By Cesare Polenghi
Just when everybody thought Juventus had hammered the final nail into the coffin of the 2012-13 Serie A season, Sampdoria reminded us of the beautiful unpredictability of football and managed an overall deserved victory, defeating the reigning champions and table leaders 2-1 in their own backyard.
It is a result from which all Italian football can benefit, as it reopens the race for the title and also reminds Juve that nobody is unbeatable. Sure enough, the game was characterised by a series of unlucky events for Antonio Conte’s men: A couple of penalties not given for challenges on Alessandro Matri, Gianluigi Buffon’s blunder and Claudio Marchisio’s injury all contributed to the bianconeri failing to snatch at least a tie.
But truth be told, Juventus played with 11 men against Sampdoria’s ten for most of the game after Gaetano Berardi was shown a red card, added to which they were at home and one goal up. Conte and his men will surely benefit more from reflecting on their own faults rather than tough luck; the game was theirs to lose.
Coming back from the winter break, Juventus delighted their supporters with an extraordinarily intense first half: Andrea Pirlo’s remote-controlled passes, Sebastian Giovinco was in high-spirits and the likes of Paolo De Ceglie and Alessandro Matri contributed by pouncing on every ball and plugging the visitors back in their own half for most of the 45 minutes. The concrete outcome however was just a single goal coming from the penalty spot.
In the second half, as Giovinco started to tire and miss every second pass, the lights went out, and the late-coming of Mirko Vucinic was not enough to set the game on the right track for the home side. Juventus found themselves deep in Sampdoria’s forest of defenders, and the few chances that were created, again did not turn into goals.
The main problem with Conte’s Juventus is by now well known, and it was shown again in this match: The balance between quantity and quality is poor, with the team playing the majority of the football, but too often failing to turn it into goals.
It might surely be argued that this is the way Conte wants it, and either his paradigm works, or throughout the rest of the season Juve is doomed to experience a number of games like Sunday’s. With the offensive players such as Giovinco and Vucinic forced to participate in the buildup by creating spaces, it is inevitable that they will often find themselves in situations where their finishing can’t be very sharp because of all the running they do over the course of a game.
What Juve need therefore are players who could do a similar job but also be able to transform chances into goals more regularly. Names that come to mind are, for example Kun Aguero, or Luis Suarez. But such players are way out of the budget of any Italian club at the moment. Moreover, regardless of the financial implications, to bring an overpaid attacking superstar on board at Juventus would come with the risk of ruining the harmony within the group of players that have performed so well in the last year and a half.
It is quite clear that Conte will probably have to work with what he has, keeping in mind that it will likely be enough to win a second Serie A title, and perhaps make it to the last 8 of the UEFA Champions League.
At the same time, looking toward the future, Juventus desperately need to bring in some more quality; meaning players who can add something in games such as the one against Sampdoria. Until then, while Conte knows he can count on Pirlo, the likes of Giovinco and Vucinic need to step up and deliver more of what the team needs the most; goals when it matters.