Massimiliano Allegri arrived in Turin knowing he had to win over the fans and as Luca Cetta states, his changes are doing just that.
Massimiliano Allegri says it came “out of the blue”. In his inaugural Juventus Press conference he acknowledged having to work hard to win over the sceptical fans still reeling from the shock departure of Antonio Conte. “My aim is to conquer them with results, with hard work, respect and professionalism.”
Sacked by Milan in January, Allegri had expected to start the new season as a bystander. Yet on just the second day of pre-season training Conte ended a successful three year stint with the Bianconeri. President Andrea Agnelli and director general Giuseppe Marotta acted quickly – “As it often happens, with one winning chapter ending, another must begin,” the latter said at the Press conference.
Last month Marotta recalled when he, Agnelli and Allegri first drove into the Vinovo training ground, their car was kicked and spat at. Taking over from a beloved figure would be no easy task. Battling on four fronts – Serie A, Champions League, Coppa Italia and the Super Cup – Allegri’s team approach Christmas as 5/11 favourites with www.freebets.co.uk to win their fourth consecutive Scudetto. Juve will end 2014 in first place, although Roma are proving capable championship contenders.
Aside from a shaky October which consisted of three defeats in six matches, they have been as commanding as at Conte’s best. But there have been changes to the style.
Allegri did not want to arrive and rip up Conte’s successful manuscript. Rather, there would be tweaks. “It is not my intention to revolutionise Juventus’ formation and playing system – which works.” Having dabbled with a four-man defence during pre-season, he retained Conte’s 3-5-2, partly out of necessity due to injury.
And with Andrea Pirlo sidelined the emphasis turned to short passing and maintaining possession, as Leonardo Bonucci alluded to after the win over Milan: “The ideas of the Coach took us to the top of the league, which is why I limit myself to passing to [Claudio] Marchisio instead of looking for the long ball.”
Off the ball work would not be as taxing, the pressing not as intense. “This Juve is less ferocious than previous years,” Marcello Lippi believes. “They’re playing a somewhat different style of football, with more possession of the ball and a slower approach to directing movement and passes forward.” What hasn’t changed is their determination and hunger to succeed.
“Allegri is a smart Coach,” former teammate and Brazil boss Dunga stated before the season started, “I am convinced that he will blend his winning mentality with the excellent base built by Conte.” At Milan Allegri not only won a Scudetto, but was not afraid to alter and given the constant upheaval at Milanello he was forced on multiple occasions to find new solutions.
When Juve began to perform sluggishly he switched to the back four. “This change in tactical approach represents an intelligent evolution and it is true that Juventus is becoming stronger thanks to this new style of game that he has adopted,” Pavel Nedved believes. It was a gradual change that allowed the players to work under a known framework and then adjust when needed. Results against Parma and Olympiacos indicated a reinvigorated team. “What has changed with Allegri?” Tevez was asked, “Everything: tactics, management… really everything.” The Argentine has benefitted from Allegri’s alterations, given free rein behind the main striker. He has netted 10 times in Serie A.
And where Conte failed in guiding Juve out of their Champions League group last term, Allegri – who qualified for the knockout phase four times out of four with the Rossoneri – has led the team to February’s meeting with Borussia Dortmund. Juve still showed some of the weaknesses which plagued recent European campaigns, but have also matured into a side which can obtain results. “Tactically, now they are chameleonic because they are versatile and they have showed this – that’s why I can fairly state that they are more European than before and that’s a decisive quality,” Giovanni Trapattoni argues.
Gianluca Vialli says this Juventus is more unpredictable than in the past and believes Allegri has acted with ‘great intelligence’. “He has not missed a beat both tactically and psychologically.”
The Livorno native has not been afraid to introduce younger players, which Paul Pogba and Luca Marrone aside, was not a feature of Conte’s reign. Kingsley Coman and Federico Mattiello have been afforded opportunities, while Roberto Pereyra has challenged the well-established midfield quartet for a regular starting spot.
Allegri can be content with his first six months in charge of Juventus. He arrived in difficult circumstances but has smartly worked to continue with some of Conte’s fundamentals, while rubber stamping his own personality on this team. The Old Lady will hope the foundations of 2014 will lead to an even better 2015.