As always, we at the Juventus Offside encourage banter, ideas, and contribution from our readers. Recently, Jose R. from the message board was kind enough to submit the following piece for all of your consideration. It focuses heavily on the first half of the season and while we're not a few games beyond that point, it's still quite relevant albeit a bit late. To that, I can blame the writers' own schedules of pieces, as well as the weather which caused some cancellations and finicky match schedules. Better late than never though, and this piece was too interesting to not post at all, especially considering how hard the author must have worked on it.
And with that, I leave you with the unabridged, verbatim, unedited piece from Jose entitled "Juventus by the Numbers." We hope that you enjoy. In the meantime, I'll have a Catania Preview/Gametime Thread ready later tonight or tomorrow morning, and maybe -- just maybe -- I'll rant about Conte, Elia, Krasic, and how I fear I may have been right about Vucinic last July.
Juventus by the numbers
So, we are past the midpoint of the season and it is time to see what happened in the first 19 games. When the final whistle blew on January 21st against Atalanta, Juventus had played all teams in Serie A and in doing so accumulated 41 points, allowing 12 goals, and scoring 31. On January 21st we had played 9 games at the brand new Juventus Stadium and 10 games away. I thought this was a good point in the season to recap everything that Juventus has done since last May and most importantly to figure out whether we are reaching our objectives. In order to assess this, we need to be honest and think about our goals for the 2011-2012 season. For some, playing in the Europa League next season maybe sufficient (but who am I kidding, no Interisti reads this blog). For others, finishing top three is the goal and yet for a few it is the scudetto or nothing. Here is what I wanted from this season:
- Qualify to CL
- Stop choking against small opposition
- Get rid of prima donnas
- Become more consistent
- Stop conceding goals left, right and center
- Stop conceding goals in the final minutes
With this in mind, lets get comfortable and let’s talk Juve...
From May to August
The mercato has been talked about extensively so I won’t go into much detail. Essentially, Juventus exercised the option to buy on most players we had on loan. The most notable exception was of course Alberto Aquilani. This choice was made based on the fact that il Mister was going to play a 4-4-2 and there was no need for too many CMs, specially not the ones that can slow down the match and control the tempo (more on this later).
Although Marotta and Paratici were not able to bring a champion to Turin, they brought some good, decent, and very good players familiar with Serie A; the most important ones being Pirlo, Vucinic, and Lichtsteiner. To top things off, they brought promising Bundelisga stars: Arturo Vidal and Elijero Elia.
In addition to the recruitment of new talent to the team, the management chose Antonio Conte to lead Juventus for the 11-12 season. I believe the choice of Conte was for two reasons: 1) To have a coach that could use the players and modules already set in place by Delneri and 2) Hire a coach approved by the fans who may be given time to grow by the tifosi. In all honesty, I don’t think the management thought Conte would be such a hit, however, I am sure they are not complaining.
Unfortunately we were not able to get rid of Amauri or Grosso by August (Did you know Grosso actually played this season? I almost forgot!). Iaquinta and Toni also sat on the bench and did nothing between September and January. Getting rid of all of these players (except for Grosso) in January is quite an accomplishment by Marotta.
A quick aside must be made regarding the great job Paratici has done with regards to the youth teams. Secco’s project consisted of buying Diego and Felipe Melo and hoping things will turn out ok. Marotta and Paratici are buying promising talents that can slowly be inserted into the team. Most of them will go out on loan before coming to Juve, just like is the case in most Italian clubs. However, it is clear that this management is trying to put a lot more emphasis on youth than the other big Italian clubs. With the FIFA Fair Play system coming into effect, this is the only way to move forward.
All in all, I believe the mercato was very good. Marotta will always going to find it hard to lure champions to a team that has held 7th place for 2 consecutive years with his small budget. With that being said, the summer of 2011 was a step in the right direction. Given the fact that Juve is now playing a 3-man midfield, I think one big error in the summer was not bringing Aquilani. He would have been a useful backup and could have been bought for little money. However, hindsight is 20/20 and one way or another we are top of the table.
September to January
How good has Juve been this season? Well, we are first after 19 games so we must be doing well. This of course is the simple answer and is similar to what Secco probably told Gigli after Juve finished 3rd and 2nd in the 07-08 and 08-09 seasons. In reality, the team was crumbling before everyone’s eyes and the numbers just served to extend Secco’s tenure until the team really crashed in 09-10.
To assess Conte’s Juve, I have chosen to compare it to the Juve of Delneri and Ferrara. Included in this comparison are also this year’s Milan and the scudetto winning Milan of 2010-2011 stats. I have also added Juventus 05-06 (Capello’s unbeatable side) to show how far we are from being an unstoppable force in Italy.
In the first 19 matches of the season, Conte has obtained 8 more points than Ferrara’s team and 10 more than Delneri’s. Now, if you want to be pessimistic, we have 11 points less than Capello’s Juve, but we all know this Juve is not the one of 06. And how do we fair against Milan? We obviously have more points this season than them, but we also have one more point than what AC Milan had last year at this time. In other words, this is the best Juve of the last three years (no news there) but we are almost equally as good as the “scudetto worthy” AC Milan of 2010-2011.
