As Juventus’ worst season in history draws to a close, you can almost hear the sighing of their legions of fans all over the world. Italy’s most prestigious club failed spectacularly in their bid to de-throne Inter and finished the season in seventh place. So where did it all go wrong for Juventus? As the final match was played and lost against Milan on Sunday, this last club focus of the season will aim to summarise all the problems suffered as we look to the future.
Despite the complaints of some fans who feel Juventus belong at the top and can never accept second place, Juve have done astonishingly well since they were relegated for their part in the Calciopoli scandal. They have somehow managed to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and maintain a top four finish – that was until this year. When Claudio Ranieri lost a large faction of the dressing room at the end of last season, only Juve fans could understand his dismissal. His frustrating substitutions, his tinkering and his willingness to play for a draw led to his dismissal and Juve were left wanting for an immediate return to glory. With mega bucks invested in the summer and a supposed evolution in tactics, Juve were going to ditch the winger role, splash the class on a world-class trequarista, garner more global interest by spending even more money and promised that this year they would fight tooth and nail for the title and it would be done with Ciro Ferrara at the helm, a Juventus legend and former captain. So with so much promise, from where did the problems arise?
To begin with, the transfer campaign conducted last summer set the wheels of collapse in motion. Having spent many years dependent on the role of wingers, the Bianconeri were exploring the option of ditching organised and negative tactics in favour of attractive football as demonstrated by Barcelona in the Champions League final. As such, they rid themselves of all wingers and brought in the coveted Diego to act as the focal point of a diamond formation. However, as with any diamond formation, the tactics are heavily dependent on attack minded full-backs and hard working midfielders who can maintain possession and pass the ball well to allow the trequarista freedom to roam. With the sale of Cristiano Zanetti, the gap between offence and defence proved too hard to bridge and Diego has spent much of the season tracking back to find the ball at the expense of the attack.
Furthermore, despite having conceded an immeasurable amount of goals during Ranieri’s era, the club failed to bolster the one area of the squad that required heavy attention. Instead, cheap options were preferred to young and proven defenders and Fabio Cannavaro and Fabio Grosso’s arrivals at Turin only served to slow down the squad rather than aid the leaky defence that has gone on to concede 56 goals this season. With a feeble and slow defence, the squad was often exposed on the counter-attack and the full-backs had to dedicate much of their time to defence as opposed to providing the necessary support to the attack.
Then of course there was the issue of Coaches. Having decided to change tactics and bring in a trequarista thereby changing the whole Juve game and the type of game many of the old guard had grown accustomed to, Management decided to bring in a rookie Coach. The Juve legend was destined to fail from the get-go. His demands were not met as the defence was not properly reinforced and his one wish of having Gaetano D’Agostino feature in his midfield was not granted due to cost. Having started out brilliantly by leading Juventus to a stunning pre-season that saw them defeat the new Galatico era at Real Madrid and achieving a perfect record in their first four games the cracks began to appear. Ferrara began to demonstrate just why inexperience cannot be tolerated at Juventus. Of course he had his alibis as to why the Bianconeri were losing but ultimately, he was not the right man for the job.
His squad seemed constantly confused and unsure as to how to work together. He failed to properly study any of his oppositions leading to humiliating results against sides that have hardly ever registered wins against Juve and his lack of courage meant that the likes of Alessandro Del Piero could demand starring roles without ever hearing the word ‘No’. The Coach simply lacked the necessary experience to manage so many egos and the necessary vision to choose a tactical system that could exploit the strengths of his squad. They were entirely disorganised and more importantly, lacked the necessary motivation that would force them to fight until the very end.
His replacement Alberto Zaccheroni was hardly much better. Having also been struck by a high number of injuries that meant Juventus played their last Europa game without any centre-backs for practically the entire match, he was equally as clueless when it came to tactics and substitutions and was even worse at getting motivating his players after conceding a goal.
Surprisingly, most fans spent the latter half of the season praying for a complete collapse at Juve in hope that it would lead to a complete overhaul in Management. Having long maintained a love story with their former managing triad, fans were subjected to new and inept directors who lacked the necessary knowledge to return this club to former glory. However the complete collapse has paid dividends as John Elkann, the man fans blame for the demise of the club, has done what was once deemed impossible and offered the role of President to Andrea Agnelli. The man Luciano Moggi has long hailed as the true leader of Juventus will officially take over shortly and has already begun to work on the Juventus project especially with regards to selecting a new Coach.
Most are now under the impression that since Calciopoli, Juve has lost some of its prestige meaning that bankable and winning coaches are no longer attracted to the role. With newspaper headlines reporting how often players and Coaches such as Rafa Benitez are more than willing to ‘snub’ the great Juve, one has to wonder whether or not the Bianconeri can even lure high profile names to Turin anymore. Nonetheless, these concerns are unfounded as the world of football is fickle and what is successful today can be deemed a failure tomorrow and vice versa. Renowned coaches hesitate when the job at Juve is mentioned only because the risk of failure is now higher than ever. When you are a wanted tactician, you hold nothing dearer than the ‘winner’ label and with Juve rebuilding, the club represents a risk to these labels – it is why the likes of Jose Mourinho only accept jobs at financially sound clubs so that they have all the necessary tools to drive a team to success without risk. Juventus will always be Juventus and four years do not destroy this club’s love story with success. With Beppe Marotta and Luigi del Neri all but an official confirmation away, the future looks bright for Juve. New wingers and a reinforced defence are vital if Juventus want honours but with Andrea Agnelli as President, fans can breathe a sigh of relief – a true leader is back.