Juventus fans could be forgiven for wondering what will become of their beloved Old Lady following the shock resignation of Antonio Conte last week. The former captain lifted them from consecutive seventh placed finishes to three straight titles, meaning any coach who replaced him was likely to be viewed with immense skepticism.
Last season’s 102-point tally—an all-time record in Serie A—means they begin as clear favourites to once again emerge triumphant, but it is impossible to overestimate Conte’s impact upon the current squad.
Andrea Pirlo wrote in his recent autobiography (h/t BBC Sport) that the success was all his, a triumph of bloody-mindedness that went beyond everyone's expectations. The midfielder went on to say that “Conte was like a man possessed, the very essence of Juventus burned deep into his soul.”
That his successor was Massimiliano Allegri—fresh from Milan’s abysmal 2013-14 campaign—only intensified those thoughts of uncertainty, with many genuinely concerned they would slump to those previous lows. The club moved to allay those fears, with Beppe Marotta telling a press conference last week that the change would see minimal effects upon their continued success.
“There’ll be no revolution,” the director general told reporters (h/t Gianluca Di Marzio) as he unveiled new signing Alvaro Morata, adding “this group proved to be by far the best in Italy.” Additions like Morata and Patrice Evra will add to their superiority, but what Allegri does with the squad will be key as they look to move forward.
The 46-year-old knows how his appointment was viewed, telling reporters at his inaugural press conference (h/t Juventus.com) that it would require “victories, hard work, respect and professionalism,” to win over the doubting fans.
At that same event, Allegri stated his belief that “changing system wouldn't make sense,” recognising the value of Conte’s 3-5-2 formation. Stats site WhoScored.com supports that view, showing the Bianconeri utilised that framework in all 38 league games last term, dropping just 12 points in total along the way.
Conte attempted some variety in the Champions League, experimenting with both 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 in the two group encounters with Real Madrid. He was unfortunate to suffer a loss and a draw in those games, and Allegri’s greater European experience could help, as discussed previously here.
There may be a case for further tweaks, and the arrival of Evra reinforces that idea, with the French defender ideal for a switch to a four-man defence. His attributes—expanded upon last week—are well-suited to that, providing a genuine left-back for the Bianconeri.
Morata, too, adds flexibility, able to play on the flanks as part of a trident attack or as a central striker alongside Carlos Tevez or Fernando Llorente. The latter duo were responsible for 35 league goals and 12 assists last term and both have experience in a variety of systems with their previous clubs.
The search for greater diversity seems set to continue, with Gianluca Di Marzio reporting meetings with Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri’s representatives will take place on Tuesday. Writing on his own website, the respected journalist says negotiations could take off, having previously revealed Juve had rejected the player.
Talk of Roberto Pereyra also moving to Turin has intensified, with La Gazzetta dello Sport insisting (h/t Football Italia) that the Argentinean is set to leave Udinese for Juve in the next week. Whoever arrives before the new season begins, Allegri must take those on board whilst maintaining the success Conte’s 3-5-2 brought to Juventus.
Meshing these new elements into a hugely successful squad will be a genuine test for the Livorno native, a true examination of his coaching credentials. As he introduced Conte’s replacement last week, Marotta said (h/t Juventus.com) that “the objective remains the same: keep winning.”
It was a neat and succinct summary of an immense challenge, Allegri seeking to add tactical variety and flexibility to a previously unstoppable machine.
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