Juventus Report Card for 2012
It's been quite a year for Juventus, as the club have experienced a mixture of great victories, sporadic disappointing defeats and an unjust—from their point of view—suspension of their manager, Antonio Conte, for his part in the calcioscommesse scandal in Italian football.
The Bianconeri held off a tough fight with Milan for the scudetto—riding their luck in a game with their title foes at the San Siro—before a first outing in the Champions League for several years.
Qualification, in first place, from a tough group that included the European champions Chelsea and dangerous Ukrainian opposition Shakhtar was mightily impressive.
The suspension of Conte for failing to report match fixing during his time with Siena was a sour note, as was, to a lesser degree, the defeat to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final.
Regardless, 2012 has been Juve's year in Italy, so let's get into the whole story.
Let me know your thoughts and views on the Bianconeri's fine 12 months in the comments section below.
A solid start to the year, as Juve maintained their unbeaten run in the league for the 2011-12 season, and club legend Alessandro Del Piero finally scored at the Juventus Stadium in his final season for the club.
Although it was not something that was holding Juve back, as soon as Del Piero scored against Roma in the Coppa Italia, the roof came off in jubilation.
Everybody knew what had happened immediately, and it seemed to bond the whole group together from there on.
08/01/12: Lecce 0-1 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Alessandro Matri
15/01/12: Juventus 1-1 Cagliari (Serie A)
Scorers: Mirko Vucinic, Andrea Cossu
21/01/12: Atalanta 0-2 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Stephan Lichtsteiner, Emanuele Giaccherini
24/01/12: Juventus 3-0 Roma (Coppa Italia)
Scorers: Giaccherini, Alessandro Del Piero, Simon Kjaer (o.g.)
28/01/12: Juventus 2-1 Udinese (Serie A)
Scorers: Matri (2), Antonio Floro Flores
It was this month that Juve began to believe in their ambition to win the double, as they left the San Siro twice unscathed in a Coppa Italia encounter and a league clash.
A great victory in the first leg of the cup tie allowed Juve to take command, knowing that the second leg to come would be at the Juventus Stadium.
A little later in the month, in the most controversial moment of the 2011-12 season, the Bianconeri's unbeaten streak was under serious threat.
Trailing 1-0 from a deflected Antonio Nocerino effort, Juve were pinned back by Milan and appeared to be in trouble. The Rossoneri appeared to score a second—Kwadwo Asamoah poking a rebound over Gianluigi Buffon's head—which would have probably sealed their fate, but Buffon instinctively clawed the ball back from more than a meter behind the line.
Time froze, the referee's arm stayed firmly by his side and Juve were reprieved. As the game continued, the Bianconeri generated momentum and confidence, leading to Matri's late leveller to break Milan hearts and keep the streak alive.
05/02/12: Juventus 0-0 Siena (Serie A)
08/02/12: Milan 1-2 Juventus (Coppa Italia)
Scorers: Martin Caceres (2), Stephan El Shaarawy
15/02/12: Parma 0-0 Juventus (Serie A)
18/02/12: Juventus 3-1 Catania (Serie A)
Scorers: Pablo Barrientos, Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Quagliarella
25/02/12: Milan 1-1 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Antonio Nocerino, Matri
The Bianconeri machine kept on moving relentlessly towards its goals during March.
Milan, despite a spirited effort, were knocked out of the Coppa Italia, while impressive victories against Fiorentina—especially due to Antonio Conte fielding many of the squad players—and Inter created an awe of invincibility about Juve for the first time.
03/03/12: Juventus 1-1 Chievo (Serie A)
Scorers: Paolo De Ceglie, Boukhary Drame
07/03/12: Bologna 1-1 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Marco Di Vaio, Vucinic
11/03/12: Genoa 0-0 Juventus (Serie A)
17/03/12: Fiorentina 0-5 Juvenuts (Serie A)
Scorers: Vucinic, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio, Pirlo, Simone Padoin
20/03/12: Juventus 2-2 Milan (Coppa Italia)
Scorers: Del Piero, Djamel Mesbah, Maxi Lopez, Vucinic
25/03/12: Juventus 2-0 Inter Milan (Serie A)
Scorers: Caceres, Del Piero
A tough month awaited the Bianconeri. Well, at least on paper. But Juve managed to sweep aside tricky looking encounters against Napoli, Lazio and Roma, which had many believing beforehand that Milan would retake a prominent role in the title race.
With five matches remaining, Juve held the head-to-head decider against Milan and a three point lead, meaning they would need to slip up twice.
A long, hard struggle away at relegation-bound Cesena appeared to be the final hurdle as the game remained a stalemate with 10 minutes to go. Of all people, criticised widely for his lack of contribution in the papers, Marco Borriello popped up with his first goal for the club to send the team and its fans into ecstasy.
