Eight points separate Juventus from second-place Roma and in order to maintain the advantage, it’s imperative the Old Lady manage a win against relegation battlers, Bologna, on Saturday afternoon.
However, whilst the squad prepares, the journalists write. The latest talk surrounding the club involves coach Antonio Conte and whether or not he'll extend his contract with Juventus. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, the tactician prefers to have one year left on his contact. That would suggest he is not sure of how long he wishes to commit to the Old Lady. Whilst it’s clear the club are desperate to keep hold of their man no matter how calm they attempt to be perceived, Conte should be just as eager to stay put.
Tabloids and respected journalists alike have pointed to the fact the Coach has yet to find a suitable destination to further develop his career. But truthfully, he’s simply not ready to move on. What he has achieved on a domestic level merits the greatest of rewards. But in Europe, he has proved that he has much to learn. Juve’s failure to make an impact in the most prestigious of competitions has seen the coach’s value decrease in the eyes of some. Domestic glory is appreciated but European triumphs are what the big clubs covet.
In Conte’s defence, his squad is not one that allows for tactical flexibility and there is a limit to how much they can achieve. They are lacking certain skill sets, players capable of offering alternatives and the quality required to break past the very best in the continent. However, whilst the side has not won the greatest of trophies, they are certainly capable of better performances, especially against the likes of Copenhagen and Trabzonspor.
For all he has achieved and given to the Bianconeri, Conte can hardly be criticised. However, he is still developing and in many ways is lucky to be in a club that he not only loves but that he needs as much as they need him. A big club, a fine establishment and a management team willing to give him what they want, they are happy to adopt a patient attitude towards their progression and allow themselves to be led by the ideas of a man they appreciate both on and off the field. The squad may not be enough to win the highest honours, but the coach is not capable of using his own skills to bridge the gap in quality the way Jurgen Klopp has for Borussia Dortmund. The German manager continues to amaze not only with his ambitious speeches but his tactical understanding. Against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League, he deployed a side that believed in the comeback and that perfectly targeted the weaknesses of their Spanish opponents. He attacked the centre-backs by creating one-on-one situations, played the players capable of punishing the slow midfield that featured both Xabi Alonso and Asier Illarramendi and asked his men to make the most of their incredibly quick transitions. Managing a 2-0 victory, Klopp made Carlo Ancelotti rue his decisions at the start of the match despite just missing out on qualification to the next round.
He is a tactician that makes the impossible seem entirely possible. Dortmund’s failure to qualify past the group stage in 2011-12 competition allowed Klopp to develop, to broaden his horizons and find ways to mask the deficiencies of his side.
Juventus, on the other hand, appeared complacent, poorly prepared and disorganised against opponents capable of playing football as opposed to simply defending like they do in Serie A. Tactical errors were made, bizarre decisions were taken and the club failed to live up to expectations. For a side that continues to impress on the domestic front, their European displays have been nothing short of dull. Even Trabzonspor in the Europa League looked capable of causing an upset in the first leg.
Tactically, Conte is learning but needs more time to refine his approach -- his ideas going forward. Yet that is not all he has to improve. In essence the coach allowed for Champions League defeats when he said Juventus would be competing with Galatasaray to achieve second place in the group and qualify for the next stage. Galatasaray? Is that Juve’s level now? A side that sit in third place in the Turkish league? Not only did he compliment the Turks and make them feel capable of defeating the Old Lady but he accepted that Real Madrid are so far ahead of where his side are -- too good to even compete against. Perhaps he was right, after all Roberto Mancini’s men did win the mini battle to reach the next stage of the competition.
Yet we know he isn’t. If Juventus actually played the way they are capable of playing, they are difficult to defeat but they must learn to deal with different opponents, to alter their game and cope with the tweaks whilst maintaining their cohesive manner of play. In time, this will be achieved but whilst it’s fairly obvious Juventus would not be enjoying such dominance without the great Conte, it’s also fair to say that without Juve, Conte would not be enjoying the attention from the biggest and best in the world of football. Neither party should want to walk away from a partnership that is mutually beneficial and one hopes neither party will in the near future.