Kwadwo Asamoah, the Ghanaian midfielder making the difference for Juventus
The 2011-12 Serie A season was an historic one for Juventus. After the nadir of the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, last term was vindication for six years of ridicule and hard work.
A succession of Coaches have come and gone since then, some good and some bad, but with Antonio Conte in charge, it was hard for Bianconeri fans to remember a time Juve dominated Italian football the way they did for the entirety of that season.
The Turin giants didn’t so much beat sides last term as pulverised them. 4-0 wins over Roma and Novara, plus a 5-0 victory against Fiorentina that confirmed their Scudetto credentials. It wasn’t the high-scoring games that impressed fans and pundits alike though.
What was most unnerving for the rest of the peninsula was the way they could dominate a game for start to finish. Of the 38 matches they played in 2011-12, 17 of them were won by a one or two goal deficit – and not once did they look like losing.
It was hard to see then how they could improve on that monumental campaign, but with 13 Serie A games gone and a Champions League group stage almost complete, it seems they may just have done that with the addition of Kwadwo Asamoah.
The Ghana international joined the club from Udinese over the summer in a co-ownership deal.
The fact that Conte’s side fought off Manchester United tells you a lot about the quality of the 23-year-old, but with his performances so far this term, it could be argued that he is now a lynchpin to the Old Lady.
Alongside Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right-flank, Asamoah has made the left wing-back position his own and turned their 3-5-2 formation into a fluid and free-flowing tactical system.
Fabio Capello called it ‘a step back’ for the Italian game, but as they proved on Tuesday against reigning European champions Chelsea, Juve have turned the formation into an entirely positive one – giving width and defensive stability all at the same time.
Asamoah has been given the task of doing all these things at once, but instead of shrinking in the high-pressure environment of Turin, he has prospered into one of the best wide-men in Europe.
His pace, agility, natural fitness and decision-making have seen him lay on six assists already for his team-mates, and score two goals at Genoa and Pescara.
Replacing Paolo De Ceglie in the position has been a massive positive for the Bianconeri, and has made them genuine contenders at home and abroad.
We’ve seen all too often the difficulty with juggling a domestic and European campaign.
Manchester City haven’t been able to make it out of the group for the past two years, Borussia Dortmund were felled by Arsenal and Marseillelast season. And yet, Juventus are close to doing it, thanks to the extra dimension offered to them by Asamoah.
Fans and media outlets clamour over the majesty of Andrea Pirlo, the warrior heart of Arturo Vidal and the home-grown talents of Claudio Marchisio, and rightly so. But for my money, the person who has really made La VecchiaSignora tick this season has been the youngster from Africa, pounding down the wing.