Massimiliano Allegri will be unveiled as the new Juventus coach today and Kaustubh Pandey takes a look at what we must expect from the Tuscan’s second spell in Turin.
For the third time in three years, Juventus are heading into a new season with a new coach. Massimiliano Allegri has returned to the club, signing a four-year deal in Turin, coming back in town after Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo’s reigns.
It’s become a regular sight for Juventus fans, who’ve seen their club appoint managers with a long-term approach, only for the Bianconeri to sack them in the short-term. The season has started well, as the Old Lady picked up a 3-1 win over Cesena in a friendly encounter this past weekend, but that was just little anticipation of what we can expect from the Bianconeri in 2021-22.
In some ways, Juventus have prolonged their transition and now find themselves in the middle of it under a coach who had seen it come in 2019. Before he left the Old Lady in 2019, Allegri had been vocal about the squad needing big chances and two years on, he now finds himself managing them.
If anything, Allegri is the ideal man to guide the Bianconeri through the impending transition, which requires a pragmatists coach who can make the most of what they have in the squad, avoiding tactical complexities. Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo were, perhaps, the opposite.
Allegri and transitions aren’t strangers. At Milan, the Tuscan tactician had to oversee the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva era who had joined PSG. Club legends Clarence Seedorf, Pippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta and Rino Gattuso, had retired, making his task even harder. A new spine was coming through and Allegri had the whole burden on his shoulders to tide through these changes. The club had lost massive characters, influential players who proved to be irreplaceable.
Despite criticism, he helped the Rossoneri finish third in the 2012-13 campaign. The season had started off poorly, but from the turn of the year until the end of the campaign, Milan lost just once in the league. Following Allegri’s exit, Milan fell off a cliff and never qualified for the Champions League until this past season.
There can still be criticisms about some elements of how Allegri managed that period, but the transition at Juve isn’t of the same nature. It’s a club that has lost Fabio Paratici to Tottenham, with Federico Cherubini coming in to impose a new vision at the club. Juve are stepping away from their supposed long-term approach that they tried and failed under Sarri and Pirlo. There are big decisions to be made, including whether or not to keep Cristiano Ronaldo.
Pirlo did a decent job at somehow creating a new spine for the team. American Weston McKennie and Federico Chiesa did well under Pirlo and are expected to improve under Allegri. Dejan Kulusevski wasn’t impressive, but he has the characteristics to become a key member under Max. The full-back areas need engineering and Matthijs de Ligt needs to hit new levels but will have one more season to learn from Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini who is expected to sign a new deal with The Bianconeri upon his return from holidays. Defensive solidity will be key to become title contenders again, while Paulo Dybala’s career needs to be resurrected after an injury-hit 2020-21 campaign.
During Allegri’s previous Juventus spell, tactical versatility became a regular sight in Turin. His side showed the nous to change shapes based on the demands of the situation. They could use a 3-5-2 but being able to switch to a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. Back in 2017, when Mario Mandzukic seemed like a fish out of the water as Gonzalo Higuain occupied the striker role, Allegri’s pragmatism made sure that the Croatian played out wide regularly, helping Juventus reach the second Champions League Final of his first tenure at the Allianz Stadium.
It was a hallmark of Allegri’s ability to curate systems on the basis of the strengths of his best players. It is the exact opposite of someone like Sarri, who wants players suitable for his complex system. Allegri’s ways have worked out well in the past with the Bianconeri and they need more of the same now. It does seem as if Juve realised the value of the Tuscan’s approach only once he had left.
Winning the Champions League on his return may be a bridge too far, but based on what he has already, Allegri will curate a variety of systems and his project will only grow with time. If anything, Juventus need to return to be competitive in Serie A and not struggle as much as they did last season to finish top four. They now have the best-paid coach in Serie A and the only one who has seemed able to adapt to the management’s lack of vision over the last few seasons, bringing titles rather than further problems.