After Juventus 0-0 draw with Roma on the last game of the 2017-2018 season which resulted in them winning their seventh-straight Serie A title, Massimiliano Allegri put an end the heavy speculation linking him with both the Arsenal and Chelsea jobs and confirmed “if they don’t fire me I see myself staying next year too”. This was great news for the Bianconeri as Allegri has overseen Juventus’s rise to once again becoming one of Europe’s best teams.
He was appointed as the Head Coach of Juventus on the 16th July 2014. This was to the dismay of the ultras who on the day of his unveiling protested heavily against his appointment. This was predominantly down to the fans not wanting to lose Antonio Conte who had won three consecutive League titles, one of which the team went undefeated for the entire season and who was a club legend from his playing days.
Since then Allegri has won the doubters over in grand style and has arguably took Juventus to a new level. From a team that was dominating domestically but struggling to make an impact in the Champions league to a team that has continued to triumph domestically but has now established themselves as Champions League contenders having reached two finals and a semi final in three of the last four years. During Allegri time at Juventus they have won four consecutive Serie A titles, four consecutive Coppa Italia’s along with a Supercoppa Italia.
One of Massimiliano Allegri’s biggest attributes is his tactical intelligence, there are many managers who have come into already successful teams and attempted to change things too quickly. Initially after taking over at Juventus he capitalised upon Antonio Conte’s winning mentality and successful tactics, he continued to use the 3-5-2 formation set by the latter but having the tactical awareness to introduce his methods and philosophy and switching to a 4-3-1-2 throughout the 2014/2015 season. Allegri also changed their style of play and started focusing more on dominating possession being more flexible and adaptable with their approach, and allowing the players greater freedom to express themselves. This was the same approach as the AC Milan team he took to the Serie A title in 2011. Previously Juventus had been more direct with the ball, a lot more aggressive with their pressing style and more rigid with their shape.
During the 2017/18 season the Bianconeri showed its tactical flexibility and Massimiliano Allegri’s tactical intelligence as throughout the season they often used a very attacking 4-2-3-1 formation but switching regularly to a more balanced 4-3-3 formation when needed. The 4-2-3-1 system enabled the manager to field all his attacking players in the front four positions. The team would switch to a 4-3-3 system as the 4-2-3-1 would on occasion leave the two holding midfielders isolated which then restricted the attacking intent of the two full backs and more notably Alex Sandro. The 4-3-3 was more effective as it offered more balance. The midfield three of Khedira, Matuidi and Pjanic where more solid. Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi are used as links between the attack and the defence providing support for each phase of play. When moving forward there runs help create overloads on either wing which leaves the winger on the opposite side to the play in 1v1 position.
As you can see on the passage of play below. Sami Khedira is linking the attack, this has enabled Douglas Costa to maintain a wide position and create space between himself and Marcelo Real Madrid’s left back, this provides Khedira with the option of playing the ball to Douglas Costa’s feet leaving him 1v1 to attack Marcelo. With Lichtsteiner providing a overlapping run they are also creating the opportunity for an overload in the wide area, another problem for the oppositions defence. This is common play for Allegri’s team, they are never one dimensional when attacking the opposition, they always give the opposition multiple problems.
As you can see from the other players positions, whilst this build up is likely to proceed down the right the options are already forming on the left hand side with the players ready for the play to be switched. Higuian has dropped into the space between the defence and the midfield. Mario Mandzukic who is used predominantly as a wide target man for this type of play has made run and will attack the space left by Higuian, so if the play continues down the right they will have his presence and different options in the oppositions box. If the attack down the right fails they can switch the play as you can see in the far left Alex Sandro already looking to position himself in the space left by Mandzukic. Sandro will maintain a wide position and the player who plays as the pivot (not shown in this image) usually Pjanic will play a direct ball to the full back and stretching the oppositions defence.
Given their intent on attacking in numbers, many would assume that Juventus would follow the same intent with their attack and defend high up the pitch. However Allegri likes his teams to defend deep and compact. Their forwards apply frequent pressure but the rest of the team keep their position and shape enabling the team to keep a solid defensive structure. Again this is another reason why Massimiliano Allegri is very tactically intriguing, whether Juventus line up in 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation defensively the all eleven players will drop behind the ball into a 4-4-2 formation, or even sometimes a 4-5-1 formation.
