Max Allegri is his own man – you have to give him that. And yet, he may be paying the price. After Monday night’s impressive scoreless draw with Sampdoria, the Juventus coach went straight to the point in his somewhat counterintuitive way.
“We started better than last season. [when they had one point from the opening two games, as opposed to this season’s four] and we kept two clean sheets [true, though the opposition xG over those two matches was 1.98]“, he said, as if addressing only the brigade of the results.
So far, so Max. Where he went off script was when he was asked about the club’s many absentees (Paul Pogba, Angel Di Maria, Federico Chiesa and Leo Bonucci are all injured, among others) and whether some of the youngsters gifted Juve (Fabio Miretti, 19, Nicolo Rovella, 20 or Moise Kean, 22) could take over.
Visibly annoyed, he pointed out the mistakes made by Miretti and Kean in Monday’s game, possibly due to their inexperience, then explained how football has ‘levels’ and footballers all belong to different ‘levels’ as if they were membership levels. your loyalty program. Translated from ‘Allegri-speak’, the conclusion was that Pogba, Di Maria, Chiesa, Bonucci and others are the best players while those other guys aren’t… at least for now. And as Captain Obvious reminds us, it’s easier to win with your platinum-level guys than with your bronze-level guys.
This is not the first time that Allegri has said things along these lines. He said tactics don’t mean much because players win games and a coach’s main job is just to get the right guys in the right positions and let them do their thing. He also made a famous NBA analogy of how when you’re aiming for a win late in games, football works no different than basketball: give the ball to your best player and walk away.
It’s sometimes hard to tell how much he believes these things and how much he plays a character. If it’s the latter, you feel like it’s doing him a disservice.
After leaving Juventus in 2019 he spent two years on the market hoping to land a job at a big club outside of Italy because after winning with Milan and Juve the only path was through outside of Serie A. Yet despite talks with virtually every big club that changed managers between 2019 and 2021, he stayed put, which is quite surprising when you consider he’s a guy who won six Serie A titles and reached the Champions League final twice.
I suspect it has to do with him not quite fitting the mold of what the big clubs want or, at least, what they think they want. He’s not Mr. Intensity or a super motivator like, say, a Jose Mourinho or an Antonio Conte. He doesn’t present himself as some sort of tactical savant, like Pep Guardiola or Julian Nagelsmann. The closest lineup you get, perhaps, is Carlo Ancelotti, the pragmatic man-manager type, except Allegri isn’t a jolly polyglot and hasn’t won four Champions League titles. . It’s also hard to imagine Ancelotti talking after the game the way Allegri often does, sorting his players into tiers – I bet Miretti and Kean felt good about that – or doing everything for the guys who weren’t. available.
Allegri’s personality will not change at this stage of his life. Nor should it, necessarily; he can cite his track record as proof that he has not stood in the way of success. And besides, there are those who like its folkloric, unpretentious side, “don’t complicate the game too much” and “beware of coaches who use words like football philosophy” schtick. But this is a season where he really has to deliver.
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Juventus finished fourth last year in their debut season. They’ve had four big starts this summer – Alvaro Morata, Matthijs De Ligt, Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini – but they’ve added big free agents like Di Maria and Pogba, as well as Filip Kostic and Gleison Bremer, and they’ll likely add a another attacker before the window closed (possibly Memphis Depay or, more likely, Arkadiusz Milik from Marseille). It was a “budget” transfer campaign partly because of the heavy losses of previous years (most, not all, pandemic-related), and partly because they made their comeback in January, when they added Denis Zakaria and Dusan Vlahovic.
On paper, pound for pound, they are perhaps a cut behind Milan clubs in terms of overall talent. But taking into account the buzz and excitement surrounding Napoli and Roma, a top-four finish and a decent performance in the Champions League – the minimum requirements in terms of results, since that’s how ‘Allegri likes to be judged – not to be taken. for granted. And injuries to Pogba and Chiesa don’t help much.
If another type of coach was not up to snuff, he could point to other factors to keep his job: performance, tactical growth, youngsters getting better and better. With Allegri, however, that’s hard to do. After all, when you argue that tactical vision and philosophy are just pretentious layers, and imply that superstars are born and not made, or that young people have to rise through the ranks before they can be trusted, the only thing that will save you is results.