Juventus Club Focus: Antonio Conte’s Side Only Getting Better
Antonio Conte never seemed worried as his Juventus side went from disappointing result to disappointing result in various summer friendlies, he kept his focus on positive performances of individual players, the tactical integration of new players, and the fitness of his side.
Well, guess what? Conte was right not to worry. After thrashing Lazio 4-0 in the Italian SuperCoppa, Juventus battled their way to an 1-0 victory over a side that had beaten them twice last season.
Still, the Italian champions displayed not only a more crafted ability to carve out wins, but they also showed much growth in their tactical chemistry. Conte’s Juve has been constantly improving since it was created in 2011, and now with the addition of Carlos Tevez and the increasingly expedited development of Paul Pogba, they seem to have jumped a level.
Pogba was the definitive man of the match this past weekend. Fresh off of scoring a goal in the SuperCoppa and filling in for the injured Claudio Marchisio, Pogba was nearly flawless and added another game to his collection of stellar performances for Juve. The young French sensation has become a serious threat for Juve, a weapon which can be used in great strategic fashion by Conte. Pogba has a way of breaking through tough sides.
Meannwhile, Tevez has been pairing up well with Mirko Vucinic, a striker who has split fans during his tenure with Juve. The mercurial Vucinic, who admittedly did not have much of an obvious impact against Sampdoria, has linked up quite well with Tevez through the summer friendlies, Supercoppa, and now this latest Juventus victory.
Vucinic, who also seemed to lack a more threatening partner to capitalize off of his creativity, has become much more useful as he ping pongs off of a dangerous striking partner. Case in point: the movement for Tevez’s goal was started with a lateral pass from Vucinic (on the left flank) to Vidal (outside of the 18 yard box.) Vidal then passed to Pogba, who found Tevez right in front of goal.
Of course, Tevez scored. It was a wonderful team goal, proof of the emergence of the Tevez-Vucinic pairing as a new force for Juve’s attack, and proof of the elevated chemistry amongst the side. This is also, I believe, a strong reason why Stephan Lichtsteiner has played extremely well in the past two matches.
Lichtsteiner, who has always struggled to be effective going forward in the 3-5-2, has suddenly become a very legitimate threat on the wing. His crossing is not even his main threat, it’s his linking up with Vidal and the strikers. Vidal and Lichtsteiner always had a way of finding each other when trying to keep possession, but now that seemingly benign link has become more of an attacking monster than a preservative force.
Juventus will have a chance to re-create their 4-0 victory over Lazio next Saturday (though I doubt they will win in such a grand fashion this time) in a match which should be a nice appetizer for a very early Derby d’Italia, in little over than two weeks (after the international break.)
An exciting thing to note about this side is that certain new additions – like Angelo Ogbonna and Fernando Llorente – have not even really featured yet. Ogbonna is likely to be a favored depth option, but it will be interesting to continue to watch his development as he joins a much bigger club.
Llorente, who has a decent sized road back to top form after being frozen out for a year and moving to a new league, is likely to be eased into the side as Conte juggles his return to form and arguably more dangerous alternatives at striker. Still, the Spaniard has much potential to wreak havoc against opposition defenses. It will be yet another promising item to take note of in this Juventus season.