‘Afterthoughts‘ is a new series here on JuventiKnows where we give you our unfiltered, personal, and sometimes idiosyncratic views on the current state of affairs at the club. This space is reserved for more elaborate musings on a given theme and is entirely subjective (so don’t flog anyone but the writer, alright?!)
These past few days I’ve done something I haven’t done in a long while (and not simply because the Serie A only just started): I’ve been checking out match reports, teams of the week and talking about Juve and calcio in general with different people. All of which I do every week of every season, of course – the difference being that this week, I’ve done it all with a big smile on my face, enjoying that tingling sensation of being in the #1 position.
A bit of a guilty pleasure, as I am all too aware we will not be playing Parma at home (and what a home that is!) all year, just like AC Milan won’t face Lazio every matchday, and Inter will probably either fire Gasperini or sort out their defense in some way sooner rather than later… Nevertheless, it’s a pleasure I have allowed myself after such a long time. In fact, I’ve savoured the moment like no (or at least very few) moments ever been savoured before, inside of any known space-time continuum.
Now, however, it’s time to abandon the sunny fields full of daisies and put on the boring cap of realism back on.
A Little Less ‘Andersen’, A Little More ‘Kierkegaard’
As I am rather lazy and can’t be bothered to look it up, I imagine we haven’t topped the Serie A since the early days with Ciro Ferrara. This fact alone, which may or may not have just been made up by yours truly, is enough to reach the point where the skepticism kicks in. Yes, we’re already there.
“Will this last?”, we ask ourselves. And as seasoned Juventini who have suffered more heartbreaks than most fans these last few years, we reply confidently and without hesitation: “No, it will not”.
Sure, the Parma game was an emphatic victory – and one that will work wonders for morale, no doubt – but the season is long and hard, and seeing as we’ve gotten used to the annual Winter Crisis, no one will blame us for being very, very cautious when assessing our prospects this season – never mind after only one game played.
Of course we will face difficulties sooner or later: the formation, the defense, the ability to cope without the mind-boggling brilliance that Pirlo and Del Piero bring… These are just some of many areas that are bound to be tested throughout the season when facing better teams, rather than the timid Parma side we saw on Sunday.
A natural lack of cohesion, due to the players’ unfamiliarity with each other as well as with the system, will undoubtedly be evident from time to time too. These early reservations are minor points though, compared to the one big issue that, in my view, will be our greatest obstacle and the single most important reason for our poor performances these last two years: overcoming mental fragility!
You can blame shitty fullbacks, Quagliarella’s injury, the coaches, DS dealings in the mercato, Vinovo – and, of course, Amauri! Yet none of the above (not even combined) can reasonably account for the downfalls we have experienced in seasons past following the Christmas break. Only the absence of the essential Juventinità can explain this. The quality of our squad as a whole the last two years – even considering injuries – has been one that should guarantee at least 4th place all along – even in transitional seasons. What we’ve been missing is that urge to WIN. Consistently and at all cost.
Now, I’m obviously not in any position to know how you, the reader, felt watching the Parma game, but for my part, I was never sure of even getting a point until Vidal scored, and only the wonderful Pirlo/Marchisio act that was goal #4 made me certain the outcome would be positive. Only by then was I ready to breathe somewhat comfortably, and that was in a game where we dominated from start to finish!
I was (and still am) a victim of that PTSD (Editor’s note: Post-Traumatic Secco Disorder?) that is the direct consequence of all-too-recent failures of Juve to transmit a sense of confidence in earnest. And while I sincerely hope that this feeling is one reserved for neurotic supporters like myself, I can’t help but suspect that it may also be latent in the current squad.
This is why I refuse to get carried away – even by sweeping performances like the one against Parma – or the one I anticipate from the upcoming Siena game. I’m sorry, but old and pessimistic as I’ve become, this time around I think I’ll wait until May to really celebrate.
Before you slaughter me completely in the comments section below, let it be known that I do appreciate the fact Conte brings with him grinta by the bucketload. Furthermore, even I, an otherwise stern believer in continuity, am beginning to realise the importance of bringing in a legion of new players, untainted by the flaws of seasons past and thus able to counter the all too obvious defeatist mentality of our squad in recent years. In fact, additions like Pirlo, Lichtsteiner nd (potentially) Vidal could prove absolutely crucial in the resurrection of the true Juve mentality of self-confidence and grinta, the very hallmarks of this great club.
But the one thing I do not wish for, at this stage at least, is for us Juventini (or should I say JuventiKnows?) to get carried away on a wave of premature enthusiasm. Once more. There will be a time and a place for real euphoria, one that is perhaps not far off, if we give this team and its coach a fair run. However I am simply too shell-shocked still to believe that it has already arrived.
This all being said, I am grateful and most of all, very very relieved we are off to a good start. A lot of positives emerged on Sunday, and savouring this wonderful start to the season has been all kinds of great. Now we just need to dig in – all the way to May! But until we witness one full season of decent showings and results, I simply cannot give in to positivity completely.
Until then, I will do like Pete Townshend and The Who:
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again.