And that is not all! Juve’s rise to the top has been consistent (Yes, I was beginning to forget that word). Ferrara’s Juve was better than Conte’s until Round 7. In round 8, Ferrara’s team was one point behind Conte’s and in round 11, four points behind. Although that gap decreases to two points in round 13, it widens again to seven points in round 17th. As a matter of fact, Ferrara’s team slows down significantly in round 15, obtaining only 3 points between round 15 and round 19. I was always under the impression that January was bad for Ferrara but it appears that since early December the problems were there.
Delneri’s Juve is actually worse than Ferrara’s Juve, (and by extension worse than Conte’s Juve), when looking at accumulated points. Delneri never had more points than Conte. The closest Delneri comes is 2 points less than Conte in round 7th. The difference extends to 6 points in round 12. Delneri’s Juve slowed down in round 17, finishing the first round of games with three defeats. This is of course when Quagliarella got injured and our season went down the toilet.
Will Conte’s Juve slow down as the season goes on? Given that even Capello’s Juve of 06 slowed down during the second half of the season I am inclined to believe that we probably will. The more important question is how much will they slow down. So far, our pace doesn’t appear to be changing much. We have not lost a single match and the worst consecutive record we have is 2 draws in a row (which happened twice this season). I think something that can cause us to slow down is losing LIchtsteiner for a long time or Vucinic. For that reason, getting Quagliarella and Caceres up and running as soon as possible is essential. Quags and Caceres are not like-for-like replacements of Vucinic and Lichtsteiner (maybe ADP resembles Vucinic more) but they are the most likely alternatives.
How did we get here?
First off, I think what Conte did with what Marotta gave him is spectacular. It is fair to say that many of the players in our starting 11 are really not significantly better than some of our bench players. For instance, bringing in DeCeglie on the left and benching Bonucci doesn’t significantly decrease the quality of our team, but it encourages Bonucci to train to be at his best. The same can be said about Estigarribia, Pepe, and Giaccherini. Actually, the determination of these players has surpassed the natural ability that Krasic and Elia have. Krasic has played poorly, but he has also not changed his playing style to suit our team like Giaccherini and Pepe have. Elia right now is at the bottom of the pecking order and after the last twitter scandal I don’t think we will see much of him.
Something else that I think has been remarkably helpful is that Conte was honest with our players. For the first year since we came back from Serie B, there are no players talking about winning the scudetto after winning 2 games in a row (Bonucci’s scudetto remarks last year drove me insane). This is most significant given the fact that we are doing better than any other year since 06. I believe that a huge reason for this is Conte’s honesty. He has said time and again that we need to give 120% to win every game and the players have come to believe this. Our coach knows full well that we are not world beaters and our players know full well that nothing will be handed to them.
One things that I like about Conte’s Juve is an invariable playing philosophy. We press relentlessly for 90 minutes, we do not give up the ball cheaply, and the players help each other both offensively and defensively. This has been pivotal in our success. No matter whether we play a 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 9-0-1, or a 1-0-9 the philosophy is the same.
This philosophy is also that of a big team. With Delneri we defended and hit on the counter. Although that may work against AC Milan, Inter, or Manchester City, it is not a winning strategy against Lecce, Bari, or Salzburg. Juve needs to have the ball, call the shots, and impose their rhythm.
This philosophy has also helped us have the best defensive record in the league. While Delneri and Ferrara’s Juve allowed 25 and 24 goals respectively, Conte’s Juve has allowed 12 goals (0.6 goals/game) in the first 19 games of the season. Capello’s Juve allowed 10 goals in the same period of time (only two less than Conte). That is a pretty sweet record given the fact this is Conte’s first year as coach of Juve. Comparing our defensive record to Milan makes us look even better. We have allowed 5 goals less than Milan did at this point in the season last year.
How about goals scored? This is the area were we are not doing too good. We have scored 2 and 3 goals less than Delneri and Ferrara respectively. We have also scored 3 goals less than AC Milan last year and 4 less than Milan this year. Two or three goals do not appear to be a huge difference but when you consider the number of shots we have in each of our games, these numbers are a little worrisome. Part of it may be due to how the team is always helping out in defense. Personally, I don’t care. Even though Juve is not scoring many goals they are playing very entertaining matches. Interestingly, 11 players have scored for us this far. Our midfield (Marchisio, Pepe, Vidal, Estigarribia, Giaccherini, and Krasic) has scored 16 goals. Our forwards (Vucinic, Matri, Quags) has scored 11 goals. I think that if our attack picks up, we can really cruise to success.
In summary, Marotta, Paratici and Conte have built a very impressive team from players that are not necessarily impressive. I know everyone here wants to win the scudetto, but even if we are not able, we have a very strong basis to build from. Many of the players in this team will be capable reserves in one or two seasons. These reserves will have the work ethic to teach the youngsters that scudetti are not deserved but earned (not matter what Massimo Moratti says). Our current players will teach the new acquisitions that blood and sweat are necessary when playing for Juve. And with time, all players will know that at Juve vincere non é importante, ma é la unica cosa che conta.