Juve’s lacklustre display against a youthful Ajax side was a catastrophe waiting to happen, especially the way the Bianconeri have been playing this season. An experienced and talented team, with a five-time Ballon d’Or winner up front, failed to achieve that elusive European dream. The animosity between the fans, players and Juventus management suggests that there will be a massive player overhaul, and potential coaching change, this summer.
Massimiliano Allegri may have guided the Old Lady to her eighth consecutive Scudetto against Fiorentina at the weekend, but his pragmatic playing style has failed to conquer Europe these recent years. The total domestic dominance and underwhelming Champions League performances are a sign that Allegri has taken this Juve side as far as he can. Unless the 51-year-old can adjust his tactics and utilise the team’s attacking prowess, it might be time for club President Andrea Agnelli to bring in a new conductor.
The coaching issue now raises the question, should Juventus bring Antonio Conte back? The former Chelsea boss has been out of work for an entire season now, remaining linked with some of Europe’s giants – mainly Inter keeping tabs on the 49-year-old. It’s like Conte was waiting for something chaotic to occur with his former Juventus. Was he planning to be jobless for a year, just in case Juve capitulated in the Champions League?
It was Conte who remodelled La Vecchia Signora back in the 2011-12 Serie A season. The Italian tactician managed to take a mediocre Juventus side that finished seventh in the two previous campaigns and immediately turn them into Scudetto winners – ending that nine-year silverware drought in the most emphatic way. Conte’s exceptional tactical work also saw the Bianconeri break a record for ending the entire 2011-12 Serie A season undefeated.
Then there was the 3-5-2 formation, a system that rebooted Juve’s identity on the pitch. This formation also shaped the BBC (Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini) defence, arguably the most organised defensive unit displayed in modern-day football. With a robust defence and a goalkeeper like Gianluigi Buffon adding another layer, it’s no surprise that this superior Juve side only conceded 20 goals throughout the entire 2011-12 Serie A campaign. After his first successful season in Turin, Conte followed up with two straight Scudetti in the next couple of seasons, beginning an era of Juventus dominance.
However, Conte struggled to balance European and domestic competition with his Juve side in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. In 2013, Juventus were no match for a lethal Bayern Munich outfit after the 4-0 demolition over two legs. During the 2013-14 season, the Bianconeri had a phenomenal Serie A campaign, finishing with 102 points. But for much of the dominance in the Italian campionato, the Turin side were abysmal in the group stages of the Champions League – only managing to secure a single victory against Danish side FC Copenhagen. Being eliminated by Galatasaray in the Turkish snow spoke volumes on how Juve kept playing with this frail mentality in Europe.
Conte also struggled to demonstrate that he could balance domestic and European competition in his second season at Chelsea. He has so far shown that he can be a Serie A, English Premier League and national team specialist. The former Italy CT started Juve's Serie A domination, and it only seems right that he returns to Turin to emulate that past domestic success in Europe.
Nevertheless, Conte has always ensured his sides use passion and grinta, but most importantly, play with a 3-5-2 identity. This current Juve side needs more motivation, grit and a playing style. While the Italian champions are looking to rebuild that flawed midfield and defence, now would be an appropriate time for an available Conte to step in.
Credit needs to be given to Allegri, who took over Conte’s foundations – helping Juventus win four Coppa Italia titles, five Scudetti and reach two Champions League finals. However, that icing on the cake has now melted. It’s time for Juve to commence a new coaching cycle.