Juventus Women coach Joe Montemurro admits that it will be a strange feeling for him to go up against his former club when the Bianconere face Arsenal in the Women’s Champions League on Thursday evening.
Montemurro spent four years in charge of Arsenal Women from 2017 and left in 2021, then moving to Serie A Femminile and taking the reins at Juventus. During his time in North London, the side won the Women’s Super League the Women’s League Cup and finished as runners-up in the Women’s FA Cup as well.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Montemurro said in an exclusive interview with Total Italian Football ahead of leading Juventus in the Women’s Champions League against Arsenal. “I left a lot of great memories there, a lot of great people.
“We had four fabulous seasons. I’m so proud of them going the next level and I know they’ve made a lot of improvement, also in terms of investment, which is fantastic and I’m so happy for them.
“It’s going to be weird but I have to be professional. It’s a difficult one for me because my two teams growing up were Juventus and Arsenal, so as a fan it’s going to be difficult but it’s going to be a great occasion and this is what we want in women’s football – playing at the Allianz Stadium, two great brands in world football and two teams that will play great football and put on a good show.”
Recent success against WSL sides
In Montemurro’s one and only full season at Juventus to date, he guided the Bianconere through a Champions League group that contained another Women’s Super League side in Chelsea. Given his Arsenal past, he admits to taking a little extra enjoyment from advancing at the Blues’ expense alongside Wolfsburg last season.
“Why do you have to ask that?” Montemurro laughs, asked if the elimination of Chelsea was all the sweeter due to his affection for their London rivals.
“Chelsea… What they’re doing is phenomenal with the investment, what they’ve done and the squad. It was a game where we had to make sure everything fell right that night and it did. We went there with a different mentality and a different way of doing things.
“The funny thing is that the game at the Allianz, which we lost 2-1, was probably one of our best games. We played really well and apart from a couple of lapses of concentration… I’m more disappointed that we didn’t get something out of that game.
“But for Chelsea not to get through from the group stages with the investment they’ve made is a big thing and, yeah, I was quietly happy to, how can I put it… to have pushed that along a little bit.”
Taking Juventus to another level
Juventus had struggled to impose themselves outside of Serie A Femminile before Montemurro’s arrival, with Italian women’s football having to play catch-up with many other European countries. Last season, though, the Bianconere beat eventual Champions League winners Lyon in the first leg of their last-16 tie. Now they want to kick on again.
“When you’re playing in the Champions League against the best of the best you gain all this knowledge every week and I think the beauty of this group is that they’re so willing to learn and get to the next level,” Montemurro said.
“The biggest thing when I got here that was so surprising was that they had this lack of belief, this small-club syndrome when it came to talking about Arsenal, Chelsea, Lyon and so on. It was incredible for a club of this magnitude – I mean, Juventus! Wherever they go they’re a big brand but there was a level of inferiority and that was the first thing we had to knock out of them so that we could just focus on football and then start on an even par and it’s just the team that manages the moment and goes out there with a plan that will probably get the result. From my perspective, a club of this magnitude needs to be at this level.
“I’d like to say we’re probably still 24 months away from being a team who can confidently say that we’ll get out of the group stage, and then the latter stages of the Champions League can go any way.
“It’s going to count on a lot of things though. It’s going to count on us competing at this level now and getting the best result we can and getting into a place where we can be drawn in pots one or two. These games now are so important for getting into the top eight and being drawn in pot two so it’s a really big team and us. I think it’s 18-24 months before we can bank on getting into the next round.
“The other thing is to make sure that we keep competing domestically as well because if we don’t finish in the top two in Italy then the Champions League is a non-event so it’s a big task because we don’t have the privilege of a direct place and have to go through the qualifiers.”