Same concerns remain
Juventus’ absentees meant that Saturday’s starting XI was always going to be an interesting one, and Max Allegri certainly didn’t disappoint on the intrigue front. It was time for the outcasts to step up!
Arthur Melo and Adrien Rabiot started in midfield with Manuel Locatelli dropping to the bench, while Moise Kean was included despite Alvaro Morata’s presence. Initially, the system was difficult to decipher, but once the fog cleared, Allegri’s 4-3-3 manifested.
It’s a system Allegri has rarely used this season. The first and only time we’ve seen it in action came in the drab away victory against Zenit in the Champions League.
The 4-3-3 is the configuration that many have been clamouring for the manager to deploy. Perhaps the success of Liverpool and Manchester City, in particular, while ubiquitously utilising this system has seemingly deluded fans into thinking that it’ll magically transform Juventus into a free-flowing, pressing juggernaut.
Saturday’s contest, though, depicted the sobering reality of the frivolity of formations in comparison to a manager’s principles and the personnel he has available to him. Once again, the pragmatism of Allegri was overbearing.
In possession, Juventus’ build-up was static, predictable and direct. They didn’t have the quality to overcome Bologna’s man-orientation which meant they had little success building from the back. Bologna often rendered them to low-percentage passes into the feet or chest of focal point Morata.
As a result, the visitors were limited to quick, transitional attacks. Periods of sustained possession were rare. This, combined with a reluctant press, allowed the hosts to get their foot on the ball with Allegri banking on his defence keeping Bologna at arm’s length. Fortunately, they were able to, and Juve were comfortable without ever seizing absolute control.
In the opening period, Allegri got the magical moment in attack that allowed Juventus to sit off and protect what they had. Federico Bernardeschi and Morata combined brilliantly for the opener.
However, between Morata’s fifth-minute strike and Juan Cuadrado’s thunderous finish in the 68th minute, Juventus accumulated an xG of 0.32. That’s an hour of inefficient attacking play and, on another day, the Bianconeri sleepwalk their way to yet another deflating draw. Before Cuadrado’s goal, the visitors came under unrelenting pressure from Bologna but Szczesny was forced into action just once.
Thus, Juventus deserve credit for nullifying the hosts considering the pressure they were under and it was their stout work that thrust the Bianconeri to all three points on Saturday. However, this result was just another example of Allegri failing to learn from previous mistakes. His default approach simply doesn’t give Juve the best chance of winning, and he’s highly reliant on game-state (taking the lead) to be successful. The Bianconeri have come unstuck several times when the manager’s Plan A has been compromised, and Allegri’s failure to adapt or persist with the dynamic system we’ve seen infrequently this term will only perpetuate the club’s woes in 2022.
Under Allegri, there will be satisfying highs but unbearable lows and it’ll rarely be pretty – win or lose. Something must change in the new year.