Massimiliano Allegri spent his last few months with Milan as a dead man walking with rumours circulating about his imminent sack hugging the headlines of Italian newspapers day after day. The results were simply not good enough. The once mighty AC Milan was a mess on and off the pitch.
During Allegri’s reign with the Rossoneri, several players including Andrea Pirlo, Mark van Bommel, Filippo Inzaghi, Pato, Gennaro Gattuso, Massimo Ambrossini, Gianluca Zambrotta, Clarence Seedorf, Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all left the club, be it to another club or through retirement. The players brought in to replace such an array of world-class stars were mediocre to say the least.
The club owners were hesitant to invest the necessary funds to rebuild the team and instead Allegri was given the mandate to try and develop youth players into top class stars worthy of Serie A title challengers. Mattia de Sciglio and Stephan El Sharrawy were success stories but not enough to fill such giant shoes, with the latter proving to be especially inconsistent.
Inexplicably, the owners saw fit to pay €11 for Juventus outcast Allessandro Matri in the summer of 2013 when clearly Allegri needed reinforcements in defence and midfield. A few months later, in January 2014, the former Cagliari boss was sacked with Matri soon following him through the exit doors.
His time in Milan had started well enough as he won the Serie A trophy in his first season (2010/2011). This was the Rossoneri’s first league title since 2004 and just the second Serie A trophy to be won by Milan since the turn of the millennium. However, an ageing squad meant that wholesale changes were necessary. Promises were made by Adriano Galliani and the scandal-hit Silvio Berlusconi that a new Milan was going to emerge to once more dominate Europe.
Nevertheless, Alegri was left with a squad full of mediocre players. After their title victory, Milan finished in 2nd and 3rd place with the Italian coach criticised for not mounting strong enough title challenges against the re-born Juventus.
The start to the 2013/2014 season was the final nail in the coffin for Allegri as the Rossoneri found themselves in the bottom half of the table by January.
The Livorno-born coach’s managerial career came to prominence in the 2007/2008 season when he led the small club of Sassuolo to promotion to the Serie B for the first time in their history, thus building the foundations for their eventual rise to the Serie A.
The season after, he was soon snatched up by Cagliari, then owned by madcap owner Massimo Cellino, who needs no introduction to Leeds fans! His start was abysmal, losing all of his first five matches in charge. Still, Cellino backed him up with rumors also emerging that he offered his coach a contract extension during this run. The Sardinia club ended Allegri’s first season in ninth place underlining the impressive turn around overseen by Allegri.
A couple of seasons later he was winning the title with Milan. Nonetheless, Juventus’ decision to appoint him this season was met with as much surprise as the news of Antonio Conte’s departure from the Old Lady. The current Italy national manager had been touted to leave the Old Lady for a number of months but no few really believed that he was going to leave behind the side which he turned from a top four team into undisputed champions.
Allegri’s appointment seemed very ordinary for a side aspiring to transfer its dominance into Europe. Star players such as Arturo Vidal were consequently linked with most of the top clubs in Europe but nothing materialized. Allegri had won his first battle as a Juventus coach – keep the best players in place; a battle which he repeatedly lost at Milan.
Under Conte, Juve were a counter-attacking machine being very solid in defense and deadly at pace in attack. The pace of the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner on the wings and the quick thinking of Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal at the centre ensured that Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and co were frequently presented with goal-scoring opportunities. When not defending, the Bioanconeri were direct and looking for the kill as quickly as possible.
Allegri has mostly retained the three-man defense with the aggression of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci’s ball-playing skills and Andrea Barzagli’s intelligence complementing each other well. This season, Angelo Ogbonna is also emerging as one of Serie A’s most reliable defenders but these are still early days.
Juventus seem to be content to hold on the ball a little bit more as their average possession is as high as 63% this season. Witt the arrivals of Patrice Evra, Alvaro Morata and Roberto Pereyra the squad has more depth than last year. Llorente has a year getting used to the Serie A under his belt whilst Tevez is unstoppable at the present time. At last he seems to have found a place where he’s happy in.
However, it’s in defense that Juventus have been the most impressive. Juventus have spent almost 900 minutes without conceding a goal – yet to let in a solitary goal this term. This may all change in Spain against Atletico Madrid but it’s still a highly impressive statistic nonetheless. Gianluigi Buffon is back to his old unbeatable self and the three ahead of him look very solid no matter who the three are and no matter the opposition.
All thanks to Allegri? Or is he just lucky to have inherited Conte’s squad?
It’s still early doors but I believe that Allegri is proving his doubters wrong already. Try telling that to C.E.O Adriano Galliani!