I`m glad Max is back. No official statement has been released, but who needs it, when we have the tweets from Romeo Agresti and Fabrizio Romano? Firstly, I think he is the best fit for our current situation and secondly, well, he’s been my favourite coach for a while now.
Ever since it became obvious that Pirlo`s tenure was a failure, Allegri`s shadow became omnipresent. All of a sudden he was refusing more and more offers, then he gave lengthy interviews talking about specific Juve players (Bentancur`s position, for example), then he went to watch the Derby della Mole with President Agnelli (how symbolic is that?), tiny details that indicated that something was going on and that Allegri would be at some point re-knighted as our coach. I`m glad it happened, though a part of me knows that it’s still a reboiled soup and reboiled soups don’t taste the same, do they? And Zidane`s second adventure with Los Merengues is the latest example. Shortly, people will expect a dozen of trophies, including the long awaited big-eared one and if at some point we`ll get sluggish (which we probably will), defending a 1-0 lead away at newly promoted Salernitana, eyebrows will be raised and talks about Guardiola, Poch, Zidane will resume.
Anyway, the reason for writing this piece is not making predictions about Allegri`s second spell. The reason is the misconceptions about Allegri that I have come across. People regard him as an average, ok-ish coach, that brings no spark to the team, that is unable to win big. No guys, Max Allegri is one of the best coaches around. He’s smart as hell, he is a great strategist, he is a great tactician, he is great at team handling and he can always turn a game around. Or a season.
Allegri`s season and game philosophy
The first thing to know about Max is that he believes that a team should reach its peak form in the final third of the season, from march to may. Until then, the team must preserve energy, rotate the squad, while gathering points. He said numerous times that the team can’t and shouldn’t alway run at 100 miles per hour. So, yes, do expect boring wins, draws or even losses.
The same applies to his game plan. He doesn’t want his team to bomb forward for 90 minutes. He wants the team to read the moments of the game, to know when to attack and to know when to defend.
It may seem a too conservative approach, but you can hardly win Serie A otherwise. Winning matches in Serie A is just tougher and requires a huge amount of energy, both physically and mentally. It’s a tactical and physical league, where players don’t usually stroll unmarked around the pitch or run freely towards the opposing goal. No, it’s a continuous hustle with bodies packed in and around the box. In Italy, to this day, not to lose is more important than to win. That’s just the way it is for now. Maybe it will change, maybe it will not, but if you plan to win the Serie A you must be aware of the difficulties.
And Allegri is fully aware and that’s his way of dealing with it. It’s his philosophy. Take it or leave it. Gasperini and Sarri may look to play fancy football, hoping to reach silverware in May (which they usually don’t), while Allegri thinks differently: he plans to win at the end of the season and tries to uses his resources wisely, knowing that he must fight for all the trophies available, playing about 50 games a season.
After Cardiff, many of our players, including Chiellini and Buffon complained about fatigue. They said that at half time they were simply with no gas left in the tank. Buffon, the man who lost 3 CL finals, said that unfortunately, these finals come too late for us. And that’s a thing that should be considered by the italian football authorities and there is the idea of reducing the number of Serie A Teams from 20 to 18. Four games less a season could prove decisive when playing a CL final, but that’s another story.
Allegri`s tactical approach
Allegri is not keen on a particular formation. He was always bemused by journalists asking him about 352, 433, 4231. To him, they don`t matter that much. He can play all of them with the same ease, even in the same match. To him, it’s all about player characteristics. A 433 with fast and attacking minded midfielders is different to a 433 with slow and technical ungifted midfielders.
On this matter, Allegri has a very versatile approach. Unlike our recent friend, Pirlo, who was keen on defending with 4 defenders, while attacking with 3 defenders and having wingbacks, even if they weren’t actually wingbacks. His goal is to find the best formation and line-up, considering the characteristics of his own and opposing players.
At the same time, he’s not afraid to innovate. He can literally turn a game, a tie, or a season around by finding some tactical gimmick. My favourite examples are:
– the 4231 formation the invented to ensure Mandzukic, Dybala, Higuain, Cuadrado were on the field, Mandzukic being played as a winger;
– the match against Tottenham, second half, when we were completely out of the match and out of the tie and suddenly Allegri subs in Asamoah and Lichtsteiner, two non-offensive minded players that completely changed the game. Tottenham literally didn’t see the ball for some good minutes, whilst we scored twice and went through;
– the match against Atletico Madrid. People remember Ronaldo’s hattrick, forgetting the stellar performances provided by Emre Can, a CM that played as a back-up CB, by Bernardeschi who was basically a trequartista and by, of course, Spinazzola, an unknown player to that day, who was brilliant drilling up and down on the left side. It was a tie won by Allegri. Without his tactical set-up I doubt CR7 would have got his hat-trick.
Max is not a bullshitter. He is elegant, yet authentic. That’s why he always had an honest, transparent relation with the press, the players and the club. He knows what’s good and bad, what can be done and what can`t and he will act and speak accordingly. Whenever he speaks, he has something to say and he won’t use big useless words to impress anyone. He has charisma and he`ll avoid drama, he likes to keep things simple just as he book says `E molto semplice`.
I don`t know how his second spell will end. I just have the feeling that he returns on his own terms and that gives me hope. He made a lot of compromises towards the end of his first spell, namely accepting the great midfield of Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Marchisio being dismantled without proper replacement and the headache of the CR7 signing.
This time, he will do things his way, guiding the mercato and bringing the club back to where it belongs. He wants to make things right, as it’s frustrating that after 5 years of huge success, he`s remembered for an unfortunate tie against Ajax. And I’m enthusiastic about his return as he gets the chance to prove who he really is: one of the great managers in the history of the club.
Good luck, Mister!