Juventus’ impressive comeback against Atletico Madrid probably didn’t do much to change your opinion of Massimiliano Allegri. If you’ve been criticizing him for the past two season you can feel vindicated by seeing what his team looks when they actually play attacking football and get the most out of their impressive weapons, if you have been one of his defenders, then your takeaway from the match is this just another tactical masterpiece from the Tuscan manager.
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way- regardless of which camp you fall on with Allegri, there’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero of Tuesday night’s showdown at Allianz Stadium and his performance needs to be taken into account when evaluating Allegri. CR7 was the difference between getting past the round and a heroic comeback that fell just short like the ones against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in previous seasons.
But back to Allegri, let’s look at this match from the point of view that someone who has been critical of him for the past two years as a result of too many 1-0 wins where Juventus did the bare minimum to win. While I’m certain these folks received plenty of tweets from Allegri defenders after the match, they had their own version of “I told you so” since they can easily say “You see this is what we could be watching all the time, if Allegri didn’t keep putting the brakes on all of the talent on our squad”.
They probably see Allegri like someone who can only get it together when his back is truly against the wall, essentially like a husband who has been in the doghouse for awhile and to avoid a costly divorce starts buying flowers, playing Adele records in the house and suggests rewatching “The Notebook” on Netflix. To an Allegri critic the comeback against Atletico shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place had Allegri simply not botched the first leg so badly- and they certainly have a point.
An Allegri defender looks at this game from a radically different point of view. They are likely to say that just like Juventus struggled at the Wanda Metropolitano, so did Atletico Madrid in Turin- in matches of this caliber, the home field advantage is a big deal and that the matchup against Simeone’s team was always going to be incredibly difficult.
Certainly it’s more than reasonable to say that all too often Juventus plays boring and uninspired football, but someone completely in the tank for Allegri (even more so that one of his defenders) could say that Juventus’ manager is like a great head coach in the NFL who saves all his best plays and formations for games that truly matter in the playoffs. To these people Allegri is football’s version of Larry Bird who back in 1986 famously played a game against the Portland Trailblazers using his left hand, so he could save his right one for the far more formidable Lakers.
As often is the case with these things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Allegri does deserve criticism for Juventus’ uninspired play the past two season, but there’s also no doubt he’s proven he’s a master tactician who can win you a very tough match in the Champions League by making some surprising adjustments like using Emre Can as essentially a false center back.
But while the outcome of the match likely reinforced your opinion of him rather than change your mind, another event this week radically changed the outlook for Allegri’s future. In fact Zinedine Zidane’s surprising decision to return to Real Madrid took a way a potential landing spot for the Tuscan manager while taking off the table the most realistic and palatable replacement for him at Juventus (assuming you take Pep Guardiola at his word when he said he wouldn’t be moving to Turin any time soon).
It’s hard to imagine there are many Juventus fans who are excited by the prospect of either Didier Deschamps or Antonio Conte returning to the club, because they don’t play a very different style than what Allegri has used recently. As a matter a fact, Zidane’s decision did more to change the minds of Juventus fans with Allegri than the win against Atletico Madrid.
Interestingly to those outside the Juventus bubble (and let’s add the Milan one too), Allegri would have been considered to be a top manager regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night’s match. I guess it’s easier for these people to appreciate Allegri’s qualities since they probably aren’t watching all Juventus games, to them he’s someone who has kept Conte’s dominance in Serie A going while also vastly improving the team’s outlook in Europe.
The only way Allegri will fully change the minds of his critics is to actually lead Juventus to the elusive Champions League win, that is a very lofty standard but in it of itself it should tell you a lot about how much Allegri has achieved in Turin.