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Calcio Debate: Milan-Juventus – The Game That Proved Serie A’s Problems

Those of you who regularly read my Calcio column will know that I am often a staunch defender of Serie A. There are many reasons why Italian clubs have flopped in Europe over the last couple of years - Calciopoli, a lack of money, traditional beliefs, poor management, inadequate defences – these are just a handful.

There are enough prodigious youngsters based in the peninsula to enable Italy to swiftly recover from this recession, but what last night’s Milan-Juventus clash illustrated is that Serie A’s top clubs not only lack the intensity of their English Premier League counterparts, but they also have gaping holes in their starting XIs that need filling.

It is difficult to recall a match between Italy’s two most historic teams so limp and bereft of brilliance. Aside from the impressive Mauro Camoranesi, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Pippo Inzaghi, there was just no individual spark. It was like watching a training match. The Arsenal-Chelsea derby only a few hours earlier, despite The Gunners' typical naivety, was full of explosions. Of course, Serie A and the Premier League are completely different football genres, but the relative gap in quality of the two games was alarming.

Juventus may have had some injury problems, but have things become so desperate that the centre of their midfield consists of two Christians who have to repent after every immoral game? Ten or so years ago, Juve had the best triangle in world football in Zidane, Deschamps and Davids, now they have a provincial-standard duo in Zanetti and Poulsen. There certainly would have been a long queue for the confession box had the demon apostle Molinaro not been sidelined.

As for Milan, a quick rearranging of the first four letters of Giuseppe Favalli’s surname (just move the ‘Va’ before the ‘Fa’) begins a familiar, abusive, Italian phrase shouted at the veteran defender by millions of Rossoneri fans worldwide. At nearly 41, Paolo Maldini is a true phenomenon, and is still holding his own, but Milan are the joint-most successful international club in history. The centre of their defence should not have a combined age of 78.

Let’s get serious now. The bottom line is that if Milan and Juventus, who now look likely to finish second and third respectively, are to launch any assault next season on the Champions League and Inter’s Scudetto, they have to address areas of the pitch where the personnel is just not up to scratch. The names mentioned above, barring Maldini who is retiring, all have to go.

Another problem area is on the bench. Claudio Ranieri is almost certain to be sacked at the end of the season, and it will be long overdue. While ‘The Tinkerman’ celebrates last night’s draw like it is a victory, and claims that his side are “back”, he will do well to remember that Juve have not won a game for almost two months. Their last success was on March 21 at Roma, and they have since drawn five and lost one in Serie A, failing to beat three of the bottom five, as well as crashing out of the Coppa Italia to Lazio. This is Juve's worst run of form for ten years, since 1998/99.

Sebastian Giovinco has been criminally left to rot on the sidelines by Ranieri, while it is puzzling why the ex-Chelsea coach pushed his hands down and told his side to play for the draw after Milan had been reduced to ten men. Jose Mourinho would have thrown on another attacker, like Giovinco, when Favalli was sent off, but Ranieri was happy for Poulsen to increase his volume of Ray Wilkins sideway passes.

Ranieri was not alone with his questionable tactics. Carlo Ancelotti undoubtedly got his formation wrong. Milan were always going to dominate possession against a Juve core of Zanetti and Poulsen, so there was no need at all to field a five-man midfield. It was a waste of a player who would have been much better served up-front. Had Pippo Inzaghi been partnered by Alexandre Pato in attack, and not unleashed as the sole frontman, Milan would have had much more of a cutting edge, and a far greater chance of winning.

Once again, Ancelotti was influenced by player power. There was no space for both Pato and Inzaghi without upsetting a senator like Seedorf, who scored and actually had one of his better games, but is still well below his old levels. This has been a Milan problem for a couple of years now – their family values are so strong that they are almost detrimental to the cause.

The Scudetto will certainly go to Inter now, but in truth they have not really had to work that hard in order to win it for a third successive year. A solid foundation and efficient line-up, bolstered by an excellent defence and the irreplaceable figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was more than enough for the Nerazzurri to romp to another title.

Any honest analysis of last night’s game between Milan and Juventus will conclude that these two giants, and Serie A as a whole, needs some repair. It does not require a Silvio Berlusconi facelift - a few big signings in key areas will do the trick. Juventus must realise though that there will be no resurrection with a centre midfield of two Christians, while Milan know what they have to say to Va-Fa-lli.

What are your views on this topic? Do you agree that the quality of Milan-Juventus was not that high? wants to know what YOU think…

Carlo Garganese,