Juventus Can Challenge for Serie A Title

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Juventus Can Challenge for Serie A Title
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Juventus sit on top of the Serie A and have already beaten both Milan clubs

This article was originally published in the LAU Tribune: http://tribunelau.com/2011/10/31/juventus-can-challenge/

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli’s announcement that club legend Alessandro Del Piero will not be offered a new contract at the end of the season was shocking.  The timing of the announcement, just when the team spirit is thought to be high, is catastrophic.

Regardless of what has happened behind closed doors and whether Del Piero had plans to retire or not, the Juventus board must learn to treat their players fairly if they are to be considered among the European elite once again.

An ideal example of a club that knows how to treat their legends is Manchester United. Although Paul Scholes had been relegated to the bench for most parts of last season, no United board member suggested that the player would be released.

Scholes left on a high note, having won the Premier League title and contributing a respectable part in his team’s journey to the Champions League final. Most importantly, Scholes was given the role of “deciding his future”—at least in the media.

That said, Juventus should have allowed Del Piero to decide his own future in a special press conference. Even if Del Piero was unwanted, his 18-yearlong service at the club still merited a decent bow.

On a more positive note, Juventus’ current crop has started to show promise.

And while club manager Antonio Conte has dismissed speculation that his team is ready to mount a serious challenge for the Serie A title, there is no hiding from the fact that fans expect a title bid.

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Having moved into their new stadium—the first ever club-owned stadium in Italy—Juventus can now enjoy the backing of up to 41,000 seated fans.

The stadium’s construction had imposed a cloud over the club’s finances. This summer, however, the financial constraint was cleared, a fact that paved the way for heavy spending in the transfer market.

As a result of its free-spending, the club has added much-needed depth to its squad, which now comprises more than 25 players.

Juve’s signing of Stephan Lichtsteiner will help put an end to their leaky defensive performances, after Marco Motta and Zdenek Grygera endured woeful spells last season as rotating right-backs.

However, Andrea Pirlo stands out as arguably the club’s best summer signing. His passing abilities and eagle-like vision have given Juve the boost of quality they require to raise the standard of their game.

Add to that the fact that he joined the Old Lady for free, and I may be writing about one of the bargain buys of the decade.

Pirlo’s signing has also given Juventus a tactical flexibility, which Conte has used on numerous occasions to shuffle his pack. The Italian World Cup winner’s ability to play at both center midfield and defensive midfield means that Juventus can easily shift from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3.

Available at Conte’s disposal are skillful wingers who thrive in 4-3-3 and other hardworking wingers who can shine in 4-4-2.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli announced that legend Alessandro Del Piero is set to leave at the end of the season

The main reason that Juventus may have a refreshing campaign, though, is the vulnerability of their title rivals.

Reigning champions Milan have missed Pirlo this campaign, as they have started their season with a below-par run of form. Their form has been a stark contrast to their neighboring rivals, Inter Milan, who have already sacked a manager and continue to look vulnerable.

With both Milan clubs struggling for form, this is a chance for Juventus to bounce back to the top after seeing their rivals conquer the league in the previous seasons.

Considering that Roma is in a transitional phase and their manager’s long-term ideas are yet to blossom and Napoli is busy playing fatiguing Champions League fixtures, Juventus needs to seize their opportunity.

Although the Juventus hierarchy is yet to build the world-class team they once had, they will undoubtedly improve having injected fresh blood into their roster.

If Juventus can stay away from dropping points against weaker sides in Serie A and maybe add a decent center-back in January to pair him with the consistent Giorgio Chiellini, and if Agnelli’s imprudent announcement was not the beginning of other disruptive episodes, then this season might finally bring the Old Lady’s smile back.

This article was originally published in the LAU Tribune: http://tribunelau.com/2011/10/31/juventus-can-challenge/

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