Straight from the dark heart of Italy
“Indefensible” was how Tuttosport summed up Juve's performance in the 2-1 defeat at Napoli, and the very same could easily describe AS Roma’s abject display in a 4-0 home reverse against Inter.
The Tinkerman and the Stinkerman are mismanaging their respective sides towards a long winter of discontent and the clocks haven’t even gone back yet.
While Claudio Ranieri couldn’t leave well alone, Luciano Spalletti must have wished he could have changed every one of his gutless XI – apart from the half-fit Francesco Totti.
Things were going quite swimmingly for Juve at Napoli, with the game evenly poised going into the final 20 minutes or so. But then Ranieri decided to go for one of his more bizarre changes, even by his standards.
Off came Alex Del Piero, who had been keeping the home defence on their toes, to be replaced by wet-behind-the-ears Paolo de Ceglie. The reaction of both sides was plain to see: Napoli suddenly had a spring in their stride and more freedom to push forward while the Juve players started to visibly wilt.
Lavezzi's late winner sends Juve packing
The rest had a certain inevitability about it – and so it was at the Olympic Stadium when Zlatan Ibrahimovic found the back of the net after just five minutes.
The Giallorossi had more yellow running through them than the rousing red, and the blame for that has to be laid at Spalletti’s door. Never one for a bit of good old chest-beating, his forlorn gazes into space whenever things aren’t going his way are dragging everyone down.
The only slight consolation to be taken from what was one of the most embarrassing evenings since Old Trafford two years ago was that Totti’s knee stood up to the test. (In mitigation, because Serie Aaaaargh! doesn’t want to kick a man when he is down, both coaches were forced to field a player who shouldn’t be playing in Serie A never mind wearing the shirts of two of the biggest clubs in the country. Step forward – and fall over your two left feet – Dario Knezevic and Simone Loria. This time last year the central defenders were lumbering around for perennial no-hopers Livorno and Siena, respectively, and how they still find themselves in the top flight is anyone’s guess.)
While the two Tottenhams of Italy stare into the abyss, little solace will be found in the next couple of days, with Champions League rivals Real Madrid and Chelsea gleefully rubbing their hands at the prospect of improving their goal difference.
If only a little of Jose Mourinho's stardust would fall Ranieri and Spalletti’s way.
The Portuguese can do no wrong. Before heading off to the capital he was in typically pugilistic mood, telling one and all that he didn’t know the meaning of the word fear. And so it proved.
He dumped the in-form Adriano, who apparently was back to time-keeping ways of old, clipped Mario Ballotelli’s wings because he was getting too big for his boots, and turned to Victor Obbina, who would have been an Everton player now if it had not been for UK immigration laws.
The young Nigerian answered the call with a stunning goal and Dejan Stankovic – also marked for the exit door in the summer – grabbed his chance with a cracking effort as well.
Obbina celebrates stunner during Inter's rout of Roma
Of course, true to form, Mourinho claimed that he wouldn’t mind a return to England once his work in Italy was done, as if managing Inter was a way to spend a relaxing couple of gap years before going back to his real job.
Plainly, when you are a winner you can say whatever you want – but for lesser achievers, the time has come to do a bit of talking on the pitch.
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