(Warning: I'm getting up on a soapbox and ranting for a minute in something that should probably be released in multiple volumes, but damnit, it needs to be said)
* - I know this is Roma, but even I forget about the WC site and I write over there. So here you are. I'm sure there are plenty more arguments but this was too long as is.
Alright, I've been saying this ever since Roberto Donadoni was hired last summer roughly 24 hours after Marcelo Lippi stepped down (well, at least to myself before I had a medium to voice by highly infrequent opinions) - Donadoni needs to be fired. Yesterday. This weekend's result, for all intents and purposes, was fine. France has a very good team and some of their players were more in form than Serie A's finest (minus Zambro and Canna - two of La Liga's finest), so a draw really isn't to bitch and moan about. However, the journey to said draw is something to get up in arms about - not to mention a few of the previous showings and the decision making that led to those losses or "moral losses" (I'm looking at you, Faroe Islands 2-1 "win").
Let's start with the squad choices for the two games against France and Ukraine. Nothing really out of the ordinary when it comes to the selections, although there were a few glaring omissions. I know Pasquale Foggia has been out of his mind for Cagliari in the first two weeks of the campaign, but Alessandro Rosina has been out of his mind for the last year plus. Surely nobody expects Foggia to play, so why not stick Rosinaldo on the bench if this is just a learning experience? The inclusion of Foggia is a minor gripe - if one at all - but the absence of Rosinaldo is a big big gripe and one that's probably due an explanation. It certainly has nothing to do with tactics, because Donadoni doesn't have any. Or at least any continuous systems or lineups. Actually, it looks like most of his lineups are picked out of his hat, but that's a subject for further down the page.
Alright, back to selections. The goalkeeper position and defense are hard to argue with, because the majority have already earned their place on the squad, and it doesn't look like anyone will push for a starting spot in the next few months. The inclusion of a highly versatile and in-form Christian Panucci was a smart move, though, just to give The Don Doni a smidgen of credit. So, 6 forwards and 8 midfielders, nothing too out of the ordinary there. But with the actual selections, one would think the Azzurri were headed for either the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 favored by TDD as of late, because most of the forwards are either second strikers or lateral forwards. Not to mention his inclusion of just one midfielder that is merely adequate on the flanks. So what does TDD do against France? He plays 3 deep-lying central mids and Mauro Camoranesi on the right. Brilliant, eh?
The choices up top have been thrown to the wolves, but it was really the lesser of many many evils. I think the realization is starting to come (if it hasn't already) how much Luca Toni really means to this team, and how much he forces opposing defenses to work around him. His loss is nobody's fault, although Donadoni thought otherwise and decided to throw Bayern Munich under the bus for the one thing that wasn't actually his fault. There's the argument that Vincenzo Iaquinta should have been there from the beginning, but that's up for debate. The abrupt cessation of the careers of Antonio Cassano and Alberto Gilardino certainly hasn't helped, but the forward position in the boot is relatively thin these days (I've never been a Miccoli fan, but feel free to bitch about that one as well).
I hate Pippo. I hate his guts. The guy has absolutely zero skills to speak of, but just happens to be the luckiest son of a bitch in the history of global sports (and you start to wonder how much of that is Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka, etc etc etc). He's useless if he isn't getting perfect service in the box and is the antithesis of a team player. When he gets the ball, he shoots, and his shots are typically terrible. But due to the laws of percentages, he scores goals. Should he still be picked? No. He sucks. Does Donadoni realize this? No. Did Lippi? After that bullshit goal against the Czechs, absolutely. Send him back to Milan where he still is a reluctant first choice despite his heroics in Athens.
Del Piero is another subject entirely. Out of respect I'll just say this: it isn't 2002 anymore. It's time to move on. I know he wants to play for the Azzurri until he's 47 or whatever, but it's not in the best interest of the team anymore. His best attribute is as a late game substitute as an introduction of vigor, energy and passion when the team's legs are tired and they need a little Alex pick-me-up (see: Dortmund). Lippi knew this. Hell, even Capello knew this when he was at Juve. Other than that, he shouldn't be starting. Although I'm not willing to make the case Cristiano Lucarelli or Antonio Di Natale should have been either. Like I said, not the greatest of options.
