Greetings, salutations, and Happy New Year! Albeit, belated. I hope this installation of my manic musings finds you and yours happy and healthy. I’ve finally carved out a pinch of time to haphazardly scribble some thoughts down on our beloved. 

Away we go!

Over the last decade, we’ve made quite a lovely habit of winning. Stockpiling one domestic trophy after another. Surely, the unprecedented, and continuous stretch of league titles we have become so accustomed to collecting is nothing to scoff at. I doubt I will see another such feat in my lifetime. Yet, as the past decade has drifted on, we set our sights further out. From their ivory towers, management signaled its intent to return to the summit of Europe’s elite. 

Time and again though, empty platitudes have been offered up to fill the voids left behind from crashing out of the preeminent competition on the continent. Their gaze slowly becoming affixed more firmly on marketing and branding. Dollars, cents, and social media followers. Spending their days glad handing executives of companies with a large enough global presence. Ones that they deem worthy of an invitation to have a seat at the table, to listen to their pitch. Selling a dream, in a tidy package, just as they have done to us. 

Beppe Marotta, Andrea Agnelli, and Fabio Paratici

If I were to be extremely critical, perhaps bordering on cynical, I might go as far as to say that a sort of benign neglect for things of a sporting nature has crept in. Business endeavors having now become the apple of the eye. 

Now, if we are to resolve the sporting issue at hand, and make a truly concerted run at the ever elusive big ears trophy, I believe we must first start with a question: 

What separates the truly great sides from the good ones? 

For reference, some examples of great sides that immediately spring to mind for myself are the untouchables of Arsenal, Man U’s class of ‘92, Barcelona in 2009, Real Madrid’s Decima squad, Milan in the early 90’s, and even one of our very own squads helmed by Marcello Lippi in ‘95-’96. To name but a few.

Marcello Lippi

While you can certainly say that most, if not all, had fantastic managers at the helm, that quite simply only goes so far. Something we’ve experienced all too well first hand.

Conte was hard nosed, mercilessly well drilled, and unwavering in his belief in his style.

He fell short on the biggest stage.

Thoughts on Sarri’s Juventus so far
Maurizio Sarri and Antonio Conte

Allegri, for as much as he’s been scorned amongst Juventini for his more pragmatic approach to the game, his lack of “champagne” football if you will. He best kept many of the most glaring issues of the squad at arms length for quite some time while he was the the helm.

He fell short on the biggest stage.

Inter 2-1 Juventus…The End of the World Is Nigh
Max Allegri

Sarri’s first and only year on the bench allowed the issues that have plagued the squad to truly come to the fore and rear their ugly heads with impunity. These problems were here well before Sarri, and these problems have continued on into this season. 

He too fell short on the biggest stage, but if we’re to be extremely technical, he is the only manager to have sat on our bench in recent years with a European trophy to his name.

So, if at this point we can surmise that it is not simply down to the manager, it certainly must be the players, right?

Alas, perhaps a bit unfair of me to pose such a question in jest like that. Considering the answer is both yes, and no. All in good fun. Either way, you were right…partially. 

Let’s first examine why it’s NOT entirely down to the players. We do indeed have quite possibly the perfect case study laid bare right before us in our own house. For years, we have been on paper, a more than adequate squad. Player for player, there hasn’t been many teams that have been, hmmmm…”better”…than us. One needs not to look much further than a video game for this to be starkly illustrated. Somewhat ironically at that too. There’s a very definitive and clear reason we aren’t as good as we could be. Especially considering we are virtually chalk full of talent.

We have for years sought out the waning stars in the twilights of their careers, the promising up and coming prospects that, more often than not, underwhelm. Lest we forget the wantaways, and the freebies we snatch at like fish at a baited hook. We are a hodgepodge of talented players haphazardly collected to fill empty spaces on a team sheet without consideration as to what manner we might play, and at times without regard to the positions most in need of attention.

Before we continue, I will pose this question to you again:

What separates the truly great sides from the good ones?

If you feel so inclined, take a look again at the sides I mentioned previously. Their strength, superstars and visionary managers aside, was that they all proved to be greater than the sum of their parts. They had the right players, in the right positions, with a style of play and formation that best suited them. They didn’t have, save for the necessary squad and rotational bodies, players in their ranks that were out of place, or were reluctantly brought in to fill a slot because they were on discount, or available at that moment. The squads were meticulously crafted. A synergy of upper management, sporting director, and manager all in tow, and moving the needle in the same direction. Perhaps the biggest blow to our ranks in recent years was the loss of Beppe Marotta as our dealings in the market have dropped off significantly in quality since his departure. He is an artist when it comes to building a squad. He’s done it at Sampdoria, with us at Juventus, and now he’s plying his trade with our most bitter rivals, Inter. We are desperate for a high caliber sporting director.

Make no mistake, if management should turn their heads back towards the field and decide that they want to, they more than have the capacity, resources, and skill to build a squad that can truly challenge on all three fronts. Playing beautifully along the way and not clawing to 1-0 victories, or relying on one moment of individual skill. This seemingly small and obvious solution would be the changing of the tides for us. Crafting a complete squad rather than simply purchasing players. Stop gaps. If you have thought to yourself that money, or so on and so forth is the hinderance, I encourage you to watch the film ‘Moneyball’, or at least look into the premise. The management of the team in that film embodied the phrase, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” A mentality we could use a little more of at present in the back office.

In closing, I’d like to shift gears back to a less scathing version of myself, and end positively. Just because I am aware of the current shortcomings of the club, am not pleased with management, and long for a matchday where I have more positive than negative to say at the final whistle, does by no means mean I have gone astray. I wish to see the days return, in all their glory, of fans rejoicing together, not lamenting together.

Juventus 5 – 0 Sampdoria. Lambs to the Slaughter…

A certain legend of the club, one Giampiero Boniperti once said, “Winning is not important, it is the only thing that counts.” We’ve certainly had a knack for that in recent history. Perhaps we will still manage to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Perhaps Pirlo yet has some tricks up his sleeves, or hidden in his lustrous mane and beard.

Andrea Pirlo

I will never stop being the boy who fell in love with his club many years ago, and still wants them to win every piece of silverware on offer. I’ll still have jewels for eyes, and hope in my heart that it could, and still just might possibly be our year. “A gentleman never leaves his lady”, right?

A toast to the future kids! May it be the stuff of dreams.

Cheers.

Fino Alla Fine. Foza Juve.