Much like their first four seasons as a club, Juventus Women are almost certainly gong to finish the 2021-22 campaign as the top team in Italy. It’s not officially done yet and the Scudetto is not clinched, but it’s virtually a formality at this point, and because of that Juve’s season will end with at least one big trophy to celebrate.
The major difference between seasons prior and this current one is that Juve’s run in the Women’s Champions League lasted more than just one round or a couple of games. Juve may have name recognition, but seeing the Bianconere in the final eight of the UWCL this season was most definitely a major surprise. So when you combine the expect Scudetto win and the first major European run in the club’s five-year history, you have a season that will be looked upon to be the beginning of something really good.
So, yeah. You’ve done quite the good job so far, Joe.
But the next thing is rather obvious: What’s next?
With the run to the Women’s Champions League quarterfinals — and the near-upset of Lyon on top of the impressive showings against Chelsea and Wolfsburg in the group stage — expectations will certainly be higher come the start of Joe Montemurro’s second season at the helm in Turin. And, as you might expect, with those raised expections will come some decisions on how to improve a squad that has already accomplished quite a bit in its short history.
What could those changes be and where does Juventus Women go from here?
Well, aren’t you glad that we’ve already brought that question up.
In the latest and greatest BWRAO Q&A, we will focus on the women’s side of Juventus. To help us do that, I’d like you all to meat one of the more knowledgable Serie A Femminile and women’s football minds we’ve got here at SB Nation, Stephanie Insixiengmay. You can find Steph’s work on fellow SBN Italia blog, the AC Milan Offside, as well as SempreMilan.com where she covers the Milan women’s team.
Steph was nice enough to put her Milan-supporting allegiances to the side for a short amount of time and give us some insight on Juventus Women’s season and what, in her mind, should be next during a very important summer to prepare for the 2022-23 campaign.
BWRAO: Easy one first: Just how impressed were you with Juventus Women advancing to the Women’s Champions League quarterfinals and nearly pulling the upset against Lyon?
STEPH: I was impressed. Of course, they had help with Lyon’s defense caving in and Ellie Carpenter getting a red card (and thus justifying everything I’ve ever said about her). Still, it’s a big accomplishment to be the first team to beat the seven-time European champions in a knockout game. This will only bode well for Juve’s future.
BWRAO: We’ll look ahead for a second. Juve has obviously been a team that has been buoyed by great continuity amongst its core group of players. But if they want to take the next step, what do you think needs to be upgraded on the roster?
STEPH: I think Juve is missing a few pieces for them to be true contenders. They need an upgrade at right-back and a few midfielders. They’ll need midfielders to help them keep the ball and build-up in transition play. Both Martina Rosucci and Valentina Ceronia are getting up there in terms of their age, so they’ll need to find replacements for them soon. I think they are set in terms of centre-backs, but if Linda Sembrant wants to leave, then they’ll need to find a replacement for her, too. In terms of their attack, I feel that their forwards are good but getting a world-class finisher wouldn’t hurt.
Fortunately for them, Serie A Femminile is going to become a professional league next season, so that will give them the financial flexibility they’ll need to make these moves.
BWRAO: Obviously we’re biased around these parts since we root for the Juve women. So, from an outsider’s perspective, how would you rate the job that Joe Montemurro has done in his first season in Italy? What has been the biggest improvement from Rita Guarino to Joe? (Besides the fancy scarves...)
STEPH: To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Joe. I initially didn’t have a good opinion of him, as I guess I had my head clouded by the opinions of Arsenal fans, who um, really seem to not like him. However, Joe’s team (Juventus) is currently winning the league and that’s not only due to him but to a variety of factors, chief among them being the implosion of other teams (Milan). And, despite the loss against Empoli, Juventus are still on course to win their fifth straight Scudetto.
So, in my view, he’s doing better than I expected him to. In addition to this, one must also note that he guided the Bianconere through the Women’s Champions League group stages where they finished ahead of Chelsea, and that they won their first-ever UWCL knockout round game against, of all teams, Olympique Lyonnais, and that is truly something to heralded. He has perhaps provided the team with that European pedigree that they were looking for. Perhaps Juve’s management, namely Stefano Braghin, knew what they were doing when they brought him in after all.
BWRAO: From a league-wide viewpoint, what does Juve’s deep Women’s Champions League run mean for Serie A Femminile? And how important is it for the league as a whole to build off this?
STEPH: I think what Juve’s run means is that the league has a lot of potential and it can only get better from here. And while Italy’s men’s teams have faltered in Europe, the women seem to be getting better and better and will fly il Tricolore on that stage. The future truly belongs to them.
BWRAO: With her super-sub performances of late, a lot has been made about Agnese Bonfantini. What’s her potential knowing that she has gotten better as her first season in Turin has gone on? Do Juve have another keeper who’s Italian and in her early- to mid-20s?
STEPH: I have to admit that I’m a bit envious that you have Bonfantini. There’s an Italian verb, rosicare, which means a lot of things, but it’s mainly associated with gnawing and envy. And I’m gnawing with envy that you have her (especially since she’s a Milanista!) I think she is one for the future, as she is a modern forward, who is technically gifted, strong, and fast. She is definitely one for the future and I think Juve would do well to keep her.
BWRAO: Total tangent to finish things up here: How do the Italy women do this summer at the Euros?
STEPH: I think the Azzurre will fare well. I also think that they might spring a few surprises on people. They are in a group with France, Belgium, and Iceland and have what it takes to beat all three of them. While Les Bleues are chocked full of talent and are one of the tournament’s favorites, they also have a lot of dysfunction among their ranks, with most of it being fostered by their coach, Corinne Diacre. The fact that some of the players don’t get along will affect their team chemistry, and we might see something similar to what happened with the French men back in World Cup 2010.
Italy are a more cohesive unit, and unlike the French players, they actually like their coach. They also make up for whatever deficits they have with a combination of grinta and tactical nous. Italy has what it takes to pull off a win against France and to top the group. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t lose a single game in the group stage. I fully expect them to make it out of the group and to at least make a run to the quarterfinals.