Alfa Romeo Metaphor III

Enrico Pucci

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Folks, View attachment 237141I am off to Brazil for two weeks. I'm not bringing my laptop so there won't be any updates to the story for a while. On a personal note, I have scored tix to the Sao Paolo derby between Sao Paolo & Corinthians this Sunday.

Peace, out!
 
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Enrico Pucci

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Another week of preseason done and we're coming together pretty well. Camillo Punzone was Man of the Match against Dortmund. Marco Verratti might have some competition for the play-maker role in the center of midfield.

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Enrico Pucci

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Super Coppa: Juventus v. Lazio

View attachment 232710Saturday, 13 August 2016 - Stadio Olimpico

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The key bits from the line-ups are that Gorgio Chiellini and Paul Pogba aren't playing. Chiellini is suspended and Pogba is at the Olympics with France. Verratti and Aneke are still away at the Olympics, too. Stadio Olimpico is nearly sold out and this should be fun.

Everybody, including me, was nervous and the first few minutes were full of poor passes, mishandled passes and View attachment 232708Juventus giving us the special sauce. Alan Dzagoev and Kevin De Bruyne are booked in the first few minutes.

In the 9th minute, Juventus new boy Caner Erkin whips in a cross from our right side. Aymen Abdennour heads clear but right to De Bruyne. The Belgian wiz kid beats Miguel Layun and Camillo Punzone and smashed a shot goalward. Ertrit Berisha beat it away for a corner.

We created our first chances in the 14th. Balde Keita played in Antonio Candreva but Andrea Barzagli recovered quickly enough to block the shot. The ball fell to Keita but his shot was blocked by Lichtsteiner. The rebound caromed out to Felipe Anderson on the right flank and he crossed right to Buffon.

We exchanged chances like this throughout a rough and tumble first half.

As the clock rolled past 45 minutes, the fourth official held up his board to signal 2 minutes of extra time. We had been zipping passes harmlessly around the center of the pitch. Then Layun zipped a pass into the middle for Parolo who one-timed a pass up to Candreva. Suddenly and out of nowhere we had created a dangerous situation. Candreva was behind the midfield with a static defense marking four of our players: our wingers, Rennella and Punzone who advanced upfield.

Candreva had the advantage and slid a pass up to Punzone who was coming back toward him. Punzone one-touched a pass out right to Felipe who one-touched a pass in to Rennella. Bonnucci came thundering through with a desperate challenge and all Rennella was able to do was thump a shot off the big Italian international. The ball fell at Candreva's feet and he side-footed it into an empty net. Buffon was prepared for a Rennella shot and was horribly out of position as the ball ricocheted to the Lazio man.

0-1

Caner Erkin was screaming at the ref then sprinted over to the linesman and screamed at him. Apparently, he thought someone was offside. Maybe Punzone as he ran back? Hard to tell where their complaint was. Nearly the entire team surrounded the linesman and they only dispersed as the ref jogged over.

Shockingly, only Erkin was carded. It could have been four of five of them.

Several reporters attempted to shove microphones, cell phones and several other devices down my throat as I attempted to walk back to the dressing room. I mumbled some bull**** for them and pushed aside most of them. So this is what it's like to manage at a big club? Huh.

Juve were still rattled after the break and we created a few good chances. The best was a Keita cross was cleared to a late-arriving Candreva. Antonio's shot nearly broke the sound barrier but was just high.

In the 53rd, De Bruyne found himself alone against our back four. Abdennour easily knicked the ball off him but neither Marco Parolo nor Punzone could get to it before the advancing Fernando Llorente. The Spaniard poked a pass back to Emre Can who tapped it over to Dzagoev who sliced a pass into our left corner. Lichtsteiner had sprinted past the ball-watching Keita and had all day to line up his cross.

Llorente smashed a volley past Berisha from 4 meters. My keeper's only chance was if the shot hit him.

1-1

I was up off the bench yelling at my players to concentrate. We had the situation completely under control yet within seconds had given up a goal. That was simply poor concentration. Parolo, Punzone and Keita, in particular, were to blame.

The Grand Old Lady then took over. They created chance after chance after chance. We couldn't get out of our end except for occasional counter attacks. But our counters were dangerous. On the hour mark, if Rennella could've gotten his shot off quicker, we'd have been in the lead. Sadly, the ball got stuck a bit between his feet and our fast break ended with a blocked shot. In the 69th, what I initially thought was a long punt clearance by Abdennour turned into a great chance. Felipe got their first and crossed but Rennella headed right at Buffon and another chance was wasted.

Rennella just wasn't having a good day. I already had Miroslav Klose warming up so I swapped the two in the 74th minute.

