Whenever a club appoints a successful former player as manager, many in the media wonder why clubs the world over turn towards what appears to be nothing more than sentimentality in the selection process for perhaps its most important employee. And, quite honestly, I understand this criticism.
The club in question is usually failing to meet expectations and instead of finding an accomplished manager, they turn to a man now considered a “club legend”, a man who once hoisted a trophy towards adoring fans and employers. Supporters of the appointment will undoubtedly repeat a chorus of age-old cliches like “he knows the club”, “he knows how to win in this city”, or “he will bring back the old winning attitude to the current players”.
This story is playing itself out again, this time in Turin as Juventus turn to Antonio Conte to take the helm of the Old Lady. But this is an appointment that may just prove the cliches correct.
Before last season Juventus turned to a very experienced manager in Luigi Delneri, a man with decades of coaching experience, but who failed to return the club to the top of Serie A. He and the club certainly made their fair share of tactical and personnel mistakes, but his biggest failure was not instilling in his players the “old winning attitude”, the swagger needed to succeed at a giant club.
Too often Delneri’s teams did not take the game to their opponents, especially smaller clubs who, despite Juve’s current record and squad, would sit back and defend as if they were playing the Juventus of old. Too many times, Delneri’s team would drop points to inferior teams. That attitude, the confidence to attack lesser opponents, is what the team needs. That is what the club hopes their new manager can do.
Conte does not exactly have a long resume of top-level managerial accomplishments, and is far less experience than the man he takes over for. He has only been a manager for five seasons and has had success only with lower level clubs. Also, Conte seems to have a similar tactical approach to Delneri. On the surface, it appears a backwards move for the Old Lady. But the club and its supporters hope Conte can be the man to prove those old cliches correct.
If Juventus is to retake what it feels is its rightful place atop Italy’s top-flight, there is more to be done than simply buying better players. Antonio Conte needs to sign more players who are of a Scudetto-winning quality, but he also needs to get them to play like Scudetto winners before they actually ever win it. That is what Delneri failed to do, but it is what is required should the Old Lady of Italy return to glory.