After flirting with the Juventus management for valid reasons to make him stay, Antonio Conte, finally parted with the club that he represented even as a player. His timing of leaving the club was outrageous for some Juventus fans and what was even more horrendous andAi??atrocious was the appointment of former AC Milan boss Masimilliano Allegri next. Now for someone familiar with Serie A, Allegri forced Pirlo out of AC Milan, by constantly playing him out of position and not as a regista, and then there was an added hate of hiring a former manager of a rival. After a barrage of hate filled comments, tweets and even banners – taken up by the Drughi, life went on. Allegri was Juventus’ manager and the Juventini had to stick with him, even if they hated him.

Months into the new season and Allegri has not disappointed with this tenure in Turin. The Italian has already led Juventus to ten wins, a draw and a loss, with the Bianconeri registering 31 points on the table, whilst conceding just 4 goals in their endeavors.

Although it would be crazy, naive yet highly inaccurate to compare Allegri’s short tenure with Conte’s campaign, there might be one thing overlapping and common in their adventures with Juventus, Champions League.

Both have had some torrid times in the Champions League, with Conte getting knocked out in the Group Stages, while Allegri’s Juventus failing to dominate a lowly Malmo FC side. Although the Champions League’s next round looks like a possibility this time around for Juve, sitting in third with six points, defensive technicalities could still be a problem for the Turin based side, in the latter stages of Europe’s elite club competition.

Max Allegri was quick to rectify his choice of starting with three men at the back in Juventus’s first three Champions League games this season, and reverted to a back four against Olympiakos, last time around. Since the era of Antonio Conte, Juventus’s resolute defense has suffered the age old enigma of operating as a four men defensive unit or a three men defensive structure.

While Juventus pose a versatile back line with players capable of filling in almost all positions, their best unit of operation, still remains unknown.

Three Men In A Boat

Juventus in a three men defensive setup

Juventus in a three men defensive setup

The current crop of Juventus back line features three imposing Italians with a tactical mindset and the ability to read play. In Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chellini, Juventus probably has the meanest (not in terms of goals conceded) defense in Europe. While Andrea Barzagli is the think tank of the team, gazing his opposing forward’s movements to pure perfection and then delivering the sucker punch, Giorgio Chellini is all about pure power and physicality. The imposing Italian has developed a trait of putting his body on the line, whilst being clinical in tackles and interceptions. This leaves Leonardo Bonucci, Bonucci is the fulcrum which joins Barzagli and Chellini. Gifted with a good range of passing, Bonucci has the ability to produce killer long balls, which obviously will make a Swedish Delight for Fernando Llorente. Now the three men defense looks hipster and though gives an advantage of deploying an added player in the midfield, it also has it’s disadvantage which for Juventus could be more than its advantages.

A three men defense could be and has been pulled off successfully in the Serie A, but flutters in European Competitions because of the pace, trickery, skill possessed by the opposing European teams. When Juventus play with a 3-5-2, Chellini and Barzagli often drift wide, though they do not initiate their runs forward, as a right back and left back. Technically this leaves a huge hole in the middle of the park, manned by only Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Pirlo. Both Bonucci and Pirlo, are not known for their pace and this creates a hole which is easily capitalised on by the European team. A second more often observed scenario unfolds when the wing backs fail to track back, giving way to the space vacated by them, which is regularly capitalised by Europe’s pacey wingers. Errors such as these against the mighty strike forces of Europe, result in clinical goals. The 3-5-2, could be used to maximum effect to create a stronghold in the midfield area, and could be beneficial against teams like Barcelona, which thrive on short passes, but acts like a suicidal formation against teams which thrive on wing play and accommodate pacey attacking forwards.

Four Men Defensive Setup

Juventus's likely back four

Juventus’s likely back four

Although both Allegri and Conte, have used a four men defensive structure in Europe, Juventus’s best four defenders in respective place, were rarely geld together.

If Juventus are to go forward with a four men defensive setup in Europe, which looks more than likely than the trio of Barzagli-Bonucci-Chellini, must be sacrificed to revert back into a duo of Barzagli and Chellini. Although Bazagli and Chellini dished out horrible performances, while playing together in a four men defense for Italy, the duo – given time, could easily evolve. Theoretically it can be one of the best Center Back pairing in Europe. While Barzagli could drop deep, providing and using his tactical brain to pure perfection a faster and more agile Chellini would utilise his physical ability to knock opposing players off the ball.

The signing of Patrice Evra was controversial to some Juventini – given that Ashely Cole had signed for rivals AS Roma for free, the Frenchmen is certainly Juventus’s best bet in the Left Back department, which lacks depth. Evra, is already known for his work as a left back and even though the Frenchman fails to track back on some occasions, he provides a lot of ammunition in attack. The right back would easily be Stephen Lichtsteiner comprised. ‘The Swiss Express’ as he is dubbed is one of the most hardworking players in the Juventus team. Although, the Swiss Express lacks the final cross in, he makes it up with his tireless defensive duties.

Juventus’s substitutes notably Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna are versatile enough to slot in any one of the given back four positions. Caceres can operate comfortably on the Right Back as well as the Center Back position, while Ogbonna can be deployed as a Left Back and a Center Back.

The Road Ahead

Juventus certainly has quality, depth and versatility in its defensive setup. Although the four men defensive setup can be used in Europe with ease, a three men defensive structure is likely to be used in the Italian League. Injuries to Andrea Barzagli and Patrice Evra, have forced Juventus to deploy a back four with two major components missing. The back four is certainly the way ahead in Europe, given that every player is fit, while a hipster back three is the best possible setup in the Serie A.

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