A small stadium, a dearth of
big-name signings and a coach who had only four unhappy months'
experience of leading a top-flight team meant that few had high
hopes for Juventus when the Serie A season started.
Thirty-seven unbeaten matches later, the scepticism has
turned to admiration as Juventus celebrate their first scudetto
since the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal which cost them the
2005 and 2006 titles.
The Juventus model is now being touted as they way forward
for Italian football after a season which featured the usual mix
of the good, the bad and the downright bizarre.
Having finished seventh in the previous two campaigns,
Juventus decided to bank on their former player Antonio Conte as
coach, a move which, despite his intense loyalty to the club,
was not without risk.
Conte successfully brought Siena out of Serie B last season
but his only previous stint as a coach in Serie A had been early
in the 2009-10 season when a miserable four months with Atlanta
ended with furious fan protests against his leadership.
There was also plenty to ponder in the signings, led by
playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who arrived for what appeared to be a
swansong after 10 seasons with AC Milan.
Montenegro forward Mirko Vucinic was lured from AS Roma for
15 million euros and Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal from Bayer
Leverkusen, but it seemed a modest catch for a club which had
wanted to lure either Sergio Aguero or Giuseppe Rossi.
But Conte quickly moulded his team into a formidable
Pirlo thrived as a deep-lying playmaker, stationed just in
front of the defence, with Claudio Marchisio, another creative
midfielder, and Vidal, who combines hard running with a fierce
shot and incisive passing, just in front of him.
With Stephan Lichtenstein and Paolo De Ceglie charging up
the flanks, Juventus had a wealth of attacking options, even if
wayward finishing and a tendency to give away soft goals at home
occasionally undid their good work.
Any fears that Pirlo was past his elegant best quickly
proved unfounded while Vidal, who had preferred Juventus over
Bayern Munich, proved to be an outstanding purchase.
The season also witnessed the resurgence of Gianluigi Buffon
as a world-class goalkeeper while 37-year-old Alessandro Del
Piero was used sparingly but to great effect as he scored
crucial goals against Inter Milan and Lazio.
Del Piero was widely praised for accepting his role on the
substitutes' bench without kicking up a storm.
"Alex is a great champion and always will be," said defender
Perhaps the key factor in the campaign was the new Juventus
Arena, built on the sight of the deeply unpopular and
perennially half-empty Stadio delle Alpi.
The only Serie A club to own their own home, Juventus
decided to break with the traditional Italian model of huge,
municipally-owned stadiums which were often half-empty and
decided instead to limit capacity to 41,000.
It paid off despite problems in finding a sponsor which
means that the arena is still known simply as the Juventus
Juventus played to a near full house for every home game
and, with the crowd only 7.5 metres from the pitch, created by
far the most passionate and intimidating atmosphere in the
"The way our new stadium charges you up is insane, playing
in it is fantastic," said Conte.
"I couldn't guess how many extra points the ground will be
worth for us this season," Marchisio said.
"But what I can definitely say is the feeling you get when
you hear the fans constantly encourage. Seeing their faces close
up gives you renewed energy and helps you go the extra mile."
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