It was the biggest match in Antonio Conte’s coaching career. The Bianconeri traveled to Germany to face the mighty Bayern Munich, perhaps the best run club in Europe that nobody talks about. It was bigger than Chelsea, bigger than Celtic, and certainly bigger than any Italian derby that il Mister has faced.
MATCH ANALYSIS by Aaron Giambattista
Suffice it to say, it didn’t go very well. Juventus was comprehensively outplayed at the Allianz Arena – the midfield was controlled by Bayern, their attack left Juventus defenders scrambling at all times, and their defense comfortably handled the virtually non-existent Juventus attack. It was both a non-performance from Juventus, but also a masterclass from Bayern.
The lineup was fine – if there were any disagreements with it, it was probably something minor. Federico Peluso has been as good as Kwadwo Asamoah recently if not better, and Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri both grabbed a goal this past weekend, not to mention Mirko Vucinic was suffering with the flu and Sebastian Giovinco took a hard hit from Cambiasso at the end of the match.
Bayern simply played on another level, and deservedly won the match. Their team has been the same core for 4-5 years now, they’ve reached two Champions League finals in the last 3, and they have an ultra experienced tactician who knows what he’s doing. While Juventus could beat Bayern “on their day” that crucial caveat generally doesn’t apply when there’s such a mismatch in experience.
The start hardly helped things – the Bianconeri were probably plenty nervous heading into the match, and to concede after 30 seconds did not calm the nerves. The team was rattled by the atmosphere, the poor start, and especially, the pressing from Bayern Munich.
The tactical battle was unquestionably won by Bayern’s Jupp Heynckes. The German tactician stated he had meticulously studied Juve’s play, and it showed. Bayern pressed on Andrea Pirlo intensely, first with Kroos and then even more effectively with his replacement, Muller. Juventus was unable to properly build play out of the back as we see so often in Serie A, with Bayern players crashing the box and forcing the Bianconeri into bad passes or bad clearances. A few bad passes led to increased desperation, and the team was completely shell shocked.
The pressing and midfield domination completely threw Juventus off their game. Pirlo and Leonardo Bonucci‘s long diagonal passes never met their target, both Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri vented their frustration at the midfield for the poor service they were receiving. When a ball finally actually got to them, they were outnumbered with no support from Juve’s midfield.
This wasn’t the right game for Quagliarella, but it was for Alessandro Matri, and that difference is why the former Cagliari striker should stay at Juventus. Conte decided to attempt to play Juve’s game at the Allianz Arena, but it failed, and perhaps it was naive to think the team was ready to impose itself on a vastly more experienced opponent. The team would have probably done better with a counter-attacking strategy, which worked superbly against Chelsea and Celtic earlier in the Champion’s League.
Matri is not an aerial target man, so long over-the-top balls are useless- he is not very good at controlling those passes, nor is he dominant in the air. Matri thrives on passes on the ground. Over-the-top balls can work, as long as it allows him to control it while running direct on goals. Instead, we had Matri playing too often with his back to goal, and Fabio Quagliarella attempting to hold onto the ball with 3 Bayern players swarming him.
The goals were disappointing to concede – the first took a deflection, the second, there was a hint about offside, but both the Juventus defense and especially Gianluigi Buffon could’ve done better. There is no point lamenting about these when Bayern easily could’ve had 2-3 more with better finishing, they were completely superior all match.
As much as Antonio Conte and the team state that everyone can play two matches a week with full attention, the Bayern match and so many others have proved that no, this team cannot. (yet) Disappointing draws in the Champion’s League were followed by crushing wins in the league, and likewise, great wins in the Champion’s League were followed by dejected losses in the league. 3 out of the 4 league losses (Inter, Milan, Roma) were directly before or after a big Champion’s League match. Likewise, the draw at home to Shakthar Donesk came just after a thrilling 4-1 demolition over at the time, the anti-Juve, Roma.
Conte’s biggest failure in the Bayern Munich game is tied to that a few days ago. As much as the Italian media hyped up the Derby d’Italia, Inter was 18 points behind – it was not a big match. Napoli was 9 points behind the Bianconeri – there was no imminent threat of losing the Serie A title. And yet, Conte fielded his strongest XI. It resulted in a great performance against Inter, but predictably, a very subpar Bayern match. Perhaps a draw or loss to Inter could’ve even spurred on the desire for revenge against Inter, like the loss at home to Inter in October provoked Juve’s demolition of Nordsjaelland after 3 Champion’s League draws.
