And how to learn to recognize it.
Perhaps it happened much earlier, but since his return to the Juventus bench, Allegri has definitively decided to abandon the coaching dimension. Today Allegri is more reminiscent of a haruspex, the Roman priest who specialized in examining the entrails of dead animals to draw divine signs. Allegri observes matches not as an expression of a tactical science, but as an expression of the emptiness of the human being.
Inside a wrong opponent stoppage, inside a millimetric offside, inside an extraordinary save by his goalkeeper, Allegri now sees traces of the divine. His desire to command and codify the chaos of a football match, an agglomeration of twenty-two people in which someone is better than someone else, has become an obsession, a life mission fueled by the fire caused by an exemption never understood and never digested. Allegri’s blind faith in fate has never reached such high peaks as it has in recent months, and it seems uninterrupted even by the long world break.
After a long and gloomy period in which the team did not seem to believe in his sorceries and treated his visions and non-football pretensions almost dismissively, today the players seem to have become aware of the mysticism on the bench and have become an army of soldiers lobotomized with only one goal in mind, always. The realization of the Allegrata, the noumenon of Allegri.
The Allegrata has now gone beyond the boundaries of our space and our time. It no longer has anything to do with football or sports. The Allegrata exists as water exists, as sand exists, as a stone exists. It is there and we all know it by now, with its strengths and its limitations, like all things that exist.
It has four conditions, two mandatory, two more optional.
1. The Allegrata takes place against a technically inferior opponent. Against opponents of equal or higher technical level, it tends to not work, at least in terms of purity.
2. The Allegrata to be able to achieve must see the presence in the team of at least fifteen players available.
3. The Allegrata usually takes place away.
4. The Allegrata usually takes place in the central period of the seasonthe one that goes between October and February to be clear.
It is divided into five acts, inexorable and inseparable.
1. The balance
After so many years on the benches, Allegri has now understood one thing. 90 minutes for a football match is too much. It’s an incomparable waste of time. The matches can easily end in a final shootout, in a bloody one-on-one à la Sergio Leone. To get to the inevitable final in shape, there is a well-structured script that must be followed slavishly, without the possibility of going overboard, in order to avoid upheavals.
It is necessary, trivially, pass the time. After a long series of experiments, Allegri patented the perfect formula to line up the perfect eleven for the Allegrata. The recipe calls for three central defenders plus a number of midfielders that is well proportioned to the number of players available. The number of mezzali in question usually varies between 3 (minimum wage) and 5, when he wants to do things big. At least two players capable of changing the situation remain on the bench, one with the leg and one with the foot. A forward is placed in front so as not to keep the team too squashed and voilà, the game is done. The team has achieved the necessary balance and can set the inevitable in motion.
Just as paracetamol has antipyretic activity, Allegrata has boredom. In short, it is not a side effect, but the active ingredient that makes the product commercial. Allegri knows well that boredom is the search for neural stimulation that is not satisfied, the best human state for reasoning and producing new ideas. We imagine him standing in anticipation of the upset of the match in the second half, while he calmly observes the opponent’s useless efforts in the first forty-five minutes, when he willingly gets angry among the black and white vines, without ever leaving the jungle.
The game becomes a film for a while where absolutely nothing happens; the players on the field, tools in the hands of a higher design, become, in the most literal sense of the term, simple workers. They are just working, football is no more. There is only one mission. They run and make traffic in the middle of the field, complain to the referee, make some slides. All just to justify the salary, to give the public a sop, to prove that they are still footballers and not really soldiers on a mission. Boredom grabs the game and the Allegrata takes shape.
3. The categories
The minutes pass and soon it’s time to really get going. The script speaks for itself. You have to put in the strong ones between minutes 55 and 65. Before it’s too soon, but be careful because after it’s too late. Top category players enter the field to rock the game, without having lost energy in the first half. The concept of category haunts Allegri. He repeats it over and over, so as to make it almost proverbial (while he has curiously stopped making any reference to horses, who knows why). If you follow football, it is very likely that you will immediately associate the word category with Massimiliano Allegri.
The disarming banality of his reasoning brings out perhaps Allegri’s most inscrutable quality, albeit a little watered down lately: the ability to present himself in front of a microphone and rattle off simple fourth grade reasoning (there are the good ones and then there are the less good ones) in a very serious way, with solemn tones that oscillate between Aesop and the biblical parable. Not by everyone.
Once those of higher categories have been added, the Allegrata is ready to take definitive shape. Allegri then gets rid of a couple of ornamental midfielders (his favorite lately in this sense is Weston McKennie, who has almost become a parody of a footballer) and gets ready to build the final result.
Here begins the most mystical and dangerous phase of the Allegrata: Juventus begins to offer offensive play, driven by the entry of the best individuals and inevitably accepts to lean forward. The opponent starts to see spaces, feels the air of a big blow and starts to believe it. A few scrums, some shots from outside, a few saves, sometimes even a post. It’s all useless, all still instrumental to the superior design. Allegri sits at the Russian roulette table with Robert De Niro’s bandana in The Deer Hunter. He knows there’s a loaded gun on the table and he knows four shots are his.
The best players are on his side, more fresh and bad. Opponents are tired, scared and technically inferior. There is only one shot available to the opponent, who will inevitably shoot or at least have the opportunity to shoot, but it is a simple game of statistics and the odds are on his side. The word luck shouldn’t even be mentioned.
5. The shot
Here is the shot, at last. The Allegrata is completed and revealed in all its splendour. Its forms of manifestation are multiple and unpredictable.
It could be a shot from outside the area (Fagioli vs Lecce). It can be a scrum from a corner (Vlahovic vs Torino). It can be a dirty punishment from the edge (Milik vs Cremonese). It could be a sudden header at the far post (Kulusevski vs Zenit). It could be an own goal (Venuti vs Fiorentina). It can be a rebound (Cuadrado vs Torino), a volley (Dybala vs Bologna), an extraordinary goal (Dybala vs Lazio), a goal from outside (Locatelli vs Torino), an individual action (Cuadrado vs Lyon), a finish from sills (Danilo vs Udinese).
It could be anything but like an execution, like a biblical plague, the Allegrata will sooner or later be fulfilled. Everyone knows it, everyone sees it coming, but no one knows how to avoid it.
This article was published in preview on Catenaccio, the newsletter of Sportellate.it.