What Would Allegri Bring To Arsenal – Scout Report
Unai Emery’s tenure at Arsenal has been marked with displeasure and a lack of identity. For the most part, Arsenal fans have stood by their manager, however, with the ever-changing landscape of football, alternatives must be examined.
Allegri’s Managerial Background
Allegri began his managerial career at Aglianese, where he had spent his final two years as a player. The Serie C2 team where left impressed by his management in his first season and he soon moved on to then Serie C1 side Grosseto. To say the move was unsuccessful is an understatement. He was sacked soon after the beginning of 2006/07 season. After a brief spell at Udinese working as part of Giovanni Galeone’s backroom staff, Allegri was appointed manager of Sassuolo. At the time Sassuolo were an ambitious Serie C1 side. Allegri delivered Sassuolo a first promotion to Serie B. In 2008 Cagliari parted ways with manager Davide Ballardini. The Serie A outfit chose to appoint Allegri. He delivered a 9thplace finish, which was Cagliari’s best finish for 15 years. He also won the Panchina d’Oro award (Golden Bench) ahead of league winner Jose Mourinho. Such accolades drew the interest of heavy hitters AC Milan. On June 25th2010, Allegri was announced manager of AC Milan. Allegri led Milan to their first league title since 2004 and followed it up the next season with a Supercoppa Italiana title. It was made all the sweeter given that they came from behind to beat Inter Milan 2-1. The 14/15 season saw Juventus appoint Allegri replacing Antonio Conte. The appointment was met with scepticism, however turned out to be an inspired signing with the Turin outfit collecting 5 league titles in five seasons. Allegri won a further 4 Italian Cups and 2 Italian Super Cups. He reached two Champions League Finals, however lost both to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
Style of Play
At Juventus, Allegri wanted for his team to play slower passes aimed at progressing the team slowly up the pitch. He wanted for the team to conserve more energy in the process, whilst gaining territorial position. Last season in the 2018/19 season, Juventus allowed their opponent to make 12.95 passes per defensive action. This means that Juventus would on average allow their opponent to make roughly 13 passes before engaging them with either a tackle or interception. This suggests that Juventus; rather than press high and aggressively, would drop into their shape and then begin to press before their opponent got too close to their goal. Again you can see this from the opposition positional losses. On average the opposition would lose the ball 40 times when they were in a high block. This means that they were higher up the pitch in a more attacking structure when they lost the ball. Given that most teams who would encounter Juventus, particularly in the league, would be more inclined to sit deeper and defend the space, this suggests, that it is a core part of Allegri’s philosophy. He doesn’t want his team to press high up and get disjointed or leave space in behind for quick counter-attacks. This could be partly down to Serie A football and the perceived defensive and reactive nature imprinted on coaches. However league newcomer Thiago Motta and semi-veteran Roberto De Zerbi would suggest they are more favourable to vertical positional football, rather than defensive positional play.
Last season, in 51 matches, Allegri’s team scored 87 goals. This is an average of 1.67 goals scored per game. They had an average of 15 shots per game with 35% (4.95) hitting the target. If you compare this with Arsenal last season, they scored 112 goals in 58 matches. Which is an average of 1.9per game. Given Juventus’ increase in firepower with the signing of Ronaldo, they actually scored more goals the season before. In the 17/18 season Juventus scored 112 goals, despite not having Ronaldo. Maybe this shows that Allegri prefers to work with players who are more team orientated such as Mandzukic or Higuain.
Allegri likes for his teams to use the full width of the pitch. He uses switches of play out to his fullbacks/wingbacks to release the pressure on his defenders and midfielders. If his team have the ball in the oppositions half, then the fullback/wingback will look to play a central pass back inside to an interior midfielder. They will then look to draw the opposition narrow, before attacking out wide again. If Juventus are still in their own half, then Allegri will ask for a striker to drop off his man and come deep to get on the ball. This will either drag someone with him and create space for others or give numerical superiority as well as blindside line breaks. This helps distribute the ball forward and disrupt defensive structures. It also gives the team a bounce player who they can play off and get up the pitch with. When the striker drops, a fullback/wingback can advance and drag players back opening interior spaces.
