Juventus New: Antonio Conte Breaths Life Into Serie A Scudetto Fight
By Oliver Wilson
Juventus’ title chances have taken a drastic turn for the worse after yesterday’s announcement that manager Antonio Conte has been handed a 10-month ban from Italian football.
Conte was found guilty of failing to report match-fixing to Italian authorities during his time as manager of lowly Siena in the 2010/11 season and, after a plea bargain failed last week, Conte has been hit with the full force of the Italian Football Federation’s arm of the law. His assistant at Siena and Juventus Angelo Alessio has also been banned from the game for eight-months
The ban has placed Conte’s job at ‘The Old Lady’ in jeopardy and Juventus’ board must now make the difficult decision of whether to carry on with the man who took them to an undefeated title last season, or try and bring in a new manager just weeks before the start of the Serie A season.
What the ban has also done is blow open the title race for the coming year.
After the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from AC Milan this summer, few in and around Italian football could see anyone but Juventus storming to their 31st (or 30th if you’re a Milan fan) Scudetto.
Napoli have lost Lavezzi and couldn’t compete with Conte’s side when the Argentinean was in their squad last season, Inter are in the middle of a complete re-shake of the club as they look to invest in youth development and Milan are haemorrhaging talent as they try to stabilise the clubs finances – and possibly fund another political campaign for their bunga bunga partying Chairman Silvio Berlusconi.
The nation’s capital of Rome doesn’t look set to produce a title challenger just yet, despite AS Roma’s impressive off-season, and Udinese have had to watch as some of their best talent have packed up shop and moved to join Conte in Turin.
The title was almost in Juve’s hand (on paper at least) but the sudden disruption to the side leaves Italy’s most successful club in a very difficult position. Robin van Persie’s rejection of the club this week has highlighted that, and in their current situation, Juve struggle to pull in the worlds top talent, something that will be very problematic for a side looking to make a realistic charge for European glory.
A top striker is needed at the Delli Alpi and if one fails to appear before the end of August, Juve will be a side slipping back into Serie A’s chasing pack.
The looming decision of whether Conte should stay or go will do little to help the team’s harmony and preparation just weeks before the new season. Conte, as far as Football.com is aware, will still be able to take pre-season training and training in between fixtures during the campaign if the board decide to keep him,
but not having their figurehead leader with the squad on game days will surely take it’s toll.
Alessandro Del Piero’s departure from the club in June could not have come at a worse time for 'The Old Lady', and although figure heads such
as Buffon and the almighty Andrea Pirlo will be key in keeping the squad focused and guided, some feel that their talisman's presence at the club would have made Juve's task a little easier during such a difficult time.
Should Conte leave, which many believe would be the best decision for the club, then Juventus will have to find and embed a new manager
into Conte’s squad. A new style of play and style of leadership will have to be adapted to and it could be a month or so before Alessandro Matri and co. are firing on all cylinders.
The match fixing scandal that threatened to tear apart the Italian national side at Euro 2012 has hit its first major name in the game and has knocked it for six.
It’s not what many people in Italian football wanted to see, but it does leave us with a very tantalising season ahead in Italy, and one
which no one will be able to take their eyes off.
The title is now there for the taking.