Juventus Tactical Analysis vs Inter - Oct 5, 2019
Juventus vs Inter is always a much anticipated match in the Serie A calendar. However, this year the match up has a bit of different flavor to it and I feel part of that has to do with the head coaching changes that both Juventus and Inter made in the off-season with Antonio Conte taking over at Inter and Maurizio Sarri at Juventus. Conte and Sarri both possess strong footballing philosophies and distinct styles of play, which has already become present in there sides performance within there short period of time at the club.
Prior to this match kicking off, Inter were top of the Serie A table with 18 Points and Juventus the reigning Italian champions were at 16 points. Juventus knew fully well that an away win vs Inter could put them top of the table.
Inter have been impressive this season and had a strong performance mid-week in the Champions League vs FC Barcelona and showed that they are ready to compete with the best in Europe. They deserved more from the 2-1 defeat away from home vs Barca and I was impressed with their defensive compactness in Conte's 5-3-2 formation plus their capacity for fast transitions despite missing their key forward Romelu Lukaku due to injury. In my opinion, this is the strongest Inter side that I have seen since the 2008-2010 era of Jose Mourinho, which ended with Inter achieving an impressive treble in 2010 (Scudetto, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League)
Also, Juventus had a successful Champions League match day during the week and took all 3 points vs Bayern Leverkusen with a convincing 3-0 home win. An early goal from Higuian at 17' mins set the tone for what was a pretty straight forward victory. Bernardeschi scored in 61' and Ronaldo concluded a dominant performance with Juve's 3rd Goal at 88'.
Both teams came into the weekend match full of confidence, adapted well to their new head coaches game model and prepared for a physical/tactical battle...
Tactical Match Up:
Juventus lined up in a 4-4-2 Diamond Formation, which defined Sarri's strategy to dominant and control the midfield zone. Inter Milan deployed Conte's traditional 3-5-2 in Offensive Organization and 5-3-2 in Defensive Organization. Conte's line up and tactics were fairly consistent with his recent matches. Same with Sarri as he has used the 4-4-2 diamond quite frequently this season (47.8% of the time over the past 10 matches) and Cuadrado continued to play as the right back (Cuadrado has been playing in this position since Danilo got injured vs Brescia on September 24). For Inter, Lukaku returned from Injury and started up top and replaced Sanchez from the line up that played mid-week vs FC Barcelona.
The strengths for Juventus and Sarri based on the tactical match up vs Inter's 353/532 are:
4v2 in Build Up Phase
High Central Triangle to create 3v3 in the Central Channel for combinations/penetration
Full Backs and Central Pivote as reference point in build up
Control of the Central Midfield space with their Midfield Diamond shape
Ability to High Press with Front 2 or Front 3 (Flexible Approach)
Set pressing traps in wide zones
The Challenges for Juventus and Sarri based on the tactical match up vs Inter's 352/532 are:
2v2 centrally vs Lukaku and Martinez in Defensive Phase/Offensive Transition
3v5 inferiority vs Inter Midfield 5.....Who Presses the Wing Back??
Ability to manage the spaces and stay compact when Inter switch the point of Attack
Breaking down Inter's Back 5 with 3 Midfielders that are shielding/protecting the space in front of their back line
We hope to answer some of the above questions and highlight how Sarri/Juventus maximized their players/team strengths and coped/managed the challenges that Inter posed them through flexible tactics, adapted formations and exploiting there own player profiles/qualities.
Below is the Tactical Formations in Offensive Organization & Defensive Organization:
Juventus Offensive Strategy:
The diamond shape offered Juventus three clear points of reference in Offensive Organization:
Central Pivote (Pjanic)
Full Backs (Alex Sandro & Cuadrado)
Attacking Midfielder (Bernardeschi or Dybala)
Pjanic played as the Central Pivote and had an excellent game at linking Juventus Build up plus he created numerical superiority in the build up phase vs Inter's front 2. When De Ligt or Bonucci were in possession during the build up phase, Pjanic would occupy the space between/behind Inter's front 2 (Lukaku & Martinez) and often was available to receive split passes beyond the opposition 1st Line. When Inter sent a Midfielder to mark Pjanic, he adapted his passing rhythm to one touch combinations (Backwards to support behind him or sideways to the Full Backs) which prevented Inter from dispossessing Pjanic. He was very clever at provoking Inter's Midfield to pressure and then Pjanic would play back or sideways, which created a gap in the Inter midfield line for Juve to pass through and into support players between the lines.