Then the dynamic of the game changed. It's probably an unconscious thing, but both sides reduced the pace of the match so that they could play a full 120 minutes. I noticed this around the 80 minute mark.

But as full-time approached both teams increased the intensity.

Juve won a corner in the 89th minute. Barzagli and Bonnucci took their time jogging forward. Caner Erkin whipped a cross toward the back post. Llorente leapt above Ogbonna and headed it back into the mixer. Bonnucci got to the ball before Berisha and nodded it into the net.

2-1

Half the stadium went silent. The other half went ape****.

What horrible fkn luck. Llorente is a monster in the air and he brushed aside his former teammate, Ogbonna, far too easily. Fkn****biscuits!

I spun and saw the fourth official signal four minutes of extra time. Four minutes of torture until Juve lift the Supercoppa for the umpteenth fkn time. ****.

As the clock rolled over 92:00, Bonnucci clobbered Klose inside the box from behind then poked the ball over the sideline after he'd gone through his man. I leapt off the bench and within four quick steps was at the sideline screaming at the ref. I was joined by my entire bench and the Biancocelesti half the stadium and almost the entirety of the Lazio fans were sitting behind the goal.

Then I sprinted over to the fourth official while flailing my arms about like some PCP-crazed mime.

Nothing! No explanation, no nothing from either the fourth official nor the ref.

Layun jogged up to take the throw. He tried to throw it over Lichtsteiner's head as Keita tried to roll him. The move didn't fool the Swiss international, but he didn't head the ball far enough up the line. Layun intercepted and whipped a cross in.

And Miroslave Klose does what Miroslav Klose does best: score timely goals with his head.

2-2

Once again, half the stadium fell silent while the other half completely lost their minds. I found myself on my knees, arms upraised and screaming.

What a way to end regulation play.

Punzone had been looking tired so I replaced him with Alvaro Gonzalez. I hoped this might also tighten up our defense as Punzone relies too much on his quickness and speed defensively. While Gonz isn't slow in any sense, his positional play is better.

Both teams were too cagey and neither created many chances during the extra time. Keita did get himself injured and I replaced him with Thorgen Hazard.

It came down to penalties. I fkn hate PKs. Just fkn hate them. I scribbled a list for the ref then sat in the dugout and puckered every orifice.

My list was: Parolo, Hazard (cuz he's fresh), Klose, Berisha (he's quite good at PKs) and finally Candreva.

Marco Parolo stepped up and blazed a shot into the roof off the goal. I exhaled but quickly repuckered. 0-1

Llorente calmly slotted home. 1-1

Thorgen Hazard kept fidgeting with his placement. What the **** is up with that. He stepped back. He waited. The ref blew his whistle and the Belgian jogged for forward then increased his pace then BLAZED WIDE! ****! 1-1!

Advantage to Juve.

Dzagoev calmly rolled the ball the opposite direction that Berisha dove. Like he was sneaking a peek. 2-1

No problem. Klose is up. He never misses. Dude has ice in his veins. He steps back and waits. The ref blows his whistle. He strides forward and smashes his shot high! Oh **** me! We're screwed now. 2-1

Marchisio doesn't miss. 3-1

Berisha picks himself up after diving in a vain, picks the ball out of the net and saunters out to the spot. I feel like I'm gonna die. He only takes three steps back. He almost always goes to the right. Apparently, Buffon knows this because he dives the correct way but Berisha hits a perfect strike, hard into the side netting. 3-2

Berisha is pumped up and we really, really need a save or a miss here. Bonucci stepped up, placed the ball, stepped back and waited. The ref blew his whistle. Bonucci confidently jogged forward and SHOT WIDE! We were still alive!

Candreva must score or Juve win their fifth Super Coppa in a row.

It seems like an enternity passes while Antonio places the ball. Then the ref makes him wait several decades before blowing his whistle. As always, Candreva delivers a perfectly placed shot that Buffon couldn't reach. 3-3

But now Lichtsteiner needs to miss or Berisha needs to save the PK. The ref makes the Swiss international wait several decades before blowing his whistle. I can't look. The promise of inevitable doom is too great. I force myself to sit up (I'd not only covered my face, but I'd lowered my chest and head down to my knees). When I heard the whistle blow, I peeked out between my fingers.

Only to see Lichtsteiner bury his penalty shot.

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PatrickLFC

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So good to see this back! Might want to double check the penalties, who scored and missed though, at 4-3 Juve wouldn't have needed a 5th penalty
 

Enrico Pucci

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So good to see this back! Might want to double check the penalties, who scored and missed though, at 4-3 Juve wouldn't have needed a 5th penalty
Good eye. Yes, in fact, I misread my notes and Bonucci missed hence the need for a 5th Juve PK. I will correct it.

Thanks!
 

