In the end, there was only ever one way Juventus were going to seal their 29th title, and that was with an Arturo Vidal penalty. His contributions from the spot have been a remarkably consistent feature of Juventus' season, and in many ways, he was a very fitting person to seal the title.
His athleticism, technique and intelligence in the midfield zone has been crucial - his work ethic has never been questioned, but this season his hard running has been converted into clever running. He's constantly aware of those around him, looking for spaces he might need to occupy in both attack and defence.
The ability to ‘read a game' can sometimes come across as a clichéd description, but it is an apt way to illustrate Vidal's growth this season. Over the course of the season, it's become a very common sight to see Vidal moving laterally, into the space vacated by Stephan Lichtsteiner's forward runs, where he often finds room to cross into the area. The other key feature of Vidal's game is the aggressive, powerful forward surge normally associated with the galloping Yaya Toure. Like the Ivorian, there's little subtlety to it - it's all about strength and power in the opposition penalty box.
Meanwhile, Juventus's title is also indebted to the presence, or rather, emergence, of another midfielder, Paul Pogba. Signed on a Bosman in the summer, the Frenchman has emerged as a complete midfielder in his own right, combining immense physicality with clever passing from a deep-lying role. He made his mark with some trademark goals from distance, and such was his impact Antonio Conte was recently prompted to reconfigure his formation, removing a striker and switching to a 3-5-1-1, with Claudio Marchisio playing a more advanced role, close to Mirko Vucinic.
This decision is in part linked to the issue that continues to rear its ugly head - the lack of strikers. Conte's instructions to his strike partnership, no matter who starts from the selection of Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri, Nicolas Anelka or Nicklas Bendtner, is always constant. One plays deeper, drawing defenders out from the back and creating space for the other to surge into. It's a shrewd, intricate relationship, but the theory is often undone by the simple fact that the strikers just aren't good enough - which underpins the importance of Vidal's goal tally from midfield this season.
The arrival of Fernando Llorente this summer will surely alleviate some of these worries. The Spaniard is hard working and so well suited to the intense demands of Conte's pressing game, and his physical, hold-up play will be useful both as a ‘Route One' option and inside the penalty area, where he should thrive on the service provided by Kwadmo Asamoah and Lichtsteiner.
Those two have been integral to Juventus's stunning defensive record. They have now conceded just 40 goals over last 2 seasons, a tribute to both the wing-backs and most of all, the remarkable chemistry of the back three. Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci remain unshakeable from the starting line-up, and the cohesion and understanding that their constant selection affords is clear. The way they move from side to side, covering the gaps in defence, is robotic, and sometimes hypnotic to watch in its efficiency.
Last season, Serie A defences weren't entirely sure how to deal with Juventus - the use of Andrea Pirlo in a deep-lying role was hardly revolutionary but it was extraordinarily effective. His influence has diminished this season, partly to do with age and fatigue, and partly to do with opponents taking specific measures to nullify him.
In this sense, the form of Vidal and Pogba has been crucial, but there has been another understated addition to this Juventus side that has lessened the impact of Pirlo's downturn in form. Whereas last season Bonucci's wastefulness on the ball was widely bemoaned, he has now evolved into a fine long-range passer in his own right, taking advantage of the time on the ball that his position affords to strike long diagonals into the path of the two strikers, as well as setting the tempo with intelligent, measured distribution to either flank. Like Vidal, his understanding of his responsibilities in Conte's system has grown exponentially.
The challenge for Juventus now remains, as it were last season, is to achieve success in Europe. A quarter-final exit this year at the hands of a seemingly unstoppable Bayern is a laudable achievement, but for this Juventus side to be ‘truly' great, they will need to challenge in the Champions League. Ultimately, and unfortunately, the current weakness of the Italian league might be the most crucial factor in this title win - and the one that defines how they are remembered. It is probably unfair on what is a great side, but with both Milans struggling to relive past glories, and Napoli treating ‘second place as a Scudetto,' it remains difficult to truly ascertain where this Juventus side ranks in the pantheon of great teams.
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