Utilizing the Full back as a reference point was an obvious tactical solution for Sarri's men as the natural spaces (half space or width) against the 5-3-2 formation are in the Full Backs general zone of operation. Alex Sandro and Cuadrado both did well to offer effective passing angles to the Centre Backs and engaged the space in front them once they received possession. Once Sandro or Cuadrado engaged the space, this drew out/provoked Inter's Wing Back thus opening the Wide Channel for Juve's Forward or Wide Midfield to run into depth. If the Wing Back wasn't provoked, play was switched or the Full Back would probe centrally for options between the lines (High Central Triangle). What I found interesting was how Sandro and Cuadrado varied their positional height and at times were high/wide to establish width in Offensive Organization - This predominately occurred from a switch of play or there support angle would be deeper especially during the build up phase in their own half to allow safe reference points to eliminate Inter's front 2.
Attacking Midfielder (High Central Triangle):
When I saw who was selected to play in the High Central Triangle up top for Juve and the Profiles of these players, it was clear that Juventus came to the Meazza stadium with victory on their mind. In my opinion, Ronaldo, Dybala and Bernardeschi are pure forwards and this offered Juve the capacity to rotate this positional triangle constantly and made them unpredictable in terms of positional play/movement patterns. We saw Ronaldo peel off into wide channels a lot during the match and he was able to be isolated 1v1 or he opened gaps for his teammates to exploit. I felt their was good synchronization from the Juve forwards movements off the ball and this posed Inter's Back 3 persistent problems:
Ronaldo's ability to move into wide channels and then cut inside
Dybala's capacity to dribble and combine at speed
Bernardeschi deep runs and support of Ronaldo/Dybala
All 3 forwards have the pace to be a threat in Offensive Transitions
Higuian came on at 62' and provided fresh legs to continue exploiting depth - He was more positional staying high and occupied the Inter Back Line. The winning goal came at 80' from Higuain after a 24 pass sequence found Higuain behind the Inter Back Line with space to finish and this gave Juve the important 2-1 advantage.
Pjanic as the Central Pivote was clever with his positional play and avoided becoming too predictable. How Pjanic achieved this was through his movement to drop between De Ligt and Bonucci to receive in a back 3 build up structure. This still maintained the integrity of their 3v2 superiority and offered space for Matuidi or Khedira to show for the split pass between/behind Inter's Centre Forwards or to receive in the half spaces. This brought possession control and flexibility to Juventus Offensive Organization plus allowed them to shift from Build up and into the Progression/Creation phase with varied options.
In the Back 3 structure, both Alex Sandro and Cuadrado would push high/wide and provide width. This suits their profiles as they can both play as natural wingers. The Juve High Central Triangle stayed in shape and offered reference points between the lines plus Juve's Two Centre Forwards movement patterns provided the penetration/line breaking pass options (Runs in Wide Channels, Depth Movements, Positional Interchanges with the Attacking Midfielder). We often saw Ronaldo drift wide and receive in the wide channels during this match - This allowed Ronaldo to isolate Inter's defenders 1v1 or he dragged two Inter defenders wide and opened space centrally for Dybala and/or Bernardeschi.
The below image provides an insight on this variation of Juve's Build Up Structure:
In Summary, the keys to Sarri's Offensive strategy were the following:
Exploiting the space between/behind Inter's front 2 (Central Pivote Reference)
Build up and using the Full Backs as a key point of reference (Eliminate lines of Opposition pressure or Switching Reference through there Full Backs)
Using the space between the lines for Penetration (High Central Triangle)
Depth Movements (Two/Three Forwards Movement Patterns)
Juventus Defensive Strategy:
Sarri's defensive formation adapted in the match based on how Inter's structured their Offensive Organization:
4-3-3 (Flat MFD & Flat Front 3)
Juventus general defensive formation was a 4-1-3-2 with Pjanic (Pivote) cutting off the passing lanes into Lukaku and Martinez. With Pjanic sitting in front of Bonucci and De Ligt, Juve turned the 2v2 up top from Inter into a 3v2 scenario in their own favour. When Inter progressed into the Juventus half, the Juve defensive shape adjusted to 4-3-1-2 which provided greater protection in front of Juve's Back 4.
