Football

Mission Invincible

Unlike Antonio Conte, Massimiliano Allegri has developed Juventus into a tactically flexible unit that can play a 3-5-2, a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, utilising the strengths of each individual player.

But it was the 4-2-3-1 system the Italian adopted midway last season that produced a wonderful sequence of wins culminating in the domestic double.

Based on his summer recruitment, Allegri seems inclined to continue with this formation in the upcoming season.

The arrival of Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina and winger Douglas Costa (on loan from Bayern Munich), and the decision to sell Leonardo Bonucci — part of the famous BBC defence — are signals that Allegri has made up his mind.

Bernardeschi’s skill, strength in one-on-one situations and explosive pace will make him the perfect No. 10 behind Gonzalo Higuain.

Juventus’ lack of goals in the Champions League was down to its over-reliance on Paulo Dybala’s openings. This problem has largely been addressed with the signings of Costa and Bernardeschi.

Mattia De Sciglio, who can add bite and dynamism to a four-man defence, will replace Dani Alves, reuniting with Allegri who handed him his Milan debut in 2012.

The side can fulfil its ambition of winning the ‘Holy Grail’ if a midfield general — PSG’s Blaise Matuidi or Sevilla’s Steven N’Zonzi — is captured.

The Bianconeri are missing a leader in midfield. The exit of Pirlo has brought up challenges in midfield, traditionally the area of the pitch they dominated.

“There is no longer a Pirlo, there are no players that give that little bit extra and encourage their teammates,” said Luciano Moggi, former Juventus director, after the Champions League final loss to Real Madrid. “There are no players anymore who can put the forward right in front of the goalkeeper with a single pass.”

Allegri has the backing of Juventus’ management, and with one or two more signings, the team can take the next big step.

TARGETS

Blaise Matuidi (PSG)

30 | Central midfielder

Market value: €30 million

The attack-mindedness of Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira has often left Juventus exposed in the middle of the pitch, allowing oppositions to overload the defence. Matuidi’s work-rate and passing can help solve this.

Verdict: Smart solution

Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla)

28 | Central midfielder

Market value: €30 million

A fantastic box-to-box player, the Frenchman has become Sevilla’s heart and soul on the pitch. Had he played the Champions League final, he would have stopped Real Madrid in its tracks.

Verdict: Wonderful addition

Kostas Manolas (Roma)

26 | Centre-back

Market value: €30 million

An excellent all-round defender, the Greek centre-back communicates well with other defenders and offers a lot of support to midfield. Juventus can use his pace to pin down quicker strikers.

Verdict: Worthy investment


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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 2:02:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/mission-invincible/article19381022.ece

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