Juventus start the 2011/12 season in their newly built "Juventus Stadium", on the site of Stadio delle Alpi. This new era of Juventus football club is where I, Mario De Luca, join the club and mark a fresh start for the successful Italian giants. I begin my journey as a football manager at my childhood club and I aim to carry on the tradition of my predecessors.
Arriving at the club, I met with the assistant manager Angelo Alessio. He gave me a brief team-report outlining our strongest players and strongest positions. I noticed that in defence we were weak with the lack of a good left full-back. Other area's in the squad seemed a little weak such as a back-up Goalkeeper for the ageing Buffon and the lack of a real goalscorer despite having quite a number of centre-forwards.
This area's, I would look to address in the transfer market. I was given £7.25m to spend on new players.
I made some very early loan agreements with various clubs in England. The players I brought in were Jack Robinson (DL, Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (ST, Man United) & Craig Dawson (DC, West Brom (loan fee £350k)).
These signings would unlikely be first-teamer's but would provide adequate cover for area's that needed strengthening. All three players seem to have a bright future and I would be willing to make the deals more permanent come the end of their loan spell provided they impressed me.
There was no further business until the 14th & 15th of August where I sold two players, Fabio Grosso (£450k to Palermo) & Alex Manninger (£1.4m to Man City).
This left us with an overall £8.75m left to spend. The next day I completed the signing of Nené (AML, PSG) for £3.3m. Even at the age of 30, I feel he is a worthy addition to the side and will add more depth to our AML position where Eljero Elia is our preffered winger of that side. His wage demands were quite high & I am hoping he will be able to justify the £70k p/w we reluctantly gave him.
We then confirmed two more transfers. Romario (DR, WBR, Vitoria) for free, he will join up on 2.1.2012 & paid £1.3m for Carlos Fierro (ST, Chivas) who will join next summer.
As things stand we have a squad of 25 players. The ideal amount I like to have in my squad.
Our pre-season consisted of six fixtures against rather weak opposition bar one game.
I think we could have been more impressive but we were learning tactics along with a new manager and players adjusting to newer players & such. I was particularly impressed with the win over AC Milan, something I was not expecting at all. The scoreline of 3-0 doesn't tell the full story. AC Milan had slightly more possession but at the end of the day we created more chances and we put away the chances when we got them something that AC Milan failed to do, it also showed our defensive system is something that is hard to beat. (We conceded just once in pre-season!)
Overall, not overwhelming but a satisfactory platform to take into the new season.
So basically a flat 4 at the back with my two full backs looking to push forward when in possession of the ball to provide support to the lack of a right or left midfielder and the two centre backs having a partnership of one stopper, closing down looking to guard the box and the other sitting deeper playing as the last line of defence when the stopper doesn't keep the opposition out.
Anchoring our midfield, retaining & distributing possession are two central midfielders. One is a ball-winning midfielder who will be chasing down attacking midfielders and will be our main hope of winning the ball back when not in possession. When in possession he will be the last midfielder to get forward and is always are of a quick change in possession, ready to defend. Deep-lying playmaker plays alongside him and will look to spray passes out to the wide attacking men or indeed to the playmaker ahead of him.
In attack we have the central man who is the key playmaker looking to set up chances & potentially goals for our team. He will spray passes left, right and through the middle based on what is the best option at the time. He is the key link between the two midfielders and the three forwards. On either side of him we have on the left, an inside forward. He will be looking to get on the ball from deep and run towards goal using his dribbling skills combined with pace to create chances for himself from the wing. He will score goals but his attempts could equally set-up chances for the striker to finish. On the right hand side is a winger who will primarily look to feed the striker as opposed to look for goals himself. He will get the ball on the wing and look to cross in to the striker. When the left sided player has the ball however, he will be looking to move towards goal looking to get on the end of a cross himself and score.
The front man is the main source of goals. As an advanced forward he will spear-head attacking moves and end them with goals. He will be looking for service from every angle with three players behind him he should be able to get loads of service and chances.
At the minute, this is the first XI that I have decided on but there is plenty of room for change with the likes of Welbeck, Nené, Del Piero, Simone Pepe, Bonucci & Quagliarella on the bench.
I think we are ready to begin our first season, *fingers crossed*
Thanks for reading, any comments or feedback would be greatly appreciated.
So after that decent pre-season run we headed for the start of the Serie A. No further changes had been made in personnel by the time we played the first game of the season but we were in negotiations with Marco Verratti and were close to finalising a deal for the 18 year old centre mid. The opening game was at Juventus stadium where we managed to fill just 26,000 seats of the 41,000 for the first game in the new stadium. A poor show from our fans was matched with an equally poor performance on the pitch. We had 19 shots in total, 12 of which were off target. What a shambolic statistic for the opening game. We did manage to score one of the 7 shots that hit the goal. It came from substitute A. Matri on the 83rd minute a goal which came as a shock as I wasn't expecting any more than a point from the tie.
We moved on quickly..
Two days after that game we announced the signing and last of the summer, Marco Verratti for a reasonable fee of £2.5m from Serie B side Pescara.
Our second game of the season was a trip away to Roma. There was a lot of work to be done following a less than impressive opener. The media tipped us to win but I myself wasn't so sure, judging by the silent reaction to my team-talk it seemed the players lacked confidence also. Nevertheless we set out attacking from the off. We took the lead after just 12 minutes, Arturo Vidal slotting home from the spot which proved to be the only goal of the half. Second half was more of the same but on a higher level of performance. Two more goals from Vidal (58, 64(pen)) took us 3-0 and the win was sealed by Marchisio on 67 mins.
