Late Sunday morning, Massimiliano Allegri did what so many have been calling on him to do for some time now. His reluctance to utilise the enviable depth of attacking options at his disposal had incurred the wrath of some Juventus supporters, particularly after their fourth away defeat of the campaign against Fiorentina.
In saying that, “Mad” Max has emerged as a hero from what was a tough week in which he had received much criticism from the media. His team’s display in Tuscany was limp, at best. It was in fact so poor that he did not bother analysing where it went wrong because his team were so far off the pace. Therefore, his only option was to start again. He had no other choice but to shake things up in order to awaken his players from their slumber.
La Vecchia Signora’s “tactical turning point” – as Tuttosport put it – enabled them to roll Lazio over in the opening 20 minutes, earning them the right to see the remainder of the game out comfortably. Already, the Tuscan coach’s revolutionary set-up has put them back in Champions League contention according to that same Turin-based publication.
To arrive at the J Stadium and see the team sheet contain the likes of Miralem Pjanić, Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandžukić and Gonzalo Higuaín must be an absolute joy to behold. To watch them all line-up within the same 4-2-3-1 formation came as a shock to most observers. Allegri himself even admitted that no-one thought he would actually go through with his plan.
With Cuadrado on the right flank, Dybala in a false trequartista role, and Mandžukić used as a Samuel Eto’o-esque inverted left winger, this was undoubtedly a risky strategy for Allegri to adopt. Theoretically, when you consider the counter-attacking prowess of Simone Inzaghi’s Biancocelesti side, Juve could have left themselves vulnerable. This never materialised, and Allegri’s plan paid dividends which has sent fans and pundits into sheer jubilation over what was an incredibly exciting line-up of talent.
Typically, in the last few seasons, the eventual Champions League winners have all used a variation of the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation. For some, domestic domination is a given for Juventus at the moment. However, doubt has been cast over whether they can truly expect to achieve continental success with their tried and trusted 3-5-2. It will therefore be interesting to see whether Allegri persists with the new system against FC Porto next month, or will he revert to type.
This could yet prove to be Juventus’ watershed moment. Combined with the talent, experience, and fighting spirit in their squad, switching to a modern tactical system may be what can offer them that extra dynamic they have often missed in continental competition.
Naturally, fans and journalists alike have already begun speculating over what the Old Lady’s long-term future could look like, armed with their new system. Moving forward, it could be that Mandžukić is replaced by a more conventional wide attacking option. Marko Pjaca is one who fans are desperate to see more of and, on paper at least, he would be the perfect player to fulfill this role.
This switch could take place sooner than expected as the Croatian powerhouse continues to be linked with a move abroad. Chinese Super League sides Beijing Guoan and Tianjin Quanjian are reportedly interested in offering the ex-Bayern man a big payday in the Far East.
Such is their quality and strength in depth that Juventus can change system and personnel easily and still acquire the desired result. Allegri’s 4-2-3-1 could end up being just one more option, but many are hoping it signals a permanent change to their careful approach in order to bring more excitement, more goals, and more attacking flair to the Serie A champions.