Tis the season for joy and for giving, and although our season up to now has been far from joyous, I believe there is still alot of giving to be done.
Before I start this post I just want to say how great you all are. We've all suffered together, we still get up every Sunday (even the 6 am games) to cheer and we would carry this team through the Lega Pro if we needed to. Its been a great half season getting to comment for you all and I just wish you all and your families a very happy holiday.
Well we're off somewhere. Pretty much everywhere, we go into this break a broken, demoralized, shell of the team that beat Milan that glorious day in Torino. We sit in 13th place, yet are only 5 points off of the Euro zone. Our medical room looks like a war zone and the team is (literally) falling to pieces. Its no suprise that this team needs a major face lift in every sector and its going to take Santa Pantaleo to deliver that to us.
Although this first half of the season has been a hellish beating from one side to the other we have had some pleasant surprises that have made the future look a little bit brighter. We've seen the emergence of Mario Santana, a player that has balanced from brilliant to unwatchable. Santana has become a second half miracle worker with crosses, dribbles, runs, and a force on the wings. His goal against Udinese is a cap on whats been a positive season thus far and he nearly brought us into the quarters of the Coppa Italia with a fantastically timed goal. Another emergence has been the "return" of Marco Donadel. Marco had a brilliant season in 07-08 and then fell off the radar for two seasons. He seemed to have lost his powerful leg, he was run over by everybody from Zanetti to Felipe Melo who regulated to the bench. Yet he held the colors and didn't complain, didn't go on massive media whining sprees (ala Balotelli) and once Montolivo was struck down, Marco became our capitano. This season Marco is a midfield gladiator. He recovers lost balls, he is a little rough and has become a card magnet, but an absolute splendid curling ball against Bari, and a wrongly disallowed Eurogol against Cagliari have hailed the return of that powerful out of the zone shot that we all love. He loves the shirt, he loves the team, and fully deserves the new contract. When we bought Artur Boruc back in the summer it seemed like the most bizarre of picks. A great goalkeeper behind another great goalkeeper and it only seemed to mount the pressure. We made our jokes, we read the rage page and it was all fun. Except for him. Boruc obviously wasn't happy and 3 weeks into the season he was asking to leave. Then Frey hit the dirt, and his season ended less than a quarter of the way in. Boruc whos claim to fame was a single Coppa Italia match stepped in and faced Roma. He flopped the first two goals and gave away the third and we all believed we were screwed. But when we flew up to take on Juve, we were treated to one of the most awesome displays of pure goalkeeping that we hadn't seen in a long time. Boruc pulled off one miracle after another even blocking one with only one shoulder working. When our defense was struck down by red cards and injury (are you seeing a recurring theme here?) We were left to the young Michele Camporese to stand in the center next to Gambero. Campo came on the second half against Milan, and was given the most impossible of tasks for someone playing their first Serie A match....take hold of Ibrahimovic. The second Campo came on, Ibra lost his space, couldn't move, couldn't turn, couldn't cross or shoot. The next week Micheles job became harder tenfold. Against Juve he would have to hold Alex Del Piero and Milos Krasic. He stepped up and swept away dangerous crosses, had near perfect timing in all of his tackles and only injury kept him from a near flawless match. Cerci and D'Agostino have both been impressive additions to our midfield. Cerci's initial games showed him as a fast, creative, midfielder and i'm excited to watch him grow and develop. D'Agostino announced his arrival with a goal against Napoli on the first day and hes shown to be our most capable free kick taker other than Vargas with a splendid goal against Roma and a good try against Milan. Alas he too was struck down with injury but he will become a very valuable asset to this team. A quick mention must be made to the excellent primavera who are currently on an incredible 13 match WIN streak and top the table in the Primavera. Our future is blindingly bright.
As much as I would love to talk about the good, the bad unfortunately far outweighs our triumphs. The first is the most obvious. Our disaster of a Gamboreseless defense. Comotto and Brazilian liability (and bizarrely admired) Felipe have been a mess in nearly every match. Starting with Comotto, he seems to be favored over the more offensive LDS, but he might as well not even be playing. Hes a constant hole in defense, he was the one that fouled Pepe that allowed him to score against us in Turin. Hes constantly off his line and moves up even though hes as terrible, actually even worse, offensively as defensively.
Felipe....Felipe, Felipe, Fefreakinglipe. He is pure disaster from A to B. In the Coppa Italia match he gave Crespo miles of space, he was unreliable against Udinese, hes been the cause for 85% of our defensive troubles. Theres very little more to add here.
Avramov. Yes we get it, you're the third keeper, you're not supposed to be good, but I just wasn't expecting pure crap. Avramov took over Boruc's place when Boruc fell after Cagliari. Against Udinese he never seemed secure in goal, he was constantly beaten and overran, and never seemed parry the ball into the path of opposing players. Against Parma, he held on for 114 minutes, even pulling off a couple of impressive saves. But it took two minutes to mishandle Crespo's only shots on goal and hand them the win. Apparently hes been depressed and psychologically shocked since then and failed to appear and the Christmas party last night.
