Juventus currently hold the longest unbeaten streak in Europe’s top 5 leagues. The bianconeri have gone 18 games without losing now and have made some dramatic comebacks along the way. Questions still remain though regarding whether or not they have what it takes to win the league.
Over the course of the first half of the season Juventus have been fawned over endlessly, unnecessarily so at times. After their first pre-season friendly against an amateur representative side from the Susa Valley, the Gazzetta Dello Sport described Andrea Pirlo as “turning the pages of Juventus’ book” – Juventus walked to 12-1 victory.
Manager, Antonio Conte, has drooled over Claudio Marchisio describing him as playing just like him “only better“. The central midfielder has been transformed from a frustrating could-be, into the energetic pin-up of this new Juventus.
‘Spirit’ is a word that has often been used when describing Conte’s Juventus, but perhaps this idea has been over-played. They have certainly shown a great deal more determination than had been seen in the last two seasons combined. But for every dominating display (Parma and Fiorentina), last gasp winner (Milan) and remarkable second half comeback (Napoli); there have been just as many leads given away (Bologna and Genoa) and drab performances (Chievo, Lecce and Bologna). Perhaps the spirit is spent.
The 18-game unbeaten run is the longest in the clubs’ history, extending the previous record by one. While this run is now longer the previous record from the 1949-50 season was a more successful one, comprising 15 wins and 2 draws (32 points in old money – 2 points for a win). The current sequence includes 8 draws – the joint highest number of games drawn in the league together with Atalanta.
Conte, though, doesn’t appear to be too worried about the number of draws so far, telling Sky Italia “There are draws and draws and we’ve now played against five of the top six sides away from home”. While they have gone to great lengths to play down their title ambitions so far, they must realise that this is a real opportunity that lies before them.
Conte is delighted that the side are still unbeaten but he need only look back as far as the ’78-79 season to see that the draws could come back to bite him. Perugia finished the season unbeaten (11 wins and 19 draws), but they finished 2nd to a Milan side who had lost 3 games.
Fans were disgruntled fans at the end of both the Lecce and Cagliari games. So perhaps losing the streak might provide impetus to play for wins against teams determined to defend every last yard, releasing the beast and setting the spirit free.
Follow Rocco on twitter (@rcammisola).