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Massimiliano Allegri: Europe's underappreciated tactician

Friday 5th May 2017
Massimiliano Allegri has masterminded Juventus to a likely Champions League final and sixth Serie A title. Why is he so underrated among Europe's elite managers?
Jose Mourinho. Fabio Capello. Jurgen Klopp. Carlo Ancelotti. Pep Guardiola. The names roll off the tongue like fine wines, only bettering with age. They are members of the elite; the managers who everyone wants. There is no guarantee of success. Especially not in modern football. But these are as close as it gets.

And yet, there is one that is so often overlooked, ignored, spurned and disregarded. Perhaps it is because of the lesser coverage of the Serie A, perhaps it is the unavoidable links with defensive football, perhaps it is the egotistical ways of many of the other top managers. Whatever it is, Massimiliano Allegri is Europe's underappreciated tactician.

When Juventus splashed a club record £76 million on Gonzalo Higuain, there were more than a few eyebrows raised. His outstanding goalscoring record vindicated the money spent. That was not the issue. No. People's surprise rested with how he would fit into the Juventus lineup. And it was a problem that plagued Allegri early this season.

He amended and adapted his approach on a number of occasions, in a desperate attempt to ensure that his side maintained their width, gave attacking freedom to Paulo Dybala, their best and most dangerous attacker, and allowed Mario Mandzukic and new-signing Higuain to both start up front. It was an issue that he wrestled with for some time, failing to ever squeeze all four - Juan Cuadrado was a mainstay on the right wing as he was the natural winger in the squad - with great success early on.

And then, he made the rather dramatic and extreme decision to shift Mandzukic from a bustling, bruising, bullying centre-forward into an industrious, surging winger, stationed on the left flank. It is a thoroughly unnatural position for the Serbian international, but one that he has worked hard to adapt to, undertaking the instruction of his manager dutifully.

It is a tactical solution that is extremely peculiar. I'm not sure how many other managers would have been able to be so inventive in their team selection.

And that is not the only time that Allegri has been adaptable with his system. In the Champions League knockout stages, he played his usual 4-2-3-1 system in both legs against Porto and Barcelona, with a varying centre-half pairing from a pool of four different players: Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Medhi Benatia.

And then, against free-flowing Monaco, he implements a 3-4-3 system, with the Italian trio of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini anchoring a stifling defence. They kept a clean sheet in all five of those games and have now enjoyed six consecutive shutouts in the Champions League.

Allegri is willing to chop and change his lineup as he sees fit, making small alterations to ensure that his side have the best possible chance of beating their opponent. He is a tactical master. And yet, he is rarely mentioned in the same sentence as many of the managers that he has so brilliantly conquered. Perhaps this season will be the one where he receives his well-deserved and well-overdue praise.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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