With any fan that has to spend time rubbing elbows with any Arsenal fan or follower, you are very familiar with their quick grab for their ’03-’04 season when you start discussing your team histories. The “Invincibles” were a team that did something that many thought impossible, and they did it in one of the four European “Super” leagues and the league that might be the most competitive of all. Every player on that Arsenal squad has been immortalized, and despite many going on to less…distinguished teams and performing well below their potential (i.e. Freddie Ljungberg in the MLS), that squad will be remembered forever and will, practically by default, be in every conversation talking about the best EPL team EVER.
Fast forward to the ’11-’12 season and lets move over to Italy and Serie A. Perhaps with the amazing finish to the EPL season, the goal-fest in La Liga, and a Ligue 1 season that may also come down to goal-differential on the final match-day(is anyone watching this?), somehow people didn’t notice Juventus finish their season undefeated in Serie A- Invincibles pt. II. Although it may sound ridiculous, this amazing season has flown under the radar for the entirety of the season AND it still seems to be getting a lot less attention than it should be. 38 matches- ZERO losses- in a league considered one of Europe’s finest- pay attention folks, because greatness occurred in Italy this season.
I don’t want to compare this squad to the Arsenal Invincibles, but the comparisons will inevitably occur, and I need to make this case for how great Juve’s season was.
Juventus allowed only 20 goals this season in Serie A- that is less than ANY other team in ANY other league. They won games by scoring only 68 total goals throughout the season- that averages out to less than 2 goals per game. What does that mean? It means Juventus had a defense that should go down as legendary. A defense that is comprised of players that most football followers don’t even know the names of. Despite most being familiar with Giorgio Chiellini because of his time in the Italian national squad, the other members of the defense remain largely unheralded. Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Stephan Lichtsteiner, and (to a lesser extent) Paolo De Ceglie were amazing all season long. The closest defensive numbers come from second-place AC Milan, but even last year’s champions are off the pace from Juve’s ‘goals allowed’ total by thirteen goals. In a league where so much importance is placed on defense, those numbers are truly amazing.
They were no slouch on the attacking side of the ball during their historic march to victory with the second best scoring record in Serie A with 68. Even more impressive than their goal tally is the way they went about it. Juventus only have ONE player with a double-digit total (Alessandro Matri with 10 league goals), meaning that they got contributions from everywhere. In fact, they got goals from every non-GK player but 3 (20 players have league goals this season) with every midfield player but one that had over 20 appearances getting at least 3 goals.
Juventus created this season by making extremely smart off-season choices. They brought in the midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo for FREE (that’s right, free), and anyone that watched any of Juventus’ matches this season knows that Pirlo was playing inspired football from the first whistle of the season to the last. The payed a moderate fee for Mirko Vucinic to pry him from Roma, and he was one of the best providing strikers in the world this season (11 assists). Stephan Lichtsteiner was brought in from Lazio for around 10 million euros, and he spent the entire season acting as the wide outlet on the right side of the field. There was not one game where he did not defend very well AND where he provided attacking options going forward. Matri was a summer signing, and he was the team’s top scorer- fully justifying his 15.5 million price tag. We also see Chilean Arturo Vidal becoming a vital attacking option, and, at the young age of 24, he definitely will factor in for years to come.
They also off-loaded a lot of ‘extra weight’ and upgraded in a lot of positions. Luca Toni and and Amauri, despite still being great players, are certainly starting to edge close to the end of their careers. I also personally believe that allowing Alberto Aquilani to head back to Liverpool and, eventually, AC Milan was a great move. If Pirlo had seen a young player sitting on the bench just waiting to play his exact position, it may have affected his play. Plus, Juventus made sure that their squad was a perfect mix of experience and youth in order to make a very deep league push for perfection.
Although very few viewers actually consider Serie A to be their favorite league to watch on the weekend, the premier Italian league has definitely become a league that has a very fluid top group. The best teams fluctuate massively from year to year in recent times, and this season was no different. The top seven teams are legitimate Champions League teams. Perhaps not teams that could win, but I would actually expect most of them to exit the group stage of the CL if they were in the competition. With Inter Milan and Roma sitting in the sixth and seventh positions, there is certainly no doubt the top half of the table is filled with strong teams. Napoli sits just above them in fifth, and anyone that saw them play Chelsea knows that they are truly a dangerous squad with the ability to beat the best teams on their day. Lazio and Udinese are both going to be interesting playing in the Europa league and in the Champions League in the coming campaign, and they both have had very impressive seasons.
In second place, we see AC Milan. A team that was successful against a great number of Champions League opponents this season and a team that even saw the behemoth that is Barcelona needing a little ‘extra’ in order to get past them in Europe’s premier competition. Despite scoring at will with one of the most dominant attacking teams in the world (Ibra, Robinho, Boateng, and co.), Juventus were able to survive both league meetings and even came out with a win in one of the meetings. Although some will want to mention a ‘ghost-goal’ scored during one of their matches, when history is being made you occasionally have to have a few decisions go your way.
Although all of the plaudits go to England and Spain for the amazing finish or for the unreal point totals, Juventus has accomplished something that may never be equaled again in the modern game. Despite money making the top teams seem farther out of reach than ever before, the bottom teams all seem capable of toppling the giants (i.e. Wigan this season) on their day. It also seems like the top teams are all good enough to take points off of their rivals, with the race for third in the Premiership being a prime example. I’m sure some were even very vocal at the fact that Arsenal’s accomplishment would never be rivaled, but the odds of not losing a single match in a season seems to grow larger as football progresses.
Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on Juve’s fantastic season and their amazing accomplishment. I know that we have witnessed fantastic things occur in practically every league in Europe, but this feat needs special attention by any true footballing fan. Let’s hope that this isn’t the last time we see an “Invincible” season, but we still may need to appreciate this season as if it will be the last. Are you impressed by what Juventus have accomplished? Is it better or equal to Arsenal’s undefeated run? Can you even compare the two? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.