After winning the Italian Super Cup and the Trofeo Berlusconi, as well as their opening day win and several good pre-season results, Juventus are seemingly heading in the direction they want. Certainly President Andrea Agnelli thinks so and, after last year’s success, he wants the Old Lady to step up a level and return to Europe with a bang.
“We’re heading into an important season and we’ll have to confirm the good things we’ve done,” he declared. “Having said that, it’s a year just like any other for Juve because Juventus will always start out with the aim of winning every competition – it’s in our history and DNA. In Italy we'll be aiming for a repeat of last season and in Europe we must believe that we can dream again.”
Last season there was a sense of satisfaction with the Scudetto, but ambition burns bright inside Bianconeri hearts and the demand from high is also echoed by the players. “There was a desire to get back into the Champions League,” remarked captain Gianluigi Buffon. “And we earned that right with what we did on the pitch. It’s the right reward for a side who last season achieved something great.”
The club has already delivered a statement of intent this summer with some prolific spending, a feat unmatched by their competition. Nonetheless the margins by which success is gauged can be alarmingly slim and the contents are sometimes not what it says on the tin. Yet after an expenditure of around €50m on new players and taking up options to sign others who were on loan or in a co-ownership, there is a new vitality around Vinovo. “It’s a different environment with respect to last year,” continued Gianluigi. “There’s more positivity and belief around the place now.”
Although difficult to put aside the edicts involving Coach Antonio Conte, his touchline replacement, Massimo Carrera, will purr with the prospect of directing a team strengthened by so many inspiring new arrivals. Sebastian Giovinco, for one, is a fabulous talent with his creative vision along with the talents of Kwadwo Asamoah, who has been superb on the left so far and Mauricio Isla. Add in midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini, defender Martin Caceres and the quality soon adds up. Let’s also not forget the flowering of young midfielders Paul Pogba and Luca Marrone, who played as a makeshift centre-back against Parma and displayed no nerves whatsoever, showing his versatility is a real asset.
The components are all there with a super-strong midfield already in place inspired by Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and the awesome Arturo Vidal. Factor in international defenders like Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, plus ‘keeper Buffon, and the team is rock-solid through the centre.
Yet there has been one thing that everyone thought was lacking, something crucially essential when you are looking to retain the title and chase Champions League success, a 20-goals a season striker. Juve attempted to buy early yet despite links with several classy forwards, including Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie, nothing has materialised.
It now seems Giovinco will lead the attack alongside Mirko Vucinic. Yet despite Carrera concluding that he was happy with both strike partnerships after giving Giovinco-Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella-Alessandro Matri a half each in the Milan encounter, it sounded more bravado than fact.
The question now is will they get a decent striker with Van Persie their first choice gone? The list of possible targets is certainly long – Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente, Edin Dzeko of Manchester City and now even Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo – but are any of them good enough? And do Juve have the finances to poach those at the top of their wish-list?
Personally I would have thought that if they were prepared to pay out £18m for the 27-year-old Llorente, it might be better to find an extra €5m or €6m and buy Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic. The Montenegrin, 23, showed once again on Saturday that he can put the ball into the net.
Juve are missing that right now with Quagliarella, Giovinco, Matri and Vucinic. Quagliarella nor Mitri-Matri can be truly relied on and both missed several easy chances in pre-season. And although Juve did win the Scudetto last term, some crucial goals were scored and created from midfield – as they were against Parma.
With much tougher opposition in the Champions League, the Bianconeri need a boost in the forward line. Don’t forget, this is a team who drew 15 League games last season – and some of those came against pretty average teams. The famous top player who they have been wanting to sign for the last 24 months is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.