LE PAGELLE by Aaron Giambattista
Gianluigi Buffon 4.5 - There were two great saves in the match from San Gigi, but unfortunately he was at fault for both of the goals. The first, some might say is a bit harsh given the deflection, but I believe there was time to react to make the save. The second goal he simply pushed into the path of the Bayern attack. A disappointing night for someone we expect big things of on big occasions.
Andrea Barzagli 4.5 - Struggled with the constant onslaught. Beaten a few occasions by Ribery, and his passing, like much of the defense, was pretty poor. A horrendous clearance directly to Robben could’ve been a goal.
Leo Bonucci 5.5 - The best of an overrun defense, although his forward passing, often impeccable, was atrocious. None reached their intended target.
Giorgio Chiellini 5.5 - Did well in the aerial battle, a strange yellow card aside, but like the rest of the defense struggled with the Bayern attack. Particularly bad passing from Keyser Giorgio.
Stephan Lichtsteiner 5.0 - Given little support on the right, so Alaba and Ribery walked all over him. Rarely got forward, and the one time he did, was harshly booked for simulation which rules him out of the return leg with Padoin or Isla the options to provide offensive flair to get at least 2 goals. Yikes.
Arturo Vidal 6.5 - Arturo has a grudge against Bayern from his Bundesliga days, and it showed. Incredibly motivated throughout, he put in an energetic performance with a few good shots and some great tackling. And of course, some bad tackling, which rules him out of the return leg. Vidal lives and dies by his tackles.
Andrea Pirlo 3.5 - A disastrous performance from Andrea, perhaps his worst in a Juventus shirt. His passing was totally inaccurate, and Andrea was unsure how to deal with the intense pressing. Normally, that isn’t an issue as long as Vidal and Marchisio play well, in fact, as Chelsea showed, other teams focus on Pirlo frees up players like Vidal and Marchisio. But it didn’t.
Claudio Marchisio 4.0 - Did he play?
Federico Peluso 5.0 - Like Lichtsteiner, he got little help from the midfield so Robben and Lahm were always running at him 2v1. Robben would cut central and Lahm would make overlapping runs, and Peluso couldn’t do much about anything. Struggled with Robben 1v1, but the tactical issue was te bigger problem.
75′ Paul Pogba 5.0 - Didn’t have any impact on midfield.
Alessandro Matri 5.0 - Tactics didn’t suit him, one bit. Had no influence on the match.
65′ Mirko Vucinic 6.0 - Settled play down a bit, as he has better control of long passes than Matri or Quagliarella.
Fabio Quagliarella 5.0 - Like Matri, had no support from midfield and no good passes. Will be frustrated to be benched after a poor performance that is largely not at all his fault.
65′ Sebastian Giovinco 5.0 - Got less than 5 touches on the ball. No real impact.
Antonio Conte 3.0 - His worst coaching performance at Juventus. His team was torn apart, and it very easily could’ve been 5-0. Should have rotated heavily for Inter and considered a counter-attacking approach.
ANALYSIS WRAP-UP by Aaron Giambattista
In all likelihood, Juventus will likely go out at the Juventus Stadium, but these two ties serve as vital experience in a long-term project that is not yet finished. Bayern twice lost in the final in recent years, against Inter and Chelsea. Both clubs were unquestionably at the end of a project, but that’s not so with Juventus, with only Pirlo short on time in his career.
American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once looked at a chair adorned with a sun. It was the Constitutional Convention, and it was far from certain that the new government would survive. He stated at the end of the Convention, “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I know that it is a rising sun.”
Likewise, while the 2-0 defeat in Germany was bitter, and the Bianconeri have a massive task to overcome in the 2nd leg. It’s not over yet, and the fightback at Stamford Bridge shows this team has guts, even if it starts out poorly. But whatever happens, this team is not a setting sun like Inter or Chelsea, but a rising sun. There’s a lot more to come under Antonio Conte.
Bayern Munich 2-0 Juventus – both goals and highlight video