The hole that Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus find themselves in very early in the season is threatening to become a yawning chasm if the coach and players are not able to arrest the slide they are already on. Two consecutive defeats in the Champions League group stage to begin the competition to go along with a series of lackluster draws achieved in differing manners mean the pressure on this Bianconeri side is already through the roof, and despite the bad hand with injuries the club has been dealt, change might be necessitated to rescue this campaign.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to Monza, Allegri talked about where it all seemed to have gone wrong for his vision.
“I’m very sorry for this situation and I often ask myself if I have made mistakes. The first answer that comes to mind is that Juve had been thought of in another way. With Rabiot-Paredes-Pogba in midfield plus Locatelli as the first substitute.
“Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa on the wings, Vlahovic in the middle. The Juve of now is virtual. I know we lack someone who can invent in the last thirty metres, but we signed Paul Pogba and Di Maria for this. And we are developing Fabio Miretti, the most suitable in that role among those there.
“But he’s not Pogba. He’s only 19. We have problems pushing on the wings. I can no longer ask players who have been running all their lives to continue doing so up the whole wing.
“If I ask Juan Cuadrado to be a winger, he can still do it very well. But I can no longer ask him to always do two roles.”
Allegri doubled down that injuries were what has been plaguing this side, and not his tactics.
“We’ll be able to count on Chiesa and Pogba in January, then we’ll see what we can ask for immediately. They’re not motorbikes.
“There are objective difficulties, I know that, I haven’t coached for just a day and I’ve always made little mistakes. But I repeat, this is a virtual Juventus now.
“I’m happy with the work in the market, I liked it. But the players on the pitch are not there. Try taking five starters away from Inter or Milan.”
He went on to explain his coaching philosophy.
“I watched with interest on Sky Carlo Ancelotti’s interview with Paolo Condò. He said that after losing the first two games, he asked the team to drop twenty metres and wait for Shakhtar. Real, you see? They won 5-0.
“PSG were losing 1-0 in Israel, then Messi, Mbappe and Neymar scored, not just anyone. Quality always lies in the players, not in the tactics. A good coach has to think about the players first. I now have half a starting team out. Exactly half a team.
“After Benfica I stopped to talk to Rui Costa, I wouldn’t stop. He told me that today football is upside down, if a player makes a good pass he is already a phenomenon. If he makes a forty-metre pass, double phenomenon. But in football it must be normal to pass the ball well, to know how to launch it.
“Today people mistake the rule for the exception. It cannot be like that. I adore the quality of my players, I sought them out and wanted them. I don’t have pre-established tactics, I adapt the game to their qualities. I’m not a phenomenon because of that, it’s my job. The player is made up of details that must always be considered.
“For example, there is no one way to regain the ball. There are two. If you stop it at the back it’s a defensive stop, if you can do it at the front it starts an attacking action. This is real, applied football. Like passing, it’s not enough to give the ball to a team-mate in the area, you have to give it to him with his turn accounted for otherwise he won’t shoot on goal, he has to turn first.
“Today the players don’t think, they obey. They don’t interpret. It’s the easiest solution. Whereas football is a sum of individual fantasies. With Benfica Di Maria came in a few minutes and put one in front of the goal from thirty metres.
“Can I say it was a play? No, it was Di Maria. I have these players, if we are all there, we are strong. Today I don’t even know which team we’ll go to Monza with, it’s a game we just have to win. But I have two others who are injured and I have no more substitutions. I look forward to the break, afterwards I’ll at least be able to recover three players.”
Allegri often takes a beating because of not having a clear tactical system, but he sees that as a product of the players he has available.
“I don’t want to become boring, but to give consistency to a system of play you have to have the players available. So far Di Maria has been out since August 20 and apart from him, Cuadrado, who can play on the right wing and no longer does it as before due to characteristics and age-related issues, I had to change.
“But it’s not the system of play that is the problem, we have to limit the mistakes we make like on the first Benfica goal. It’s not the penalty itself, we had our own ball in the opponent’s area and we misjudged the ball and it went out.
“This must be avoided, we concede too many goals easily. In Paris I said it straight away, sometimes it seems only I see things and then I worry about myself. Maybe I make mistakes and I question myself most of all.”
The coach remains optimistic that he has enough quality to turn things around in this squad.
“I can say that Gleison Bremer is very strong. I expected a lot from Arek Milik and a lot is coming. Do you know why? Because Milik plays good football anyway, he always misses the least.
“Adrien Rabiot knows how to move, I miss him a lot today. A lot of people discuss him, but Rabiot does 13-14 good things per game and he always weighs in on the pitch. Let’s go back to the point of before, Rabiot has technique and physique.”
How does he see things shaping up in the coming months?
“We have to win in Lisbon, beat Haifa twice and see if that’s enough.
“In the league, Inter are the strongest, even if they lack Perisic. They’ve strengthened a lot in midfield with Mkhitaryan and Asllani, who is good. Milan has two exceptional and very modern players, Theo Hernandez and Leao. It comes back to the importance of physicality. There is no one else in the world who jumps the man with the power and lightness of Leao.
“When we are all there, we’re also very strong. But we will talk about it again, hopefully soon.”
More from him on injuries and the spotlight on Juve.
“I did an injury report: compared to last year we have had 11 muscle injuries, last year 10. We played eight more games and we had McKennie, Pogba, Chiesa and other players who played more. We are always in question, we certainly made mistakes. I am the first and I make more mistakes than the others. In these moments you need a lot of focus.
“If we had won against Benfica what would have been said? I’d have said that there were some things to improve. At this moment any explanations are useless. We lack results, in the Champions League we are behind, we lost to Benfica. In the league we are four points behind.
“We cannot see everything as negative, we have to try to finish well tomorrow and then after the break we will recover some players. We must try to go to Lisbon to play a final. What is negative now can be positive in 20 days.
“Last year we had problems with the flexors, this year with the adductors. We try to give ourselves an explanation for the injuries, but about the fact that the staff works well, there is no doubt.”
The coach is not worried that he appears to be the fall guy for Juventus’ troubles this season, or the last for that matter.
“One thing I am sure of is that as usual these moments there are those who see them as negative and those like me who don’t, I always see an opportunity for improvement. If we win I see the area for improvement, when we lose it’s easy to see instead, they are more messy.
“We don’t talk about the problems but about the solution. There is only to do, to play. I am confident because the team is well. Also the physical condition, after the goal we conceded in the first half we got going again with a reaction.
“The second half we started well, then we didn’t make a challenge in the middle of the pitch and we conceded the goal. We have to perceive the danger a little more when we don’t have the ball. I’ve been through this before, the more we feel sorry for ourselves, the worse it is.
“If you already see things in a proactive manner I think you work better. Then the results give you more peace of mind.”