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In praise of Max Allegri’s finely-tuned machine

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Juventus reached a fourth straight Coppa Italia final with a 1-0 win over Atalanta.

Juventus v Atalanta BC - TIM Cup Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

“Well, they don’t really seem to be celebrating that much”

“Another day at the office for the Italian giants”

As Juventus sealed their pass to the 2018 Coppa Italia final, I couldn’t help but agree with the Spanish commentators, they really did look pretty unexcited about the win. Sure, the weather was miserable and the match itself was a back and forth grinder, so I can understand the team being exhausted and wanting nothing more than to hit the showers.

Then again, how excited can you really get when reaching a Coppa Italia final has become, quite literally, an every season occurrence.

With Wednesday night’s result, Juventus will play in their fourth straight Coppa Italia final, tying the record for most finals reached in a row — which is currently shared with Inter, who reached four in a row from 2005 to 2008. The caveat is that Inter only won two of those finals, in 2007 and 2008, while Juventus is undefeated on their current run.

(Juventus was, um, preoccupied with other issues during that time period)

Between injuries and the general grind of the season, Max Allegri fielded a lineup that we haven’t seen a lot during this Coppa Italia run — Gianluigi Buffon was the starter something he generally does not do in Coppa Italia, Mario Mandzukic was not on his now “normal” left wing position but manning the prima punta and Alex Sandro worked as the nominal left winger.

If you compare the team that started this Coppa Italia run, in 2015, to the current team is hard to see many constants. Out of the whole roster, only Buffon, Stephan Lichsteiner, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Kwadwo Asamoah, Claudio Marchisio are still with the squad. Just to have that level of turnover it would be a challenge for anybody, but to have that level of turnover, and continue to crank results is a truly remarkable thing.

Not even the mighty Real Madrid can avoid a down year on domestic competition, as shown this year where they have already been bounced from the Copa del Rey and they are virtually out of contention for La Liga.

Juventus have played with a 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and tons of other tactical formations. They have sold players, bought players, put them in positions they haven’t played before, taught them how to defend and put them in the finely tuned machine that Allegri has constructed that seems to put out domestic wins year after year. They have played football badly, boring, beautifully, fast, slow, exciting and yet, this team keeps dominating Italy in an unprecedented run in both league and cup play.

Here on this website we might have our issues with how Allegri manages the team — some of the criticism might be warranted a lot of it might not — but despite the shortcomings, few and far between, it truly is a privilege to watch this team go out there and continue producing results despite the ever changing circumstances.

So, yeah, I understand the team not being incredibly psyched to make the yearly trip to Rome again and I understand that the fan base, in general, might be more focused on achieving that elusive European success that has been so close and yet so infuriatingly far.

And yet, don’t look now, but Atalanta played quite admirably during both legs and were a few breaks from making the tie a lot tighter than it was. It’s March, Napoli still lead Serie A and don’t look like they might slow down either, AC Milan looks like a whole new team under Genaro Gattusso so the final will not be a cakewalk whatsoever. Lazio have already beat Juve this season TWICE, Inter and Roma aren’t going anywhere either, and no, YOU are slightly nervous that Buffon has looked shaky this past couple of games.

(He is the GOAT, but he sure has looked forty lately)

So, let’s enjoy this run while it lasts, because 4 Coppa finals in 4 years sound easy, but that’s just because Juventus and Max Allegri have made them seem easy.