Serie A Preview — The Resurrection of Juventus

by Robert on August 18, 2010 · 6 comments

Mention the 2009-2010 season to Juventus' 170 million fans and they will shake their head in disgust.  Italy's most successful and beloved soccer team was a shell of itself, missing out on a European tournament spot due to poor play and aging players.  It is not a coincidence that the Italian national team also failed to live up to expectations in the World Cup, as Juve players made up a large contingent of the team.  Overall, it was a season to forget in Stadio Olimpico and the club wasted no time in cleaning house, replacing individuals from the team president down.  The new Juventus still has many familiar names, but has strengthened its weaknesses to make a run at the top four.

Management: Jean-Claude Blanc, the brainchild behind the new Juventus stadium, was forced out in May 2010 and replaced with Andrea Agnelli, the fourth member of his family to run Juventus.  Similar to Blanc, he has a business background and is tasked with maintaining the profitability of the club.  No doubt part of his financial plan includes UEFA tournament money.

His first task upon being hired was to grab Luigi Del Neri from Sampdoria as a permanent replacement for Ciro Ferrara.  Del Neri guided Sampdoria to a top four finish and was in demand this offseason.  His 4-4-2 style will be a good fit for Juventus, and look for the team to focus a bit more on defense this season.  Del Neri could, however, actually play more of a 4-2-2-2 if he extends the wings and moves them forward in the attack.  Juventus in their matches this month have also played a 4-3-3 at times.  He's seen success at Atalanta before guiding Sampdoria to the Champions League, and he was the best person available for the job.

The Transfer Market: Juventus was active in the transfer market, as to be expected, sending out older and more expensive players and bringing in both quality starters and key backups.  Maybe the biggest name to come to Juventus was Pepe, acquired on loan from Udinese with an option to buy.  Del Neri knows Pepe from his time in Palermo, and has added him as an attack option on the right side.  The club also beefed up its defense, which is discussed in depth below.

The continuing story of this offseason is the departures from the club, or a house cleaning if you prefer.  Italian national and rapidly aging defender Fabio Cannavaro has left for the UAE soccer league and a hefty contract.  Christian Poulsen was transferred to Liverpool for about €5.5 million to free up some salary and space after a disappointing stint with the club.  The biggest loss long-term, however, may be the loss of Sebastian Giovinco to Parma.  The young playmaker had been tabbed by fans as the next Juve star, but he grew tired of waiting to break into the starting XI.

Key Players: Starting in the back of the 4-4-2, vice-captain and all-world keeper Gigi Buffon begins the season on the injured list, leaving AC Milan acquisition Marco Storari as the starter.  Storari will never cause people to forget Buffon, but he is experienced and talented enough to hold down the position until Buffon is healthy.

Coming into the new season, Del Neri knew he needed to revamp the defense after Juventus allowed 55 goals last season.  He acquired rising star Leonardo Bonucci from Bari and Marco Motta from Roma to partner with stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Grosso, or if Grosso leaves during this transfer window, Paolo De Ceglie.  The two new additions will strengthen the backline and makes defense a team strength.  Look for Bonucci to become the next Fabio Grosso in his time at Juventus.

If Del Neri continues his traditional formation, the midfield will see two holding and two attacking wingers.  As mentioned, Pepe will man the right wing and replace Mauro Camoranesi, who regardless of his transfer status should be replaced by a younger player.  Claudio Marchisio, one of the players who actually looked good in last season's debacle, could start on the other wing, with Mohammed Sissoko in the middle.  UPDATE - Juventus added another potential starter to the midfield with CSKA Moscow winger Milos Krasic.

Up front, Del Neri against Shamrock moved Pepe and attacking midfielder Davide Lanzafame (Parma) to the forward position with Amauri.  While this could be an attacking option, I can see a rotation (assuming a 4-4-2) of Amauri, Trezeguet, and Del Piero as a potent attack.

This is, of course, assuming Diego is sent to a Bundesliga club, where he has been rumored to be going (or not going).  If Diego stays, the forward position has the potential to be one of the deepest in Serie A.