Enrico Pucci

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View attachment 232687It was a quiet bus ride back to the Formello. I sat next to Igli at the front of the bus with the rest of the coaches. Occasionally, one of us would sigh and the other would grunt in reply. The only good news is that Balde Keita's ankle hadn't swollen up and he'd probably be fine.

"Dammit," I grumped as Igli and I walked out of the bus.

"What?" he replied.

"Here's what's eating at me; one half of my central defensive partnership was utterly anonymous," I said.

Igli nodded his agreement.

"The only thing Ogbonna did was put on his kit and let Llorente win that header in the 90th minute," I continued. "I can't challenge for the league with Og The Anonymous backed up by two kids."

"Let's go talk," Igli said. "We're talking about a full-fledged Italian international, after all."

We walked in silence to my office which just happened to be closer.

"Who is available, who have you scouted?" he asked once we'd sat down.

"I want Schalke's Papadopoulis," I said.

"Ahhh," Igli murmured. "Yes. He's good, isn't he."

I'd noticed Kyriakos Papadopoulis burst upon the scene with some impressive performances for Schalke as a 19 year old. He was now 24 and out-of-favor in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke had Ron Vlaar and Benedikt Howides and Kyriakos was a back-up. They'd even gone so far as to loan him to Bayer Leverkusen two seasons ago.

Igli and I reviewed his scouting reports. His agent had told my scouts that he would prefer first team football. We could probably get him for around 15M to 20M.

"He and Abdennour would be a pretty formidable partnership," I said.

"Yes, let me see what I can do," Igli replied. "You ready to fly to German on a moment's notice?"

I nodded in agreement.

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Enrico Pucci

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View attachment 232523Sunday, 14 August 2016

Gwen and I went to the airport today to meet my Mom. My Mom insisted on coming to "help." We're inside one month from when the baby arrives and, apparently, this is what future grandmother's do. Gwen likes my Mom so it's okay with her. Plus, my Mom can accompany Gwen while house-shopping. Gwen wants to have a house picked out before her Mom arrives on the 20th.

As you may recall, Gwen's Mum is the second in command, the power-behind-the-throne at the Royal Academy in London. Her Mom probably has genius-level intelligence and is very opinionated. Gwen does not want her mother's help finding a place. It's a mother-daughter thing.

These issues do not exist between Gwen and my Mom so I put on a ball cap and Gwen put on a shapeless dress and a large, floppy hat and we drive the sky blue Volvo SUV to the airport. Once my Mom texted me that she'd landed, I described what we were wearing so she'd recognize us.

View attachment 232524"Oh, bullocks," Gwen said.

"Huh?"

"Don't look, don't turn around but I think we've been spotted," she said. "The ****ing paparazzi."

"Oh ****," I exclaimed.

Now, I have no idea why the paparazzi were at this particular airport, but they are like sharks. Once they smell blood in the water, they swarm to the source. Within a few moments, six were snapping pictures of us from a distance, circling us. Within a few more moments, a few more had joined and reinforced by their numbers they were more brazen and inched closer and closer.

As my Mom arrived, they pounced. I didn't even get an opportunity to give her a hug and a kiss. I knew enough not to try and push any of them out of my way; this would only cause an incident which they could exploit. Gwen and I just looked down and tried to shuffle in the direction of the parking garage with my Mom in tow.

Thankfully, the airport security were not completely incompetent and several of these brave men risked all by inserting themselves between the paparazzi and us. Eventually, enough security showed up that they were able to detain the paparazzi for a moment and give us an opportunity to escape.

"What the **** was that about?" my Mom asked.
 
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Enrico Pucci

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View attachment 232142Monday, 15 August 2016 9AM-ish

"Good morning," I said to my Mom as she walked into the kitchen. "I hope your suite of rooms was satisfactory."

"Mmmm," she mumbled kissing Gwen and then me. "Gwen's right. This place is too **** big."

"Yeah but it was convenient and available," I said. "I have never had the time to look for a place. Now Gwen knows the area a little better and you're here to help. Plus our real estate agent wants to make some money."

"It's been a long time since I was in Rome," she said.

"I wish I could be a tourist with you," Gwen said rubbing her belly.

"Your tourist days are over, my dear," my Mom said. "At least for a little while. Mainly until you feel like traveling with a baby."

"I'm going to have to leave you two to it," I said as I stood up from the kitchen table. "I have to fly to Germany this morning to convince a player to join us."

"Where in Germany?" my Mom asked. "You are looking good in those tailored suits, by the way."

"Thanks, Mom. Gelsenkirchen," I replied. "I'm only going to see the airport and the inside of a hotel room nearby. I'll be back tonight, late."

I gave my Mom and then Gwen a kiss.

