Since returning to Juventus to manage the club that he served with such distinction as a player, Antonio Conte has built Italy's most powerful unit.
After the relative struggles that followed the Calciopoli scandal and demotion to the second tier of the Italian game, Conte has put the Bianconeri firmly back on top of Serie A with a side shaped very much in his own image: energetic, willing and with a never-say-die attitude.
Juve have won successive scudetti, the Old Lady's hand keeping a firm grip on the past two championships and their opponents held firmly at arm's length. Conte's side have endeavoured to achieve, and they have done just that these past two years. Their success has been based on a strong platform and an all-action 3-5-2 formation.
Gianluigi Buffon remains a safe and experienced goalkeeper, always there when called upon.
The all-Italian defensive trio of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini have been a stout, resolute unit, aggressive and dominant. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah, the wing-backs, offer outlets in attack and barricades in defence.
Andrea Pirlo is the cerebral core of the side. Perhaps world football's greatest bargain when he exchanged Milan for Turin two summers back, the 35-year-old has been allied in midfield by the work ethic and decisive striking contributions of the imperious Arturo Vidal and homegrown star Claudio Marchisio.
Up to this point, Le Zebre appear a formidable unit, a match for the very best that Europe has to offer. However, despite their successes in recent times, their forward line has lacked the same punch as the rest of Conte's XI, no matter who of his four chief goal-getters were selected.
Montenegrin forward Mirko Vucinic (19 goals in 63 league appearances) is immensely talented and capable of genius acts, but he remains frustratingly inconsistent.
Alessandro Matri (27 goals in 69 league apps) is powerful and quick, but perhaps not aggressive or selfish enough to be a top-level No. 9.
Fabio Quagliarella (22 goals in 67 league apps), a fabulous technical finisher and intelligent mover, is now the wrong side of 30 and has slowed down since a serious knee injury.
Sebastian Giovinco (seven goals in 31 league apps last season), a tricky dribbler and dynamic, if lightweight, attacker has also been used.
That lack of punch proved a big reason for their Champions League failing against Bayern Munich last season. For much of the tie they fought their corner and held their own. But in the final third, Juve were simply unable to land any sort of telling blow. Bayern, with their greater goalscoring prowess, ran out 4-0 aggregate winners.
This summer, however, has seen Conte and the Juventus board swoop to strengthen their forward line with two signings designed to both further ensure their place atop the Italian game, but also to make a greater impact in the Champions League. Having failed to procure a genuine top-level striker since Conte's arrival, they've swooped for two this summer window.
Spanish international Fernando Llorente has arrived from Athletic Club de Bilbao after a protracted transfer saga that resulted in his demotion to Los Leones substitutes' bench for the most part of the 2012-13 campaign.
Nonetheless he is a tall, powerful striker who scored regularly in La Liga (prior to last season). His aerial prowess and hold-up play could make him the focal point of the Juventus attack: someone who can both meet crosses from wide areas and bring runners—particularly Vidal and Marchisio—into play from vertical balls played from either Andrea Pirlo or those further back.
Alongside the 28-year-old Spaniard, the Bianconeri will partner marquee summer signing Carlos Tevez, the industrious 29-year-old Argentina international
A player of no little physical or technical ability, whatever his off-field problems at Manchester City, his determination to succeed whenever he crosses the white line is never in question. Four Premier League seasons with Manchester City saw him score 58 goals in 107 matches, a handsome return for a player who often sacrifices his own role and adapts so as to acclimate others.
Creative and intelligent in the final third, his technical quality makes him an astute addition, and he'll enhance the performances of others—certainly he should work well with the likes of Llorente and Vidal.
Additionally, Tevez is someone whose desire to win, and to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of victory, will fit well with Conte's hard-running philosophy. Matri may not be someone you'd want alongside you in the trenches; a focused Tevez, on the other hand, with the spirit of the barrio fully harnessed, is an altogether different proposition.
The cutting edge that Juventus' new duo should add to the Bianconeri is, on paper, an upgrade on what has gone before. Certainly it's hoped that in games against higher-quality opposition, such as the reigning European champions or other big hitters, they're a partnership who can cause problems.
Now Conte must figure out how to best fit the pair into his Juve jigsaw. A 3-3-4 formation has been mooted in preseason, with Tevez, Llorente and Vucinic all present, while the 3-5-2 with Tevez playing off of Llorente has also been used, most notably in the 1-1 draw with Everton.
Over the course of a long season, during which the Bianconeri have three major trophies to play for, they'll need to utilise all available attacking resources—they won't merely be a two-man band. However, in games where the margins are tight and the slightest of changes could make all the difference, Juventus will hope that their new strike duo can take them on to greater things.
More talk? You can catch me on Twitter: @AA_Richards
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