Defensive Screening Midfielder:
Pjanic was excellent at covering the Midfield space box to box but also showed tremendous capacity to cover the ground when Inter switched the point of attack. An example of this tactic is on Juve's 1st Goal, it was PJanic who regained possession by intercepting the ball around the half way line, achieving forward momentum by taking his touch forward upon regaining the ball and recognizing that the quick transition situation was favorable by finding Dybala early in depth....1-0 for Juventus at 4' mins.
High Pressing Tactics:
I was really impressed with how hard Juve worked to high press Inter for long spells - The work rate was amazing and Sarri made intelligent Subs to ensure his side could maintain their High Pressing Strategy until the final whistle:
62' Mins - Bernardeschi Out, Higuian On (Dybala played as the Attacking Midfielder and Higuain provided fresh legs for high pressing/depth movements up front alongside Ronaldo)
62' Mins - Khedira Out, Bentancur On (Player for Player Sub - When Dybala came off at 71' Mins - Bentancur moved into the Attacking Midfielder Role)
71' Mins - Dybala Out, Emre Can On (Emre Can moved into the Wide Right Midfielder role and Betancur moved to Attacking Midfielder Role)
Ronaldo & Dybala establish the first line of pressure and they would aim to direct the Inter Milan Back 3 inside towards their diamond (Into their numbers). Once Inter attempted to play into Midfield zones, Juve's diamond would aggressively pressure and prevent Inter players from turning, progressing and cut off Inter's passing lanes into Lukaku & Martinez. What did happen frequently was Inter did find their wing back in space and we will look at how Juve adapted their tactics to press wide (Which was effective).
At times, Bernardeschi would connect with Ronaldo and Dybala to create a flat line of 3 and that would make it easier to press the Inter Back 3 (Zonal Pressing with frontal references in Inter's three centre backs). When the Juve shape adapted up top to a flat 3, Juve's midfield would become flat too (thus their structure was now 4-3-3 with 3 distinct lines of defense).
Due to the effectiveness of Juve's High Pressing Tactics, Inter starting playing long passes/direct when building up and Bonucci, De Ligt, Alex Sandro, Cuadrado and Pjanic won a lot of 1st and 2nd Balls. This kept the flow of play inside Inter's half of the pitch (Especially 2nd half).
Pressing Inter's Wing Back:
Inter's Wing Backs were the projected/anticipated points of reference to achieve success during the building up and progression phases in Inter's Offensive Organization. Sarri had definitely prepared for this situation and the Inter wing back was a pressing trigger/trap for Juve to regain possession inside the wide channels.
Juve's Full Back and/or Wide Midfielder would press the Inter Wing Back immediately as the ball was travelling to deny time/space. There some situations where both the Juve FB & Wide Midfielder would double team the Inter Wing Back - Juve could double team in wide areas because they still had security at the back line 3v2 with their two Centre Backs and Weak Side FB against Inter's Front 2. What would have hurt Juventus is the switch and that is the biggest weakness of the 4-4-2 Diamond Formation - It leaves a lot of attacking space on the weakside. The role of the ball side Forward, Attacking Midfielder and the Pivote was to deny the switching options (Direct Inter through effective individual pressure to keep playing down the same channel/side - deny the turns). Pjanic continued with his screening role and the opposite wide midfielder would drop to create another shield in front of the Juve Back line (Looked like 3 + 2 Shape when the ball was wide with the Wing Back inside Inter's half of the pitch).
What looked originally on paper as a potential weak point (Inter Wing Back) for Juve in Defensive Organization was turned into a strength by pressing the Wing Back immediately and preventing the switches of play. Credit to Sandro, Matuidi on the left side and Khedira/Can and Cuadrado on the right side. Considering that Cuardrado is a converted right back because of Danilo's injury, I am impressed with how well he has transitioned into this new role.
