Published On: Wed, Dec 6th, 2017

Allegri's adaptions: Juventus boss consistent in face of constant change

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Max Allegri might have a hard time coming up with a catchy hashtag for this one. Three years have passed since the Juventus manager tweeted out “#fiuuu” (the Italian equivalent to ‘phewww!’) after his team beat Olympiacos 3-2 to avert a humiliating early Champions League exit.

The Italian champion beat its Greek counterpart again on Tuesday, 2-0 at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus. Juventus had kicked off knowing that a victory would guarantee its progress to the knockout stages of this year’s competition.

The victory, however, was not always assured: allowing Olympiacos back into the game after Juan Cuadrado‘s early goal, and almost conceding an equaliser when Ben Nabouhane headed against the crossbar. In the event, though, even a defeat would not have derailed it. Barcelona‘s win away to Sporting rendered Juve’s victory academic – since the Portuguese club had needed a win to overtake the Italian outfit.

Nevertheless, this was a result that Allegri could look on with satisfaction. He had insisted even before last Friday’s visit to Serie A leader Napoli that this was the more important game. League seasons are long, and leave room for the occasional misstep. Continental competition is, by its nature, less forgiving.


Not that Allegri himself ever seems to struggle with it. He has taken Juventus to two of the last three Champions League finals, but almost as impressive is the fact that he has now steered Italian clubs through to the knockout rounds in eight consecutive seasons.

Even when all else was imploding at the end of his Milan tenure – the heart of his squad was torn out as the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were sold, while Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, and Pippo Inzaghi all retired – Allegri continued to keep his team punching above its weight in Europe. The Rossoneri drew home and away to Barcelona in his final year there, while Juventus dropped into the Europa League after drawing with FC Copenhagen.

It is Allegri’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances which sets him apart at this level. Even in his three-and-a-bit seasons at Juventus, the squad has transformed beyond all recognition. There was not a single player in his starting XI on Tuesday who played in that 2014 victory over Olympiacos.

Gigi Buffon, to be fair, could have featured, but was rested as part of what has become a semi-regular rotation with his heir-apparent, Wojciech Szczesny. Giorgio Chiellini was also sidelined by a bout of gastroenteritis.

Neither of those players is as indispensable, though, as they once were. Juventus has high hopes for Szczesny, and he showed off sharp reflexes to block a close-range header from Uros Djurdjevic shortly before half-time. Daniele Rugani did not have his finest night replacing Chiellini, but has already played more than 50 games for Juve at 23 years old.

This is a squad in constant evolution. Just look at the attackers who have passed through under Allegri: Carlos Tevez, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Simone Zaza, just to name a few.

Up until this season, the one consistent element at Juventus was the defence: anchored by Buffon, Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, and Andrea Barzagli. Three of those four remain with the club, but two are closing in on retirement. Juventus has been proactive in recruiting what it hopes will be long-term replacements. Beyond Szczesny and Rugani, there is also Mattia Caldara, left on loan for one more year at Atalanta.

Allegri’s track record of bringing in players whilst maintaining a consistently high level of performance might even be more valuable to Juventus than those two Champions League finals. The second goal against Olympiacos was scored by Federico Bernardeschi: yet another young Italian with whom high hopes (plus the small matter of a €40-million transfer fee) have been invested.


And yet some of Allegri’s best work still gets overlooked. Cuadrado is one of those players who is easily dismissed by his detractors: a perceived luxury player whose pace and fancy footwork belie a lack of end product. The Colombian failed to make an impact in the Premier League at Chelsea and only once in his career has his goal tally reached double figures.

Under Allegri, though, he has quietly developed into a more disciplined player. Despite moving up from wing-back to wide forward, Cuadrado is doing more than ever to win back possession and help his team dictate the positions in which the game gets played on the right flank.

“I’m more mature now,” reflected Cuadrado in an interview with La Repubblica at the start of this year. “I have to play in a simpler way. Allegri insisted a lot on this concept … He doesn’t want me to lose my instinct: I just need to manage it with intelligence, reason a little more, learn that it’s one thing to be in our half of the pitch and another to be in the opponent’s half.”

It was a simple finish from Cuadrado that gave Juventus the lead on Tuesday, after an intelligent run to meet Alex Sandro‘s cross. In the end, the goal did not really matter. But three years on from that famous #fiuuu, Allegri will be happy that his players left nothing to chance this time around.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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