Playing out from the back
Like many modern coaches, Allegri wants for his defenders to be ball playing. He wants for them to come out comfortably with the ball and begin attacks. This is very important when he is looking for his team to draw out their opponents before trying to play through them. Another reason for this is so that they can become another attacking outlet when breaking teams down. Often, Bonucci would progress up into the half-space on the left side of the pitch. He would then look to receive the ball off the winger, wingback or fullback and put a cross in. The other players would in the process look to run the opposition players away and create space for Bonucci. To ensure defensive stability at the same time, one of the midfielders would drop into Bonucci’s vacated position. If they were playing a three-man defence, then they would constrict and tighten as if they were a two.
Defensively Allegri’s teams are phenomenal, which is not something we can say about the sometimes comical defending at Arsenal. Last season Juventus conceded 42 in all competitions. This is on average 0.85 goals per game. Arsenal conceded 71 goals in 58 matches last season. This is 1.2 goals per game on average.
Juventus strong defence could largely be down to Allegri’s positional play. He wants for his team to kill space and become an impenetrable block for the opposition to try and break down. For this to work his team must forget about an aggressive all-out counter-press and get behind the ball in numbers. From here, they can press as one, in a tight compact unit. What an astute manager may look to do, is move their creative player deeper. They would do this because this is where the space is going to be. That more creative player can then look to play penetrative balls out wide or over the top of Juventus’s defence.
Cover Shadow/Defensive Shape
Juventus look to use their midfielders cover shadow as a defence against central penetrative passes. By protecting the central zones, they can channel their opponents out into the wide areas of the pitch. The risk to this is, if a player gets out wide through quick vertical passing and a teammate pins one of the centre backs and then a deep third man runner can pick up the lay-off and break the shape. Another danger is that the midfield and defence could leave too much space in between the two banks. If this happens, then should accurate defence-splitting passes get through, the opposition will be able to turn and attack the backline causing havoc.
A very impressive part of Allegri’s team is their ability to move as one. Left, right, up and down; the shape stays connected and disciplined. This can be derived from Arrigo Sacchi. His AC Milan side pressed very aggressively in a strong shape and would leave little to no space in between their players. They forced their opponents into rushed clearances and aimless long balls which their defence moped up. By defending like this, you can force sideways passes which invite greater pressure on your opponents. The team can slowly push up the pitch killing momentum forcing rushed passes. Obviously a big risk is that if the opposition beat the offside trap then they will be free 1v1 with the goalkeeper.
In conclusion, Allegri will most certainly bring an identity to the Gunners. Allegri wants for his teams to focus on positional defence and maximise the width of the pitch with switches and quick vertical passes to help open up the oppositions tight defence when attacking. Much like Emery, he wants for his teams to attack and overload the channels and half-spaces. Arsenal will not see a possession-based formula, nor will they see the all-out aggressive pressing style, they will see a well-disciplined team. Obviously Juventus is a far stronger side than Arsenal, with Ronaldo, Pjanic, Bonucci and Dybala to name just a few, and this shows that Arsenal will need to back Allegri should they appoint him.
They would for sure need to improve their defence with players such as Dayot Upamecano and Samuel Umtiti. Both good on the ball and solid defenders, however, have injury question marks. I do feel however, if the money is there to spend on new defenders then surely you would sign them for Emery and give him until the end of the season with them at the very least. Emery after all, still won the Europe League three times in a row and is a phenomenal coach. With a solid defensive foundation, he could unleash Aubemyang and Pepe and really enforce his philosophy on the team instead of compensating for defensive shortcomings and sacrificing his playing style in the process. In the 18/19 seaosn he did outscore Allegri’s Juevenus with 112 goals to 87.