Monday, October 13 th, 2014
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Juve-Roma ruined by an unfit referee / Inter, why Mazzarri cannot be sacked
With the best Italian referee assigned to Empoli-Palermo, the big match was directed by a man who lacked the personality needed
by John Cavenaghi and Federico Formica
Juventus-Roma should have been an amazing, spectacular games between the strongest sides in Italy, pride of the Italian football movement at the moment. At the end five goals were scored at the Juventus Stadium, but the show was far from the expected one. The game was too nervous, there were too many fouls and fights, on the pitch and even on the stands. The fight between Manolas and Morata was the most appropriateway to close the clash...

It was a shame that such an important game was assigned to Rocchi, who proved to be patently unfit, when there's a capable Italian referee who even directed the World Cup final: Rizzoli. Unfortunately, the best referee around was assigned to Empoli-Palermo, a respectable game but one million times less demanding than Juventus-Roma.

It's true: Rocchi was not lucky as he had to take very hard decisions (Maicon's hand-ball and Pjanic's tackle on Pogba were just on the edge of the penalty box and even TV replays didn't clarify whether it was penalty or not), but apart from the penalty-kicks he gave to the Bianconeri, it's quite clear that he wasn't serene. In a perfect world players have to help referees on the pitch, but it is anything but certain that they'll do it in such a decisive game. Sometimes, referees have to take hard decisions in an over-excited environment. It's their job and they are supposed to take the right ones. It would be easier with a technological help, but TV replays are still not a reality in football, so referees have to carry on this way.

The impression was that Rocchi tremendously suffered the Juventus Stadium atmosphere. The pressure from the Bianconeri fans was huge. Having to decide in a few seconds, he opted for the easy way: a decision favourable to Juventus. We are not saying that there's a conspiracy to hand the title to the Bianconeri, had game been played in Rome, the referee would have probably taken more decisions in Roma's favour. It's about personality.

But it's also about technical mistakes. An example? Rocchi positioned Roma's wall at 10 meters (instead of 9.15m) from the point where Pirlo hit the free-kick that led to the hand foul by Maicon. Had he positioned the wall at the right distance, the foul would have been committed outside the box, without a doubt. Again: after Maicon's foul, Rocchi conceded another free-kick. Who made him change his mind? The linesman? Or the protests of Juve's players? “It's interesting to know that penalty-boxes are 17 metres long instead of 16 at the Juventus Stadium”, Rudi Garcia commented in a corrosive way. The Frenchman couldn't restrain himself from making a ironic gesture, which led to his expulsion.

Juve-Roma wasn't a good spot for Italian football for another reason: Rudi Garcia and his staff lamented they were intimidated and even spat at by some Juve fans from the stands. Juventus Stadium is an amazing building, and there are no barriers between the fans and the pitch. Just like English stadia. Unfortunately, respect for the opponent is very far from the British one.

14 million reasons. Many Inter fans, in Italy and abroad, would like Mazzarri to be sacked, like, now. Inter’s opening of the season hasn’t been in line with expectations, as the nerazzurri already lost as many games as they’ve won in Serie A, never showing the kind of attitude that the Tuscan coach often claimed he would have transferred to the team.

A few years ago, with Massimo Moratti in charge, Mazzarri would probably already be on holidays, enjoying his salary while watching on TV his successor (successors?) fail, in a season that would have already been a failure after less than two months. And this is exactly the problem: €3.5 million, i.e. Mazzarri’s huge salary. That’s right, he’s the second most paid coach in Serie A (after Benitez).

To be honest, it was Moratti who hired him, but as the negotiations with Thohir started well before this hiring, it is safe to say that the Indonesian owner new about it. After all, he did extend his contract for another year (2016). Given Inter’s financial situation, firing Mazzarri would mean to throw away 14 million euros (the cost of the wage to the club), plus the money to hire a new coach.

And if you sack Mazzarri you cannot call Mr. Nobody, but you have to hire a coach that will guarantee a Champions League spot, i.e. the only goal that would allow you to survive the bloodbath of the current coach’s wage. But there’s no coach that can guarantee you such a spot with a young team like this year’s Inter: a team with huge potential (for the future), but with virtually no experience.

This brings us back to Mazzarri’s contract extension: once the new vision of the club was clear (young players, possibly coming from the Primavera), why keep a coach that never believed, nor developed young players. He is doing his best to deploy youngsters, but after all does he have an alternative? That’s his HR at the moment. One thing is to put many young players in your starting eleven, another thing is knowing how to motivate them and how to manage a bunch of 20-something-year olds who never played the Champions League.

In the name of continuity (of the project) and of discontinuity (with the previous management), Inter will go on with Mazzarri until the end of next season. The only way in which the club and the coach could part ways before 2016, is if the latter resigns. Improbable, yet ET can be very convincing at times…

Monday, October 6 th, 2014
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