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Abdalla M. Taryam: Not so black and white
May 10, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

With the Scudetto secured, Juventus are 90 minutes away from an undefeated league season and only 2 matches away from an unprecedented undefeated double. But none are more surprised than the Juventus supporters themselves.

Juventus opened their Serie A conquest this season at the new 41,000-seat, eco-friendly Juventus Stadium and with 9 new faces. 50 million Euros were spent to bring in Vucinic, Pirlo, Elia, Barzagli, Vidal, Lichtsteiner, Estigarribia and Giaccherini with the 9th being Antonio Conte.

Apart from their fans bragging that they were the only club in Italy to own their own stadium, not many were too confident in their new team. Yes they had a stadium without a silly running track but the new acquisitions were mediocre names at best. Apart from the free transfer of Andrea Pirlo, who in that list would be considered world class? Besides if Pirlo had any legs still in him Milan wouldn’t have offloaded him, would they?

As for Conte, being an ex-Bainconero captain might have eased his way through the gates but surely the fans were hoping for a manager with more than half a season of Serie A under his belt.

After two wins against Parma and Siena, Juventus’ new-look side drew two in a row against Bologna and Catania. Out came the knives. “They played against nobodies,” they said. “Parma and Siena is nothing to brag about, let’s see what they do against Milan.”

2-0 was the score in the first big test for Conte. They had defeated the defending champions who had only recently drawn with Barcelona at the Camp Nou and hailed as greats. Yet pundits and supporters alike weren’t ready to jump on the bandwagon as two draws followed against Chievo and Genoa. Conte was the target for much of the criticism as he tinkered with formations. He must have played 4 different formations in the first 8 games in which his record was a decent 4 wins and 4 draws. That’s when reality kicked in with Juve fans, and a top 3 finish, if achieved, was beginning to look like a target for success.

Not after the 9th week. San Siro and the “other” big one. It’s the new enemy Inter Milan. Not competing for the Scudetto is one thing but losing to Inter Milan is entirely unforgivable and Conte had better prepare his new players. Just like a Clasico in Spain. They needed to understand what was at stake. It was more than 3 points. It was a match that will shape the rest of the season and his players did not disappoint as they came away with a vital win and a psychological advantage.

Of course most of the footballing eyes at that point were set on the big tussle in Spain. Madrid vs Barca. Ronaldo vs Messi. Mourinho, Mourinho and more Mourinho. But away from the hype and glamour of continental competition, Conte’s boys set out to be recognised.

Nothing will bring you more attention than being undefeated and with everyone else in Europe tasting defeat Juventus grabbed the spotlight. They rose to the summit of the Italian league and soon their game started being analysed.

61% possession behind only Barcelona and Bayern with an 85% passing success while their 19.3 shots per game is the most in Europe. Their top passer, Andrea Pirlo, averaged over 87 passes a game, second only to Xavi but eclipses the Catalan maestro in total passes for the season with over 2,700 successful passes. Not too shabby for a player deemed surplus to requirements.

A statistic that shows the total involvement of the squad in offence: 21 out of the 24 players that featured this term either scored or assisted a goal. As for their defence, 16 goals conceded is a new Serie A record while we can all agree that Buffon has regained his impregnable form. So does it matter if Conte played 4 different formations in the 4 games against Milan and Inter?

Just like Pep and Barcelona in 08-09, Conte and Juventus have started with scepticism and pessimism surrounding them but they’re finishing with records. Yes, they aren’t winning a treble but if they complete the feat of going undefeated in all competitions this season while lifting the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia then that will certainly be an accomplishment of similar merit.

This isn’t the same Juve anymore. This old lady has gotten a makeover. Had they been in the Champions League this year some might have noticed it earlier but Europe has now been alerted. Bianconeri supporters are in store for a fruitful period under Conte. This is just an emphatic start to a new era for a reJUVEnated football club.

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The author, an engineer by profession and an amateur
coach, employs his love of the game to comment about it.

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