What is Max Allegri’s football philosophy – and what would he bring to Arsenal?
Max Allegri has been linked with the Arsenal job.
Some Gunners fans will point out that Arsene Wenger is still their manager, and that is absolutely true, but the signs point more and more to the magnificent Frenchman leaving his post in the summer. His contract expires and while there has been no official announcement, the fact that they’ve let it get to March indicates that after 21 years in charge, Arsene Wenger will leave Arsenal.
Thus, the vacancy. And apparently Max Allegri has told his friends that he intends to fulfill that vacancy. That’s a shocking story, and while Allegri is definitely not as seductive an appointment as many Gunners would like, he brings real quality. Two major qualities, in fact.
Sure, Allegri isn’t as beloved by the analysts as the other candidates, but he’s got something none of them have: trophies. Major trophies. He’s won Serie A three times, once with Milan (only the Rossoneri’s second Scudetto this century) and twice with his current club Juventus.
Speaking of Juventus, they’re currently top of Serie A and Allegri looks likely to make it three league titles in a row, four league titles overall. For reference, Arsene Wenger has only won the Premier League three times in his 20 seasons as Arsenal boss.
Moreover in his first season as Juventus boss, Allegri guided his side to the Champions League final. Yes, they were defeated there by Barcelona, but consider that the much-vaunted Antonio Conte never got Juve past the quarter-finals. Not only did Allegri do that, he then beat juggernauts Real Madrid in the semi-final.
Finally, Allegri has also won the Coppa Italia for the last two seasons, completing and then retaining a Domestic Double. As things stand Juve are on to make the Final again this year, meaning if he does join Arsenal in the summer, Allegri will have won three Domestic Doubles in a row. For reference, the only competition Arsene Wenger ever managed to retain at Arsenal is the FA Cup, and he only did that once.
So Allegri would bring a steel and winning mentality to Arsenal. Something the Gunners have been crying out for ever since Arsene Wenger lost his edge after that Champions League Final defeat in Paris, way back in 2006. But what is the other quality he would win?
When Arsene Wenger picks a formation and then sticks to it. When he first joined Arsenal, he played 4-4-1-1. He used 4-1-4-1 in his run to the aforementioned 2006 Champions League Final. He dabbled with 4-3-3 a bit in 2009 then settled on 4-2-3-1 in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since.
Every week, Arsenal will line up in 4-2-3-1. Even if it doesn’t suit the players he has available, even if it’s a rigid formation that is just far too easy to nullify, he will play it. You can’t change his mind. That’s somewhat ridiculous but it does go a way to explaining his struggles of late.
Max Allegri, on the other hand, is tactically flexible. Throughout his career one of his defining traits is his ability to change formation and line his side up on the best possible system for the situation they would be facing. There are three major ways he could line-up with Arsenal.
Just because Allegri is versatile, doesn’t mean he will change something just for the sake of changing it. 4-2-3-1 has proven a vaguely successful formation for Arsenal, and with some sharper implementation it could be even better. Allegri’s version of it would centre around Mesut Özil.
If there is one consistent tactical idea Allegri employs, it is the No. 10 – he has always tried to sign them. When at Juventus he chased Chelsea’s Oscar (when Oscar was still playing well) and even signed Hernanes almost solely because he is a No. 10.
Mesut Özil is the archetypical No. 10, and Allegri would centre him. Make him absolutely everything to the side and give him the kind of protection, focus and help that may convince him to sign a new contract.
Allegri would surround him with fast and hard-working wingers. Rather than indulge ponderous or possession-heavy wing-forwards as Wenger often does, Allegri would make that position a more direct one. Even the same players would play differently there.
Up-front? Olivier Giroud, of course. Allegri likes a tall target man of a striker. In midfield Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may finally get a chance to be the kind of dynamic centre-mid presence that the likes of Arturo Vidal and Sami Khedira have been for Allegri.
Allegri could opt for a three-at-the-back system, and for Arsenal this has many advantages. Alright they’d have to sign a centre-back to aid Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny, but playing Héctor Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs at wing-back could unleash their attacking instincts whilst helping to cover for their defensive frailties.
Of course, Mesut Özil would once again be the No. 10. The central midfield zone occupied by anyone who is willing to put in the effort. But ahead of Özil, Olivier Giroud and another striker. Perhaps Danny Welbeck or Theo Walcott, perhaps a signing like Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé or Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata (who Allegri managed at Juve). It would be a fluid front two that would, along with the wing-backs, give Özil at least four passing options on every attack.
Playing three at the back is a risk, one Allegri need not take to centre Özil and still play two strikers. The 4-3-1-2 (a slight variation on a midfield diamond) is a formation most often seen on Football Manager, but Allegri could bring it to the Emirates.
Again, Özil would be the No. 10 and the focal point of the side. Giroud and another striker play up-front. But behind them, in that midfield three, a change. The central player would be a passer, a conduit to move the ball from the defence to Özil. Granit Xhaka being the obvious choice for this role, and giving him a more static role would benefit the Swiss international who has struggled this season in a more expansive and dynamic role.
Wide of Xhaka, however, would be the key players. Dynamic box-to-box midfielders who can defend and attack and carry the ball. The kind of shuttlers who provide overloads and additional options for Özil in attack but can scurry back to cover overlapping full-backs (after helping to create those overloads in the first place) in defence.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be one of these players, utilising his natural ability to be dynamic and play in that half-space between wing and centre. Aaron Ramsey would be a good back-up in this role, but Arsenal would have to sign another player to occupy this role. Monaco’s Tiemoué Bakayoko would be a good candidate. A defensively solid player who is more than capable at surging forward.
Overall, Max Allegri is not a sexy managerial choice for Arsenal. He’s not glamorous and probably wouldn’t get many column inches either. But he is most probably the best possible candidate for what is going to be a nearly impossible job of taking over after the greatest manager in Arsenal’s history steps aside.