Allegri facing big challenges with Juve
Arturo Vidal was just caught on video insisting he is not going to Manchester United in an interview. But Vidal also has yet to confirm he will be a Juventus player next season. Retaining arguably the world's most complete midfielder is more important than the potential arrival of any champion for Juventus. The only thing one hopes now is that Massimiliano Allegri will do enough to convince the Chilean of the club's ambition going forward and his importance to the project.
Regarded as Antonio Conte's muse, it will be difficult for Vidal to imagine Juve without the motivated tactician in charge, but how can he impact Allegri's Juve and what changes will the ex-Milan coach make tactically?
According to what we have seen thus far, Allegri is not planning to change much but does wish to have a Bianconeri side that is more flexible tactically. Fond of the four-man backline, the plan is to stay faithful to the 3-5-2 in the short term and then perhaps change to either a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2, depending on whether width or a playmaker will provide more of an impact.
With the celebrated midfield trio set to take their place, Allegri will either choose to play Roberto Pereyra as a trequartista behind Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente or alongside them on the right to make a 4-3-3. The beauty in Allegri's ideas lie in their flexibility. The coach is keen to toy with the personnel he has available to him and the tactical schemes that will suit them best.
The idea is to play a possession-based game with more fluidity and freedom. Under Allegri, Milan were always a side that boasted excellent statistics -- accurate with their passing and capable of retaining possession. That was, of course, until the disaster of last year. However, now in charge of the Old Lady, the new coach wants to shed the rigid style of play and allow the players to express themselves and interchange positions while maintaining a sense of balance.
It would not be surprising to learn that certain players may adopt different positions. That could well mean that if Patrice Evra is the starting left-back then Kwadwo Asamoah will be deployed in the middle. Or perhaps he could play even farther forward, as so many Ghanians have always wanted to see, considering how much of an impact he can make on a team's attacking game.
When not burdened with defensive duties, Asamoah has better technique than several of his teammates and can truly prove effective in the latter third of the field. He provided what can only be described as the most sensational of assists in the World Cup: The perfect cross for Asamoah Gyan to score against Portugal. Not the most courageous of players, he hates to be caught out of position, thus has never truly demonstrated his ability going forward. Deployed farther upfield and allowed to push, Juventus may unleash the brilliance within that has been shackled for so long.
Then there is Claudio Marchisio, who certain media outlets maintain may either be played as a trequartista or in place of either Andrea Pirlo or Paul Pogba. With Marchiso's versatility bound to prove crucial, Allegri is keen to see where the player is at his most usefulness.
However, fitness remains an issue. A large part of Conte's success had to do with the fact his team may not have always been the best but they were certainly always the fittest, running until the very last moment of each game. His fitness coach, Paolo Bertelli, proved invaluable, so much so that he was awarded the prestigious Golden Stopwatch award two years in a row. Voted as the best in Serie A by his fellow peers, sadly he will not help form part of Allegri's Juve. In his place arrives Simone Folletti, who believes in a tailor-made program for each player. But can he really guarantee exemplary levels of fitness?
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"We've said more than once that the fitness levels I found here weren't optimal," Clarence Seedorf said when he took over from Allegri at Milan. The Dutchman did concede that one had to expect that, considering the team was forced to chase for much of the season. But the Rossoneri hardly demonstrated the capability of running relentlessly for the full 90 minutes in every game.
Injuries have also been a concern at Milan, many of them muscle-related. Of course we cannot point the finger only at the staff, and there are deeper reasons that must be investigated, but it's safe to say squad depth is an issue at Juventus and they simply can't afford to be without their key players for weeks on end.
It is perhaps also why it's so important Allegri's Juve be tactically malleable so that they may adapt expertly depending on the opponent as well as capable of coping with the potential absences of certain players. He may introduce interesting ideas but unless he can motivate the squad sufficiently and ensure the players keep fighting until the dying moments of the game for the duration of the season, he can never truly hope to emulate Conte's success.