History proves it's dangerous to write off Max Allegri and Juventus

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 21 November 2017, 08:57

Six-time Serie A champions Juventus slipped to a second defeat of the season on Sunday afternoon, losing 3-2 away to Sampdoria.

In actual fact, the scoreline flattered the Bianconeri as the home side had raced to a 3-0 lead, scoring two consolation goals in the 91st and 93rd minute after Paulo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi and Douglas Costa had been brought on as substitutes.

After the match, Max Allegri told reporters that going behind was a “unexpected slap that really made us lose our cool,” but shouldn’t the Coach have been ready for what Sampdoria had to offer?

There are several factors to consider here. The Blucerchiati had taken seven wins and two draws from their opening eleven matches, and it had been well-documented that boss Marco Giampaolo has brought the best from his hard-working and talented young side. It is hard to fathom, therefore, why Allegri decide to make so many changes to his team, even considering their forthcoming Champions League encounter with Barcelona in midweek.

Apart from Gonzalo Higuain up front and the centre-back positions, there were second-choice players fielded in all other areas of the pitch. Wojciech Szczesny came in for Gianluigi Buffon, whilst Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner occupied the full-back positions. After several dire performances already this term, Sami Khedira was once again selected in midfield, whilst Federico Bernardeschi was brought in for Dybala in the front-three.

Khedira in particular should no longer appear anywhere near a Juventus line-up. The former World Cup winner is off the pace - leaving huge gaps in the midfield area - something that the Old Lady can ill-afford when playing her usual 4-2-3-1 formation. It was a serious error to think that his team selection was adequate to triumph over such an in-form side, something that the tactician must quickly rectify with some seriously tough matches ahead of him.

But Allegri was unrepentant over his choices, making worrying statements after the match. "I would make the decisions I made at the start all over again, considering how we played in the first half," he told the club’s official website, leaving supporters concerned that they might see a repeat of Sunday’s result.

Barcelona are the opponents in Wednesday’s Champions league group stage fixture, a side that easily dismissed Juve at Camp Nou in September with a 3-0 victory. Another home fixture against Crotone next weekend should see the league title holders return to winning ways, but key fixtures against Napoli and Inter - the two sides above them in the Serie A table - follow on in consecutive weeks.

It would be easy to say that Allegri and Juventus are faltering at this point, but their rivals should certainly not be letting their guard down. It is always foolish to write this side - and indeed this Coach - off, as history has proven time and time again. It was only in 2015 when it seemed like Napoli would walk away with the title when Juve languished in 14th after eight rounds, only for Allegri to mastermind a spectacular turnaround.

By this time two seasons ago, the Bianconeri had already climbed to 6th position and would go on to take 73 points out of a possible 75 after a derby win over Torino on October 31st. They would beat Napoli in February - a symbolic victory in which they first clinched the top spot - and they never relinquish first position after that day.

So too last season, when it took Allegri quite some time to figure out that his trusted 3-5-2 formation wasn’t working. A humiliating defeat to Fiorentina in January saw him finally abandon that tactic, and his switch to 4-2-3-1 in the very next fixture would pay off in spectacular fashion. That change took his side to a league-and-cup double along with a second Champions League final appearance in three seasons.

It may well be frustrating for Juventus fans to watch their team struggling, but the more well-reasoned of that group will realise that their Coach should eventually turn things around to improve the side even further.

“We should’ve been patient, even if things weren’t going our way,” Allegri continued in his post-match comments. “It’s a long game, so you have to stay calm.” He, of all people knows that time is on his side but - with league opposition getting stronger - he mustn’t wait too much longer to ring the changes.

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