Club Focus – Juventus – Going forward

“I have no doubt that next year we will see beautiful things.” Gianluigi Buffon excitedly commented when asked about Juve’s upcoming season. Juventus is still recovering from their last minute revival that secured second place and this article will focus on what the club have learnt in order to return to trophy winning days.

The year was not entirely disastrous for the Old Lady as she did improve on third place and exited the Champions League with her head held high. But for her fans, the season was incredibly disappointing. Not only did Juventus fail to win any silverware, they saw Inter glide to the top without breaking a sweat to secure a 10-point advantage over second place with Jose Mourinho laughing at the pitiable state of their rivals. However, the rise of Juve remains to be a long term project post-Calciopoli and one can take solace in the fact that sacrifices had to be made and failure had to be endured to produce a future worthy of the club’s history.

On Friday June 5, Ciro Ferrara agreed to be the Juventus Coach on a permanent basis effective immediately. Signing a two-year contract, Ferrara was beaming with pride as he proclaimed that his dream to lead Juve had come true. Coaches and legends alike have praised management’s decision to bring Ferrara in and allow him the chance to realise his vision but public opinion is split. Most fans are relishing the prospect of having a club legend leading their beloved team – a la Pepe Guardiola – whilst cynics forecast terrible times for the Old Lady. Juve do not have the talented squad Barca can boast nor do they possess a Lionel Messi within their ranks, so will Ferrara’s love for the Bianconeri shirt really be enough to lead the way to victory?

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“I don’t want to be like Guardiola, nor Lippi, although admittedly I come from Lippi’s school of thought. I would like to be Ferrara – consistent in what he says and that means the players respect you.” Ferrara explained in his first press conference after being awarded the new job. The honest reason why fans love him, management wanted him and players applauded him is because he is Marcello Lippi’s disciple. Lippi is one of the most successful coaches of all time and especially loved by the Juve tifosi as he led the team to countless trophies and an era of domination in both Italy and Europe. Ciro’s limitless adoration for the team coupled with his experience in working with Lippi makes him a hero to the fans. Within time, Ferrara will of course learn to create a new approach and a new philosophy, but for now he will essentially be implementing Lippi’s ethos of play.

The Bianconeri suffered a complete breakdown at the end of the season that saw them without a win in eight consecutive games. This was ultimately down to a long and tiring season coupled with low self esteem that robbed the squad of their motivation and drive. To see a Juventus that will last the distance, Ferrara’s main objective should be to consolidate team spirit. Players must feel like they are working on a project with clear targets whilst maintaining full confidence in their ability to succeed. This injection of unity should prove to be a breeze for Ferrara. Alongside Lippi, they went to Germany in the 2006 World Cup, carrying the burden of Italy’s match-fixing scandal and many wrongly forecasted a premature exit for the Azzurri due to the lack of dazzling star players. Lippi famously commented that he was not convinced of having chosen the best available players at the time but wholly convinced that he had picked the ones that would form the best possible team. The Azzurri desperately needed to prove their critics wrong and restore pride to Italian football and Lippi won the World Cup by producing a remarkable team. One based on great teamwork, a healthy mental state, respect for the shirt and sacrifice of personal glory.

Ferrara must begin by making the fans love Juve again. The Bianconeri tifosi experienced many disappointments recently and their support is vital in restoring confidence to this insecure team. Juventus suffered when they lost in the Champions League. Motivation wavered and their belief in their abilities was questioned. This simply cannot happen next season as opposing teams will easily identify the weakness within and exploit the insecurities. No team should be feared and no match should be dreaded. Each one must be entered into with a genuine belief that the winning result will be achieved, even if the opponent is as strong as Barcelona. The only way Juve eventually recovered was by dismissing Claudio Ranieri and bringing in a new Coach. Ferrara needs to make sure that confidence can be easily restored should the team lose otherwise Jean-Claude Blanc may be forced to give the team another shake-up with Ciro leaving.

Upon achieving the love of the fans, Ciro will need to create a new Juventus family that will work together towards a shared goal. A little like an ‘us versus them’ philosophy, much like the one implemented by Jose Mourinho, without the bitterness towards rivals. Ongoing winning results are not achieved by great individual performances but by strong team effort. Teams that are reliant on stars, such as Inter with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, are likely to fail should their icon disappear and they are faced with a strong opponent that will take advantage of every man they have on the pitch. Destroying an individual is possible but you cannot demolish an entire team. Ferrara is a charismatic man who once played with many of those he is currently coaching. His love for the team and his colleagues should prove to be vital in producing a healthy dressing room atmosphere.

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Under Ferrara, Jonathan Zebina has rediscovered his passion of the shirt and may actually begin to fulfil his potential. This brings us to the notable weak point in Juve’s last campaign – their defence. Under the tutelage of a legendary defensive stalwart, the team’s focus must be to concede fewer goals. As reported in last week’s Club Focus, the team leaked 37 goals this term, a remarkably high number for such a successful team. Ferrara has already identified the players who need to be sold, those who can be revived and those who need to be purchased. The arrival of Fabio Cannavaro, who may be over the hill, could be vital in restoring much needed experience to the defence line. His ability to teach the young defenders on the pitch will be more valuable to Juve then his actual performances. Paolo De Ceglie did not have the best of seasons, mainly due to lack of Serie A experience, but he has shown flashes of brilliance. He is one of the latest in a crop of budding stars that Juve can boast and faith and time is needed to nurture his talent. Another main concern for Juve is the lack of a quality left-back. Ciro has already stated his desire to see Domenico Criscito back in Turin who would comfortably fit into that role. Criscito has had a fabulous season in Genoa and proved how vital he could be for Juve next season should Genoa neglect to exercise their option to buy him. In addition to Criscito, management have begun the search for further players for the role, beginning with Filipe Luis of Deportivo La Coruna. Along with Giorgio Chiellini, who will deny the opposition, Cannavaro must take the opportunity to guide the youngsters so that the mighty defence can be restored. Cristian Molinaro and Olof Mellberg need to be offloaded and a combination of experience and youth need to be brought in. The latter has already been linked with a move away and if he is kept on, then he should befriend the bench as that is where Ferrara will be likely to keep him.