UEFA Champions League Tottenham Hotspur vs Juventus
When Juventus played Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League second round the first leg at the Allianz Stadium (formerly the Juventus Stadium) finished 2–2. Juventus took a two goal lead within the first ten minutes, they approached the game playing a 4-3-3 formation and pressing high up the pitch,with Mario Mandzukic playing wide to enable him to drop deep and mark the full back. These tactics failed as Tottenham went on to run the game for the next 80 minutes, easing their way back into the tie with goals from Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the first goals Juventus had conceded at home since November 2018.
Due to Tottenham’s domination and away goals in the first leg Allegri decided upon a different starting line up for the second leg. He kept the same 4-3-3 formation however De Sciglio, Bernardeschi and Mandzukic were replaced by Barzagli, Matuidi and Dybala respectively. Juventus had to win or had to score two or more away goals, they knew Tottenham would come at them being the home team that’s why Barzagli who is naturally a central defender came in to replace De Sciglio at right back. Tottenham dominated the first half statistically but couldn’t penetrate the Juventus defence who defended deep and superbly and maintained their organisation. Juventus were able to maintain their usual tactical approach by playing out from the back however for this game Mauricio Pochettino’s decided they would not press the play high up the pitch, they pressed intensely as they usually do however this press only started once the Juventus defence played the ball into midfield. Douglas Costa and Dybala were dropping in to sit deep when out of possession. The second half started very much in the same manner with Tottenham in control until Allegri made two substitutions that changed the game enabling Juventus to win the tie. Asamoah and Lichsteiner were brought on to replace Matuidi and Benatia. Barzagli was moved from right back to centre back and both substitutes became the full backs.
Alex Sandro was now in midfield into Matuidi’s position. Juventus were now able to stretch the play and play out from the back. They switched the formation to a 4-2-3-1, they had extra options available as both full backs were now hugging the touch-line and as Pjanic and Khedira would now just hold a deep position, they offered support by moving into the channels and which left them in a 2v1 situation when attacking down the flanks. Pjanic and Khedira were not getting involved in the build up as much they were just sitting deep and offering a support either side. They drew Tottenham’s midfield higher up the pitch which was against Pochettino’s tactical plan. Dybala was moving freely due to the system change and would often pull wide an occupy Tottenham’s full back Ben Davies or he would move centrally and occupy one of the centre backs and with Tottenhams midfield now being pulled higher up the pitch he was finding a lot of space. Shortly afterwards Juventus scored, they attacked the space on the right hand side because of the extra man. Exactly as Allegri intended. Juventus were now in full control they were playing out from the back and pulling Tottenham’s midfield out of position and creating a lot of space.
Almost immediately Juventus scored again, Pjanic and Khedira sat deep, not getting involved in the build up but pulling Delle Ali and Dembele out of position as this happens the Juventus players open the channel for Higuaín by going to the left flank. Chiellini has taken the ball forward from defence and plays a direct ball through the midfield to Higuaín who with his back to goal has now got multiple options coming from the left hand side. Dybala is now sat unmarked behind the Tottenham midfield makes a forward run. Higuain holds up the play and then plays a through ball to Dybala who when one on one with the keeper finishes brilliantly putting Juventus in the lead and eventually winning them the tie. This passage of play is identical to the impact the tactical change had hoped for. Juventus didn’t deviate from their style of play, they maintained there approach by playing out from the back. The midfielders drew Tottenham’s midfield out of position creating space for Dybala to drop into the pocket not only between the defence and midfield but between the centre back and the right back, with the latter not been able to track him due to the player positioned on the outside of him, again a result of the tactical change Allegri implemented, with the Turin side always having a player more in the wide areas.
Massimiliano Allegri is one Europe’s most underrated managers. He is already third behind Marcello Lippi and Giovanni Trapattoni in the Bianconeri’s list of most successful managers and given Juventus dominance will surely become number one in the near future. Given his ability to switch between tactics effectively and manage big name players Juventus will remain a force for the remainder of his time with the club.
With Cristiano Ronaldo now on board a push to become Champions League winners has be the next step for all to take. Allegri has managed to integrate Ronaldo into the first team effectively without upsetting the style or balance of the team, managing to maintain both the teams and the Portuguese superstars quality when they attack. This has contributed to Juventus making there best start in all competitions in 88 years which includes winning all 8 games in Serie A.
Image credits : beiN sports