I don't want to go into too much detail about his ban or how we got to where we are. Faithful readers of BWRAO (only cool people use acronyms) will be well aware of why Conte is where he is. Let's skip all of that "calcioscommesse" nonsense right now because it will only end in me smashing my keyboard and if I did that, how would you get to put up with my poor grammar and read the rantings of a mad man?!
What we CAN all agree on is that Antonio Conte has almost served his entire ban. His return to the press conferences, the locker room, and —most importantly — the bench is imminent. The first game that Conte will be on the bench for is when Juventus travel down to Sicily and face Palermo on Sunday, Dec. 9. The injustice of it all makes it feel like he has already been gone for an eternity. Juventini around the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief that weekend.
I took to my Twitter account to pose just this question to anyone that cared to respond. Since most of my followers are fellow Juventini, it wasn't surprising that most of the responses were positive ones. Almost all people — myself included — agreed that there would definitely be SOME difference upon the return of il Mister. What is up for debate is exactly what the effect will be and how influential Conte's return will be. I was able to narrow it down to two possibilities.
There will be a difference, but it will be minimal
Some argue that Conte's return will be nice and will have some influence, but they do not expect anything monumental. We may see better use of subs and they all agree that his presence in the locker room at half-time will be invaluable, but these people expected minor changes. Those that support this view made sure to note that Conte is still the one running all of the training sessions, analyzing tactics, and determining the starting line-up for every game. It is also very likely that he has a plan for use of substitutes for most scenarios — who to put in if we switch to 4-3-3/3-4-3 or what to do if we need to come back to tie a game. We are reminded that many (much more qualified) tacticians, like Marcello Lippi, believed that the bulk of Conte's work would be in the daily training sessions that he was still able to oversee and I mean, you can't really disagree with a guy that won everything there is to win with Juventus and Italy...right?
There will be a massive difference
There is, of course, the other side...slightly further along the spectrum...of how influential Conte's return will be. The vast majority of responses I received were positive that Conte's return would be a HUGE boost to Juventus. The most common reasons I was given were the motivation he could give players from the sideline and the fear factor.
Let's get one thing straight. You don't mess around with Antonio Conte. I can speak from experience. I was lucky enough to meet the entire team and training staff during a training session at BMO as part of their last visit to Toronto, Ontario, Canada in the summer of 2011. (More on that another time, but suffice it to say, it was the greatest day of my life). While Conte was classy, respectful, and an all-around nice guy, I was still scared beyond belief by him. There is something about his demeanour that tells you he means business and you better not cross him. We have all read countless anecdotes of players mentioning how tough Conte is in training, how he demands the maximum, and that he let's his displeasure be known for anyone that is not willing to fight for the shirt. He is definitely a no-nonsense coach. He will expect the maximum from his players.
While I love Angelo Alessio/Massimo Carrera and all that they have done in Conte's absence, they leave a little to be desired...they are lacking what I would like to call "bad ass-ness". Conte is a scary man. Conte yells. Conte screams instructions during the game to the point of having no voice left for post-match press conferences. If you are doing something right on the field, you'll know it. If you are doing something wrong on the field...well...you (and everyone else) will know it too! Conte's spirit, his "juventinita" can once again be exuded and transferred to the players in real-time.
A lot of the replies highlighted the difference Conte could make at half-time. Many people specifically mentioned the dressing room speeches. Conte is a motivator. There are tons of Youtube clips from last year that show you just what type of emotion and reaction Conte can get out of his players. Last season there were instances where we saw a tired, pathetic Juventus go in to the dressing room at the half, only to emerge as a much different team. This season Juventus has usually been better in the second halves of games, but we have yet to hit our toughest stretch of games.
What I think most all of my followers that responded made sure to mention what Conte could do with the team's spirits during the game. Would he have been able to get a better reaction in games where a grinta-filled comeback could have seen us leave with all three points - matches against Inter, Fiorentina, and Shaktar come to mind. There were many times last year where Juventus needed to come back to win or draw, most notably the 3-3 draw against Napoli at the San Paolo. Most of the players are the same and Conte runs training, but could Alessio/Carrera mastermind something like that in the midst of a battle?
The last issue that most people thinking Conte's return would have an immediate impact on was the substitutions. Many people lambasted Conte last year for his lack of subs or that fact that he made them too late in a game. We were all made to eat humble pie as we went to win the Scudetto undefeated, but we're all allowed to be whiners from time to time. With that in mind though, the substitutions from Alessio/Carrera have been more than puzzling at times. I think specifically to this past weekend's game where we subbed off Isla (who definitely needs the minutes under his belt) to bring on Bendtner and Padoin. All the while, leaving the entire M-V-P midfield on in a game that was long over as a contest. What makes this debate a lot more difficult is that we don't know if that was their choosing or if they were just following orders from the big man in the sky (literally, like, I mean he's in the press box afterall).
It seems that most responders expect a big difference. I got a lot of messages along the lines of "I feel bad for Palermo" or "Man, are they going to get destroyed when Conte is back." It seems like these people expect a result similar to the one we just saw in Pescara. Is it possible that the fact that we travel south(ish) to another town starting with "P" is enough? After last season, I always head in to a game expecting a win, but will it be as convincing as many people hope for? We only have to wait a few more weeks to find out.
So, what do you think? Minimal difference? Massive change? Somewhere in between? As with most things in life, it's probably safe to say that we will see something in between (...but then what is the point of this entire article? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?).
Those at BWRAO and I would love to hear what YOU think. Take to the comment section below or feel free to harass me via Twitter (@mikemacaroni) with your thoughts. Please be gentle though, it was my first time (TWSS?). I think regardless of the actual result of the match, it should go without saying that Juve's visit to the Renzo Barbera on Dec. 9 should be one that you do not miss.
Io sto con Conte - In Conte we trust!
Mike is an Italian-Canadian Juventino, just testing the waters of freelance writing/blogging. He does have a full-time job completely unrelated to sports or writing and this passion for Calcio and Juventus takes up most (if not all) of his free time — much to the chagrin of all of my friends and family, as they are subjected a constant barrage of facts, video clips, early morning games blasting on the TV, etc...