01/04/12: Juventus 3-0 Napoli (Serie A)
Scorers: Vucinic, Vidal, Quagliarella
07/04/12: Palermo 0-2 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Leonardo Bonucci, Quagliarella
11/04/12: Juventus 2-1 Lazio (Serie A)
Scorers: Simone Pepe, Stefano Mauri, Del Piero
22/04/12: Juventus 4-0 Roma (Serie A)
Scorers: Vidal (2), Pirlo, Marchisio
25/04/12: Cesena 0-1 Juventus (Serie A)
29/04/12: Novara 0-4 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Vucinic (2), Borriello, Vidal
A glorious season was clinched with a victory over Atalanta on the final day of the season, ensuring that Juve became the first side to go a whole season unbeaten in the league since Milan of 1991-92.
The scudetto was clinched, but there was one more challenge remaining: the Coppa Italia final.
A wonderful season was prevented from becoming perfect when Napoli shocked the Bianconeri with a 2-0 victory in Rome to snatch the Coppa Italia away from Juve and end Del Piero's great career on a low note.
02/05/12: Juventus 1-1 Lecce (Serie A)
Scorers: Marchisio, Andrea Bertolacci
06/05/12: Cagliari 0-2 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Vucinic, Michele Canini (o.g.)
13/05/12: Juventus 3-1 Atalanta (Serie A)
Scorers: Luca Marrone, Del Piero, Lichtsteiner (o.g.), Andrea Barzagli
20/05/12: Juventus 0-2 Napoli (Coppa Italia)
Scorers: Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik
August and September
A summer of big signings—including Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla and Sebastian Giovinco—meant that Juve looked as formidable as ever and entered the defence of their title as hot favourites.
Napoli put in a typically spirited display in the Supercoppa but ultimately succumbed to the Old Lady due to poor discipline, meaning assistant coach Massimo Carrera—assuming Conte's responsibilities due to his ban—picked up a trophy in his first match as caretaker manager.
A welcome return in the Champions League also arrived in September with a trip to the European champions Chelsea. Juve fought hard to come back from 2-0 down to salvage a point, which would ultimately prove to be crucial in terms of qualification.
11/08/12: Juventus 4-2 Napoli (Supercoppa)
Scorers: Cavani, Kwadwo Asamoah, Goran Pandev, Vidal, Christian Maggio (o.g.), Vucinic
25/08/12: Juventus 2-0 Parma (Serie A)
Scorers: Lichtsteiner, Pirlo
02/09/12: Udinese 1-4 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Vidal, Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco (2), Andrea Lazzari
16/09/12: Genoa 1-3 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Ciro Immobile, Giaccherini, Vucinic, Asamoah
19/09/12: Chelsea 2-2 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Oscar (2), Vidal, Quagliarella
22/09/12: Juventus 2-0 Chievo (Serie A)
Scorers: Quagliarella (2)
25/09/12: Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus (Serie A)
29/09/12: Juventus 4-1 Roma (Serie A)
Scorers: Pirlo, Vidal, Matri, Pablo Osvaldo, Giovinco
Despite their league form continuing nicely, Juve's October was relatively disappointing, as they entered the half-way stage of the Champions League with just three points in the bag and outside of the top two places.
Two draws with Shakhtar and the group's whipping boys, Nordsjælland meant that Juve's qualification route was complicated, and a victory over Chelsea at home, or Shakhtar away, would be crucial.
On a bright note, Paul Pogba was successfully integrated into the first team after his protracted move from Manchester United in the summer. The Frenchman produced his first moment of magic, slashing home the second goal from range in the 2-0 victory over Napoli.
02/10/12: Juventus 1-1 Shakhtar (Champions League)
Scorers: Alex Teixera, Bonucci
07/10/12: Siena 1-2 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Pirlo, Emanuele Calaio, Marchisio
20/10/12: Juventus 2-0 Napoli (Serie A)
Scorers: Caceres, Pogba
23/10/12: Nordjælland 1-1 Juventus (Champions League)
Scorers: Mikkel Beckmann, Vucinic
28/10/12: Catania 0-1 Juventus (Serie A)
31/10/12: Juventus 2-1 Bologna (Serie A)
Scorers: Quagliarella, Saphir Taider, Pogba
Undoubtedly, November will be remembered for the fine performance that the Old Lady displayed against Chelsea.
Juve sauntered to a 3-0 victory over an out-of-sorts Blues—who would subsequently fire their manager Roberto Di Matteo—in a match that made the whole of Europe sit up and take note.
It was a performance that suggested Juve can go on to win this tournament if they play their best, as they controlled proceedings from start to finish.
