This post was guest-blogged by FABIO BARCELLONA
English translation by Marco Pantanella
Tactics-wise, the two teams fielded their formations as expected. The Bianconeri confirmed the same line-up they vs. Parma, with the exception of Chiellini replacing Marrone and the return of Gigi Buffon between the sticks. Thus, in their customary 3-5-2 line-up, JUVENTUS fielded BUFFON in goal, BARZAGLI-BONUCCI-CHIELLINI (R to L) as the defensive trio. On the outside, LICHTSTEINER and ASAMOAH, with usual suspects VIDAL, PIRLO and MARCHISIO in the middle. The attacking pair was once again formed by VUCINIC and GIOVINCO.
UDINESE coach Francesco Guidolin also replied with a 3-5-2: Brkic in goal, Benatia, Danilo and Domizzi forming the backline, Basta (right) and Armero (left) on the wings; Pinzi playing defensive mid in front of the D line and in between Pereyra and new signing Andrea Lazzari (the two mezz’ali). Up front, Fabbrini was paired with Totò Di Natale.
The two squads both lined up with three defenders, five midfielders and two strikers, but similar team positioning does not usually coincide with identical playing philosophy. Indeed, Juventus focus obsessively on ball control and territorial domination while Udinese, especially for big matches, prefer to close up shop at the back and restart with fast counter-attacks, exploiting in particular the running ability & speed of their wingers.
Amazingly enough and compared to the Friulians’ usual habits (and those exhibited by teams facing Juventus), with Udinese not holding the ball Guidolin chose not to line up his strikers vertically (which would entail assigning Fabbrini to control PIRLO) but rather horizontally, instructing both to challenge the passing movements of the Juventus defensive trio. PIRLO, who’d eventually be picked up by an Udinese midfielder as each play developed, was thus left relatively free… a mistake which the Friulians would pay for dearly.
The two following slides show the position of Fabbrini and Di Natale, during Udinese’s pressuring phase at the start of the Bianconeri’s build-up.
On the other side of the field, in a similar situation, Juventus tried to force pressuring by pushing MARCHISIO up towards Benatia and thus challenging the Udinese defenders’ ball movement in even-number situations.
In the 10 minutes during which the two teams played 11 vs. 11, Udinese were able to bring the ball towards the Juventus box a few times, in particular thanks to the liveliness of Fabbrini, who moved to receive passes in the intermediate zone (in front of Juve’s defenders and behind the Bianconeri midfield) of the playing field.
Juventus on the other hand, with a consistency indicating a clear tactical desire to strike what evidently had been identified as the weak point of the Friulian backline, played several deep balls behind the Udinese defenders. In the first 10 minutes of play, Juve managed to send a lone man through against Brkic on three separate occasions.
In the first opportunity shown below, GIOVINCO moves in between Benatia and Danilo and is sent deep thanks to MARCHISIO‘s pass. Juve’s #12 is only a few centimeters short from getting to the ball before the Serbian goalkeeper.
It is interesting to note how out of the two Juventus forwards, GIOVINCO was the one instructed to make runs into space and stretch the opposing team.
In the slide below, a deep run by the diminutive striker, moving in between Domizzi and Danilo, once again generates — on the long pass of a perfectly unmarked PIRLO — a serious danger to Udinese. Upon reception of the ball by the Juventus forward, deep into Udinese’s half, the Friulians are then forced to commit the foul leading to the penalty kick.
In between the two GIOVINCO chances, another great opportunity landed on the foot of LICHTSTEINER. Starting from his now familiar deep right-wing position, the Swiss player performs, in the slide below, his typical cutting move (from outside to inside) and is served with an inch-perfect Andrea PIRLO long ball which surprises Armero.
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In the 10-minute timespan during which the two teams played at even strength, Juventus were thus able to create serious danger for Udinese, exploiting the Friulian backline’s difficulty at reading the deep runs of Bianconeri players. Antonio Conte’s team confirmed the trends of its 3-5-2, which already emerged during the course of the Parma game. In particular, the runs performed by Claudio MARCHISIO (compared to those of the other mezz’ala, Arturo VIDAL), and the coordinated movements required by the two forwards against an already-deployed opposing defense.
Once again, MARCHISIO was continuously able to penetrate towards the center-left of the Juventus attack, leaving the central and center-right regions to the two strikers (in the following two slides, Juventus almost looks like they’re fielding a three-pronged attack with MARCHISIO, GIOVINCO, and VUCINIC). The slide below depicts a PIRLO pass towards MARCHISIO occupying the aforementioned area.
Another situation (shown below), illustrates how GIOVINCO moves towards the ball carrier (CHIELLINI), while MARCHISIO makes a deep penetrating run while receiving the ball from Juve’s #12.
