Another false dawn, another miserable season, another failure to qualify for Europe’s elite competition – Juventus fans have been exposed to this experience in last two seasons. It seems as if the club is still struggling to shake off the ghosts of Calciopoli. The long term effects of relegation are being felt now. The Old Lady, who rarely sacked coaches prior to 2006, has now done away with five coaches in as many seasons. Last season, Gigi Delneri led Sampdoria to an improbable top-4 finish, with a budget, which was a quarter of Inter’s. In Juventus, Delneri’s primary target was to qualify for Champions’ League – a task in which he failed miserably. Juve not only finished out of UCL spots, but also missed out on European football altogether. This is the first time, in almost two decades, that Juventus will miss out on European football after a complete season in Serie A.
Gigi Delneri’s sacking was imminent and a few hours ago it was announced that Antonio Conte will be taking over as coach. Conte, a former captain and Juventus legend, would leave newly promoted AC Siena to join Italy’s most successful club.
Antonio Conte – As A Player And Coach
As a player, Antonio Conte was a natural leader and was famous for his work-rate and combative spirit. He joined Juventus from Lecce in 1992 and continued sporting the back and white jersey till 2004. He played over 400 games for Juventus and was one of the most influential players during the club’s glory days in the 1990s. As a coach, he started off with an indifferent spell in Arezzo, but tasted his first success at Bari. However, initially it was somewhat of a shock when he took the post in Bari. Conte was born in Lecce and started his career in AC Lecce – Bari’s bitter derby rivals. Under Conte’s coaching, Bari turned into cadetti winners from a mid-table team. I Galetti achieved their first Serie A promotion, since 1993-94 season, with a comfortable four-point lead at the top.
It was a bit of a surprise, when Conte and Bari rescinded their contract by mutual consent at the start of 2009-10 season. This was also the first time he was linked to the Juventus-job. Instead, Conte took over as the coach of Atalanta. His stint with the Nerazzurri would be something Conte would like to forget. Not only did the team’s fortunes stumble but also the coach clashed repeatedly with supporters during practice. When Conte met his former club, coached by his former team-mate Ciro Ferrara, he was humbled by a 2-5 score-line. Eventually, Conte resigned in January, with Atalanta stuck on 19th place in Serie A table. The former Juve midfielder joined relegated Siena in the start of 2010-11 season, leading them to a quick promotion by end of it.
Ciro Ferrara Version 2.0?
It’s easy to draw parallels between Antonio Conte and Ciro Ferrara and conclude that the former will suffer a similar fate. However, there are some basic differences between the two. As a player, Ferrara was an elegant defender – calm and collected, playing the good cop to the likes of Paolo Montero. However, as a coach, Ferrara didn’t manage to play a more authoritarian role, which eventually affected the team’s spirit. Conte, on the other hand was always a natural leader. He would scream at his team mates and would never allow slackness from them. Antonio Conte had guts as a player and he has shown the same signs as a manager. Taking over a job at Bari, despite hailing from Lecce, as well as confronting Atalanta fans, show Conte’s courage.
Ciro Ferrara had relatively less experience, when he took over the job in Juve. He had never coached a big club in his career – most of his experience was as an assistant or in youth level. Conte, on the other hand, has led two clubs to Serie A and has also managed a Serie A club for half a season.
Another major difference between Ferrara and Conte will be the different systems these two used. Ferrara preferred a 4-3-1-2 formation, using Diego was a trequartista. However, the squad Juventus had at that time was ill suited to that formation. Under Ranieri, Juve had played a flat 4-4-2 for two seasons and the squad struggled to cope with a totally different formation. Conte’s case will be totally different. He has been known to play a 4-4-2/4-2-4 system (often 4-3-3) with Siena and Bari. This formation is exactly similar to what Gigi Delneri used in Juventus or Sampdoria. Last summer, Juventus bought new players to suit the 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation. Therefore Conte or the team will not have to make major adjustments to fit into each other’s tactical plans.
A detailed discussion of Conte’s tactics in Siena is available here.
Antonio Conte hated to lose as a player – an attitude he has instilled in his teams. In 84 games his teams have played in Serie B, they have lost just 13 times. His teams have also play balanced football – this season, Siena has scored the highest number of goals in Serie B while conceding the second lowest number goals. His Bari team of 2008-09 season also had a similar record.
Conte has received votes of confidence from a lot of former Juventus players, two of them being Angelo Di Livio and Alessio Tacchinardi. Most interestingly, this is the first time since 2006 that Luciano Moggi has come out and extended his support to a new Juventus coach. Reactions have been positive all around, though most of it is because of Conte’s memories as a player rather than his credentials as coach. Conte’s appointment isn’t awe-inspiring, but Juventus fans will be hoping that the former Il Capitano awakens the Old Lady from the slumber of mediocrity that she is undergoing right now.
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