A win over Strum Graz, the sale of a fan favourite and the rumoured purchase of another Azzurri striker, Juventus have had a busy week as they prepare for their opening match of Serie A on Sunday night against Bari.
The new Coach has brought both reliability and consistency to Juventus. This was made evident in the Europa League match against the Austrians. The performances may be labelled average and the opposition could well be described as vastly inferior but Del Neri’s Juventus are significantly more dependable and assured than the side we saw collapse so spectacularly last year. The Bianconeri started the match cautiously and very nearly conceded control of the game from the outset. However, moments before half time, Amauri was replaced by Davide Lanzafame, allowing Jorge Martinez to play further up field and it seemed to have awakened the sleepy Juve giant. Just as the second half started, Juventus seemed determined to take full control of the match as they glided and dominated possession to create several chances to win the tie.
The fans are still grieving the loss of their talisman Diego. His departure seems to have reinvigorated Alessandro Del Piero’s desire to win and even allowed Felipe Melo the chance to refocus his energy and put in a worthwhile performance. After tweeting about the pain of losing “his brother” to the Bundesliga, Melo upped his game last night, aware that poor performances may also see him sold off to the highest bidder. He picked out players with his impressive range of passing, maintained possession and improved his distribution abilities and alongside Momo Sissoko, was both dependable and effective.
However, the night certainly belonged to the Captain who scored a sublime goal to astound the audience. His ball control, change of pace and electrifying finish continues to demonstrate just why the Old Lady cannot let go of her legendary Captain and why it was so easy for Andrea Agnelli to sanction the sale of their Brazilian trequartista. Del Piero’s ball control, reminiscent of Fernando Redondo, coupled with his vision produced the most exciting moment of the match. This encounter was further evidence that the Turin Giants are still highly dependant on their indispensible number 10.
Nevertheless, many of the Bianconeri put in an inspired performance as they looked to qualify for the Europa League group stage and Martinez should especially be singled out for praise. Whilst he performed on the wing, he excelled in the middle and relished the opportunity of playing just off Del Piero. His determination, speed and dribbling ability were showcased on the night as he sped up the tempo of Juve’s attacks and continually looked to create goal scoring chances. He is an opportunistic player who constantly looked to pounce on any defensive errors made by the Austrians and worked well as part of the team unit. Del Neri has a plethora of wingers at his disposal, so Martinez’s ability to penetrate through the middle should surely secure him the second striker role.
Although it was a solid performance, it was by no means spectacular. Juventus lacked accuracy in their passing and this could be as result of team still being rather unfamiliar with each other. The Bianconeri’s crosses were often too high, too long or too short. This meant possession was lost cheaply and gifted Sturm Graz several chances to counter quickly in the first half as they patiently soaked up the pressure. The defence was rarely threatened but still contains full-backs who neglect their defensive duties. Another cause for concern is that the defensive unit seemed nervous when defending set pieces. This makes the need for reinforcements, such as a solid left-back, all the more crucial.
For the moment it seems Management is still obsessed with bolstering the attack and we could well see the arrival of Fabio Quagliarella who is well suited to the Coach’s style of play. An unpredictable forward with a flair for conjuring up the seemly impossible, he can shoot from anywhere and everywhere and comes with the Azzurri seal of approval – a prerequisite for Agnelli’s Juve. However, as the Bianconeri prepare for the arrival of one, they wave goodbye to another. Diego will not be given another chance at Juve this season despite the acquisition of Alberto Aquilani who would have surely unleashed the trequartista talent. Admittedly, the formation chosen for this season coupled with Juventus’ historical style of play are not ideal for a player with Diego’s characteristics. So perhaps the kindest thing the Old Lady could do is allow him the chance to develop further in a in a league which he is familiar with. Financially and artistically, this is a big loss to the Bianconeri but in the words of John Elkann: “Teams need to be renewed and we all must look forward.” So with great excitement, let the season commence.