By Mason Minister (@FutbolMason)
The semi-final of Coppa Italia was destined to be a great watch, as the 1st and 2nd place of Serie A playing for a spot in the final. This analysis explores Juvetus’s play and game strategy. They operated in a 1-5-3-2 with Cuadrado and Evra in the crucial wing back positions.
The formation shifted between 1-3-5-2, 1-3-1-4-2 and 1-5-3-2 depending on the position of the ball and opposition. They pressed aggressively from the off to disturb Inters build up play.
Minute 1: Defending High
Here we can see Juventus almost man marking in the first minute of the game. Juventus looked to restrict Inters option of playing out from the back by placing Morata & Mandzukic between the two centre backs and the defensive midfielder of Inter. In the image above, you can see Marchisio is half between marking the central midfielder and applying pressure with the front two. He’s waiting on the decision of the goalkeeper, should the ball go long he will recover backwards and provide cover to the back line. However, should the ball be played short, he will join the strikers and create a 4v3.
Juventus kept trying to force the opposition to go long throughout the match. The reasoning is that Juventus have excellent defenders and will more often that not win aerial duels, which are a result of pressing so aggressively high up the field.
Minute 8: Defending in the Middle Third
When Inter achieved good possession, Juventus would retreat into a 5-3-2. The whole unit would move in accordance to the ball remaining compact whilst always restricting the space and access of the central areas/players. Juventus remained very patient when Inter had the ball, especially when Inter have the ball in wider areas, where of course the opposition are of less threat to the goal. When Inter did manage to penetrate into the attacking third, it would usually be in the wide areas.
Minute 58: Pendulating back 4/5
As explained in figure from minute 8, Juventus force Inter to play wide or long. Once Inter entered the attacking third, Juventus operate with pendulating back 4/5. In the figure, Cuadrado has left the last defensive line and joined the disjointed 3-man midfield. As this happens, Evra then moves closer to the 3 centre backs to keep central areas compact. If the ball is moved centrally Cuadrado, drops back and reforms the back 5 (see figure from minute 58.2). A mirror reflection will occur should the play be switched to the Evra’s side of the field.
(The variations and description of pendulating back lines can best be described at Spielverlagerung, by Rene Maric)
Due to the adaptability of the team and physical abilities of the strikers (Morata and Mandzukic), Juventus can attack in a multitude of ways. They do this to great affect throughout the game, and as result of this score three goals. It was quite apparent that, Juventus preferred to attack down the right due to the attacking qualities of both Cuadrado and Pogba. The two were frequently positioned close together throughout the game and sometimes rotated to allow Cuadrado the freedom to come inside.
Juventus’s preferred approach to attacking is to bring the ball through the thirds. However, Inter occasionally would press with success and force play long. This doesn’t pose a problem as Mandzukic, Pogba and Morata are all physically capable to compete aerially.
Minute 16: Building through the back/Recycling play
Juventus frequently played out from the back and would often find themselves in this position. Marchisio would often operate as the deep lying play maker, although at times him and Pogba rotate. They often build up play via the left side before switching the ball long to Cuadrado/Pogba. The yellow transparent box in the figure Minute 16. Indicates that the Inter players inside the area will shift in accordance to the position of the ball. Usually a CM (Pogba), would move closer towards the ball, however due to the strategy, he moves towards Cuadrado. Isolating Cuadrado 1v1/2v1 against most defenders in the world will result in chances being created.
Minute 47: Draw them in, switch!
At times during the match, the switch of play created 3v1 situations, although more frequently it would be just Pogba and Cuadrado combining in the wide areas whilst Mandzukic moves inside the box for incoming crosses. As you can see, Inters defensive positioning is quite poor, and they’re frequently passed by this tactic during the game. This happened twice in the 47th minute alone after Juventus recycle possession after this attempt.
Key Aspects of Juventus’s performance:
- Transition – Closest wing back would apply pressure with the attackers and closest central midfielder to force play backwards whilst the other retreats the defensive line and creates a momentarily back four.
- Patience – Juventus would remain very patient when Inter had the ball, allowing them to circulate the ball in wide areas whilst remaining dominant in central areas.
- Compact – Very little space was given to inter in central areas, which would frequently see Inter operating in wide areas.
- Aggressive – Once Inter entered the attacking third, Juventus would become much more aggressive in their pressing.
- Transition – Operating in a 532, its vital that the transition from defence to attack is fluid and quick. The wing backs were key within this process, they would often anticipate that play was on the verge of being retained and would already be on the move into their attacking position.
- Key Players – Like any team, Juventus operates most effectively when attacking through their key attacking players. This they did through focusing play towards the side of Cuadrado and Pogba.
- Dispersal – Due to the compactness of Juventus’s defensive system, it’s important that they disperse very quickly. With in a matter of seconds Juventus would spread wide and high to create the space to penetrate through.
For a club who was supposedly in crisis at the beginning of the season, they’ve soon turned the doubter’s opinion of them. This was a solid all round display of their capabilities even without key players like Dybala (substitute), Barzagli and Buffon. Defensively they allowed very few quality chances on their goal. As of today (31st of January) Juventus are on a twelve game win streak.