Coppa Italia: Winners / Team rating: 10 / Top scorer: Tevez (20)
Europe: Champions League Final
Antonio Conte’s shock resignation threatened to unseat Juventus from Italian football’s top position. However as Luca Cetta writes, Massimiliano Allegri offered a new lease on life.
The two reactions could not have been more contrasting. As Juventus returned from Genoa celebrating a fourth successive Scudetto, Massimiliano Allegri joined the festivities. Cries of ‘Take us to Berlin’ filled the late-night air, this coming days before Juve’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Rewind to last summer. Antonio Conte had announced his shock resignation on Tuesday July 15. Twenty-four hours later Allegri was appointed. His arrival at Vinovo was anything but celebratory. “The first day with Allegri and the President [Andrea Agnelli] in the car,” director general Giuseppe Marotta remembers, “we were greeted at the training ground by spitting, eggs and kicks.”
The tactician knew he would have to win over sceptical fans. He accepted that. His goal was to “conquer them with results, with hard work, respect and professionalism.” After the initial shock the Livorno native was welcomed into the fold.
He would also have to bring a stunned playing group to his side. Leonardo Bonucci said season preparations started ‘amid chaos’, but the squad “immediately got our heads in the right space and worked hard from the first day to help Allegri.”
Understandably there was an air of uncertainty surrounding the Bianconeri. When closing the previous season with a home win over Cagliari, they created history. Not only did Juve win every home game, they cracked the fabled 100-point barrier. This was Juve – and Conte’s – third successive Scudetto, finishing 17 points clear of Roma. It was a team, and club, which appeared to be growing ever stronger.
That’s what made Conte’s decision, a day after pre-season training commenced, all the more surprising. His feeling was he had taken the team as far as it could go. Allegri refuted that suggestion. And he would be proven right. Not only did Juventus retain the Scudetto, they also claimed a first Coppa Italia in two decades. And in Europe it shook off previous disappointments to reach the Berlin decider against Barcelona.
The new boss was joined by five fresh faces. Chief among those was veteran Patrice Evra. Also arriving was Alvaro Morata, a Champions League winner with Real Madrid. This was in addition to Roberto Pereyra, Kingsley Coman and Romulo. An already strong squad was further complemented.
Yet it was the old guard who led from the front. Namely Carlos Tevez. The Argentinean’s goals propelled Juventus towards another crown. He bettered his 19-goal debut season by one, but was pipped to the Capocannoniere title by Luca Toni and Mauro Icardi.
Tevez explained during the season the differences between Allegri and Conte which led to an even more lethal Apache: “With Allegri, I have more freedom of movement than under Conte. Under the previous Coach, we played with two strikers, in fixed positions and close together.” Aside from scoring, Tevez not only created opportunities, he was also the first line of defence.
In the absence of the injured Andrea Pirlo to start the season, Claudio Marchisio was asked to fulfil his duties. The No 8 responded in the best possible fashion. Such were his performances that Pirlo’s stint on the sidelines was not as keenly felt. Whether in the centre of the midfield trio or alongside, Marchisio was consistent throughout, always tidy in possession and a tireless worker. And only one outfield player featured more in Serie A.
That was Leonardo Bonucci, playing 3015 minutes. In a defence devoid of Andrea Barzagli until March and its other main components at one point or another, Bonucci was its constant. He proved the glue which held the defence together, also dispelling any doubts about his suitability in a four-man unit.
And with Gianluigi Buffon in top form as the last line of defence, Juventus was tough to breach. The captain conceded just 18 goals in 31 appearances on the way to another triumph. His leadership and catalogue of saves crucial.
Moulding the various components of the squad was Allegri. His initial inclination was not to stray from what brought Juventus to the dance. The Livorno native stuck to the same basic framework as his predecessor: “It is not my intention to revolutionise Juventus’ formation and playing system – which works.” He initially used the 3-5-2 system, but as players noted it was less frenzied. It was patient and valued possession.
After the chaos of mid-July, Juventus commenced the season away at Chievo. It ended with a victory and clean sheet, a scenario to be repeated for four additional matches. That led to the eagerly anticipated showdown with Roma at Juventus Stadium. Could the Giallorossi knock the Turin giants off their perch this season? This clash would go some way to determining. It ended in a Juve win, but was shrouded in controversy.
Initially utilised in pre-season, Allegri slowly integrated the four-man defence and it was the system of choice by November after stuttering results. Juventus recovered to record memorable wins over Lazio and Torino, only for an end-of-year downer in the Italian Super Cup as the Bianconeri lost on penalties against Napoli.
But they would exact revenge. “I’d say the most important result was against Napoli, because we’d lost to them in the Italian Super Cup and were held by Inter. It was a victory of character,” Allegri claimed at season’s end. January’s 3-1 triumph was Juve’s first in Naples since 2000. And when they claimed a draw at the Stadio Olimpico in March, Roma remained nine points adrift. The Scudetto was almost sealed.
A win over Lazio, who had charged into second, was ‘the final step’ according to Giorgio Chiellini. Juventus may have surrendered Turin dominance in the Derby della Mole, but a win at Sampdoria sealed the Scudetto with four games to spare. All the while advancing to the Champions League Final.
Further success in the Coppa Italia – downing Lazio in the Final – confirmed a magnificent campaign. There were to be no negative after-effects of Conte’s decision. An event thought to be a step towards ending the dominance, yet Allegri gave Juventus another reason to cheer.
His arrival did not hamper Juventus. If anything, Massimiliano Allegri breathed new life into this Bianconeri side. The appointment was met with disapproval from discontenting voices, but the fans would come around. The players believed in Allegri. In the end the tactician added to his Scudetto won with Milan in 2011.
Last season he seamlessly integrated into the Juventus fabric and that of Serie A. This term Carlos Tevez continued to weave his magic. His solo effort against Parma was sublime, but just one of a variety of goals. With 20 strikes, Apache improved on what was an impressive debut campaign.
- Juventus claimed the domestic double for just the third time in its history, following 1959-60 and 1994-95.
- The Bianconeri went unbeaten at home in Serie A for a second consecutive season, sharing the points just three times.
- Andrea Pirlo has won five championships in a row - one with Milan and four with Juventus.
|15||D||Andrea Barzagli||9 (1)||-||-|
|19||D||Leonardo Bonucci||33 (1)||3||-|
|3||D||Giorgio Chiellini||27 (1)||-||1|
|17||D||Paolo De Ceglie||1 (1)||-||-|
|26||D||Stephan Lichtsteiner||26 (6)||3||5|
|5||D||Angelo Ogbonna||18 (7)||-||-|
|8||M||Claudio Marchisio||33 (2)||3||6|
|38||M||Federico Mattiello||0 (2)||-||-|
|20||M||Simone Padoin||15 (11)||-||4|
|7||M||Simone Pepe||1 (11)||1||1|
|37||M||Roberto Pereyra||27 (8)||4||3|
|21||M||Andrea Pirlo||19 (1)||4||5|
|6||M||Paul Pogba||24 (2)||8||3|
|27||M||Stefano Sturaro||8 (4)||1||-|
|23||M||Arturo Vidal||23 (5)||7||4|
|24||M||Mattia Vitale||0 (2)||-||-|
|11||A||Kingsley Coman||5 (9)||-||2|
|12||A||Sebastian Giovinco||2 (5)||-||-|
|14||A||Fernando Llorente||25 (6)||7||1|
|32||A||Alessandro Matri||4 (1)||-||-|
|9||A||Alvaro Morata||11 (18)||8||5|
|10||A||Carlos Tevez||29 (3)||20||7|