"Don't spend too much of other Mr. Lotito's money," Gwen said.
 

Enrico Pucci

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

We all gathered in the cafeteria to have dinner and watch the EUFA Cup group draw. We would be drawn first as we were Italy's cup winner. We were placed in Group J.

View attachment 232018

View attachment 2320172nd round drawings
Roma are in Group C, Villareal are in Group D, PSV Eindhoven in Group I.

We get PAOK Athens in our group.






View attachment 2320163rd round drawings
German club Hoffenheim are in Group A with Manchester City. We dodged English team Stoke who were placed in Group B. Group D looks quite nasty with CSKA Moscow, Villareal and Werde Bremen. Group I also looks nasty with AA Gent, PSV and Besiktas.

We get Club Brugge in our group.






View attachment 2320154th round drawings
Our crosstown rivals Roma have a pretty easy group. FCK Kobenhavn join Group D making it the group of death.

We get provincial Turkish side Karabükspor in our group.

I think that we have a great chance of getting out of our group. PAOK will be tough but I think we can handle Club Brugge.
 

Enrico Pucci

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View attachment 231889Friday, 19 August 2016

Kyriakos was introduced to the squad today. His reputation preceded him. I think everybody had watched his highlight reel on YouTube. He's not that big. Not Abdennour or Berisha big, that's for sure. But he is a full international and has 26 caps despite only being 24 years old. He's got a strong jaw and hulking shoulders. He's got an interpreter with him because he doesn't speak a word of Italian. He was speaking German in the locker room with Miro. Miro has taken him under his wing to get him acclimated to the city and the club.

After stretching and passing squares (our normal start to training), the boss had us work on taking advantage of numbers. It was a four-a-side game with a switcher. A guy who is always on the offense. He switches as soon as possession changes. So I was working with my group of nine players when I heard a crunch and out of the corner of my eye saw someone cartwheeling through the air. Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched Felipe Anderson land on his back after a block tackle from Kyriakos.

Kyriakos had just announced his presence as only a world-class defender could. Then he helped Felipe up.
 

Enrico Pucci

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Coppa Italia, third qualifying round: Lazio v. Modena

View attachment 231876Sunday, 21 August 2016

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Stadio Olimpico was only about a quarter full for this qualifying round. What this means is that the Ultras are packed behind a goal and the rest of the stadium is more or less empty. We faced Emilia-Romagna side Modena in what should be a nice tune-up for the opening weekend of Serie A when we visit Napoli.

Chuks Aneke is back after Nigeria got eliminated from the Olympics. He'll be on the bench as he's pretty exhausted from the frequency of the matches at the Olympics. Felipe Anderson, after surviving getting introduced to Kyriakos, pulled his hamstring yesterday so he's out. I decided that Vincenzo Rennella would start at left wing.

View attachment 231874Instead of bringing our shooting boots and punishing lower league opposition, we brought our blunder buss. For those of you not up-to-speed on military history, this is a wide-mouthed weapon in which the soldier packs gunpowder down the snout then puts a lead ball. These are wildly inaccurate weapons that on occasion explode in the shooter's face.

I lost track of how many shots we attempted in the first half. It could have been twenty. I know one thing for sure, the keeper made one save and it was an easy one. I told the players to concentrate and work harder at half time.

Modena didn't even make it into our end to threaten our goal, that's how dominant we were. But our final passes were off and our shooting was worse.

It looked like it was going to be one of those evenings.

"C'mon, boys, you can do it," I kept muttering under my breath in English as we rolled past the hour mark. I pulled Miroslav Klose off at 64 minutes because it was too early in the season to risk him for 90 minutes. On went Aneke. I put him in the hole behind the striker, moved Rennella to striker with Balde Keita out left and Antonio Candreva out right.

"C'mon, boys, you can do it," I muttered again as 70 minutes rolled past.

"**** me," I muttered to my assistant manager Giacomo Murelli as 80 minutes rolled past.

"It's unbelievable," Giacomo replied. "Modena can't even get out of their half. How is it that we can't score?"

The players increased the tempo as we neared 90 minutes. I could see that Modena were tired, but we were simply hopeless once we got near their box ... and we'd been near their box nearly the entire match!

As 90 minutes rolled past Candreva attempted a cross. He hit the left back. Typical.

But the ball came right back to him so he kicked it goalward. No. Wait. It was a beautifully placed cross. Rennella should get his head to it, he's wide open at the penalty spot.

Somehow he managed to miss it.

But there was Keita at the back post with the easiest of tap ins!

1-0

I made two subs to kill off them game and that was it.

In the locker room my post match talk was a mere six words: "That was simply not good enough." And I walked out of the locker room and collapsed into my chair in the manager's office.

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