07/11/12: Juventus 4-0 Nordsjælland (Champions League)
Scorers: Marchisio, Vidal, Giovinco, Quagliarella
10/11/12: Pescara 1-6 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Vidal, Quagliarella (3), Emmanuel Cascione, Asamoah, Giovinco
17/11/12: Juventus 0-0 Lazio (Serie A)
20/11/12: Juventus 3-0 Chelsea (Champions League)
Scorers: Quagliarella, Vidal, Giovinco
25/11/12: Milan 1-0 Juventus (Serie A)
A month to remember due to the return of Antonio Conte onto the bench for the Bianconeri.
Juve ensured that their unbeaten run under Conte continued—as defeats to Inter and Milan came while he was suspended—with a fine win against Palermo at a completely drenched Stadio Renzo Barbara.
Juve also secured the spoils in the derby against Torino after Kamil Glik was dismissed early on for an awful, studs-up tackle that left viewers wincing.
Lastly, Champions League qualification was ensured by avoiding defeat at Shakhtar. An unlikely victory took the Bianconeri into first place, and a last-16 tie with Celtic awaits.
01/12/12: Juventus 3-0 Torino (Serie A)
Scorers: Marchisio (2), Giovinco
05/12/12: Shakhtar 0-1 Juventus (Champions League)
Scorers: Alekdandr Kucher (o.g.)
09/12/12: Palermo 0-1 Juventus (Serie A)
12/12/12: Juventus 1-0 Cagliari (Coppa Italia)
16/12/12: Juventus 3-0 Atalanta (Serie A)
Scorers: Vucinic, Pirlo, Marchisio
21/12/12: Cagliari 1-3 Juventus (Serie A)
Scorers: Mauricio Pinilla, Matri (2), Vucinic.
Most improved player of the year: Leonardo Bonucci
At a time when Bari sold two of the most outstanding Italian centre-backs around, it was widely discussed who was the better of the two: Leonardo Bonucci or Andrea Ranocchia.
Now, though, there can be no discussion. Bonucci has excelled under Antonio Conte and turned into a world class defender, bettering even Giorgio Chiellini over the past 12 months.
Tough in the challenge and able to influence the game on the ball with his tremendous drive and range of passing, Bonucci is now the complete package.
Defining moment of the year: Marco Borriello's late winner versus Cesena
It would be easy to say that the defining moment of the year was the ghost goal of Sulley Muntari, but there were plenty more games left for Milan to catch Juve or, rather, for Juve to slip up.
With five games to go and Milan sitting just three points behind, Juve knew that any dropped points would allow the Rossoneri to close to within one Juve slip-up of the scudetto.
With relegation-bound Cesena putting up a sterling effort to frustrate the Bianconeri for 80 minutes, it appeared as if the title race would be blown wide open with four games left.
Enter Marco Borriello, without a Juventus goal all season, to pop up with the winner and send Juve into delirium.
Young player of the year: Paul Pogba
A squad packed with mostly experienced players, there are not too many candidates for this award.
Luca Marrone deserves a mention for the way that he has transformed himself into a centre-back—despite centre-midfield being his preferred position—in order to contribute to the side when injuries hurt them.
But Paul Pogba has injected energy and dynamism into the midfield whenever he has been afforded the opportunity. Signing the Frenchman from Manchester United this summer already appears to be a major coup.
Pogba is similar to Arturo Vidal in the sense that he is a complete midfielder. Originally thought of as a holding midfielder due to his sheer athleticism, Pogba's range of passing and shooting, particularly from distance, have been a pleasant surprise.
Goal of the year: Fabio Quagliarella's third against Pescara
We've seen some gorgeous Andrea Pirlo free kicks, and that Alessandro Del Piero's blockbuster to open his account at the Juventus Stadium against Roma in the Coppa Italia was also pretty special. A worthy mention to Pogba's fine volley against Napoli too.
My Juventus goal of the year will go to Fabio Quagliarella's hat trick goal against Pescara. Back to goal, he redirects a corner with a perfectly executed bicycle kick that is past the goalkeeper in a flash.
Player of the year: Arturo Vidal
This is a tough one, as Juventus have been outstanding from front to back this year.
Gianluigi Buffon is as excellent as ever, while Leonardo Bonucci, as mentioned above, is fast becoming one of Europe's premier defenders.
Claudio Marchisio continues to be undervalued throughout Europe; his contribution to Juve's renaissance is absolutely vital. Andrea Pirlo, of course, is still playing at an exceptional level too.
But I duly believe that Arturo Vidal has been the difference-maker over the past year, both on the defensive end and in an attacking sense too.
The Chilean has proven to be an outstanding purchase from Bayer Leverkusen, and I would now consider him to be Europe's most complete midfield player. With "El Guerrero" on their side, Juve have a chance of winning any football match.