Plenty of debuts, and plenty of goals as Juventus played their first league match inside their new stadium, the yet to be named Juventus Arena. Four goals, with two Andre Pirlo assists, gave Juve fans a rather enjoyable afternoon as they cruised to a fantastic 4-1 victory in a promising start to the 2011-2012 season.
Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for Juventus and its fans for quite some time now, ever since the Serie B year and the return to Serie A. The last two seasons, finishing well out of Champions League contention have rocked the boat and called for drastic changes while the most succesful Italian club in history failed to relive the not so far off glory days.
This summer the wallets came open, some to keep on loan players, some to bring in new faces. And those new faces shined for Juve this afternoon. Andre Pirlo with two brilliant assists, Stephan Lichtsteiner with the opening goal, Arturo Vidal who scored the third. Simone Pepe and Claudio Marchisio added the second and fourth. A red card do De Ceglie and a penalty goal from lost son Sebastian Giovinco ruined the perfection of the day.
Still, Antonio Conte, despite not looking happy after Juventus conceded the 90th minute goal, has plenty to be encouraged from. Finally, someone in the middle, a real playmaker. A lot of Juventus fans I know aren’t too happy about a signing coming from AC Milan, but Italian football dynamics are different from other places. Rivals do not shun from purchasing players from each other. This isn’t Liverpool and United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, where transfers between the clubs hardly exist and make huge news when they do occur.
Pirlo, at 32, struggling to remain 100% fit in the last couple of years, adds something that has been missing for a long time, something someone like Diego failed to bring to the side in the beginning of 2009-2010. Someone incharge, and shifting the focus of Juve’s passing from just the wings (Krasic, Pepe, Giaccherini) to the middle, where his combination with Marchisio was brilliant today.
Still, don’t get too confident. Parma will be fighting to avoid relegation this season. Alessandro Del Piero didn’t score the first goal in the stadium, as it should have been, but he had a very good game, very unselfish in his decision. Matri failed to score, and after missing a clear cut chance was sent to the bench at the expense of Mirko Vucinic. The depth is evident this year, something that’s been missing the last two season. Plenty of options for different formations, but also plenty of egos to feed and keep pleased.
Conte’s biggest test will be to keep the dressing room intact, and hoping for Andrea Pirlo to reamain realtivley injury free. Get those two, and this will be a very good year for the Bianconeri.