Full of grand moments like comeback against Atletico Madrid, in which Juventus overcame a 2-0 first leg deficit in the Champions League Round of 16 with a hat trick by Cristiano Ronaldo in the second leg to advance, the Bianconeri faithful can certainly look back on this season and remember parts of it fondly. Personally, signing Ronaldo in the summer transfer window will go down as one of the greatest moments in Juventus lore. Never has a legend of the game beckoned Juventus to sign him at the peak of his powers — and yes, he did prove age is just a number — to aid in Juve’s quest lift the Champions League trophy. It was a glorious moment in the club’s history, and will be memorialized in the minds of all Juventi faithful.
Unfortunately, when you sign a talismanic and prolific striker at the level of Ronaldo, you are expected to win every competition you compete in. And, just so we’re clear, Juventus’ expectations, regardless of the names of the 23 players filling out the roster, is to win every competition they compete in.
Entering the season, Juventus had the chance to win four trophies. Ranked in order from most to least important, you have the Champions League, Serie A, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana. The latter is a one game match for the trophy based on last year’s winners of Serie A and the Coppa Italia. It is a trophy, but it is by far the lesser in this list. The Champions League represents the continental dominance that has alluded Juventus for, frankly, far too long; while Serie A and the Coppa Italia fall under the category of domestic sovereignty that Juve have executed for the past eight years.
Juve were crowned champions in two of our four competitions, and failed to reach the semifinals in the other two. Juventus won Serie A for a record eighth straight time, and bested AC Milan in the Supercoppa. Failing to at least make the final in the Coppa Italia after winning it the past four years is downright unacceptable. Losing to Ajax in the quarterfinals of the Champions League is just disappointing.
At the helm of this season, for better and for worse, was, again, Max Allegri. As the man who pulled the strings for Juventus on the touchline, the results of this season fall not solely, but chiefly on him.
Massimiliano Allegri — 6.5
What can I say? Allegri is a great manager, that much is sure. He has proven this fact time and time again throughout his five Scudetto-winning runs in as many years at Juventus. But, perhaps, his greatest strength can also manifest itself as his greatest weakness.
Allegri is a tactical mastermind. We have seen him pick legendary teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona apart through superior tactics and game-planning. When preparing for a match in great detail, one must be certain that all those details are correct, or else you risk beating yourself. The case can be made that Allegri did just that against Ajax in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Ajax, a club name that hearkens back to the 20th century as their hay-day in European football, have been one of the best clubs in Europe all season, scoring goals left and right at a record pace. Losing to them is not a dramatic upset when looked at in a vacuum. What is so upsetting, however, is that we were the favorite and aided in our own demise.
After the first leg at Ajax, all seemed well. While Juventus was set up a little too defensively for my taste, they managed a 1-1 draw while securing the all-important away goal. In the driver’s seat, Allegri decided it would be best to let the second match come to us, fielding three central midfielders in a makeshift 4-4-2 that centered around defending and counter-attacking. What Juve’s manager failed to realize was in doing so, he was giving one of the most dangerous teams in Europe time on the ball in spades.
Yes, Juventus managed to score first, but by the end of the game Ajax had ground us into dust, dominating the second half and sending us out of the tournament on our home soil.
This is Juventus, and if they want to become second to none, they must stop managing results and start asserting our dominance. It killed us last year, and has again been our death sentence this year.
This mentality is one of the main reasons the Juventus hierarchy made the decision to move on from Allegri last month. We all know how great of a manager he can be, but this is hardly the first time he has shown too much respect to a lesser side and cost us in doing so.
Putting aside the biggest letdown of the season, there are a few more strikes against Allegri that cannot go unnoticed. Losing 3-0 against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia quarterfinal is an abhorrent result. Not much more needs to be said about that.
What does need to be said is that Allegri was perhaps too loyal to the old guard this year. In his extreme loyalty to Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini, he alienated Medhi Benatia to the point where he asked to leave in January. Bonucci is, simply put, not the stalwart defender he once was. Now error prone and waning in athleticism, a strong case can be made that Benatia was the better player and deserved to be the everyday starter alongside Chiellini. Superior to Bonucci in speed and athleticism, anyone who watched Juventus during the 2017-18 season could see Benatia’s prowess as a defender.
Allegri got the best of himself this past season, and a manager with his qualities will always run the risk of outsmarting himself. Unfortunately for him, it resulted in the club wanting to find a new manager to take them to the lofty heights they so yearn to reach. The challenge for Juventus now becomes replacing an elite coach with ... well, an elite coach. Managers like Allegri do not go on trees, and while the decision to move on from him feels like the right one, it is also the difficult one. Traversing these waters will be complicated, and this next step will now become the most directly impactful one in recent memory as it relates to the future success and or failure of the club. Club president Andrea Agnelli and VP Pavel Nedved will spearhead the search for Allegri’s replacement. They have done nothing during this eight year run to suggest they will not make the proper decision, so as Juventus fans it is imperative to believe they will and offer our support immediately once they do.