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Op-ed

Five positions Allegri could strengthen for the 2021/22 season

Staff Staff

Massimiliano Allegri returned to Juventus two years after parting ways with the Old Lady and looks to revamp this fractured Bianconeri side.

The football community and pundits, in particular, had reservations about Allegri replacing Antonio Conte – as the Tuscan didn’t win any trophies with AC Milan after 2011, but from his very first season with the Old Lady, Allegri proved his doubters wrong. The Italian went on to win five Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia titles and two Italian Super Cups.

The now renowned manager took charge of Juventus after the golden period of Antonio Conte. As soon as he set foot through the door, the Tuscan had huge expectations on his shoulders to carry forward the legacy of his predecessor. Allegri is a master tactician, who prefers to dictate the play with slow possession football than getting drawn to any of his opposite numbers’ traps.

In his five-year spell with the Bianconeri, Allegri was flexible with his formations. Like Conte, he started with a 3-5-2 system but later shifted to a back four – employing formations such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2 throughout his tenure.

In this article, we discuss the profile of players that fit Max Allegri’s system, based on the current strengths and weaknesses of the squad and Juventus’ power to spend in this COVID-hit market. 

 

Also Read – Allegri’s back at Juventus. What changed?

 

GOALKEEPER

Emil Audero (24)

Gianluigi Buffon’s wait for that elusive Champions League title has taken its toll on the 43-year-old, as the veteran looks set to join former club Parma in Italy’s second tier. While many reports from reliable sources have indicated that the Polish No. 1 Wojciech Szcz?sny could be on his way out of the Allianz Stadium, Juve don’t have to look far for his replacement – Emil Audero, a former Bianconero himself. The 24-year-old Italian signed permanently for Sampdoria in July 2019 for €18m after being part of the Juventus setup for over a decade.

The Italian has been good for La Samp, playing a key part in their push for a top-half finish last season. Audero is decent with the ball at his feet and commands his area well – something Allegri demands of his goalkeepers.

Though the deal would not come in cheap with the 24-year-old being valued at €21m, Juventus’ connection with the player makes it a plausible deal. A fee close to €20-25m should do the trick, as teams lower down the league are in a deeper mud – financially – than the ones higher up.

 

 

LEFT-BACK

Luca Pellegrini (22)

Despite having several left-backs on their roster, Juve are expected to look for another to strengthen the position. Alex Sandro has been uncontested in the left-back role ever since joining the Bianconeri in 2015, but the Brazilian has shown signs of complacency creeping in lately.

Andrea Pirlo promoted young Italian Gianluca Frabotta as a cover for Sandro, but the youngster never looked convincing. Moreover, Luca Pellegrini went out on loan to Genoa but failed to cement his place in Davide Ballardini’s playing XI, which was down to more on his injury issues rather than playing ability.

Although his stats look fairly average, his general play deserves a whole lot of credit. Gifted with blistering pace, clever feet, and offering constant threat in the final third with a great cross up his sleeve, Pellegrini is exactly the kind of left-back Allegri needs in his Juventus side.

Over the past couple of seasons, Juve have seen the attacking prowess of Alex Sandro slowly fade away. Although Sandro is still the better defender of the two, that aspect of Pellegrini’s game can be developed. It is rather sad that Pellegrini has not played a single game for Juve, with Pirlo trusting academy graduate Frabotta over him. If Allegri decides to integrate Pellegrini back into the Juve setup, it will be nothing short of a new signing – saving the club at least €20m for other key targets.

 

 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER

Manuel Locatelli (23)

In his last stint with Juve, be it 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, Allegri always had a No. 6/8 shielding his backline and spraying the ball in the final third of the pitch. From Sami Khedira to Blaise Matuidi, the pattern remained the same.

In the present setup, Adrien Rabiot is the shield in front of the backline, with the ability to play short passes and recycling possession, while Arthur is the one who sprays the ball in the attacking half of the pitch and dictates the tempo.

Max Allegri needs these two qualities in one player, and that is where the 23-year-old Italian comes in. Locatelli is a great passer of the ball with unwavering efficiency and elite vision. The 23-year-old also reads games very well, which allows him to intercept and block balls most of the time. He is an elite ball carrier who also knows his strengths and limitations. Locatelli also possesses long range shooting abilities, something that will come in handy for Allegri when tasked with unlocking low-block defences. As per La Gazetta, the 23-year-old could be available for a deal north of €35-40m, with Aaron Ramsey and Arthur likely to leave. Juve need to move for the Italian quickly, as clubs from England and Germany continue to monitor Locatelli’s progress throughout the ongoing Euros.

 

LEFT-WINGER

Jérémie Boga (24)

For all of their attacking talents upfront, Juve only have Ronaldo who can play effectively from the left flank. Allegri likes his wingers to cut inside and take on their man, freeing up the wider regions for the fullbacks to bob up and down. The Tuscan can use the likes of Dejan Kulusevski or Federico Bernardeschi, but with the latter looking more likely to leave and Kulesevski and Dybala both left-footers, Allegri needs new personnel.

The 24-year-old Ivorian, Jérémie Boga, can light up the Serie A in a team like Juventus. In his 27 matches for Sassuolo last season, he bagged four goals and two assists for his team as they missed out to AS Roma side for the UEFA Europa Conference League spot.

Boga is a naturally inverted left-winger who likes to cut inside and take a shot for himself or free up the flank for his left-back to join in on the attack. His dribbling ability and movement draw a lot of fouls from the opposition, allowing his team to win territorial possession up the pitch.

The 24-year-old is currently valued at €22m but can make the switch to the Allianz Stadium if a bid of around €30m is made.

 

 

CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Houssem Aouar (22)

The 22-year-old French midfielder is the kind of player that will do a job not only for the next season, but for many seasons to come. Aouar can be instrumental to Bianconeri‘s bid for national and European dominance.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Álvaro Morata likely to share the burden of leading the line and Paulo Dybala filling in as a No. 10 or playing second fiddle to the duo up front, the Lyon midfielder can be perfect to Allegri’s creativity problems.

The 22-year-old has a great eye for finding pockets of space as he is currently one of the most gifted technical midfielders in Ligue 1. The French international has a keen eye for goal and trickery with the ball at his feet.

With Allegri’s slow possession-based tactics, Juve need someone to unlock low blocks, especially when the pace threat of Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa is negated. As far as versatility is concerned, Aouar is comfortable on the left-wing or as a No. 8 in the centre of the midfield.

Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon CEO, said in an interview last month that the Frenchman could be available for as little as €30m, as clubs in France struggle with the financial implications of the pandemic-hit market.

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