It is hard to believe that a week ago I was eagerly waiting for Juventus' preseason, and now I am writing a piece on a new manager. But so it goes, and not that I have had a couple of days to mourn (rue?) the loss of the man that brought trophies back to Turin, it is time to get to know the new coach, Massimiliano Allegri. After all, unless something catastrophic happens, Allegri will be at the helm until next May.
Let me preface this article by saying that I am no Allegri expert and that all that I will write is information that I got from Transfermarkt or other Internet sources. In other words, I just did a little Internet stocking to make sure my beloved Old Lady was in ok hands for the time being.
A little history
Allegri was born in 1967 in Livorno. He played professionally since he was 17 years old for a number of clubs ranging from Livorno to Pescara, Perugia, and Napoli (a total of 13 clubs in his professional career). He played as a midfielder and scored 56 goals during his 19 year career. He retired from professional football in 2003 when he was playing for Aglianese.
He started his coaching career also at Aglianese (in Serie C2 at the time) and since then has coached seven other clubs including Juventus. In 2007, Allegri coached Sassuolo to promotion to Serie B for the first time in their history — as an aside, the more I read about Sassuolo the more I respect them as a club, but I digress. He then coached Cagliari from 2008 to 2010 where he won the Panchina d'Oro in his first season as manager. During his second season he was sacked despite earning Cagliari 40 points. I remember that rumors at that time were that Milan's interest in Allegri were not well received by the Cagliari management who decided to sack him after relegation was mathematically avoided.
At Milan he had mixed reviews, two good seasons, and then one-and-a-half terrible one. During his first season he won the scudetto and on his second season he came in second, vowing out to an impressive Juve side. Things went south from there, but he was able to get Milan to third place on his third season, not a bad feat considering his poor start. His best years were when Milan had the best squad in Serie A, with players such as Ibrahimovic, Nesta, Pirlo, and Cassano we conquered Serie A.
Slowly, Galliani started to sell and/or let go of these stars, starting with Pirlo in 2011, Ibra, Silva, and Nesta in 2012 and so on. If you compare squads, Juve's scudetto team of 2011 was at least equally as good as Milan's, but the rossoneri were playing in Europe at the time. I am by no means trivializing our first scudetto of the Conte era, I am just trying to put into context Allegri's supposed failure to beat Juventus in 2011.
What formation does he play?
This is a harder question to answer. When Conte came to Juve, it was clear that the 4-4-2 was going to be the starting formation for the coach. Allegri on the other hand has tried almost any formation under the sun. Before he arrived at Milan, he was known for playing a 4-3-1-2 formation at Cagliari. During the scudetto year, he played a similar formation with Cassano or Boateng in the trequartista position. The following year, it was expected Aquilani and Boateng played the trequartista role. In addition to the 4-3-1-2, he has played a 4-3-2-1 and even the 4-3-3 at Milan.
With the likely arrival of Patrice Evra, Allegri can easily have a four-man backline at his disposal. It may not be a bad idea to keep De Ceglie as a substitute to Evra, unless Marotta has another left-back in mind. Of course, if Allegri wants to revive Ziegler's career at Juve, or give some minutes to Matteo Liviero, the 21-year-old left-back from the Juventus youth ranks. Our right and center back positions have plenty of depth and quality for anything Allegri will throw at them.
As for Allegri's three-man midfield, it remains a mystery. At Milan, Allegri used a midfield that focuses most on breaking play rather than creating play. Gatusso, van Bommel, Boateng, Nocerino, and Muntari were starters under Allegri. With that being said, players such as Montolivo and Aquilani also found some room in midfield from time to time. At Juve, Allegri has the advantage of having players who can break play effectively but that can also create. A midfield with three of Pogba, Vidal, Marchisio, or Asamoah will no doubt be a wall hard to penetrate. Most importantly, these players can also create play and be very dangerous. In a contest of technical ability, Pogba, Vidal, Marchisio, Asamoah, and Pirlo easily come out on top of Boateng, Montolivo Nocerino, van Bommel, Gatusso, and Muntari.
The trequartista position is a tricky one. Pirlo has played that role in the past and may be where Allegri sees him at Juve. He will have no defensive duties there and will be given room to roam. Giovinco also has experience playing that role but has been disappointing to say the least. Coman and Morata are wild cards at the moment, they both may be excellent at that position but they also may fail. Personally, I don't see either of them playing that role effectively but I'll be happy to stand corrected. Current rumors are that Juventus are looking at Jovetic, Lamela, or Shaqiri. Although they may succeed linking midfield and attack, I prefer to discuss the players on the roster.
Up front, Tevez and Llorente are sure starters who shouldn't have any problem playing a 4-3-1-2.
Playing a 4-3-2-1 will be equally as easy given the current squad. Other formations such as the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 will require more personnel who may come during the transfer market. However, these are mercato talks that may or may not materialize so I'll stop there.
What do I expect from Allegri?
This is my personal opinion, nothing else, nothing more. I expect Allegri to play a four-man backline, to have a slow start to the season, to win some games tactically, to qualify for Champions League next year, to develop youngsters and get to the quarterfinals in Europe.
The four-man backline is easy, he has used it successfully in the past and he has the players to do it.
Having a slow start to the season: Allegri is a coach that takes time to get his teams going. In his first year at Milan, Allegri collected five points in his first four games (first month). During the next three months he only lost twice and drew once. On his second season he also had only five points from his first four games. Afterwards he only drew twice and lost once in the subsequent three months. For this reason, I think it will be an error to judge Allegri by his first month. it will be best to make up our minds when December rolls around.
Tactical know how: Allegri is a good tactician. He is no Lippi, but he is also no Ferrara. I've been reviewing Milan blogs and there was plenty of praise for Allegri's substitutions on his first two seasons. I think that with the team he has at hand, and the tactical variations available to him, Allegri should be able to outwit many coaches in Serie A and Europe.
Qualifying for Champions League:Juventus easily have a top-three team in Italy. Sure, Roma, Napoli, and Fiorentina look threatening, but it is likely that at least on of these teams will self-destroy before Juve.
My main concern will be Allegri's ability to beat small teams. This has been Juve's strength over the last three years. Achieving 102 points in a season shows that Conte prepared his team to beat down even the most stubborn defenses. I personally don't think Allegri has that in him. With a team like Roma that went undefeated for half a season, it may cost us dearly. My only hope is that Conte taught his team to never give up, and that Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Vidal, and Tevez can transmit that attitude to the rest of the team.
Developing youngsters: Allegri did wonders with El Shaarawy and De Sciglio. Sure those players are immensely talented but I don't know if Conte would have allowed them to play such a role at Juve. I think the management has made clear to Allegri that Juventus will buy young players and that it is his job to incorporate them to the team. I hope Coman, Morata and any other player that comes to Juve gets more of a chance under Allegri.
It is pointless to continue naming Conte in our discussions. He is gone and belongs in Juve's history no doubt. It is now time to buckle up and support our new coach through thick and thin for the season to come. He has the tools to have a successful season, and he has the know how to battle on all three fronts. With the support of the management, and the professionalism of our players, I hope that he can start a new cycle with us.
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