The human mind and soul are indeed two strange and wondrous things… For example: One year removed from the tear-provoking, chest pounding and overwhelmingly empowering ecstasy of witnessing the Old Lady finally take home her 30th Scudetto last May in Trieste, most Juventini (myself included) were closer to ”rather pleased” than “in borderline psychopathic overdrive” on the old excite-o-meter this time around, as what for a very long time had seemed like the inevitable follow-up victory in the same competition was secured.
We were very happy, no doubt, and nothing should be taken away from a Serie A season that, while not unbeaten like the previous one, was in fact much more remarkable in terms of dominance. A fact surprisingly ignored by many commentators reading the “L” column before the “W” one, and presumably forgetting that only a formidable end to the season prevented Milan from retaining their title last year.
It was truly a massive feat for the club to deliver once again, this time as odds on favourites – and one that showed that Conte and the boys were in fact “all that”, including the proverbial bag of sliced up, fried potatoes. The thing is, though; most of us suspected as much beforehand.
It’s not that the league did not provide its fair share of excitement and controversy (as it always does), rather that it only really seemed to do so for barely 2/3rds of the season. Not that I am complaining, no siree Bob. Not in the slightest. But let’s be honest here; after Inter, Napoli and Milan all in turn seemed hell bent on not taking the opportunity to really challenge Conte’s men when the few possibilities presented themselves, it was – even to those of us of a Bianconero persuasion – really quite a stroll from February onwards. And I can’t even begin to imagine how demoralising this more or less unchallenged superiority will have been for supporters of the opposition teams…
But these are, of course, conclusions drawn post festum, so to speak (Latin, that is, a dead language, admittedly, but a very vibrant one at that – it means “in retrospect”, or literally – and very aptly so: “after the feast/party”). Conte’s ban, the added European challenge and the pressure of being champions elect from the get-go were all elements that ensured that the league season was – if not nerve-wreckingly so – in the balance for a fair long while.
There was the inevitable defeat, of course, which ended the much talked-about unbeaten streak and led to much media talk about tides changing and other such tomfoolery that papers tend to lure their readership into buying. The more sober analysis? Well, it had to happen, but for it to do so against THEM, and at home too, was a bitter pill to swallow. But the visitors wanted it more. This was the stand-out part, and – presumably – what did the trick in terms of rekindling the fading fire in the bellies of the Juve players, coping with what for most of the squad was a very new feeling; being top dogs. For that, I suppose, we should almost be thankful… And, considering the very divergent fortunes of Inter and Juventus that followed, it’s fair to say the parenthetic experiment History will forget as “Stramaccioni’s Inter” got their just reward for their Icarus-esque attempt at persuading the world of their potential.
There were the good times too, obviously. In fact, by far the most of them were. The stuffing of an almost comically inept Zeman-Roma in a game that lasted about twenty minutes leaps to mind, as does beating the high-flying Napoli at home, the 6-1 away thrashing of Pescara in response to the aforementioned Inter game, the derby wins… And, well basically most of what came after the month of January, that part of the Gregorian calendar Juventus Football Club seems to be at odds with in such a way that you feel like it’s time to seriously consider drawing up an Agnellian one instead…
Not that all was rosy. There were league defeats, a few anemic draws as well, the issue of handling multiple competitions etc. However, the very strong start – and indeed finish, barring the meaningless last games – to the season (chapeau once more to the medical staff, which has performed miracles these last two years compared to the hellish experiences on that front preceding them), combined with the relative weakness of the domestic opposition ensured that even the most sceptical of supporters were left to seek the real thrills outside of the league.
This might be hindsight playing a trick on me, but I think I am right in saying that even in the thick of the action, I was not at any point of the season truly worried about Juventus throwing the championship (you can of course trawl through Twitter and the contents of this website, should you wish a more reliable source than my own biased and fading memory – and be equipped with more free time than is, strictly speaking, advisable). Trust me, I can be the worrying kind if and when needs be. But I wasn’t this Serie A season.
What this completely subjective and un-scientifical “fact” shows is simple but also very important: The Bianconeri “chose” their defeats and disappointments with care. A trait that, competing over the course of a season, is equally as important as knowing when you must get a result. As well as being somewhat boring, I know – but we can’t win the 30th after crazy years of turmoil every year, can we?
The one true regret (as in “actually being preventable and not entirely academic and/or brought about by own achievements in Football Manager or similar”) of the season was the last-gasp Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Lazio in Rome. After knocking out Cagliari and Milan with heavily rotated teams, Juve should have closed down the Lazio tie well and good already in the first leg, but the heroics of Marchetti in Turin, coupled with a rather lacklustre performance in the Italian capital saw the Bianconeri yet again fail to get hold of that elusive silver star. It was a shame, but not a shame, if you get my meaning. It did, however, play a part in the season finale being a bit less enticing than it could have been – but, in fairness, no-one could really have known that in January (or, as it would be called in the Agnellian calendar: “Winter Break”).
In the end, the Coppa was always going to play third fiddle to the Campionato and what for most Juventini was the most exciting element of the season; the return to Champions League football. In the next instalment, we’ll revisit the European campaign in detail, reflecting on what Juventus experienced, achieved and learned from their reintegration into the finest club competition on earth (no more, but no less either!).
With that little appetizer, I shall conclude by declaring the 2012-13 domestic season a resounding success. Not in terms of excitement, not in terms of drama, but in terms of the only thing that counts – and I am fairly convinced every Juventini deserving of the colours worn will agree with at least that!