But wait, what about the man largely responsible for Donadoni still having a job? Fabio Quagliarella? Those two ridiculous goals from outside of most mortals range against Lithuania were the only saving grace for a lackluster game which, if lost or drawn, probably would have sent TDD to the employment guillotine. You know, the one following the 2-1 "win" against the Faroe Islands after which Gigi Buffon & Friends were saying it was a lack of motivation and ferocity in the locker room. Which, um, is pretty much numero uno on the job responsibilities list of an international coach. In a nation of footballing wealth and talent like Italy, the lineup should pretty much write itself (notice I said should) - and motivation is a large factor when many of the boys are tired from their grueling 3 and 4 trophy campaigns with Europe's elite. Of course any time I hear the word "motivation" from anyone with ties to the squad in Berlin my mind will automatically translate that to "where the hell is Lippi when we need him?"
Are we to think Fabio Quagliarella and his one man shows couldn't have assisted in a system lacking any offensive creativity from anyone other than Andrea Pirlo? Hell, how about you at least TAKE HIM OUT OF THE STANDS AND PUT HIM ON THE BENCH? Christ, you have the man to thank for whatever ounce of job security you currently have remaining, and if you're going to field a team whose primary goal is a nil-nil draw, then why the hell not bring in a guy whose nose for goal from 45 yards in gives him the capability to make chicken salad out of chicken shit at any given moment. You know, at least give somebody a prayer in hell of putting one in the back of the net at home (yeah, nothing like playing for the draw at home with the reigning world champs).
Or how about Alberto Aquilani, who has been doing just that over the first two weeks of the Serie A season: making chicken salad out of chicken shit (much love to whichever Kansas City Chiefs quarterback got waived on "Hard Knocks" just so that I could wedge that into my repertoire for the next 10-50 years). The goals against Palermo and Siena were nothing short of spectacular, and neither were something you'd bet the house on being placed into the back of the net. Not to mention being MOTM for Roma's first three games and one of the best - if not The Best - midfielders in Serie A over the start of the season. Oh, and he can attack a little bit too, rather than having three deep-lying central mids on the field at the same time doing a lot of attacking nothingness.
Of course then there were the tactical changes. Aside from one it was more about the substitutions that he didn't make, rather than the ones he did. In a team that was having difficulty getting forward laterally and attacking with width, he decided to take off his only winger/side midfielder for Simone Perrotta, a box-to-box central midfielder. Not only that, but he failed to bring in anyone to expose the left flank, which was being defended by Lassana "Verbal" Diarrhea and Franck Ribery - you know, world class defensive skills right there. So why not expose that side with, um, anyone? Del Piero and Pippo needed to come off sooner, probably in the locker room pre-game. In fact, I'm sure there were endless tactical changes that could have been made to give us at least the most miniscule of illusions that Donadoni was trying to win the game.
By his selections it's clear he was playing it safe, rather than going for the win with the more talented team at home in a game in which they desperately needed the 3 points. It's also clear he doesn't trust youngsters against squads like France, even if they are clearly the best option for the squad. That, any way you look at it, is a recipe for disaster. Best players play. Period.
What is he playing anyway? A 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3, a defensive formation, an attacking one, a 4-4-2? What the hell is his goal here? He picks players suited to one formation, then uses a completely different one. Are we really about to see a new version of catanaccio with 4 deep-lying central mids in front of the back 4 with two largely incapable strikers up top? Because it looks like we're headed that way.
One large question I've had since his hiring is: why was he hired so readily? Almost as if it was predetermined his eventual appointment was manifest destiny. It's as though he had been the Azzurri's Chosen One since his career began. His announcement came just 24 hours after Marcelo Lippi stepped down, with a competitive game still a little ways off (it's not like anyone would've woken up from their victorious hangover and slammed the FIGC for slapping someone with the "interim" tag for a couple games). It is very possible Lippi informed them of his decision well before his public announcement - he did say his decision was made to step down during the group stages, regardless of what happened in the knockout rounds. So it is possible TDD's appointment had already been made before the rest of the world knew the Azzurri would be Lippi-less.
