Dead Man Walking: If Juventus don't sack Massimiliano Allegri, they risk losing Dusan Vlahovic, Federico Chiesa and Angel Di Maria

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Massimiliano Allegri Juventus 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The Bianconeri have been blighted by problems off the field this season, but that's still no excuse for them stinking out Serie A...

"It's not a failure; it's steps to success," NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo argued last week in an extraordinary post-match press conference. "There's always steps to it. Michael Jordan played 15 years, won six championships. The other nine years was a failure? That's what you're telling me?

"It's a wrong question; there's no failure in sports. There's good days, bad days, some days you are able to be successful, some days you are not, some days it is your turn, some days it's not. That's what sports is about. You don't always win."

Given the circumstances, it was an impressively rational and reasoned defence of the Milwaukee Bucks after their shock first-round elimination from the play-offs, the most polite put-down you'll ever see, with Giannis repeatedly interrupting himself to make it clear that this wasn't a personal attack on the journalist who had sparked such a passionate response to the idea that the Bucks' entire season should be considered a write-off because of one series defeat to Miami Heat.

The Greek's argument also provoked a broader debate about the definition of success and failure, and the media's coverage of those two 'impostors'.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri even name-checked Giannis in his press conference ahead of Sunday's Serie A clash with Bologna. "There will be moments when we don't win, but we need to create the conditions to do it," he told reporters. "Only one team wins and we need to be that team."

And he's right, because it is absolutely impossible to defend Allegri unless his team wins. The end needs to justify the means because there is simply no longer hiding the fact that Juventus are one of the worst teams to watch in world football at the moment, which is disgraceful given their resources.

  1. 'Allegri makes Inzaghi look like Cruyff'
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    'Allegri makes Inzaghi look like Cruyff'

    Last week's performance in their 1-0 loss to Inter in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final was embarrassing. They were a goal down, both on the night and on aggregate, from the 15th minute, and yet they ended with an xG of just 0.15.

    "Allegri makes (Inter coach Simone) Inzaghi look like Johan Cruyff in comparison," Daniele Adani argued on BoboTV. "His objective in life is to stop the other team from winning.

    "Do you know why that game ended 1-0? It's because Inter stopped playing in the second half and sat deep, just like Juventus did in their golden era, and the second half was in fact shameful. I hope whoever was transmitting it on international TV cut off the signal to save us embarrassment.

    "A team like Inter ought to beat this Juventus 4-0, they were playing against a Dead Man Walking. I think Gianni Agnelli was turning in his grave seeing that Juve performance. I’ll be honest, though, not even I believed he could be worse than last season, but that’s where we are."

    Indeed, Allegri has actually managed to make a really bad situation even worse.

  2. 'Physically, we are broken'
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    'Physically, we are broken'

    He is obviously not to blame for the many financial and institutional issues Juventus are facing this season, and keeping players focused on the field, given the chaos unfolding off it, is not an easy task.

    Directors are coming and going, as are points, with the Bianconeri the subject of constant court-room drama that could drag into next season. There are difficult working environments, and then there is Turin.

    However, what's clear is that Allegri isn't part of the solution at Juventus, he's part of the problem.It is no coincidence that reports of player unrest are now appearing in the press on an almost daily basis.

    According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, the ankle injury that ruled Angel Di Maria out of Sunday's 1-1 draw at Bologna only appeared after the winger had been informed that he would not be in the starting line up for the game at the Renato dall'Ara, while it was claimed afterwards that Federico Chiesa has grown extremely frustrated with being employed in a variety of different roles - often within the same game.

    There has long been a suspicion that the coach has no clue of his best team, as underlined by the fact that Allegri has used 100 different line ups in the 100 games he has overseen since returning for a second spell in charge in 2021.

    "Physically, we are broken," an anonymous player told the Corriere dello Sport. "By changing line up every time, we struggle to have a playing style."

  3. 'There are no ideas'

    'There are no ideas'

    The net result is a rotten run of form that has seen Juve pick up just one point from their past four Serie A games. They still sit third in the table, a top-four finish remains there for the taking, but there is no guarantee that the Old Lady will be playing Champions League football next season.

    Firstly, there is every chance that their 15-point penalty deduction for breaching financial gains rules will be restored, while they could yet be sanctioned in relation to the criminal investigation into illegal salary manoeuvres.

