“I hear everyone talking about the Champions League, but I want people to understand that winning the Scudetto again would be something important and historic.”
Juventus manager Antonio Conte made no secret of his side’s targets this season. The Scudetto occupies a high level of priority and titling a third one as ‘historic’ is appropriate. Not since the mid 1930s has Juventus managed to rack up three titles on the trot. They go into the new season as favorites and rightfully so with additions that have only strengthened their squad.
Last season, the holders proved they had the motivation and the drive to retain their title. While every week saw a different team receive the label of the ‘Anti-Juve’, no side in the peninsula could quite match-up to them. The Scudetto pursuit, during the course of the season, saw many challengers try to keep up with Juventus but looking back, the Bianconeri were always only in a race with themselves.
Since the departure of David Trezeguet and more recently, Alessandro Del Piero, Juventus have lacked someone capable of providing a spark in their final third. Mirko Vucinic for all his undoubted ability also brings a fair amount of inconsistency with him. Enter, Carlos Tevez. The former Man Utd striker is no stranger to European Football and vice-versa. His unpredictability on the field will serve Juventus well, while off it, it is something they might be weary off. Nevertheless, having a player of his talent automatically elevates the overall quality in the side and for a meager sum of €9m makes it a low-risk, potential high dividend move.
Alongside Tevez, came the much anticipated arrival of Fernando Llorente. Having flirted with Juventus in the past, Llorente put pen to paper with the Serie A Champions this summer. The Spanish International is a man-mountain and his huge frame coupled with his aerial prowess ensures he will be a nightmare for Serie A defenders. Although reservations have been made about the transition from Spanish to Italian football and his ability to adapt to Calcio, there is little doubt he will have a sizable impact for Juventus.
Angelo Ogbonna was next as he made the move from cross town rivals, Torino. An Italian International that will add depth to an already water-tight defense, acknowledged widely as the strongest in Italy. Ogbonna has already showcased the kind of talent in pre-season that warrants the €13m Juventus dished out on him. Ogbonna can cover any position in the three man defense Conte employs and his signing allows for rotation and insurance should a first-teamer fall prey to injury.
Young talents in the form of highly-rated Simone Zaza, Younes Bnou Marzouk and Roman Macek also entered through the Juventus gates.
What satisfied the manager was the reinforcements that did arrive all came in pretty early in the window; thus, giving them ample time to accustom themselves to a new team and all the factors that come along with it.
Marotta’s wheeling and dealing needs to be appreciated here. Three quality signings were made for a relatively low amount. The need to trim the squad was felt as well. Fan favorite Emanuele Giaccherini departed to Sunderland while Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella could both be on their way out as well. You get the feeling that Juventus aren’t done with purchases. Marotta will be sniffing around for shrewd financial buys in typical fashion.
“If my president had asked me to come here and win the International Champions Cup, then I would have changed our plans.” – Antonio Conte after his side’s last place finish.
Following on from their abysmal showing in the Guinness Cup, Conte’s side drew a lot of criticism. After all, finishing bottom of the pile did trigger extensive claims that the Bianconeri weren’t as imposing as they were thought to be. With just one win – against minnows Sassuolo – in the TIM Cup, doubts were raised over just how well prepared Juventus were for the coming season. What was bad news for reigning Serie A Champions was music to ears for the rest of the league. The unimpressive string of pre-season results formed a stem of hope for the rest of Italy.
But that glimmer of optimism was emphatically tossed aside when Juventus thrashed Lazio 4-0 in SuperCoppa Italiana on Sunday. The traditional curtain raiser to the Serie A season was a platform for Juventus to send a statement of intent to the rest of the league. Juventus disposed of Lazio with ease and did so in Lazio’s back-yard.
“Tonight Juventus showed themselves and that’s usually the way for big teams and big players – we aren’t seen when they are friendlies in America or China. We make our mark when it counts.” Captain Buffon noted.
Pre-season results need to be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s a time for managers to experiment and for players to achieve the desired fitness levels as well as offer new players the chance to integrate themselves and develop an understanding with their team-mates. Conte was quick to remind everyone Juventus were healthily represented in the Confederations Cup and rustiness was also evident.
There’s a great sense of expectation that has descended at Juventus. Deemed outright favorites for the title by the media but there are certain sections of which sight complacency as the only shackle that may hold them back. Yet, if we’ve learned anything from Antonio Conte since his time at the helm at Juventus, it’s that his insatiable hunger will firmly keep his side on the ground. Motivation is always hard to find when you’re coming off successive titles but the manager’s sheer will to win should drive them on a third consecutive Scudetto.
As for Europe, Conte might be relishing his side’s prospects. With top clubs around Europe chopping and changing their managers, there is stability at Juventus. Factor in the recruits of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente and you have addressed the chink in the armor and possibly added a springboard that could take them that one more step closer to European glory.
Serie A: Winners
Champions League: Semi-Finals
Coppa Italia: Winners