Fans and media alike have been reveling in the praise of the new-look Juventus, and one must tribute the hard work done by Antonio Conte.
For a couple of years now, there seemed to be a perpetual state of skepticism surrounding the Juve Camp. Transfer market after transfer market, the Bianconeri were still seen lugging the burden of underachievement. Judging by recent events, one finds a new breeze of fresh air sweeping by Turin.
Boosted by both, a new stadium of the their own, and a couple of major deals involving the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, the Bianconeri have upped their game this year and are slowly by surely wiping out this influx of negativity. The Juventus Stadium has surely helped the cause being a major contributor to their recent success, yet most of the credit for their revival has to be attributed to one man; Antonio Conte.
For two consecutive years, the Bianconeri have finished in 7th place which did not suit their history or their fans. There was an appalling lack of consistency that saw Luigi Del Neri’s team last term struggle until the very last month of the season to get three consecutive wins. Results like the 2-0 loss to Lecce right after beating their arch-rivals Inter 1-0 at home signified a major default in their mentality.
Rather than seeing Juve falter every handful of games, there seems to be a new arsenal under Juve’s sleeves as Conte has instilled all the mental attributes that made him the great captain he was. We’ve seen the enthusiasm against Parma, the resilience against Siena, the will and hunger against Bologna, and most importantly a never give-up attitude against Milan that has been dreadfully missed in the past.
Tactically speaking, Juve’s revival has seen them enforce their game upon their opponents. Conte has adopted a new possession-based, high-tempo game of short passing accompanied by a whole-field pressing system that sees even their wingers draw backwards to help cover up and close down spaces. In other words, Conte has made his players play for the good of the team, not to mention that he’s been the only coach in recent years to make the ‘whole’ more than the ‘sum of its parts’.
Now this is a cause of concern as much as it’s a cause of enthusiasm for all-involved. Conte has been able to mask and disguise Juve’s problems up until now but that does not mean that he’s solved them. Ever since Pavel Nedved’s retirement there hasn’t been any adequate replacement to fill in the shoes of one of Juve’s greatest wingers ever.
To make things worse, there is now a void on the right flank ever since Mauro Camoranesi left the club. Even though Krasic started his Juve career brightly with comparisons to Nedved, it was apparent right from the beginning that he was never going to fulfill such a promise.
Just like Juve’s new -yet to be fully tested- signing, Eljero Elia, Krasic’s main quality is beating his opponent in one-to-one situations. Yet, there seems to be a lack of an end-product in terms of crossing, finishing, and even passing or assist making.
Simone Pepe has been one of the more impressive wingers, along with Giaccherini they seem to be well composed and willing to abide by the leader’s commands. In terms of crossing they seem to be plagued by the same inability as their fellow wingers.
Now for a 4-4-2 system that relies heavily on the wings this could prove to be a worrying trend indeed, especially when you consider that the Bianconeri do not posses much strength in their wide full-back positions. Even though Lichtsteiner has been impressive so far, a team of Juve’s caliber can’t count on one full back to solve their problems out wide.
Shifting Chiellini to the left, like Conte did against Milan, might provide more solidity and stability to their left wing but it might decrease the efficiency of their back-line as a result. Just like Claudio Gentile recently mentioned, placing Chiellini on the left permanently depends on the performances of Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci; an under-developed partnership that needs time to gel and muster.
At this point in time, there doesn’t seem to be a ‘perfect’ team in Calcio. Napoli have impressed the most but some argue that it’s too soon for them to win the league. The Milanese clubs have under-achieved and are having problems of their own, while the unrest in Lazio and the gradual development of the Roma project are potential obstacles in seeing any of them win the league this year.
Juventus too have problems of their own but Conte has done his best to hide them for now. Yet, the true challenge lies in overcoming those obstacles on the long run.
Whichever way you put it, the signs of the new Juve project are encouraging indeed. Given time, patience, and the ability to deploy his own ideas and mentality Conte is surely the right person to guide Juventus to glory, but one must wonder, can he do so immediately?