by Michael Ogunjimi
After the scandal that emerged in 2006. It seemed Juventus would never recover after their involvement in calciopoli. A team with such a brilliant history was alleged to have been involved with match fixing scandals that involved other clubs and important personalities especially a man named Luciano Moggi who suffered the worst consequences after being banned from life in football and recently sentenced to five years in jail. Moggi was involved in match fixing scenarios by choosing favourable referees to manage their matches while Juventus themselves were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles. This reduced their proud title tally from 29 Serie A medals to 27. Much worse yet the Old Lady was unceremoniously kicked out of the 06/07 Champions League and relegated to Serie B for the first time in their history.
Because of these incidents many star players left I bianconeri but after one season in Serie B they achieved promotion and the slightest of redemptions after winning the league with extreme ease. During the 07/08 season they reached third place status in Serie A and qualified for the Champion’s League, but it was still not enough for a big club like Juventus losing to Chelsea in the knockout round in the latter stages in the competition in the 08/09 season. The season after that proved to be disappointing having been knocked out the Champions League again, this time by Bayern Munich and finishing in 7th place and also again finishing 7th in the 10/11 season. It appeared it was going to take a lengthy time for Juventus to recover.
Enough was enough. In the summer of 2011 the Juventus board gained inspiration from Barcelona’s decision to hire Pep Guardiola which paid dividends as the Catalan club have now won an astonishing 13 major titles in the last four years. They ultimately decided to hire Juventus legend Antonio Conte and this was when things started to dramatically change. Fast forward to current events and Juventus have not been beaten at all this season taking their unbeaten streak to 32 games. They are now just two games short of equalling Fabio Capello’s AC Milan side of 1991-92. While they may not play pretty football like Barcelona but their game is similarly based around possession – they are in 8th place in Europe’s possession stats, the second highest in Italy after AC Milan. To optimise this Conte’s first aim was to make Juventus an extremely fit side, which is a key component as to why they are unbeaten this season. Its seems teams that have high fitness are doing well of late at the moment e.g. Borrusia Dortmund who are now on a 26 match unbeaten streak and have recently been crowned the Bundesliga Champions for the second consecutive year in a row. Also Real Madrid whose fitness levels are simply incredible – especially that of Cristiano Ronaldo – are now massive favourites to lift the La Liga title after beating Barcelona at the Nou camp with exactly the same line up used against Bayern Munich a few days earlier. If you were fortunate enough to watch the match you could see how Madrid pressed Barcelona effectively and with such efficiency. Similarly Conte puts fitness first in the Juventus team and made attacking football the second priority. After all he did push all the way to sign Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal who, like Ramirez of Chelsea, has amazing fitness levels as it seemed Vidal was on his way to Bayern Munich. You heard it here first, I believe over the next few years clubs will aim to take fitness levels into even more extreme stratospheres.
Another purchase that has greatly helped Juventus is the signing of Andrea Pirlo the former AC Milan legend who surprisingly left AC Milan after it was deemed he had no place in the team after Milan bought Van Bommel. Pirlo does what he does best which is dictating and spraying pinpoint accurate long passes to the forwards. He is to Juventus what Xavi is to Barcelona and what Xabi Alonso is to real Madrid, Pirlo has been integral for Conte’s plan for Juventus as he was seen as the missing link in the legendary football side. The formation Juventus play can be really confusing and mind twisting because at the start of the season Conte’s side were playing an attacking 4-2-4 formation but in games against Napoli and Milan Conte’s tactical changes have been effective. Playing a 3-5-2 formation against Napoli matching them blow for blow, coming from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 and later winning 3-0 in the next fixture against them. Against Milan he’s played the same formation again, this time drawing against them after Juventus lost one nil earlier in the Serie A campaign. It clearly seems that Conte is becoming infatuated with using the 3-5-2 formation. Has it been enough? One simple answer. Yes. Juventus have won their last 5 games against good sides playing the same formation. They beat Inter, Fiorentina, Lazio, Napoli and Palermo. They are also in the Coppa Italia final and are looking to win a domestic double. Conte’s vision for Juventus is clearly bright and clear. He has definitely brought the Guardiola first season effect to Turin and is seeing amazing results. Quite simply they’ve been the best team in Serie A.
The question remains however, can they keep it up? Can they continue to dominate next season like this one? Crucially can they have a massive effect in the Champion’s League? Well I do personally feel Juventus can become better from here particularly if they seek out more proficient strikers whose profligacy is a major reason for their astonishing 14 Serie A draws this term. Were it not for Milan’s slip-ups those draws would surely have come back to haunt them. To this end the rumour mill in Turin is already whirring away linking the club to all manner of arch poachers.