On the other side of the pitch, the movements of VIDAL were more horizontal and included supporting Andrea PIRLO during Juve’s build-up phase, as well as drifting towards the wing in support of Stephan LICHTSTEINER‘s plays.
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As mentioned previously in this column, the match furthermore confirmed a trend and tendency that is also a feature of Conte’s 4-4-2/4-2-4 formation: two strikers playing very close together and looking for fast combinations between one another. The tactical choice of Sebastian GIOVINCO as the preferred partner for Mirko VUCINIC is therefore hardly surprising: a typical sequence of Juve’s combinations involves the first forward (the one closest to the ball) making a move towards the ball carrier and, upon receiving the ball, delivering a first-time touch towards his striking partner. It is clear that plays of this kind require quick thinking and a good dose of technique, skills which GIOVINCO possesses in more-than-satisfying amount.
For illustrative purposes let us look at a couple of the combinations we’ve just described. In the first play, GIOVINCO moves towards and receives the ball from PIRLO, then plays it first-time to Mirko VUCINIC.
The second set of slides depicts the excellent opportunity obtained by GIOVINCO in the 50th minute. In this case it is VUCINIC that moves to meet the ball carrier (LICHTSTEINER) and serves, with a great backheel, a first-time pass towards GIOVINCO who is then able to get inside the box and beautifully use his dribbling skills to create space for himself, but then fails to get his shot on target.
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With regards to the match’s development, after achieving a one-man advantage and consequently taking the lead, Juventus appeared to be in absolute control. The most common tactical situation was to see Udinese adopt a 3-5-1, and defend low with 5 defenders in line and three midfielders in the middle.
After Fabbrini‘s exit (who came on to allow substitute goalkeeper Padelli to replace Brkic in net), Udinese was no longer capable of counter-attacking effectively. Juve were thus able to continuously maneuver with 10 men inside Udinese’s half, looking for the right opening, by alternating central combinations in narrow space and wide penetrations on the wing. As soon as Udinese lost the ball, they were incapable to build significantly durable phases of possession or even minimally dangerous counter-attacks. Juve’s doubling of the score was only a matter of time and was achieved by the end of the first half, thanks to a precise finish by Mirko VUCINIC.
After a few minutes in the second half, Guidolin tried changing the match’s inertia by switching to a 3-4-2 and inserting Muriel (who partnered up Di Natale in attack) in place of Pereyra. Udinese’s pair of inner midfielders (Pinzi & Lazzari) was however unable to effectively counteract the Bianconeri’s midfield, thus allowing Antonio Conte’s team to run up the score even more. GIOVINCO‘s 3-0 came almost immediately, effectively marking the end of the game.
In the first 10 minutes before the red card, Andrea PIRLO delivered two long balls, one for LICHTSTEINER and another for GIOVINCO (who had moved into space), generating two great scoring opportunity for Juve. The second one resulted in the penalty / Udinese goalkeeper’s ejection but the two plays, along with another one (starring once again GIOVINCO), show how attacking the space behind the Friulian defense was considered — by Juve’s technical staff — to be the most indicated solution to put the Udinese rearguard into serious trouble. This choice resulted to be a winning one because of all the danger it created, and because it also directly left Udinese with 10 men. With their team already in trouble, deprived of Fabbrini‘s ability of stretching the Juventus defense and “hold onto” the ball in Udinese’s offensive third, the Friulians were left unarmed to counter Antonio Conte’s team’s superiority.
In Juve’s own merit, the Bianconeri were skilfully able to keep the game under complete control thanks to their ball possession and territorial domination. Against 8 men lined up in front of Padelli‘s goal, generating scoring chances and increasing the team’s lead was not an obvious task, but Juve were able to do just so right before the stroke of half-time, thanks to Mirko VUCINIC‘s calibrated shot. And as soon as Guidolin tried to give his team some offensive options (with the insertion of Muriel), Udinese effectively collapsed, unable — with only two central midfielders — to counter Juve’s passing game.
From a tactical point of view, the Udinese match confirmed the trends that were already visible during the Parma game: the movements of MARCHISIO on the forward line, the various movements of VIDAL, the position very high up the field of Juve’s wingers with the team in possession. And, above all, looking to deliver the ball to the strikers with vertical passes on the ground and, subsequently, have these execute narrow combinations between one another. The choice of GIOVINCO partnering up VUCINIC was thus inevitable, due to the former’s ability at passing quickly & effectively in tight spaces. It is also interesting to note the skill with which Juve’s #12 moved into space, inserting himself in the gaps created between the opposing defenders. A skill which GIOVINCO did not possess (or at the very least did not display) during his previous tenure in Turin.
Originally published in Italian on uccellinodidelpiero.com