Massimiliano Allegri is not a divisive figure.
Rather, the beleaguered Juventus manager has, over the course of the last two campaigns, slowly but surely galvanized support to the point of an overwhelming majority — support, of course, for his immediate and unsanctimonious removal.
At this juncture, Mad Max makes people mad, and despite the fact that his fans number somewhere in the single digits globally among Juventini, the boss has stuck around for two consecutive campaigns and might well be around for another.
Despite the malevolence among fans, however, these are the facts of the finish: Juventus were deducted 10 points and finished seventh in the table at 62 points. The Old Lady’s defensive record was decent if not inspiring, conceding the third-fewest goals of any side in Serie A; her efforts on offense were considerably more paltry (more on that below).
In my rating of Mr. Allegri, I’m not going to consider tactics, I’m not going to consider (to the best of my ability) feelings, and I’m not going to consider the eye test. My aim is to look at the results achieved under a very specific set of circumstances.
Max Allegri: 6
The circumstances Allegri’s Juventus faced this year were unparalleled and deserve to be given the full weight they must’ve wielded on the squad. In November, the entire board resigned. In December, the World Cup transpired in Qatar. In January, Juventus were deducted 15 points. In April, the 15-point deduction was overturned. In May, before a crucial stretch of games at the end of the season, with the announcement coming literally minutes before kickoff in one, Juventus were deducted 10 points.
The mere statement of the facts in their grossest distillates suggests the power of the off-field issues but in no way describes the sisyphean nature of the ordeal. One of the more frequent criticisms I saw of the players and coach this season was that they should “focus on what they control,” i.e. their play, the field, the ball, the opponent, but to ask or demand that from a squad of human beings, and then to stomp our feet when compliance proves more difficult in reality, seems wonderfully childish to me.
Perhaps those complaining are simply more machine-like than I am; I confess I cannot focus well on my vocational work if my 18-month-old has been having a terrible week, cannot enjoy myself on a night out if my wife is going through something emotionally taxing. I imagine the practice of separating the off-field drama from the on-field performance is one thing in theory and another in practice.
Human beings are contextual beings, and as much as we look to athletes to be able to focus excruciatingly intensely on the present moment — the Zen Buddhist proverb comes to mind: “chop wood, carry water” — they are still, after all, and thankfully, people.
So, the Juventus players and coaching staff faced a prolonged, protracted cacophony of difficulties completely out of their control, and they were affected by it. I think they did what they could, did what decent people do: try their best.
The other elephant in the room is the combined fact of existing financial realities and the roster composition. When you consider those two things in the same breath, you try to find a bargain like Leandro Paredes to solve the midfield issues, and of course it doesn’t work; you try to gamble on Paul Pogba, and he plays all of 161 minutes with a salary like an albatross. As exciting as the play of Fabio Miretti and Nicolò Fagioli has been this season, the mere fact that the club is relying on their performances is an acknowledgement of how the club is forced to address current roster issues, and how effective that has been.
The players in the midfield are not good enough; this remains the biggest hole in the roster. There are plenty of issues elsewhere, but this is the most salient and most pressing one, and it’s something Allegri has dealt with the best that he can. Next season the budget is probably going to stipulate that the team gambles on Nicolò Rovella; we have no idea whether he’s ready and whether that’s going to work out, but right now it’s the feasible way forward.
The last thing I would commend Allegri for is his ability not to completely lose the locker room. I’m not one who believes every report that the tabloids issue saying Player X or Y is unhappy, but I also doubt that every player, perhaps any player, is thrilled with either the general state of things or Allegri in particular. Even so, there were no open mutinies year at Juventus, something not true across Europe, and I commend Allegri for keeping his players as focused as they appeared to be under the circumstances.
The glaring, obvious fault in Allegri’s approach — or whatever you (or he) would call it — is an attack that is consistently anemic. I don’t fault Allegri for defaulting to a defensive, counter-attacking posture; I for one don’t consider those tactics ineffective simply because they’re out of fashion. But the attack is putrid right now, so simultaneously ineffective in terms of numbers and repulsive to the eyes, that you’ve got to come up with something other than blaming players, injuries, or fate.
When things are this bad, you’ve got to make a change, whether that’s historically been a part of your coaching philosophy or not. This is not the time to double down. The goals-for tally this year in Serie A was 56, but that number, more than 20 below Serie A winners Napoli, and one fewer than last year’s total of 57, doesn’t do justice to the painfulness of reality. Time and time again Juventus were bailed out by a player doing something individually brilliant against the run of play, or luck. Sure, Juventus hit the woodwork a number of times, but even if each one of those went in (and, news flash, they did not), those numbers are not enough goals to win the Scudetto; that’s the simple fact of the matter. It’s not near enough goals. The attack needs to get better, sharply and soon.
When I consider everything this season, that’s what I come up with: 6/10. I think Allegri did a decent but not stellar job considering all the factors; I certainly think he did a better job than most Juventini give him credit for.
My rating comes with a big, gnarly caveat: if there’s a world where Juventus can find a new coach, that’s the world I think the Old Lady should step into. Not because I think it’s a sure bet the club would do better without Allegri (things could get worse, with or without him), but because right now there is a pall of negativity that surrounds Allegri, and for a club in the trenches of a rebuild that negativity does no service to anyone.
I do not know what the road ahead looks like, nor whether Allegri will be on that road. The road might be much more difficult; one certainly feels the gap between a club like Real Madrid, who just announced Jude Bellingham and might well be after Kylian Mbappe this summer, and Juventus is growing wider and wider; it feels uncrossable. If so, so be it. I cut my teeth in Turin as a young man, I cut my teeth in these black and white stripes. To abandon now as a fan is the antithesis of what the Juventino says in his heart: fino alla fine.