Antonio Conte has already broken some records in his short managerial span in Juventus. Under his tutelage Juventus are currently going through the longest unbeaten streak in their illustrious history. Conte has also transformed a club which finished seventh in back to back seasons to genuine title contenders. If one compares Juveai??i??s season with Liverpool’s, another European giant who has been struggling recently but tried to turn it around this season, then Conteai??i??s impact becomes all the more evident.

Juventus are also close to a spot in the final of Coppa Italia. Most importantly, Conte seems to have brought back the aura of a big name club that seemed to have deserted Bianconeri in last two seasons. Despite all his achievements so far, some of Antonio Conteai??i??s decisions have been perplexing, both in his choice of starting XI as well as substitutions. Juveai??i??s recent run of indifferent form which has seen the club drop points against lower table opponents has brought these issues in the forefront even more. The Juventus Mister seems to have a preference for players with good work rate but he has also decided to sparsely use three of the best natural talents in the squad ai??i?? Fabio Quagliarella, Elijero Elia and Alessandro Del Piero.

Fabio Quagliarella ai??i?? Fit But Not In First Team

Before his season ending injury against Parma in January, 2011, Fabio Quagliarella was by far the best Juventus striker that season. The Naples born striker who always had a reputation of scoring incredible goals was finding back of the net regularly till his injury. When Conte took over the reins Quagliarella was still getting back to his full fitness so it was expected that he wouldnai??i??t feature in his starting lineups. Curiously, he was not straightway inducted in the starting XI despite announcing he was back to full fitness. Mirko Vucinicai??i??s initial strong form in the Black & White jersey also relegated him to the bench. It was also suggested that Antonio Conte viewed him as a direct replacement of Alessandro Matri as a prima punta rather than a Vucinic replacement.

After a good start, Vucinicai??i??s form slowly declined. He hasnai??i??t been ai???lazyai???, a common complaint with the Montenegrin but has drifted in and out of matches far too often. Vucinicai??i??s performances against smaller teams have always been suspect and over-relying on his creativity has cost Juve in such matches. Another huge problem with Vucinic this season has been his reluctance to pull the trigger when he had a goal scoring chance. He also tends to wander off towards the wings at times, leaving Alessandro Matri to deal with too many defenders.

Vucinic v Quagliarella in a 3-5-2. Quagliarella's heat map (top) vs Catania shows his more centralized approach while Vucinic's heat map (bottom) vs Parma shows how he drifts wider despite playing in a two striker formation. (All heat maps courtesy of ESPN Soccernet)

DespiteAi??Vucinic’s underwhelming performances Conte rarely chose to place his faith on Quagliarella. If his fitness was indeed a concern, then Quagliarella should have been given more time as a substitute. On the contrary, 10 out of his 18 substitute appearances have come with less than 30 minutes left on the clock. Despite limited opportunities Quagliarellaai??i??s numbers are as good as Vucinicai??i??s. The former has scored 3 goals in 8 starts while the latter has notched up the same number of goals in 22 starts. A major difference between Quagliarella and Vucinic is their directness. Quagliarella tries to score goals whenever he is around the box and is not alien to trying long rangers. Vucinic, on other hand, is more prone to dribble in and around the box rather than shoot. Despite having the ability to score long ranger goals Vucinic is less prone to make an effort to score such goals.

Marco Boriello was inducted into the starting XI despite being fairly new in the squad and it was clear that he was a replacement of Matri. Borielloai??i??s inclusion is certainly perplexing. The ex-Milan and Roma striker neither had the reputation of being a regular scorer nor that of being a game changer. He is good at holding up the ball but Borielloai??i??s movement and positioning leaves a lot to be desired. With Boriello and Vucinic starting upfront Juventus strike force often looked completely predictable and out of ideas against minnows who ai???parked the busai???.

Provincial clubs seem to have figured out a way to stop Conteai??i??s Juventus. They put players behind the ball and look to shut down Andrea Pirlo in midfield. It is not a ground breaking tactic by any stretch of imagination but has been effective against Juve. In such cases Juventus needed a dash of natural talent, a player who could score screamers from outside the box. Fabio Quagliarella. Yet, quite surprisingly, Conte chose not to start or introduce him when the situation demanded. He was an unused substitute during Juveai??i??s drawn matches against Chievo (twice) and Bologna ai??i?? matches where he could have had a big impact.

Eljero Elia ai??i?? A Spectator Worth 9 million Euros

There was some controversy regarding Eliaai??i??s transfer to Juventus as the player reportedly gave some damaging statements in the press demeaning the club. Very few Juventus fans would have expected Eliaai??i??s numbers till now.Ai??Since arriving in Juventus for 9 million Euros the Dutch winger Ai??has made just three appearances till now and has never stayed on the pitch for more than 45 minutes. Initially it was suggested that Elia was kept on the bench because he was not fully in sync with Conteai??i??s tactics. Boriello and Padoinai??i??s quick introduction in starting XI after winter arrivals seem to have squashed this logic.

