The past few days have been incredulous for Juventus supporters across Italy and beyond, many still reeling from the sudden departure of Antonio Conte. The coach had revolutionised the Bianconeri, washing away the mediocrity that had pervaded every aspect of the club, helping rediscover winning ways.
Since his arrival just over three years ago, the former captain had enjoyed nothing but success with the peninsula’s biggest club. Steering La Madama to three successive Serie A titles, the 44-year-old oversaw both an undefeated campaign and registered a new record-points tally for the Italian top flight.
Those accomplishments only added to the adoration and esteem in which he was viewed by fans, installing another chapter of legend to those of his glorious playing career. His resignation struck Juve like a bolt of lightning, and the ramifications of his exit will continue for months and perhaps even longer.
The club acted quickly, unveiling Massimiliano Allegri as Conte’s replacement by Wednesday lunchtime, with most outlets reporting the former Milan coach had signed a two-year contract, per The Guardian.
At his introductory press conference, the 46-year-old said all the right things, telling reporters he was “honoured” to be handed the job (h/t Juventus.com). He immediately attempted to restore his relationship with Andrea Pirlo, recognising he was “lucky enough to be able to work with him again,” after the midfielder left Milan in 2011.
Perhaps the biggest point of note from Allegri’s first official outing in his new role were constant references to European football’s elite competition. “We’ll try to enjoy an excellent Champions League campaign,” the coach continued, adding that “Juventus must be among the top eight teams in Europe, it’s our duty.”
While many similar media events appear to simply be managers saying what fans would like to hear, it is perhaps here where the coach can improve upon Conte’s unquestionable excellence. While his predecessor dominated in Serie A, the club’s continental struggles are impossible to ignore.
Last term the Bianconeri failed to progress from a group containing Real Madrid, Galatasaray and FC Copenhagen, a situation many lamented at length over the intervening months. Allegri, for all his faults at Milan, qualified for the competition in each of his three full seasons and went onto to reach the knockout stages.
Even last season, as they slumped to their worst domestic campaign in recent memory, Allegri helped them overcome a group containing Ajax, Barcelona and Celtic before he was sacked. His tactics, almost exclusively employing a four-man defence, perhaps translate better in Europe than Conte’s, and his experience there could prove invaluable.
For all their success, many of the current squad are vastly inexperienced outside the peninsula, with only Carlos Tevez and Pirlo having ever tasted ultimate glory in the Champions League. The new coach promised in his press conference there would be no radical tactical shifts, noting that “changing system wouldn't make sense.”
Conte’s use of the 3-5-2 framework worked flawlessly in Serie A, but in Europe the coach was exposed, particularly by teams who attack with pace in wide areas. At Milan, Allegri joined the growing number of tacticians to employ a three-man defence on occasion, but usually adopted to play with four where it was prudent.
His adaptability, both to the club and the current squad, will be vital and the transfer moves made will be key to any success this new partnership enjoys. With Mirko Vucinic having already moved to Al Jazira, per the Juventus website, it seems Fabio Quagliarella will be the next to leave.
Gianluca Di Marzio reported on Wednesday that the striker’s move to Torino is “a done deal.” The transfer expert, writing on his own website, claims that the Granata will pay €3 million for the 30-year-old, a switch that will leave the Bianconeri light in attack.
How and when Juventus fill that void will be essential, and may go some way to appeasing an unhappy fanbase. Around 300 fans descended on the club’s training ground to protest Allegri’s appointment (per Football Italia) and some big-name moves would certainly ease tensions.
But as the new man himself said in that same press conference, “winning them over will require victories, hard work, respect and professionalism.” Replacing Conte is almost an impossible task, but a strong run in the Champions League would help Massimiliano Allegri immeasurably.