Mean Old Lady

One positive to come out of Tuesday evening’s shenanigans in Genoa was that Giorgio Chiellini didn’t get a chance to kick Milos Krasic.

The Juventus defender had warned his team-mate that he might have to give him a “little knock” despite warnings from Gigi Del Neri to his rambunctious tackler to show some caution.

Memories of Euro 2008 came flooding back, when the then out-of-control colt crocked Fabio Cannavaro even before the competition had kicked-off. And of course, in the build-up to the Serbia game, Chiellini had denied that Giuseppe Rossi had nut-megged him in training, claiming on Twitter “he wouldn’t be able to walk again if he had.”

As it turned out the Serbian nationalist pride away day ensured that the players at least returned to their clubs with limbs intact.

Chiellini must have been kicking himself that he missed the little dust up in training between Felipe Melo and Momo Sissoko, who apparently squared up to one another like rutting stags during a five-a-side game.

There is no evidence that the ball was actually anywhere in the vicinity of the combative midfielders who have a taste for what some have termed ‘reckless tackling’ - or what they would probably describe as ‘wholehearted endeavour’.

As happens in such moments an animated discussion ensued followed by a bit of pushing before the arrival of a team-mate or two to separate the pair, who subsequently made up with a round of high-fives.

Both players are literally battling it out for one spot in midfield and reports suggest Melo has come out on top with Sissoko to be sold in January, although that seems to be the club’s yearly New Year's resolution when it come to the Mali international. So far he has survived intact. 

Not that the incident will have concerned Del Neri, who observed the scene from afar no doubt feeling that he is finally moulding the team into his own image – mean, moody and competitive.

Maybe not a band of brothers but certainly a side that can demonstrate character, which has always been a feature of Juve teams down the years.

There has never been anything beautiful about the Old Lady – charming at times, alluring at others - but really comes into her own when she is left to be a craggy old dear.

We have seen something of her settling into her more familiar look in recent games – against Manchester City and Inter – where the team was well-drilled in its defensive duties and composed going forward.

Before that indiscipline was everywhere, with little or no cohesion between the defence, midfield and attack, but that may have had more to do with the employment of the personnel at the coach’s disposal.

The midfield area has been a particular problem but with Alberto Aquilani gaining in match fitness there are signs that finesse may not remain an entirely forgotten element within the team.

Having a minder such as Melo or Sissoko in the centre of the pitch and flanked by two willing wide men, the former AS Roma man can begin to flourish once again after two years of misery on the sidelines.

Having held Inter before the international break, Juve now have two more than winnable games coming up – at home to Lecce this weekend and then Bologna away.

Del Neri won’t mind if his side win them ugly as long as the Old Lady is sitting pretty heading into the clash with AC Milan at the end of the month.