Last weekend’s emphatic victory over a clueless Palermo side for Juventus further convinced Antonio Conte’s detractors to think otherwise regarding Juventus’ Scudetto credibility. Now unbeaten after 10 games in the league, the Bianconeri are sitting pretty on top of the Serie A table with a game in hand. Everything seems to be clicking for Antonio Conte’s army as they march on in the right direction towards that elusive Serie A title. The fire slewing demons of the past two seasons have been put away by the Old Lady, well for now at least.
As far as protagonists for Juve’s resurgence this season are concerned, no one has gained more plaudits than Andrea Pirlo and rightfully so. The maestro has been orchestrating an elegant Juventus side who have united to form a beautiful symphony that has hit all the right notes. Alongside him has been Chilean international Arturo Vidal and Juve’s golden boy this season Claudio Marchisio. Vidal has been like a rabid dog alongside Pirlo; constantly hunting down at opponents and allowing the Pirlo time and space to weave his magic. Vidal has offered the team a lot in a short span of time and looks a bargain at €10.5 million and is certainly tailor made for this high pressing Juventus side.
His partner in crime, Claudio Marchisio has found a new lease of life in his preferred central midfield position. Indeed the Juventus youth product has developed into one of the best midfielders in Italy this season and was deservedly rewarded with the Player of the Month award for October. His late runs into the box and the ability to be at the right place at the right time have seen him hit the back of the net five times already this campaign; an impressive tally for a midfielder.
But one player that has quietly gone around doing his job fantastically well deserves a huge amount of credit as well for Juve’s performances this season. A player that has given Juventus something they’ve sorely lacked for many seasons now. A player whose determination, grit and quality on the field is synonymous with Juve’s tradition and reputation. That player is Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Stephan Lichtsteiner – Jack of All Trades
Signed in the summer from Lazio for €9.8 million, the Swiss International looks like a steal given the obscene amount of money thrown around nowadays. Lichtsteiner has made the right-back spot his own and has slotted in with consummate ease. The Swiss is always a threat while going forward in attack as was on display with the wonderful defense splitting pass he made for Alessandro Matri’s goal. At times, he does act as a winger down the right.
‘Forrest Gump’ as he has been aptly named for his constant forays up and down the right flank has provided a competent fullback to the Juventus line-up that has been absent since 2006. The 27 year old right back just doesn’t seem to tire. Lichtsteiner has featured in every minute so far in Juve’s season and yet looks fresh in each and every passing game. The Swiss International has quickly established himself as the best fullback in the peninsula and is as reliable as a Swiss bank. Antonio Conte does demand a lot from his fullbacks and Lichtsteiner certainly does fit the bill perfectly to suit the manager’s requirements. In a short space of time, Lichtsteiner has already become a fan favorite and it isn’t hard to see why. Notoriously hardworking, he gives his all on the field until the final whistle has been blown. Forrest Gump has truly been Antonio Conte’s secret weapon whether it is going forward or defensively.
At 27 years of age, he was purchased right at the peak of his powers and probably has a good few seasons left in him. Juve’s recent history with right backs has been disastrous to say the least with Jonathan Zebina, Zdenek Grygera and Marco Motta all not performing up to the standards expected by a team of Juve’s caliber. While the Frederik Sorensen experiment did work out a bit, the young Dane isn’t a natural fullback and his strong potential can only be fulfilled as a centre-back. Lichtsteiner has been a long overdue solution to what has emerged as one of the most problematic areas on the field for the Bianconeri. Juventus finally have a top class right back at their disposal, a no nonsense defender who can contribute at both ends of the field, effectively. He also has the honor of scoring the very first Serie A goal at the refurbished Juventus Stadium.
If Juventus are to continue their strong run and battle it out for the Scudetto come next year, Lichtsteiner will to continue to remain a key component for Antonio Conte’s side. He will have to maintain his excellent form and match the high standards he has set for himself; standards that range as high as the Swiss Alps. While Juventus fans on the other hand will have to hope and pray that he doesn’t succumb to any injury because the last thing they will want to witness is Marco Motta at right back.