The departure of Antonio Conte and subsequent arrival of Massimiliano Allegri has left Juventus looking vulnerable. With Arturo Vidal’s future also up for contention, Luca Persico profiles a mixed summer for the Bianconeri faithful.
“I have decided to terminate my contract with Juventus. I have matured with time and my feelings led me to make this choice. It may be more difficult to keep winning with Juventus.”
Tuesday July 15 is a day that changed the outlook for the 2014-15 Serie A season. Antonio Conte, the Coach who had led Juventus to three straight titles, announced that he was leaving the Old Lady by mutual consent.
The Lecce native had started pre-season just a day earlier and despite uncertainties over his long-term future, was expected to see out the campaign. What motivated Conte to depart is unclear. Rumours suggested that the new Azzurri Coach had an agreement with Milan, while concerns over new signings and the way the club wanted to progress are also believed to have irked him.
What is certain is that the 45-year-old leaves behind an incredible legacy. In his first season, he won the league without losing a game - a feat that has been unappreciated - while last term he set a record points total - 102.
For his replacement - Massimiliano Allegri - the task to maintain such levels of dominance is surely daunting. The former Milan Coach will, however, be grateful to at least have the opportunity. Sacked by the Rossoneri in January, the 47-year-old is not a crowd pleasing replacement and was even met with protests upon his appointment.
His first game in charge - a 3-2 defeat to amateur side Lucento - hardly endeared him to the fans, but Allegri is not short on confidence. “The Scudetto or the Champions League? Both,” he has stated. “Our qualities are many.”
Juventus’ pre-season schedule has seen them shun the United States and head to Asia, where they have toured Indonesia, Australia and Singapore to much fanfare. Results have been good, with a 3-2 win against an A-League All Star team - which included Alessandro Del Piero - perhaps the most challenging contest.
For Allegri, the aim of pre-season is to ascertain what system he wants to use. Conte’s blueprint - an aggressive 3-5-2 - is perhaps not his preferred formation, even if his early matches suggest he could start out with it. A 4-4-2, with a diamond midfield, or a version of 4-3-3 have also been tested and are under consideration.
To help field a back four, Patrice Evra has been brought in from Manchester United. The experience left full-back has shown his versatility and may even displace Kwadwo Asamoah at left wing-back, should Allegri chose to use 3-5-2.
Evra is joined at Juventus by Alvaro Morata who, despite being injured almost immediately, has the potential to be an exciting addition. Other notable arrivals include Romulo and Roberto Pereyra, both of whom will start as squad players, but have the potential to be more valuable that the lack of enthusiasm for their arrivals suggests.
The new players and new ideas will help refresh Allegri’s squad and as long as Arturo Vidal stays, his side remain favourites for the Scudetto.
To match Conte’s achievements would be near impossible, but if Allegri can retain the title and go deeper into the Champions League - his main aim - then the Juventus faithful may grow to appreciate their Coach.
A Scudetto winner with Milan and Panchina d'Oro recipient whilst at Cagliari, Allegri has his merits, but also his critics. The 47-year-old did well to keep Milan competitive despite having his key players sold and not replaced, but his credentials as a top level tactician, especially compared to predecessor Conte, will be severely tested.
The Buenos Aires native was always likely to be a success in Turin and his return of 21 goals in 48 appearances last term highlighted his undoubted talent. If there is a question mark over Tevez, however, then it is his record in Europe, with 30-year-old managing just one goal in 12 starts.
With Allegri looking for greater tactical flexibility, Evra may be Juventus’ most important signing, but Morata has the potential to be the best. The 21-year-old may need longer to settle due to a disrupted pre-season, but he has all the capabilities to be a perfect foil to both Tevez and Fernando Llorente.
The Brazilian-born midfielder would have represented Italy at the World Cup were it not due to fitness, but if he can get enough playing time at Juventus, he should remain in contention. Antonio Conte was reportedly not keen on bringing him to the Bianconeri, but Romulo’s grit, pace and determination makes him well suited to international football and ironically to the same Coach now overseeing Italy.
Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente
The loss of Conte means Juventus are no longer outright favourites, but they still set an impressive benchmark.
|Fiorillo (Sampdoria)||GK||Gagliardini (Melfi)||GK|
|Pinsoglio (Vicenza)||GK||Nocchi (Spezia)||GK|
|Evra (Manchester United)||D||Pinsoglio (Modena)||GK|
|Sorensen (Bologna)||D||Leali (Cesena)||GK|
|Magnusson (Spezia)||D||Fiorillo (Pescara)||GK|
|Goldaniga (Palermo)||D||Peluso (Sassuolo)||D|
|Sturaro (Genoa)||M||Liviero (Pro Vercelli)||D|
|Marrone (Sassuolo)||M||Magnusson (Cesena)||D|
|Pereyra (Udinese)||M||Goldaniga (Perugia)||D|
|Romulo (Hellas Verona)||M||Isla (Queens Park Rangers)||M|
|Schiavone (Siena)||M||Castiglia (Pro Vercelli)||M|
|Coman (Paris Saint-Germain)||M||Bouy (Panathinaikos)||M|
|Spinazzola (Siena)||M||Schiavone (Modena)||M|
|Morata (Real Madrid)||F||Rossi (Cordoba)||M|
|Pasquato (Udinese)||F||De Silvestro (Carpi)||M|
|Rosseti (Siena)||F||Spinazzola (Atalanta)||M|
|Troisi (Atalanta)||F||Sturaro (Genoa)||M|
|Di Benedetto (FeralpiSalo)||F|