Another win and another trophy for Antonio Conte’s Juventus. After their 1-0 win over Atalanta on Monday, the Turin giants are the Campioni d’Italia for the third consecutive year -- a feat the club hasn’t managed since the 1930s. This team deserves the honour and continues to develop in an astonishing manner. People may criticise them and undoubtedly always demand more, but when it comes to domestic glory, there’s only one dominant force -- the Old Lady of Calcio.
They didn’t even try against Atalanta on Monday -- a side that hasn’t managed an away win at Juve since 1989 -- and yet the hosts still found a way to collect the three points. It was far from thrilling and barely even entertaining but can we really dare to criticise a side that has now managed 100 wins under the tutelage of this phenomenal coach?
Atalanta is a special club. They were the team Alessandro Del Piero played against in his last home match at Juventus' stadium when he retired his Bianconeri jersey, doing a lap of honour as he came off the pitch. They are the club that sold Juve the goal scorer from Monday night, Simone Padoin, and most importantly they produced and nurtured the Old Lady’s remarkable Gaetano Scirea -- a legend and perhaps the greatest defender to have ever graced Turin.
Boasting a stunning youth academy, a wonderful sporting director and a humble coach who lives for the city of Bergamo and the defence of its classy football, they were the perfect side to play on such a joyous occasion. History and reputation aside, they have also been fiercely impressive this season, managing to break records by collecting six wins in a row and are just three points away from equalling the best ever points tally in a season.
Unfortunately, they lacked the quality in the final third to make an impact against the champions. While they have dazzled against the likes of Inter this season on account of Giacomo Bonaventura’s technical ability, Maxi Moralez’s well timed runs and Luca Cigarini’s passing accuracy, they struggled to make the most of the possession Juventus granted them. They were of course without Cigarini while Stephan Lichtsteiner did well to halt Giacomo Bonaventura’s advances but the reality is, Juventus maintained a solid defensive shape when they lost possession.
With the ball at feet and allowed to attack, the Bianconeri -- hungover from happiness -- barely created in the first half. Unable to dribble past their markers, there was no intensity, little pace and no ingenuity. However, they did improve in the second half and that has much to do with Claudio Marchisio’s interpretation of the role, Carlos Tevez’ arrival on the pitch and the increase in intensity.
Yet to analyse this game in detail is to rob this team of the many compliments it deserves. This wasn’t a vintage performance simply because it didn’t need to be. The team have won a third consecutive title and are only four points away from collecting 100 points in the league. They have broken records, comprehensively beaten their biggest challengers and have gone a whole season without losing at home, not in Serie A and not in Europe.
Each year, they develop and their appetite grows. They have secured the strikers that have allowed them to finish off their many chances, nurtured a young midfielder in Paul Pogba who is now followed by all of Europe’s best and devised a strategy for the future that will keep them healthy, wealthy and competitive for many years.
Yet despite all they’ve accomplished collectively, both on and off the pitch, we cannot deny how much Conte has given them. His ideas, winning mentality and character have turned good players into world class footballers and without him, a sleeping giant might have still only been dreaming.
Rumours suggest the coach is interested in an adventure abroad and he did indeed hold talks with an English side recently. He is learning the language and the temptation is difficult to resist. However, that does not mean he will leave, it’s simply a possibility he has entertained; something he did the previous year when he was contacted by one of Europe’s best.
He wants guarantees in the sense he wants the opportunity to develop his tactical understanding. He would like a team with greater technical strength and players that allow him the flexibility to change schemes and perfect a philosophy. Juventus owns his heart -- he has never denied that. To be able to lift a European trophy with the team he captained is the reason he is still eager to discuss his future with management with a view of extending his stay.
He is the beating heart of this Old Lady, as are the players that have given their all to realise the club’s ambitions. From the many fans who have watched their every game this season, from the exciting wins over the likes of Roma to the soul crushing defeat at Florence, congratulations to Italy’s best team and here’s to another 32 titles.