While rusting himself on the bench Elia has seen the likes of Marcelo Estigarribia and Simone Padoin start for Juventus. Neither of these players have impressed despite having multiple starts. Eliaai??i??s absence becomes more painful if one considers the form shown by Juventus wingers this season. Other than Simone Pepe (who has fizzled out in 2012) and flashes from Giaccherini, not a single Juventus winger has played well this season. It is too early to call Elia a truly world class player but his talent and exceptional technical abilities were never in doubt. In the young Dutch player Juventus may have the only winger in the squad who has capability of dribbling past multiple players.

Hopefully this will not be the only activity he does in Juventus

Eliaai??i??s continuous absence from starting XI can dent his confidence and can affect his performance when he plays eventually. Worse, he can cause friction in the dressing room, the last thing Juve need at such a crucial juncture.

Alessandro Del Piero ai??i?? Criminally Under Played

It is perfectly understandable that Antonio Conte is trying to remove the Del Piero dependency Juventus have developed in last one and half decades. The Bianconeri all-time top scorer is nearing his retirement age and he is almost sure to retire or leave Juventus at the end of current season. Despite his age Pinturrichio has hardly outlived his effectiveness. It will be too much to expect him to start in every single match but there were matches where Conte could have changed the result by fielding Alex. By far the most technically gifted footballer in the squad, Del Piero almost rescued Juventus against a frustrating Chievo Verona side in first leg. Even in the 1-1 home draw Del Piero managed to waltz past the well-organized Gialloblu defence after a neat one-two with Vucinic, one of the few good moments for Juve in second half of that match.

Del Piero has played and combined well with both Quagliarella and Matri last season and this combination could have worked this season also. His ability to draw fouls around the penalty box could be an asset against smaller teams who put too many players in defence. His exceptional set-piece ability is also being missed ai??i?? till now Juventus have scored only a single goal from direct free-kick. There are times when his presence on the pitch alone could have spurred the side on. Del Piero has not made a single Serie A start since Juveai??i??s win over Novara back in mid-January. Last month Del Piero sat on the bench for entire 90 minutes despite Juventus struggling to break down Siena and Parma. He was brought on for just 13 minutes with the Old Lady creating pitifully little against Chievo last week. Del Piero may not fit into a 4-3-3 perfectly but he has played most of his career alongside a prima punta in a two striker attacking force so he will not need to adjust a lot to fit into the system when Conte fields a 3-5-2.

Antonio Conte deserves most of the credit for taking a strictly ordinary side to great heights this season. However, he seems over cautious to preserve his unbeaten record in last few rounds. The Antonio Conte who took over Juve in summer didnai??i??t bother to sit back even when his side was comfortably leading against Parma in opening match. If Juventus have to challenge for the title till end of the season then Conte has to start being less orthodox. He needs to place his faith on technically gifted players even if it means sacrificing some of the hard workers in the team. There has to be a proper balance between flair and hard-work.

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4 Responses to “Juventus Corner : Del Piero, Quagliarella And Elia – Is Conte Being Too Stubborn?”

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  1. Luke says:

    Thank you. Exactly what I was thinking. He plays the same players and refuses to make changes even when a player is playing horrible. Boriello has not fit in at ALL. Vucinic went haywire since the 50th against Chievo.
    Their hold up play was ridiculous. A perfect time to introduce Del Piero. Sure he doesn’t have the legs but when looking for hold up, he’s the man. 12 mins and he created 3 chances i believe?

    Absolutely ridiculous. So Del Piero is wasted on the bench and now Boriello has commanded a starting position despite not impressing and Matri who is our leading goal scorer has been relegated to the bench.

    He has brought back the juventus spirit. But his selections and lack of substitutions are absolutely ridiculous. He has forgotten the plot of juventus. Not everyone on the field HAS to be an engine.

  2. abp says:

    conte doesn’t play the same players… he just plays all the mediocre ones… for some reason he inherently detests natural flair and ability… heck, conte would bench CRonaldo if we had him, not that I’m saying I want him in Juve, or we need him – even if we could even afford him – no, far from it, but just in a hypothetical situation that we did, I am sure he would see more of the bench than the pitch..

    and let’s face it, conte hasn’t exactly changed anything from the start of the season… he criminally underused Quags and ADP even then, and he didn’t make use of Elia even then… it’s just that now it’s starting to get on our nerves because the stuff that was working in the start (i.e. hardwork over creativity) us starting to wane… it was this same attitude that we were lauding at the beginning, his stubborn nature and refusal to concede…that is exactly what is killing us right now, being stubborn and refusing to admit that he is wrong with the starting line-up and his player selection

    and that defense of his of our current form, saying that we have overachieved anyways, so we shouldn’t worry about our current form… so what, we just give up without trying anything?! we have 3 players on the bench who can possibly change that but his attitude is no, we’ve already overachieved so no need to try anything new and get further… this is incredibly frustrating!!!

  3. Dennis Robert says:

    I remember this same author previously stating the Del Piero will have no role to play for Juventus anymore. Now there is a whole article about he can help rejuvenate Juventus. I wonder if I can trust authors who keep on vacillating their opinions as per the circumstances.