For Juventus supporters, it is hard not to be inspired by Antonio Conte. The passion and intensity shown by the Old Lady’s new commander is infectious, for the players on the pitch as well as the fans in the seats. He has done well in his first five games, but I fear there just might be icebergs ahead and the captain needs to be ready to chart a new course if needs be. And the biggest iceberg just might be wearing number 21.
Andrea Pirlo has been sensational for the Bianconeri and he is already the purring engine of Juve’s mostly positive performances. He has added to the team just about everything one player can possibly add. Pirlo has been, without doubt, Conte’s best and most important player. It is hard to imagine the Turin giants at the top of table had they not acquired him. And that is why the manager must now begin to formulate a team that can win consistently without his best player in the side.
Now, I know it is only five games into the Serie A season, and Juventus do not have any european matches to concern themselves with during this campaign. But even with that in mind, let me sound this warning for Conte and Juventus. Andrea Pirlo can not, and should not, be expected to play every league match this season, and I doubt that such a scenario is even possible. Conte must assume that in order to get the best out of this fantastic but aging genius he must be rested or face the very real possibility of injury and missing significant time.
Conte needs a Plan B, so to speak, and he needs to develop and test it soon. Juventus must learn to win and control matches with someone else besides Pirlo in command. I can not help but think of Manchester United and the later years of Paul Scholes’ career as a suitable comparison. Scholes remained instrumental to United and Sir Alex Ferguson, even during seasons when he wasn’t starting 30 plus league matches. And that was because the manager was able to use him effectively without being dependent upon him for success. This is exactly what Conte needs to get out of Pirlo.
But right now, it is hard to imagine the Bianconeri’s recent success, not to mention mounting a serious scudetto challenge, without their new regista playing every game. But that just may be what is required.