However, with inevitable suspensions and injuries, Juventus do not have an adequate plan B for their defence and it’s been said on numerous occasions that Juve had a less than average squad this season. To be very honest, their first team was good and boasted the likes of an in-form Amauri, a sensational Mohamed Sissoko and a fit Buffon. However, the ridiculous amount of injuries sustained meant that the Bianconeri often fielded a weak reserve team that simply could not challenge their healthy Inter rivals. To combat the problem, Juve desperately needs to build and maintain a larger squad with great alternatives. Notable reserves do not include Tiago Mendes or Christian Poulsen and luckily Ferrara has already implied that these average players are surplus to requirements and should therefore be sold. Marseille have shown an interest in Tiago and the man could find himself in a club more tolerant of his inadequacies whilst Poulsen has rejected an offer to join Turkish giants, Fenerbahce.

A team like Juve that possesses such great youth players should rely on certain starlets as back-up to those that sustain injuries. Juventus might just possibly have the greatest youth squad of any Italian side. Young sensations must not be allowed to leave and exchanges with other clubs should be prohibited. Udinese do not want cash in return for Gaetano D’Agostino, they want a rising star and Juve must make sure they do not sell their future to another team who covet their young prodigies. Furthermore, it is their hunger for stardom that will allow the youngsters to bring much needed motivation and unity to a squad that is desperate to return to winning times.

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“Our youth ranks represent the future of Juventus and that is also one of the reasons why we picked Ciro Ferrara as our new boss.” Explained President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli. Whilst Ferrara may not possess a proven track record as Coach, his experience with the Juve youth players will undoubtedly help to combine the kids’ raw talent with the experience of the legendary icons. One of the criticisms made against Ranieri was his over-reliance on aged stars whilst the icons of tomorrow were left to rot on the bench. With Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved hogging the limelight, the youngsters were forced to watch as the older stars were once again preferred. Now that Nedved has retired and Del Piero is turning 35, how will Juve ever manage to ‘replace’ them? Del Piero played alongside veterans Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianluca Vialli who taught the captain the game, raised him to be a warrior and ultimately had a hand in producing one of the greatest footballers of all time. Del Piero must understand that he simply cannot command the same amount of minutes on the pitch in the next campaign and he must relinquish his position to promising stars to create the future of Juve.

The young guns ought to learn their trade on the pitch instead of taking notes from the bench. Sebastian Giovinco should be thrown into the deep end and allowed to make mistakes in order to find his footing. Unwavering faith in his abilities and his talent should not be sacrificed for the sake of quick results. This in not Inter, long-term planning creates a winning team spanning many decades. Along with Diego, Claudio Marchisio and the incoming D’Agostino, Juve will enjoy an immensely young and creative midfield. The true test of the Coach is to see how he will manage to field a formation that will fully exploit their combined skills.

Ranieri failed in finding a formation that suited the expertise of his squad and was unable to make suitable changes during matches that required alternative tactics. Ferrara must be flexible in his strategy and he has already shown signs of a great Coach when he changed the formation against Lazio to add more weight to the attack. The newly appointed Coach explained that his style of football is one based on constant movement, relentless ball possession and a strong physical aspect that will see Juve survive until the last day of the season. As a true disciple of Lippi, Ferrara must ensure that each chosen formation will maximise a player’s utility and allow a player to express his full potential.

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Ciro underlined his desire to play more attacking football and will heavily focus on formations such as 4-3-3. Looking at the current skills set in the midfield, along with those of the new arrivals, Ferrara noted 4-3-1-2 to be the best formation to suit his team. This line-up will be great in allowing the team to attack through the centre but will certainly put pressure on the full-backs to provide a strong defence. More than ever, Juve will need to guarantee that their back line will be strong enough to take on the extra responsibility and cover any open holes that could be exploited by the opposition. Without the benefit of strong wingers like Nedved, the formation is ideal and will bring joy to Giovinco, who simply hated the role of a winger, but could possibly see the departure of the talented Marco Marchionni. Diego who is accustomed to playing behind the strikers will greatly benefit from the line-up as it will fully exploit his skills. However, the squad must not be built around the Brazilian as Ferrara cannot rely on the strengths of one man. Diego can be offered the role he is most comfortable in to allow his freedom of expression but the player must learn that this will be a team sport with no room for personal glory.

For Juve to truly go back to winning ways, they must go back to basics. They are the very definition of Italian football and have long provided the backbone of the Azzurri. The national team’s success is ultimately down to great team effort, a solid back line and Italian players who are renowned to be tactically adept. The Bianconeri should continue to field a predominately Italian squad, integrated with home grown talent and coached by an Italian Tactician. With a new stadium coming soon, raw Italian youth and healthy economic conditions that will not see the club selling a Kaka, Juve is the team for the future. Let’s leave Milan to their quest of replicating Brazilian style of play whilst Inter will attempt to control the mish-mash of foreigners and over-inflated egos. This is the Italian league so let’s leave it up to Juve to teach them why Italy does it best.

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