and offensive threat.
It has been and would be a crying shame to continue to waste the attacking talents of Kulu and Chiesa and yet we have to consider Morata, and the return of Dybala…and if I am to offer any loosely reasonable hope of continuing this far more solid two banks of four with two forwards higher up the field, then I will add in a wild card…accepting that we are rather hamstrung due to Ronaldo demanding the LW berth when he moves always centrally. And admittedly, we have no natural LM – if we are to persevere with a 4-4- whatever. Freddy is useless other than a hectic pest. Chiesa/Kulu are miles away from their natural strengths there. If I can dream…why not give young Felix Correia a chance there???
He would offer zero defensive value other than an option to be given the ball and flair magic his way out of bother. On the offensive front, he is clearly a menace when playing with admittedly third tier opponents, but still, he is playing with men vastly more experienced; bigger, stronger, in a league of bruisers, and making them look silly.
Impossible to say whether Pirlo is of a similar opinion, as in…we are far more solid and can still score goals when playing a more rigid system. Only the last two games have I seen this employed, and it remains to be seen whether this was a brief change from the focus season long upon an ideal never proven to work.
More will be known with the upcoming fixtures against Napoli and Porto…
The visit to our old friends, now bossed by the close to struggling Gattuso, could prove pivotal. At least in our aspirations to climb the table and regain our rightful position at the top.
Victory would put us 4 points off AC Milan. A loss would add incentive to our opponents as well as the two clubs from Rome.
The form of the Partenopei is rather haphazard. Their losses to Verona, Atalanta and Genoa have all come away from home, where they remain solid.
Arthur, Paulo Dybala and Leonardo Bonucci are all set to miss the game through injury. Whilst a bother, we have plenty of strength to field for the tie and why not just play the same team as deployed against Inter? Yet swap in Morata for Kulu, add a more attacking threat.
Not sure if Chiellini will be risked, and risk is the operative word given his age and tendency to suffer muscular injuries, and yet…I would take that risk, get him as close to full sharpness as possible for the Porto tie.
I am a big believer in form, in continuing with what works. And hope that Pirlo is of the same stance.
No idea of the starting XI, though will assume we will enter the fray not too dissimilar to the last two outings.
Back to restrictions here…the Great Reset abounds, after a brief respite for Summer. I will cling onto the football whilst sneaking into the wilderness when near to viable. Not the virus which scares me, its the government. And the corporations which own them.
Hope you are all safe and well and like me…still finding an outlet for excitement and fantasy and adventure wherever you can find it!
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