Juventus are a unique club. They certainly are a top club. And they certainly are the top club that sells its star players – at their peak – the most. From Roberto Baggio, to Zinedine Zidane, to Arturo Vidal, to Leonardo Bonucci. The list goes on. They always manage to adapt though. To create a new identity. Another band of winners. As Giampiero Bonpierti put it ‘Winning is not important, it is the only thing that counts’. That is Juventus’ DNA – winning. Love them or hate them, they are almost always the favorites to win the scudetto, and for a reason. In Europe however, it is a different story. Perhaps selling their key players at their peak could be a reason.
Mr. Massimiliano Allegri is a flexible coach – he doesn’t have a rigid team shape that he absolutely has to play with. He is also a tactical coach, as in he adjusts his tactics and sometimes his team’s shape against potentially stronger opponents. He does, however, have some basic principles. He likes his team to have balance. His team is never too attacking or too defensive (except maybe against the super Barcelona in his Milan days). He prefers to keep possession and a balanced tempo and give his individual attackers – he usually likes to have four players in the final third, no matter the formation – freedom to express themselves. But not too much, because he needs them to defend too. He plays deep when he needs to. And knows how to win ugly. In a nutshell, and in his own words, he sees his job to do ‘as least damage as possible’.
Based on the above, we can expect Mr. Massimiliano Allegri to use a variety of players and formations this season, according to the players available, the moment in the season, and the opponent. We can also expect him to settle on his favored team around November – December, as he usually does. That’s when his teams usually find their balance.
Mr. Massimiliano Allegri started the season true to form – right where he finished it off. He is not one too hasty to make changes. He usually gives new signings time to acclimatize before giving them a starting birth. He is taking it slow with introducing star signings Douglas Costa and Bernardeschi to the team, partly to protect them and partly not to disrupt the team’s already established balance. He did the same with Dybala previously and didn’t bother one single bit about the criticism aimed at him from all quarters around Italy.
Two things are clear from Juventus’ mercato though. One is that the three man defense might be a thing of the past now, given that they don’t have a center back with Bonucci’s characteristics anymore i.e. a defender that could play the ball and start moves from the back – a playmaker defender. And the other is that the winger formation is there to stay, given that they signed Douglas Costa and Bernardeschi. The 4-2-3-1 from last season may have seemed a bit improvised, given that Mandzukic is not a natural winger, and that Cuadrado wasn’t playing much before the formation switch. This season though, there seems to be a concious planning strategy to keep that formation going, but add stronger options.
From the outside, it seems that Juventus might only be lacking a midfield playmaker along with Pjanic, to carry the playmaking mantle in the build-up left behind by firstly Pirlo and then Bonucci. Marchisio seemed ready to slot in that spot, but injury meant he wasn’t a starter for the entirety of last season and the finish to the one before. He is also set to miss a month initially this season. Rodrigo Bentancur is another name that potentially could play that role, but he is only 20 and has just arrived from Boca Juniors. His lack of experience in general and non-existent experience of European football hints that he might be one for the long term, but not necessairly the short one. The signing of Matiudi seems strange to me, as initially he appears too similar tactically to Khedira, at least in my opinion. This leaves Khedira, Matiudi, and Marchisio all competing for one spot in midfield beside Pjanic. At least initially. If Marchisio regains fitness and form, he could form a midfield three with Pjanic and Khedira/Matuidi, or even Bernardeschi himself could feature in that midfield three – he certainly has the versatility and the tactical intelligence to pull it off if needed.
Of course that is all just speculation – the mercato isn’t even over yet. And a lot of factors are at play here – player form, Mr. Massimiliano Allegri’s thoughts, injuries. But what is certain is that Juventus have a very intriguing and flexible core to work with, and that plays perfectly into Mr. Massimiliano Allegri’s hands as he’s a very flexible, balanced, and tactically intelligent coach. Juventus definetly start the season as favorites for the scudetto and as one of the favorites for the Champions League. How Mr. Massimiliano Allegri fits his pieces together will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds, and it will certainly be key to whether Juventus manage to finish the season with silverware or not.
One thing is for sure though, they do have the potential to reach the finish line on all fronts this season. And for a team that manages to change its core almost every season, this may be the version with the most talented attacking players (and by extension, the difference makers on the highest level) in the Andrea Agnelli era. And hence, dare I say it, the one – on paper at least – most suited to fight for the Champions League.