The thing about this time in the football calendar is that as much as there are still things to take care of on the field for the current season, there is very much a behind-the-scenes view for what’s to come in the summer and the next season to come.
That is always why when there is smoke involving things that has to do with to current team, you wonder how much of that potential fire will impact what’s to come down the road.
For Juventus, that smoke is very much revolving — smoldering? — around what the club is going to end up doing with Max Allegri, the highest-paid manager in Serie A who has seen his second stint in Turin come nowhere close to living up to his first go-round at the Allianz Stadium. For nearly two seasons now we’ve seen Allegri play arguably the most conservative brand of football in the league — which, as Serie A evolves and much more progressive and aggressive tactical setups become the norm, is all the more puzzling with the players he has on his roster both this season and last.
There also reportedly is more smoke building over these last few weeks, and that is very much why we are talking about this today. As the last two weeks have gone on, we’ve heard reports that three of Juventus’ biggest names in attack — Dusan Vlahovic, Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa — have all grown more than just a little frustrated with the way that Allegri has both set up his team tactically and, for the latter two, done so much tinkering that they aren’t consistently playing in the positions that suits them best.
If this smoke very much is the case and there’s a fire or two about to follow, then Juventus needs to suck up their pride and do what is best for the future of this club and go in a different direction without Allegri. Because if you’re even risking the loss three of your biggest names on your roster and two players who have very much been billed to us all as cornerstone players who cost a lot of money to bring to Turin in the last couple of years, then I feel safe in saying there’s more to follow.
That leaves the new Juventus front office with just one option ... and it’s not doubling and tripling down on Allegri because he is the one who’s currently on the payroll.
You don’t have to be a club historian to understand that no player is bigger than the club and that Juventus, first and foremost, is what matters most in any equation. We said it even when big-name players wanted to leave during the decade of dominance under Antonio Conte and Allegri, and it still is very much the case no matter how you try and spin it. But, at the same time, that should also be applied to the manager no matter how much money he makes.
Allegri has done probably just as well as anybody could have done when it comes to keep this team focused on on-field matters in the days and weeks following the FIGC’s 15-point penalty coming down in January. For as much as the month of April was just a laborious chore for Juve, the month of February was one in which they didn’t even suffer a loss. The overall product on the field outside of a couple of instances wasn’t great, but they were still getting the job done.
The vibes were good coming out of February and even more of the case when Juve went into the first international break of 2023 with a quality win over Inter at the San Siro in mid-March was pretty good.
Those vibes don’t seem to be as great six weeks later.
In the hours following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Bologna, a report surfaced that Chiesa has felt disconnected from the club — and the reason for it tracks back directly to Allegri. This comes after reports out of Italy stated that Vlahovic is growing frustrated with Allegri’s style of play and Di Maria has also had issues with some of his manager’s choices, namely the fact that he wasn’t to be included in the starting lineup in Bologna and has, like Chiesa, been played all over the place in attack. “(He’s) regularly played out of position, now uncertain about future,” the report about Chiesa read. It came just a few hours after new Juventus Chief Football Officer Francesco Calvo declared that the club is behind Allegri, saying that he’s still got two years left on his contract and is in the middle of the project he was brought back to lead.
But what is that project? We’re two years into Allegri 2.0 and, personally, I don’t know where this team is headed or what direction Allegri wants to take it other than one that sits in a deep defensive shell and tries to rely on a defense that isn’t as good as his first stint as Juventus manager for the vast majority of every game.
If the reports are true, there are some Juventus players wondering the same thing.
It is not exactly a big surprise that there are players — especially those in attacking positions — frustrated with Allegri’s preferred style of play. That frustration will only continue to grow if Juve’s current streak of one win in their last eight games in all competitions rolls on into the beginning of May.
Chiesa, after 10 months of grinding through rehab because of his major knee injury, has yet to truly kick things into gear on a consistent basis. In recent weeks, he’s also been played in the following position: right winger, left winger, seconda punta, false 9 and even as a wingback. That’s ... not consistent. And while the outlier is basically the shorthanded lineup choices Allegri had against Inter last week, few times have we seen Chiesa in a 4-3-3 and had the chance to cook like he has the potential to and has shown in flashes at times since making his comeback earlier this season.
I’d be frustrated if I were him, too. You can totally understand why Chiesa is frustrated. You can certainly understand why Vlahovic is frustrated. You can understand why Di Maria is frustrated. You can understand why anybody else would be frustrated. It’s been like this for the better part of two years and things just aren’t improving.
Juventus is not a perfect squad even with the best of managers filling out the starting lineup each matchday. But with their shortcomings very much there for everybody to see, their manager’s stubbornness to not play to the perceived strengths and change from an ultra-defensive mindset is showing its cracks.
And the fact that the talk of players becoming more and more frustrated because of it isn’t helping.
This is where we loop back to what the last two years have been like.
This past weekend was Allegri’s 100th game at the helm during his second stint with Juventus. He did not win a trophy last season. And if Juve fail to win in Europe this season — remember, they face Europa League specialists Sevilla in the semifinals later this month — then that will make a second straight trophy-less campaign.
Considering that 100 is a nice round number (as well as a pretty good sample size for how a manager has done over the course of two seasons, let’s just go ahead and see how Allegri has done during that span, shall we?
- 54 wins (54% win percentage)
- 20 draws
- 26 defeats
- 150 goals scored
- 100 goals conceded
I get that the roster is not where it was at in terms of quality the last time Allegri was Juventus manager. I get that there are issues deeper than that and that they are ones that have gone on for years now and not addressed in the transfer market. (Seriously, can some new fullbacks arrive, please? Is that so hard to ask?) But for the highest-paid manager in Serie A to oversee a team that has scored, on average, 1.5 goals a game and has not lacked for quality attacking talent, then there’s something wrong.
Juventus have struggled to score goals all season long. Juve struggled to score goals last season. Their goals per season are down a significant amount since scoring 76 and 77 under Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Prilo, respectively.
But the biggest thing has to be the results on the field. And the way that Juventus plays has a major role in how those results have come about. You simply can’t just grind out 1-0 wins every single time you take the field — yes, no matter how much Allegri would want it that way.
And just to reiterate something from Hunter’s column on Allegri last week:
Here, though, is the reality: through 31 Serie A games, Juventus have lost eight. Under Andrea Pirlo, the Old Lady lost six. Under Maurizio Sarri, she lost seven. Juventus have lost two times to Monza, a side with a payroll about 25% the size of Juve’s.
Like we’ve said all season long, Allegri’s playing style is a little easier to deal with when Juventus is winning on a consistent basis. But when it’s been like the last couple of years and finishing in the top four is the only thing you can really hang your hat on, that’s just not good enough.
Speculation over Allegri’s future will easily be one of the dominant talking points from now until the end of the season and into the summer months. As of now, he’s taken to questions about his future in the way you would expect him to — essentially kicking the tire down the road and saying that it is something he will discuss with the new-look front office after the season.
That is all fine and good (and understandable). Juventus aren’t a club to sack a manager in-season, let alone with just a handful of games to go in a season, so expecting Allegri to go now is probably way too much to expect from a new board of directors that has only been around for a few months.
But the more Juve hunker down in their stance that Allegri is their guy going forward into next season, the more there’s going to be the risk of their best players just throwing up their hands and saying that they’ve had enough. Their frustration is warranted, and the fact that it’s come to this point should be a reckoning of sorts for a club that is really struggling to maintain positive momentum on and off the field.
Juventus’ reputation has already taken another hit because of all the off-field investigations over the last year and a half. The last thing that needs to happen is to continue an on-field product that is something that has Juve’s best players questioning if they want to stay.