ITALY: Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo has bold ideas about how he wants to rebuild the Serie A champions but is facing huge challenges to put them into practice and is going to need time to do it – a luxury that few big clubs allow.
The former World Cup winner, in his first season as coach, laid out his vision in a 30-page thesis he wrote to obtain his coaching license, entitled “the football I would like.”
“The founding idea of my football is based on the will of a proactive football, of possession and attack,” he wrote. “I would like to play a total and collective football, with eleven players active in offensive and defensive phase.
“By manipulating space and time, we have the ambition to control the game in both phases.”
It sounds ambitious at the best of times but Pirlo has taken on the challenge amid a fixture pileup, plus the COVID-19 pandemic that has deprived him of the services of Cristiano Ronaldo for their last four games.
He has barely had a chance to train with his full squad since the season started, while also having to blend in a number of new young signings including wingers Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa and midfielders Arthur Melo and Weston McKennie.
There have already been some examples of what Pirlo is trying to do. In last Sunday’s match against Verona, central defender Leonardo Bonucci began popping up in midfield when Juve had possession while midfielder Adrien Rabiot dropped back into defence.
Pirlo also talked about players taking on different roles after the 2-0 win at Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League 10 days ago.
“What I wanted was to have many players going into attack. Chiesa can play on either flank, Kulusevski or Aaron Ramsey can play as a ‘trequartista’ behind a striker,” he said.
“Chiesa is suited to what we wanted to do. He isn’t meant to be a fifth midfielder, but a wide attacker, while when defending he becomes a fourth midfielder. He can play on either side and does it very well.”
However, results and performance so far have generally been disappointing. Juventus have drawn their last three Serie A matches on the pitch and on Tuesday were outplayed in the Champions League by a Barcelona side themselves in transition when they lacked creativity and failed to get a shot on goal.
Italian media have complained that Juventus “lack identity”.
Pirlo, in his defence, points out after every match that his team are under construction and that he has just embarked on a long-term project.
For the coach of a smaller club, that would not be so much of a problem. But Juventus have become so dominant in Italy, that winning the Serie A is seen almost as an obligation.
Allowing Pirlo to get on with his experiments may mean sacrificing a tenth successive Serie A title.
He might also be asking too much of the players.
Earlier this year, defender Giorgio Chiellini remembered how he was once coached by Roberto Donadoni at Livorno and the players simply could not understand what was being asked of them.
“The things he asked us to do were fundamentally sound, but for us at that time, they were impossible,” he said. “Roberto took a while to realise that and the same could happen to Andrea when he becomes a coach.
“(Pirlo) is a Martian who makes everything special. Of course, as a coach Andrea will have to return to Earth because he will not be able to expect his players to have eyes behind their heads as he did.” – Reuters