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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Juventus: Glory days back in Turin?

Nobody foresaw this one. Even Antonio Conte himself admitted "If somebody told me at the beginning that Juve will be top of the league by Christmas, i would have told him he's crazy". Everybody knows the Winter Champions tag doesn't mean anything, but it's the identity with which Juventus are playing now makes them a favorite bet to win the title. And the credit has to go to this man, Conte. Hardly has a team built as quickly as this Juve, been successful so early. New stadium, new players bought in for a new manager, the project has taken off lightning fast. It feels even more sweet just at the thought Juventus didn't invest heavily on any single player unlike the mad Sheikhs who are very much on the verge of ruining football. The Old Lady remains the only team unbeaten among the top four leagues of Europe.

And it all started in midfield

Yes, Andrea Pirlo creates everything in midfield, and with style! To complement him are two energetic warriors Vidal and Marchisio who take turns in going forward. In the summer, it was all about getting in wingers from the market to suit Conte's 4-4-2 formation ( enough with 4-2-4 talk!) and yet he, like all wise men, adapted a formation which would make the best use of all the three above mentioned players. Not that he now just sticks to his tested 4-3-3, there were games when Juve played a very interesting 3-5-2 to cancel out opposition with three men defence like Napoli or Udinese. In a league like SerieA where trequaristas hold so much of importance for the big sides, the Old Lady has been doing fine without one. What is remarkable about this Conte's side is there seems to a perfect balance between the wings and the central midfield.

Without taking away any credit from Pirlo, perhaps Juve's most important player so far this season has been Lichsteiner. The right back position which was previously plagued by Marco Motta and Sorensen, Lichsteiner's impact is there for all to see. He is a perfect example of how a modern full back should be: Constant running, defensively sound, providing meaningful crosses and the most important of them all, score goals for the club.

So what next for Del Piero?

On his last year in Bianconeri colors, it's uncertain where his next season would be. He still has it in him, demonstrated by the wonderful strike against Roma in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal, and his passing is a delight to watch. Now that Juventus can be sure they will end the season atleast in the top three (unless something unthinkable happens), his experience could play such a major role for the squad in the next edition of Champions League. That's the reason they should extend his stay in Turin. This squad, for all the hardwork and technical quality, still lack the experience required for the big European Wednesday nights. And Del Piero belongs to the class of evergreen goalscorers like Raul, Inzaghi and Drogba.

After all the praise for Bianconeri, perhaps the only criticism that could be worth making is that Conte makes hardwork, or atleast makes it look like hardwork, of beating even the smaller teams. Is it just because they are growing more as a team to the next level, remains to be seen.

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