"The Ugly" is dedicated to the players that have been more bad than good but have had their brilliant moments too. Here you find your Rickys, your Juans, your Albertos, your Adems and your Adrians.
Lets start with our Capitano. We've been waiting for years for Ricky to finally explode, and last season I thought we'd finally found it. But Ricky has failed to be the unifying force on this team and although he is capable of mind blowing dribbles and entries into the small area, he is constantly lost and is prone to rash desicions often that result in giving the ball away.
Juan, we love him and yes he will be back, but hes gone from the Peruvian warrior to just flying straight into defenders and hoping the ball stays on his feet. I'll be honest, the goal against Juve had a bit of luck to it as Motta was the one that headed it into the net, and he bundled a fine one on one against Cagliari but he is capable of better days and only a little settling down will redemy this.
Gila. Remember those first days in Viola where Gila was scoring every single week? We love Gila, he is one of the symbols of the team. But something this season is...off. Maybe its the loss of the Prandelli connection, maybe hes lost confidence, but besides a superb shot against Cesena, the majority of his chances involve him arriving half a second too late, or being too slow to turn around.
Adem. "Adem has to eat less chocolate and cut his hair." Adem was a wonder signing, we robbed him from Man U and he still has alot of growing up to do. Like Babacar he doesn't seem to have the explosive spark that JoJo had and a stint with the Scudetto bound Primavera or even some Serie B time might not be a bad idea. Still he has shown moments of fine crosses and dribbles and is definitely part of the future of this team.
I'd actually put Mutu into the "Good" category as even though hes only had a single goal, hes shown the energy and the want to play. But one thing has dogged him. His fist. Hes the only player whos off field troubles have been more of a hindrance to his on field. Hes fighting a seemingly endless legal battle, he makes very impulsive decisions and I like many others would only love to see the man that gave us so much joy for three seasons. Still he took over Gilas center forward position and hasn't let us down yet.
Time to talk about the behind the scenes. Starting with Mihaj. I'm going to be honest, he still hasn't warmed my heart. Its not because i'm sentimental about Prandelli, but he just doesn't feel like someone who can handle a top 4 team. Its only his third coaching job, and his last two involved coaching regulation dogged Bologna and Catania. I know what you're gonna say "But hes dealing with lots of injuries" and yes I understand. But if we know LDS has scored goals and Comotto can neither defend nor attack, why can't LDS make a couple second half appearances instead of Comotto routinely bringing us near heart failure? Why can't you find a midfield combo that actually works? We've gone through every combination and the one that actually is somewhat functional is D'Ago Dona.
The DVs are finally looking to take back the reins of the team. They're actually showing up at games, making statements, and showing a much missed interest in the team. ADV has finally found his cojones to speak out against referees, commentators, and the general anti-purple population and actually save face. Still it would be nice if one of them would actually take the title of president so we could be clear who is actually in charge.
I've made it clear I don't like Mencucci. Sandro Mencucci is our vice president and CEO and seems like the anti DV. Most of his statements have a "doom and gloom" feeling to them but he does show a keen interest in the team and he does look out for them, even consistently acting as Mutu's "lawyer" in not allowing the press to make him look like a buffoon.
Corvino is simply genius. The top of the best. He took the Boruc opportunity and it paid off. He brought us D'Agostino and Cerci, and thus far all three of his acquisitions have paid off. What hes got up his sleeve in January should be extremely interesting.
So what do we have in Store for January?
January is a perfect opportunity to get rid of dead weight and surplus players. The biggest rumored moves are Felipe who is attracting strong attention from Zenit as well as down south in Naples. Avramov is linked with a likely move to Padova. Babacar could possibly go on loan to Sampdoria, Bologna, Empoli, or even Frosinone. Bolatti is attracting attention from Argentina to Portugal and can be used as a useful bargaining chip. Zanetti's agent has made it clear his client wants out. A move to Parma is likely in the works.
We're being linked with a number of players among them Mantovani from Chievo, Santon from Inter who could arrive in the form of a loan, and whom Corvino has already confirmed Viola interest.Santacroce who could be involved in a possible Napoli switch for Felipe. Acquafresca who is being considered as the vice-Gila should Babacar go on loan. For the left side the names Zeigler and Alvarez have popped up, as well as another foward in the form of Diamanti who has made no denial of his purple admiration.
I did not add Nastasic because he will be returning to Serbia and officially be signing for us in the summer. However he is well already considered a viola player.
Also I did not mention the Gila-Amauri trade, nor Vargas to Inter rumors because they were shot down by ADV and Corvo while Mencucci announced "it is even possible that we will have a cessation-less market. But the DV's have promised 2 or 3 acquisitions straight off the bat.
We have a brighter second half of the season ahead, and our injuries are starting to roll out of the treatment room. Its only 3 more months until March.
Its been a pleasure to comment on this first half of the season and I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Happy Holidays to all Calcio fans!