This past weekend, Juventus squared up against fellow Serie A heavyweights, AC Milan, at San Siro for a much-anticipated clash of top-four hopefuls. Despite its potential, the match played out as a midseason stalemate, with players from both sides looking a little listless. But past the lack of goals (or shots on goal in the case of Juventus), the more measured pace of play offers one distinct advantage to viewers: a clear view of formational repositioning based on phase of play. In other words, a game model at work.
On paper, Juventus set up in a 4-4-2. However, Juventus’ shape only resembled a 4-4-2 when out of possession. With the ball, Juventus adapted to the area of the pitch and opposition pressure. In the defensive third, the center backs would split, utilizing the goalkeeper as an additional passing option and allowing the full-backs and wide midfielders to push forward, like a 2-4-4. During this phase, the second striker frequently drops deep to offer a combination option out of pressure. In doing so, the striker looks to find their fullback or central midfielder in space, providing a release from pressure and facilitating ball carrying from the defensive to the mid/attacking third. As part of this transition, Juventus would move as pictured above: left midfielder to forward position, right midfielder to right wing, left back to left wing, striker remains advanced, and second striker roams in playmaker role. These movements result in a final formation in the attacking third of 2-3-5 or 3-2-5 (depending on positioning of the other full-back).Embed from Getty Images
After studying these transitional movements, two key takeaways are clear. First, when managers make player selections they should be in the context of their projected model. At its core, these tactics are built on players leaning into their strengths. Fielding two defensively-minded wide midfielders would be nonsensical in a system like this, that demands they offer an attacking threat. Secondly, a football team’s “lineup” remains an analytical oversimplification of the way they play. The average positions of Juventus could have easily been characterized as a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, etc. In fact, many teams in the world will adopt these same attacking positions regardless of published formation, placing players in a manner that meets their unique philosophy, style of play, game model and game-plan. To truly understand a side’s predispositions, a game model incorporating phases and areas of play offers a far more accurate and comprehensive view than where they stand at kickoff.
So there it is! A quick-take tactical analysis from Jeremy Barnes on Juventus’ tactical set-up, and how their game model influences what they do in different thirds. Be sure to check out more of our Serie A analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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