Juventus' tumultuous win over Fiorentina did little but confirm the Old Lady's reputation as a ruthless killing machine. Cancelling out Nikola Kalinic's equaliser within a matter of seconds brought out the usual “same old Juve” refrains. Fifth Scudetto, here we come!
Is this impression misleading? How is it that manager Max Allegri can be overlooked after plundering 73 out of a possible 75 points, and why are his predecessor and his players arguably earning more credit than he is?
To tell the truth, many of us have never relinquished that final bit of suspicion about old Max. Was it because his Milan side gradually got worse, or was it the negative football, bent more on breaking up play and hitting the opponent on the counter? The Old Lady's catastrophic start to the current season – three wins in ten– didn't help. Even when Juventus recovered, onlookers saw fit to credit the team, seeing as some of its senators reportedly let their manager know that they desired a return to 3-5-2.
The trouble is, however, that we all tend to use a narrative framework, when real life is far more complicated. In this case, the innovator earns the lion's share of the praise (Bill Shankley, Rinus Michels), whilst the successor (Bob Paisley, Stefan Kovacs) is applauded, but always saddled with some suspicion.
Or is he? Remember Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello? This is not to say that Conte or Allegri are at their level, but they may join them yet. Successors can, and have, made someone else's creation their own. And Allegri is certainly doing that.
What if the meeting with the players after the Sassuolo defeat were interpreted as a positive, as Allegri's ability to listen to criticism and make changes? Even then, the Tuscan coach has returned to four at the back since, and used the 4-3-1-2 to great effect in last year's magical Champions League run.
Speaking of the players, the “Conte's guys” excuse has worn thin. Arturo Vidal, Carlos Tevez and Andrea Pirlo are gone. Only the latter is arguably missed, and we always knew it wouldn't last forever. Even then, neither Vidal nor Pirlo looked that inspired in their last season.
Allegri's response? To galvanize Paul Pogba into taking over and filling the vacuum. Far more consistent this year, the Frenchman has provided either a goal or an assist in each of Juventus' last seven Serie A games. He's totally ditched the Clark Kent persona – though the glasses remain – and become a full-time Superman.
On the subject of Europe's Elite, remember when Conte's Juventus never looked like competing with Bayern Munich? When it was his turn to go two-nil down to the Bavarians, Allegri orchestrated a near-perfect return leg, nearly pulling off a stunning coup.
This is not to say that Allegri is mister perfect: he was lucky to beat Napoli at home recently (though he got the sub right with Simone Zaza, as he did last night with Alvaro Morata), and his first Bianconeri survived their CL group by the skin of their teeth.
But who is perfect, exactly? It is high time we cease to assume the worst about Max: maybe Milan were bad because the club was horribly run, and maybe Filippo Inzaghi was to blame for that scuffle.
Maybe Allegri isn't a horrible mistake away from turning into a terrible coach again. Maybe he's the man whose team has revved into gear as the season wore on, instead of petering out like Napoli, Inter and Fiorentina. This despite Juventus racking up over 50 injuries, as his sides always do.
Maybe Allegri is the right man to take the Bianconeri forwards, too. It is a huge credit that he has gradually integrated the likes of Paulo Dybala (22), Alex Sandro (25) and Daniele Rugani (21), with the team hardly breaking stride. Forget the past, Juventus fans: Allegri is taking care of the present... and the future.
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