Which begs the question: What the hell did he do to deserve the appointment in the first place? He had a decent run at Livorno. Bout it. Actually, that Livorno run ended with a violent breakup due to disagreements between TDD and the management. Other than that, there isn't much to speak of. He hasn't brought in a revolutionary new tactical system which leaves opposing coaches baffled and opposing teams clamoring for the Azzurri of old. Nor is he a wizard with the word, a magical motivator in the mold of Lippi. Basically, I'm still lost as to what the hell he brings to the table. Of course I would be remiss if I failed to mention there is some great speculation his appointment came due to friendships within the FIGC (Demetrio Albertini, I'm looking at you), which is obviously how anyone should get the job captaining one of the most important national teams in the world. If that's the case it is quite obvious why he's been given such a long leash despite his record of horrid decision-making: political favoritism (In Italia? How dare I say...)
The list of potential replacements being bantered about is relatively short, basically consisting of two names: The aforementioned Marcello Lippi and Fabio Capello. Despite being relatively different coaches, here's what they have in common: they win trophies. Lots of them. We don't need to rewind the memory banks too far to remember what Lippi brought to the feast, and his Gepetto-like workings of the Juventus strings were no exception. 5 Serie A trophies in less than a decade is pretty spectacular no matter how you look at it, especially when That Milan Team was still tearing apart the whole of Europe with little regard for women and children at the beginning of his run. Not to mention his primary gift is the one thing the Azzurri have been lacking as of late: motivation.
There aren't too many sweet nothings to whisper about Don Fabio (and as a Roma fan, I could go on all day long with choice four-letter words - but thanks for 00-01), but the guy wins. And then he wins some more. Then a little more. 7 Scudetti (2 tainted, but as far as I know they was Moggi, not him - did I really just defend him? Damn, I'm slipping), 2 La Liga title in 2 seasons and a Champions League title with "The Invincibles." Yes, that Milan team was pretty decent all by their lonesome, but Don Fabio's successes later in his career proved he was much more than a figurehead. The ultimate tactician, albeit of uber-boring football, there is little question as to what magic he could weave with a team as talented and as defensively sound (usually) as this current Azzurri team. And it may even signal the departure of Del Piero, if he really feels that strongly against Capello (I think that makes Don Fabio the firm fan favorite).
So, what do both Lippi and Capello also have in common besides the victories? They're both spending the next year in the announcers booth. Would either come? No clue. I suspect Capello may wish to take his chance with the national team at some point before his career ends (despite his dark locks and youthful appearance, the man is 61 and 2 years older than Lippi - yeah, you read that correctly). There are also a few others, namely Carlo Ancelotti, who has made it clear he wants to coach the Azzurri before he retires, and Luciano Spalletti down the line, who could easily turn the Azzurri into Europe's answer to the Selecao. Suffice it to say, there isn't a dearth of high qulaity replacements.
In summation, it becomes more clear with each passing game and decision made that Roberto Donadoni has no clue how to do the job he was contracted out to do. This is the same squad that won the goddamn World Cup 14 months ago and conceded two goals: one an own goal and another a penalty. None from open play (so for anyone saying they weren't "deserving" champions, go bitch to a brick wall). This team should be walking through its qualifying group as though it's an insult they weren't just handed a semi-final spot to begin with. The players don't respect TDD, he has no trophy cabinet to look back upon and say, "Look, I did it then and I can do it again", he has the tactical genius of a Down Syndrome baboon and it looks like he has the motivational abilities of a quadriplegic mime. Donadoni has yet to give even an ounce of justification as to why he was hired in the first place. The man has been given too much rope, if something isn't done soon he'll end up with enough to hang the entire team with. At this point, I'm really questioning whether or not the Azzurri will qualify for the European Championships. A year ago, largely the same team was the best in the world and hoisting the Champions trophy that was rightfully theirs. How the mighty have fallen.