Outlook: This preview could change if Juventus makes any more changes on the transfer market, which is possible.  But as their club stands, Juventus is definitely a favorite to finish in the top four.  Even without a healthy Buffon to begin the season, the defense is improved from last season and will be a strength.  The attack will be more "exciting" than last season with a good variety of scorers that Del Neri can turn to for goals.  Under new management and with Del Neri's vision revitalizing the club, there is no reason this club will not move higher in the standings.  Whether they can challenge for a scudetto will depend on if they can improve on their record against the top clubs.

6 comments… read them below or add one

1 Rami S. August 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Hello Robert,

I believe the biggest and most important change came in terms of the management. The previous management was mediocre at best and made some unthinkable mistakes ranging from overpaying certain players to spending money on the wrong signings.

The management made major mistakes such as signing Grosso, Poulsen, Tiago, Melo and bringing back Fabio Cannavaro.

I think the biggest change comes in terms of the change in the club’s management followed by the coaching staff and lastly the players. Only the defensive line will see major changes, at least up to this stage. In midfield the team will retain the likes of Sissoko, Marchisio and Melo while the attack remains unchanged with Trezeguet, Amauri and Del Piero.

I think it will be a while before Juve challenges for Serie A unless a left-back, another winger and a striker are signed before beginning of the season.


2 Robert August 19, 2010 at 8:13 am

I agree that the previous management screwed up and I think the new management team is leading the club into an era where they could supplant Inter as the dominant Serie A club (battling AC Milan for that role). But it isn’t going to happen in one year, maybe not even two. You can’t shed an entire team in one transfer period, and I think over the next year you will see some of the older names or big name disappointments shipped elsewhere.

For the rest of this month, I would think they should definitely look for a bit more strength in the midfield, maybe another holding midfielder. I am big on Lanzafame as a starter and it looks like Pepe is the man for the other role. Their forwards have some talent, but should be replaced. However, I think as the team is constructed right now a fourth place finish is about right.


3 Rami S. August 20, 2010 at 1:06 am

Hi Robert,

I think your prediction of 4th is a fair one unless a winger (seems Juve are close to signing Krasic), a left-back and another attacker are signed before season’s start.

I am not a big fan of Amauri, he’s too static and at 30 he’s not the future of the club. I agree with you on the need for time to offload some of the older and aging names. For Juve’s future, they must sell Grosso, Camoranesi and Zebina as soon as possible.


4 Rami S. August 21, 2010 at 1:31 am

Juve signed Krasic and might add Aquilani on loan. Those could be useful additions and will mean the Bianconeri will now need a left-back and a young striker.


5 Pedro Alvisi August 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Hi Robert,

Interesting analysis.

Juve management indeed did a good job offloading old and expensive players and bringing in faster and younger players, but there’s a lot left to be done yet. Names like Fabio Grosso, Camoranesi, Salihamidzic, Trezeguet, Iaquinta, should leave as soon as possible.

Del Neri has perfectly identified the biggest problem of the team last year: lack of plays on the flanks, lack of quick players and poor moving off the ball by the players. The team was too “heavy”.

With new full backs (right side - motta/pepe, left side - De Ceglie/new player - could be Insua from Liverpool), and fast wingers, the team should certainly improve a lot.

Krasic was a great signing, i believe he will be fundamental in the reconstruction of the team. Aquilani should give a creative touch in the midfield, that’s very important too.

But I believe they still need better strikers. Iaquinta is horrible, Del Piero is old, Amauri is slow… Di Natale is about to be signed. He’s not young and not that quick… I don’t think he’s the ideal man for the job.

And letting Diego go is a huge mistake… he is still 25, and can’t assume all the responsibility for last year’s failure. Juve still need one or two fast and good strikers.

The first team, so far, for me should be:

Buffon - Pepe - Bonucci - Chielini - De Ceglie - Marchisio - Aquilani - Martinez - Lanzafame - Krasic - Di Natale

It’s a good side… quick players, plays by both sides of the field, “light” players… but unfortunately Inter is far better than all the others. This should be enough to fight for the second place of the championship.


6 Rami S. August 25, 2010 at 12:07 am

Hi Pedro,

One other player who should be sold is Zebina. He’s getting older and he’s a negative influence on the squad. You’re right about all the other players.
The main issue is Juve will have to replace not one but two stars in Del Piero (old now) and Nedved (retired before last season). Those are 2 legends and it’s hard to replace them.

Krasic could be a decent signing but is not enough alone. Inter have by far the best squad in Serie A.


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