    Secondly, the paucity of Juve's performances means they could end up sliding down the Serie A standings anyway. This is a team that is largely devoid of an attacking threat. Juve paid €70m for Dusan Vlahovic and yet the Serbian, who continues to score freely at international level, has now gone 744 minutes (11 appearances) without a goal in Serie A.

    The Bianconeri have managed just four goals overall in their last six games - only Empoli, Spezia and Lecce have managed fewer (three each).

    "It is honestly sad to watch Juventus players in these conditions," former forward Christian Vieri lamented on BoboTV. "Whatever they do, it is almost accidental or a fluke, they have to rely on the opposition making mistakes [to score]. There are no ideas."

  4. 'Allegri just doesn't care'
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    'Allegri just doesn't care'

    It's difficult to disagree. Or indeed argue that things wouldn't at least be better with a new coach with modern ideas.

    As Antonio Cassano argued after the Coppa Italia exit, "Juventus defended in the hope of reaching extra-time and perhaps penalties, and I can accept that from Cremonese, but not Juve. They play bad football, Allegri and his staff have got to go.

    "He's an embarrassment and cannot represent Juve. His football ideas are still the same as 30 years ago. In the two-year hiatus (between 2019 and 2021), he went fishing, but the other coaches use that time to study. I think of coaches like Thomas Tuchel, Marcelo Bielsa, Roberto De Zerbi, who clearly love football and study it from day to night. Allegri never has done, because he just doesn't care."

  5. 'Not even half-way through a four-year project'

    'Not even half-way through a four-year project'

    Such a view is arguably disrespectful. Allegri has, after all, won six Scudetti, including one at AC Milan. But the truth is that he's done nothing over the last two years to suggest that he's the right man for the task at hand, let alone that he deserves to lead Juve into a new era. On the contrary, he is actually evoking memories of Luigi Delneri's disastrous reign just over a decade ago - Andrea Pirlo, remember, was sacked for far, far less.

    And yet Juve CFO Francesco Calvo appeared on DAZN on Sunday and claimed that Allegri's position is "not up for debate. He returned on a four-year contract and is not even half-way through that project."

    That is just the most terrifying thought for Juve fans. If they are forced to endure two more years of the drivel that is 'Allegriball', then even some of their fiercest rivals might start feeling sorry for them. Because try as he might, Allegri cannot compare Juve's situation to that of the Bucks.

    Seeing Milwaukee lose to the Heat was a genuine shock because the Bucks are such a strong team. They just had the misfortune to run into 'Play-off Jimmy' Butler with a half-fit Giannis after a regular season in which they won more games than anyone else. They didn't do an awful lot wrong.

    Juve, by contrast, have done very little right, which is why their dismal run of one win from their last eight games in all competitions is not a surprise. It is the natural consequence of a painfully restrictive style of play that is alienating players; world-class players that will leave this summer if Allegri does not.

    Cash-strapped, crisis-hit Juve would obviously be loath to sack the Tuscan this summer, given the costs involved in doing so. But, at this stage, can they really afford to keep him?

  6. Allegri is not Giannis - he's 'Comical Ali'
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    Allegri is not Giannis - he's 'Comical Ali'

    Allegri has repeatedly pointed to the fact that he has put his faith in several youngsters this season and that is commendable. It was also out of necessity, though, and, again, is he really the right man to oversee their continued development given the painfully pragmatic nature of his approach to the game? Would the likes of Matias Soule, Samuel Iling-Junior, Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti not benefit far more from working with a coach who preaches creativity rather than caution?

    It's actually hard to argue that Allegri is doing anything other than holding players back - even those that he is trying to push forward.

    Juve could yet bore their way past Sevilla and into the final of the Europa League. Maybe they'll even lift the trophy by winning a war of attrition. Champions League qualification remains a possibility via the league, too. But one wonders whether that would really be a good thing for a club so clearly in dire need of a total overhaul, from the dugout to the boardroom. Sticking with Allegri would still feel like merely prolonging the pain.

    What we saw ahead of the Bologna game, then, was not a Giannis-like plea for perspective. It was Comical Ali claiming that Iraq is winning the war. Or Lieutenant Frank Drebin standing in front of an exploding fireworks factory telling onlookers that there's "nothing to see here".

    Because this is not fine. It is failure. Total systemic failure, on and off the field. Whether Allegri wants to admit it or not.