I think the third international break in as many months is taking its toll, people, because I’m currently reminiscing about ‘Allegri-ball’. Whatever that is.
Massimiliano Allegri’s welcome return to Juventus following the exit of Andrea Pirlo after just a single season at the helm hasn’t quite gone to plan. The pragmatic Italian oversaw an impressive nine-game unbeaten run that stretched across mid-September to late October, but the Bianconeri are currently stuck in eighth in Serie A.
Comfortable progression into the Champions League knockout stages, however, has sweetened some supporters despite their stuttering domestic form.
There’s no doubting that Juve are missing the production of Cristiano Ronaldo, who departed in the summer, with the club doing little to find a bona fide replacement. Moise Kean was drafted in as an extra striker option, and the young Italian was just one of four new additions the Bianconeri made in the summer.
It was a quiet transfer window with the backdrop of a pandemic clouding over Juventus’ finances. Nevertheless, now that we’ve got a decent enough sample size of Juve’s summer signings, seeing as we’ve got some time on our hands we’d thought it’d be a good time to assess the club’s summer work in the transfer market.
Thus, here’s our assessment of the three summer signings (we didn’t include Mohamed Ihattaren for obvious reasons).
The showcase signing. Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli was chased by Juventus all summer before a deal was finally struck to conclude the dullest of transfer sagas.
After making his first Juventus start away at Napoli on Matchday 3 of Serie A, Locatelli has been a near ever-present in Allegri’s XI. Only Leonardo Bonucci, Wojciech Szczesny and Danilo have racked up more league minutes than the Italian (806) this season. His importance to the Bianconeri has become immediately clear.
While he’s continued to play in a double pivot, his function for Allegri differs from the duty he performed for Roberto De Zerbi in his 4-2-3-1. Locatelli’s become the metronome of this Juventus side, he’s the deep-lying midfielder and the sole central presence in the build-up phase. It’s fair to say Allegri’s build-up mechanisms aren’t quite as complex as De Zerbi’s, and that’s certainly prevented Locatelli from evolving into a bona fide controller or virtuoso regista (his Serie A pass completion this season is an average 81%) at this early stage. He’s easily marked by opponents.
Nevertheless, Locatelli has performed the role astutely and he enjoyed several fine outings in September before he snatched the winner in the Derby della Mole – the undisputed highlight of his Juve career thus far. There’s been plenty of grit and defensive resolve, which has been refreshing to see considering the elegance and grace he boasts with the ball.
Overall, Locatelli’s been ‘good’ but there’s an underlying sense among Juventini that we should be seeing more from him considering his talent and technique, especially on the big occasion. Perhaps his deep-lying function is somewhat inhibitive. Even so, the former Sassuolo star has quickly become a key component of this Juventus side.
Way too early transfer grade: A