I was hesitant, like a lot of other folks, when Juventus wasted nearly no time bringing in Max Allegri to replace the recently-resigned Antonio Conte. Let's be honest, it's not like I was the only one in that boat. Heck, there was probably some fears of overcrowding going on because of just what went down on the second day of preseason training.
That mid-July morning brought big-time rumors of Conte's departure from the Italian press. Shortly thereafter, a tear-filled YouTube video was the way we found out Conte was indeed leaving the club he had guided to a third straight league title and a single-season record point total just a few months earlier.
If you recall, the gif that is placed below was basically the kind of reaction I had when Allegri was initially being tipped as the frontrunner to be the new Juventus manager following Conte's resignation.
That's not exactly a good thing, right? Nope. Not even close to being a good kind of opinion regarding what would be the incredibly fast-paced hiring of Allegri as Juventus' new manager. I wasn't alone, either. It's not like the decision to bring Allegri aboard really blew anybody out of the water in terms of impressing all of us Juventini. It wasn't some glamorous hire that would instantly make us forget about what Conte had done over the last three record-setting seasons in Turin.
When you think about it, it was the exact opposite.
What were opposing club's fans doing when Juventus decided to go with Allegri? Well, basically thanking Andrea Agnelli and the rest of the Juventus management for hiring a new manager who had been kicked to the curb by Milan earlier in the calendar year. So in a way, it was a managerial appointment that was looked at as one that would help Juventus' opposition more than the club itself.
Seriously, if you don't believe me, go check what people were saying when it became a mere formality Mad Max would become Conte's replacement.
But I sit here just a few measly hours before ripping open wrapping paper and presents on Christmas with a confession.
I was wrong about Max Allegri as Juventus manager. And, to be completely honest, I am quite happy about it.
When the SB Nation folks asked me to write a Juventus season preview for the main site, this is what I had to say about where Juventus might — and probably should — finish first in Serie A and capture another Scudetto when it's all said and done:
Champions. Why? Because even though their new manager isn't as close to as good as the man he replaced, Juve are still the best team in the country and are talented enough to overcome the managerial shortcomings of Allegri.
At that time, Juventus were basically buying low on Allegri. He was the best of an extremely average group of replacements for Conte. There wasn't that managerial candidate that would wow you unless Juventus suddenly decided to throw all the money in the world at Didier Deschamps to try and get him away from the French national team. (Which, for the record, would still be totally okay with me.)
And it's not like Allegri came in and radically changed things tactically when he got to Turin. Juventus, while picking up points domestically, kept things just the way Conte left them with a 3-5-2. Many of us sat there thinking to ourselves, "So, uh, what's the deal?" as Juventus didn't blow anybody away. He made the transition on everybody by keeping things just the way they were. Juve weren't putting in grandiose performances, but they were winning, therefore masking the problems that a lot of us noticed.
But what set Allegri apart from his predecessor?
He was willing to change. And because of it, he's now been able to put his own stamp on the club.
The switch to the four-man defense — either 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-1-2 — was probably a couple months later than it should have happened, Juventus have looked, minus a couple of games here and there, like a much different team compared to slog of September and October domestically and in Europe. It's enabled the squad to turn around what was a sluggish start to the Champions League and advance to the knockout round. They're now on stable ground in Serie A despite Roma breathing down their neck and just three points behind in the league table.
Allegri deserves the credit he is getting thus far because he's done work. Yes, this squad was still the best in Italy when he took over, but they needed a fresh coat of paint. Guess who's given it to them? Mister Allegri, who has truly started to put his stamp on the team in recent weeks. That's what Juventus needed to move on from the Conte era — one that was highly successful but obviously had more going on behind the scenes than we will probably ever know about.
There's no doubting this is Allegri's team now. It may not have seemed like it three or four months ago, but it does as we get set to enter 2015. He's done it the right way, too, proving his detractors wrong — like yours truly — wrong along the way. He's earned the respect of many, and that's how it should be.
It's only the final days of December with over half of the Serie A schedule and the Round of 16 Champions League fixtures to be played. And there's no denying that Max Allegri still has plenty of work to do with his squad and room to grow as Juventus manager.
But let's face it, when he took control, expectations weren't exactly glowing with optimism. Allegri has turned those expectations around. At least for the guy writing this thing, that is.
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