In Summary, the keys to Sarri's Defensive strategy were the following:
Pjanic role to screen any passes into Lukaku and Martinez
High Pressing Inter and forcing long passes/regains in Inter's half of the pitch
Effective Pressing on the Inter Wing Back and preventing switches of play (Double Team)
Flexible formations based on Inter's Offensive Organization/Structure (4-1-3-2, 4-3-1-2, 4-3-3 with Flat MFD & Front Lines)
“Overtaking (Inter) at this time has little meaning, what matters is the performance of personality and character against a strong team, which had always won up to this moment. We entered the game with a good approach, and we deserved to win. Twenty-four passes for Higuain's goal! It depends on the quality of the players, who can play long and well when they are shiny. From this point of view, we have already taken important steps, what we need to work on is dominating the match, having territorial supremacy, pressing better and more, taking away any attacking initiative from the opposition so that we can spend our whole time in the opposition half. We have room for improvement, we are not 100% yet, but the team is strong and so we can get the results. Dybala, Higuain and Ronaldo together! I got the sensation from the touchline that the momentum was turning the other way, so I changed again, unfortunately perhaps at a time when Paulo was tired.”
“It was a match against a very, very strong team and I’m sorry about the loss. We paid for the Sensi injury, losing our way a bit. At the start of the second half, we didn’t do well but then we got back into the game and either side could have scored. There were chances at both ends but they scored, using everything in their arsenal and making their experience count. I don’t have anything to say to the guys because we still have a long way to go in terms of how we manage and understand moments in a match. Congratulations to them, we’ll roll up our sleeves and keep working hard to move forward on our journey. There are no shortcuts in this regard, they’re at a different level and we’re looking to improve so that we can close the gap. We could have done better with our finishing and the final ball but the team did what it could. Looking at the statistics, it was a closer game than perhaps shows on paper”
Goal #1 - Dybala - 4'
Juve Central Compactness - Prevent Inter from penetrating spaces between the lines or behind lines
Think Attack in Defense - Pjanic intercepts & regains possession - He is already thinking attacking when defending by taking his first touch forward upon winning possession, which creates an Open Ball Situation and Triggers the cues for Depth Movements from the forwards & attacking midfielder
Dybala & Bernardeschi both make depth movements - Dybala makes a well timed run behind Inter's Back Line and creates enough time/space for himself (1v1) to finish from a challenging angle (left footed shot into the far side bottom corner of the goal)
Goal #2 - Higuian - 80'
4-4-2 Diamond Structure - Juventus are well organized offensively and set up within their formation to break down Inter's 5-3-2 defensive shape
Juve Provoke Pressure & Draw OPP to one side - This opens space on the weakside to switch point of attack
Juve Full Back References in Build up - Eliminate Inter's 1st Line of Pressure
Stretch Inter's Defensive Shape & Open space for the Juve Pivote (Central Reference Point)
Juve Overload Central Channel - Draw, Provoke & use the width
Shift Possession Side to Side and Open gaps Centrally & Open Spaces between the lines
Central Combinations between the High Triangle (3rd Player Combination finds Higuain with enough time/space to receive and finish on goal)
Full Back References vs Inter 5-3-2:
Video clip examples on the Full Back reference points for Juventus in Offensive Organization:
Linking through the Central Pivote:
Video clip examples on the positional role/movements from the Central Pivote as a reference point for Juventus in Offensive Organization:
Exploiting Space Between the Lines:
Video clip examples on how Juventus penetrated into the spaces between the lines by using their High Central Triangle to progress possession and break lines:
Video clip examples on the depth movements from the Juventus High Central Triangle:
Video clip examples on the High Pressing Strategy and Tactics that Juventus utilized during the match to disrupt Inter's Build Up:
Congrats to Juventus and Maurizio Sarri on an impressive performance and they fully deserved the 2-1 victory over Inter. On the day, I felt Juve were the better team from the tactical point of view and took full advantages of the strengths in their 4-4-2 diamond formation...this 3 points puts Juve currently at the top of the league table.
Still a lot of football left to played in Serie A this season, which i am sure will bring more excitement, tactical battles and i feel this title race will go right to the wire. Inter are looking to be a strong contender this year and Juventus are always in the fight for the title as current champions.......looking forward to seeing who will come up on top by season end!
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