Serie A Predictions for 2011-12 Season: Third Place — Juventus
For most clubs in Italy, finishing seventh in Serie A for two consecutive seasons would be considered a positive result. But for a club like Juventus, it is nothing short of a crisis. Since their banishment to Serie B, Juventus has lacked the consistent top-of-the-table finishes they had become so used to, and as a result have lost their status as a european giant. But a couple of subpar seasons has not stopped the Old Lady from spending bucket loads of cash to regain her place atop the mountain, and they have done so once again this summer. Sooner or later, the money spent will turn into wins and I believe this is the season when that will finally happen.
Juventus has gone through their fair share of coaches over the last few years, and this summer club legend Antonio Conte took the helm. Often, new coaches can lead to an adjustment period that tries the patience of fans and officials. But Conte knows the club well, and his tactics are not too far off of last year’s. He will ask for more attack out of his players than Luigi Delneri did, but that will be a welcome change to most of his returning starters.
However, the fact is there will not be many returning starters needing to adjust. Juventus looks to field five new first-eleven player when they take the field this weekend, perhaps more depending on Conte’s selections and possible further transfer business. And all of the new players represent an upgrade from last year’s team.
The biggest leap forward in talent for Juventus can be found in defense. Stephan Lichsteiner and Reto Ziegler were signed to fill the full-back positions, regarded by many as Juve’s most glaring weakness during the 2010-11 campaign. Both Swiss defenders have positive Serie A experience and their ability to play their respective positions well will allow the center of Juve’s defense, the talented pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, to do what they do best.
Montenegrin striker Mirko Vucinic was signed from Roma. He will join a deep striking force that already includes Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri and Alessandro del Piero, giving Conte plenty of goalscoring options. Last year, a season-ending injury to Quagliarella left the Turin club with little attacking punch, but this year they appear to have the depth to withstand that sort of setback.
But the biggest throw of the dice the Old Lady made this summer was in the acquisition of midfielders Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo. Vidal, 24, is full of talent and grit, but he has never played on peninsula so it remains to be seen what he can offer. Pirlo is nearing the end of a wonderful career and is coming off a season marred by injury. Both players could either make a huge impact on a successful season, or go the same way many of Juve’s recent signing have gone.
The last piece of the puzzle appears to be a left-winger. As of this writing, the club has been linked with nearly every left-sided attacking player in Europe. The latest to be linked with Juventus is Chelsea’s Florent Malouda. If that signing goes through, or the club acquires a player of similar ability, Juve will have, what appears on paper at least, to be quite a dangerous lineup.
Juventus has the players and resources to compete for the scudetto this year. And with the opening of a beautiful new stadium, supporters have good reason to be excited. They have improved greatly in many areas, and have brought in better players than they had last season. But have they acquired the talent to compete with the star-studded Milan teams? My guess is no. The Old Lady will finish this season with a team to be proud of and a place in the Champions League, but not with any silverware.