Up next was Inter Milan and enter the new Juve sensation Danny Welbeck. The team were on a massive high heading into one of the biggest games of the calendar year for us. Inter Milan arrived at the new Juventus Stadium in 8th place and left in 14th. They scored first on the half hour mark and led at half time but a revived Juventus and a new-born start substitute changed the game completely. Welbeck arrived on 57 mins along with other new signing Nené who replaced the injured Elia (5-7 weeks) and immediately set-up Welbeck on 59 mins for the equalising goal. Nené himself scored 4 mins later and two more fine goals from Welbeck put the game beyond doubt. 4-1. Massive!
Three straight wins put us top of the table and we had become the bookies favourite for the league title.
We were on our travels again. This time away to Parma. They were 10 men down at half time but managed to hold on to 0-0. In the second half Welbeck racked up his 4th in two games for us having earned a starting place in the side. We weren't very impressive but looked set to escape with another cheeky 1-0 win. Then Chiellini picked up another yellow card and was sent off, evening up the playing field a bit. The inevitable happened in injury time. 1-1 from Okaka. Dawson on loan from West Brom very much responsible but the whole team shouldered the blame as we never should have allowed that to happen. Still unbeaten.
The next two games were horrible. Very horrible. Consecutive 2-1 defeats both home & away to Lecce & Cagliari respectively left the team's morale in woeful condition. Our goalscorers were Pepe & Del Piero but neither goal did anything to heal the pain of two avoidable defeats.
It was onwards & upwards in the next game away to Novara. A very exciting game which ended 2-1 to us with a goal from both sides in stoppage time, our goal came last giving us the win. Vidal found himself getting sent off & Novara missed a penalty. Drama!
Back at home we played Cesena. Our only goals came inside 10 mins where we went 2-0 up through Nené & Vucinic. Cesena equalized on 19 and the game finished 2-1, not a lot to report on from the rest of the game but we were delighted to rack up 2 wins on the trot to restore morale & we climbed back up to 1st place ahead of Milan who were due to play the following day.
We took a gamble in our next game. Chievo away. Weakened squad selection giving some players a well needed rest. We paid the price. 0-0.
Last game to report on to date is our last game of October. Palermo at home. 25,000 supporters, 64% possession, three goals and a 2-1 win. Both goals came from Quag on the brink of half-time which shocked our opponents. They scored late in the second half but it wasn't enough.
We finished the month of October with a win and went into November just one point off the leaders AC Milan. Our opening game of the month was against Genoa who sat in a reasonable 8th place. The game was an away trip and one that wasn't going to be easy but certainly a winnable fixture if we played to our best. The team selection was strong but despite this it wasn't until 81 mins when we broke our duck. Substitute Pepe with the only goal of a mediocre performance. Welbeck was in poor form and was substituted after 60 mins. He is slowly beginning to lose his place as first team striker with Quag chasing him. Krasic another man looking likely to lose out on a place as Pepe once again showing his ability. Three points again.
Two tricky ties followed. Lazio at home and a trip to now second placed, AC Milan. The Lazio game was tough. Possession was evenly shared and likelwise the goal tally. The game finished 1-1. We went down in the first half and didn't hit back until around the 60 min mark with a fine goal from Quag. A win was vital considering our next opponents but we were happy to remain unbeaten.
After the game the board notified me that there had been an increase in transfer funds available. Bingo!!! I took some time to draw up a list of possible transfers. (Thanks to some of the Twitter community for your suggestions & advice!!) I approached Man United about the possibility of making Danny Welbeck a permanent fixture. My offer of £10m was laughed off and my second bid of £5m higher saw United reply looking for £30m. Sorry United fans but the kid isn't worth that much. Not to me anyway. I made bids for Cheick Tiote & Gylfi Sigurdsson. I also negotiated with Liverpool about Jack Robinson. They wanted £10.75, I was only prepared to pay £8m so that ended another negotiation. I wasn't too bothered about those two as I have them until the end of the season anyway.
Negotiations for Tiote & Sigurdsson went well and I ended up confirming Tiote to sign in January for £10m and Sigurdsson the following July for £8.5m. Two strong additions to the midfield.
The trip to AC Milan was one that had the chance to give us a massive push ahead of Milan who seemed to be struggling. After all, we had beaten them easily in pre-season, we just needed to carry that belief into this game. Milan dominated the game up to the half hour mark, created chances but never looked like actually scoring. We were gifted a penalty on 32 mins that Vidal slotted home, his 5th of the season. We were 2-0 up before half time. Barzagli scoring from a corner. Two set pieces put us ahead but did we care? No. 2-0 final score. Three decent results and clear of Milan at the top.
We won our next two games easily. Atalanta at home, 3-0. (Pirlo, Quag & Pepe). Bologna away, 3-1. (Barzagli, Bonnuci, Welbeck). We were delighted with that. Three wins in a row and sitting in a rather comfortable position at the summit of Serie A.
The end of 2011 brought two big games. The first was Napoli at home. After 3 minutes it was 1-1. Vucinic opened on 1 min and Hamsik equalized straight after!! Vidal & Quag took us 3-1 up and it was 3-2 and surprisingly game over after 26 mins when Cavani got the last goal of a 5 goal game. 4 wins on the trot.
We finished up December on the 22nd before heading for a Winter break with a tough win away from home at Siena. Marchisio got the only goal of the game after 6 mins the rest of the game was total stalemate. 5 wins in a row and 4 points clear at the top.
So, now we're in January and it's time to hunt for some bargains. Tioté has just landed at the club from Newcastle but there is more room at the Inn. I have made a loan offer for Ibrahim Affelay but unfortunately so have Inter Milan. Not sure who he will choose. Also looking at a few more players who have contracts expiring this summer including Craig Gordon, Mohamad Diamé, Davide Astori and a man the scouts highly recommend, Yaya Sanogo.
So until my scouts get back to me, I have no further news.