This was Juventus’ worst season ever – most losses in a season, most goals let in, embarrassing losses, finishing low in the table, instability in management, rivals having great season; the season had all the possible miseries.
Pre-season – the morning doesn’t always show the day..
Few of Juventus’ fans would have been able to foresee the chaotic end to the season, because it all began rosy. First time since Calciopoli, there was a climate of optimism surrounding the team. Club legend & fan favourite, Ciro Ferrara took over as coach. Words like “playing like Barcelona” were thrown around too often.
Diego, a Brazilian fantasista was bought from Germany. He was supposed to do the creative job previously done by Nedved. World Cup winners Grosso & Cannavaro came in. Felipe Melo was brought in after a brilliant season in Fiorentina. Martin Caceres came from Barcelona on loan.
Diego got the ball rolling early on
After spending 50 million Euros in transfers Juve were portrayed as the team which would challenge the seemingly invincible Nerrazzuri. Things began well, an encouraging pre-season, with wins over Real Madrid & Sevilla in Peace Cup. A 4-1 loss to Villarreal would however, provide a more realistic view of the future.
Italian season begins..
Serie A began with wins over Chievo, Lazio & Roma. Diego scored two against Roma and Iaquinta was also in good form. After that, the season slowly unfolded for real. Diego got injured against Lazio and his substitute Giovinco flattered to deceive. Iaquinta got injured while on international duty. Del Piero & Trezeguet were eternally crocked.
After the bright start, the chinks in the armour were starting to show. Molinaro failed to mark the far post as Bologna grabbed a late equalizer to earn a draw. This was just the start of the downward spiral.
A host of lacklustre games followed. The first defeat of the season was handed at Palermo; a 2-0 loss were Juve were outplayed by a struggling side. Ciro decided to change the formation, by putting Camoranesi, Diego & Giovinco together. And what a difference that made!
Second-placed Sampdoria was disposed in style by a 5-2 margin. After a stellar first half against Napoli, Juventus shipped in three goals in thirty minutes to lose 2-3. But they were right back on track with a 5-1 hammering of Atalanta.
This would be just an illusion, though. Camoranesi soon got injured and Giovinco was also benched. Poor performance against poor teams that had not beaten the Old Lady in years began to not only beat them, but outplay them.
A fortunate win in the Derby d’Italia changed nothing, as the rookie coach did not have a clue as to what to do. A change of coach was imminent. Hiddink was linked during the winter window. But curiously no change was made during that time. The only significant act in that period was reinstating Roberto Bettega as a part of the board. Bettega promptly sent non-performers Tiago & Molinaro out on loan & brought-in Candreva, on loan.
Zaccheroni wasn’t an improvement on Ciro
Ultimately, Ciro’s time was up and he had to go. A 2-1 home defeat to Roma was the final nail in his coffin. His replacement was hardly awe-inspiring, though. Alberto Zaccheroni, a man who hadn’t coached in years & was sacked by Torino the last time he was employed, stepped-in to replace Ciro Ferrara.
The person at the helm changed, but the fundamental problems remained. Injuries kept coming more frequently than goals. After a series of painful games, Juventus fittingly ended the season with a 3-0 drubbing to AC Milan. The last few months were also plagued by fan unrest, the climax of which was a fan manhandling Zebina.
Final position: 7th – worst in almost 20 years. 15 games lost in league, most since 1961-62.
Being grouped with Bayern & Bordeaux, Juventus had a difficult task facing them. Bordeaux were the early pace-setters. After gaining two insipid wins over Maccabi, it all came down to the final match of the group stage – a home game against Bayern. All Juve needed was a draw, but Bayern thrashed Juventus 4-1 after Trezeguet had given Juve the lead.
Europa League started well with a 2-0 win away to Ajax. It seemed that the English side Fulham were next in Juve’s firing line, especially after a 3-1 win in the home leg. Little did Juventus know that Fulham’s ammunition would eventually down the club from Turin. Away to Craven Cottage, an early goal meant Juventus had to concede four goals to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory; and that is exactly what they did. In an appalling display, Juventus allowed Fulham to score four times and also, had two players sent off.
With that defeat, came the end of Juventus’ last hope of a trophy.
The Old Lady couldn’t survive a night in the Cottage
Lack of system – Two coaches & fifty odd matches later, nobody knows which system to try out. Ciro started with 4-3-1-2, changed to a 4-2-3-1 with great success. But injury to Camoranesi meant that system would not be used again this season. Zaccheroni tried 3-4-3 and 4-4-1-1. None of them worked. This is a highly unbalanced team, with too many slow players. The lack of creativity was painful at times.
Injuries – To be fair to both the coaches, injuries didn’t help either. Iaquinta, Marchisio, Diego, Trezeguet got injured when they were in-form. In the Fulham game, there was only one fit centre-back. The Juventus medical staff is pretty incompetent too; apparently the humid climate of Juve’s practice centre at Vinovo is responsible for a few of the injuries.
Leaky defense – Juve conceded 56 goals this season. Their worst ever record. Considering the fact that Chiellini & Buffon made a lot of interventions, otherwise it would have been close to 70! Cannavaro & Legrottagie are slow. Full-backs Caceres, Zebina, Grygera, de Ceglie or Grosso are all terrible defenders. Grygera’s 3 mistakes against Siena led to a 3-3 draw, despite being up 3-0 in 15 minutes.
Goal scoring woes – Juventus don’t have a proper second striker. Del Piero is too old to do that regularly. Trezeguet, Amauri, Iaquinta are all traditional centre-forwards who lack movement & depend on crosses. Other than Camoranesi, none of the wider players are good at crossing. Amauri has forgotten to score – just 5 goals in 31 starts in Serie A.
No one knows to pass the ball – Owing to the lack of movement of the strikers, Diego often got isolated up top. This called for a deep lying playmaker who could open the defense with a killer pass. The only guy who could do that, Zanetti, was sold to Fiorentina. Melo, Sissoko, Poulsen all are ordinary passers of the ball. Only Marchisio was an option, but he is too young & inexperienced.
Transfers – While the capture of Diego was laudable, other transfers were not. Grosso & Cannavaro are over the hill. Melo was a defensive player, like Sissoko or Poulsen. He was a panic buy after Udinese arm twisted Juve out of D’Agostino deal. D’Agostino was the right player, Melo was not.
Hard to believe, but everything was not bleak. The form of Claudio Marchisio & Chiellini was encouraging.
Juventus primavera’s solid performance in Viareggio Cup, Coppa & Serie A primavera means there is a host of youngsters available. The new stadium is coming up without hitches & would mean that all the gate money will be available to only Juventus from 2011-12 season onwards.
Despite building a new stadium, the club’s finances are sound. A new regime started their reign a few days ago as Andrea Agnelli took over as president. Sporting director Giuseppe Marotta & coach Luigi del Neri joined from fourth-placed Sampdoria. Marotta’s transfer record is stellar & the only thing Juve fans can hope is a good transfer campaign to plug the holes.
The nightmarish season is over, things can only get better…