Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-0 Cagliari (Coppa Italia)

Giovinco pounced on a Cagliari defensive mistake to give Juventus a 1-0 win that sees them through to the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia in manager Antonio Conte's first home game since serving his match fixing suspension. Juventus were the better side but it was fitting the goal came from a mistake: apart from an early spell in which the bianconeri looked threatening this was a drab encounter.

Both sides rested a number of their regular first team players. Cagliari played a 4-2-3-1 while Juventus were in their usual 3-5-2. The starting lineups are in the diagram on the left.

The midfield match up was fairly straight forward- Cagliari's holding midfielders Ekdal and Erikkson matched up with Juventus's shuttling center midfielders Vidal and Padoin respectively and Cepellini, Cagliari's attacking midfielder, matched up with Juventus's holding midfielder Pogba.

In the central attacking zones, Juve's forwards matched up 2 v. 2 with the Cagliari center backs meaning the visiting team didn't have a spare center back to provide cover. At the other end, Juventus had three center backs to Cagliari's one forward.

There were three important tactical features to this game: (1) Cagliari's early decision to leave Pogba unmarked in midfield and their subsequent adjustment dropping Cepellini in to defend him, (2) the movement of Juventus's two forwards, and (3) Cagliari's inability to take advantage of their numerical advantage on the flanks.

In the opening 20-25 minutes Cagliari made the decision to leave Pogba unmarked as the deepest player in Juventus's midfield triangle rather than dropping Cepellini in to defend him. Eriksson picked up Podoin, Ekdal picked up Vidal and Pogba was left to sit in space behind on his own. Presumably Cagliari head coach Ivo Pulga did this to allow Cepellini to drift in space behind Pogba and provide an out ball for counter attacks when they regained possession. Pogba doesn't have the same passing vision as Andrea Pirlo, the man he replaced in the lineup, and therefore Pulga wasn't overly concerned about him picking apart his defense with penetrating forward passes. But while Pogba didn't provide any devastating defense-splitting pass, he was doing an excellent job of funneling passes forward and dictating the tempo of the game. Juventus created more genuine scoring chances in the opening spell when Pogba was left unmarked than they did the remainder of the game.

Pulga eventually made the decision to drop Cepellini in to defend Pogba when Juve were in possession. Juventus's midfield passing immediately become much slower. Without the option of playing the ball to their unmarked holding midfielder, the bianconeri were frequently forced to play direct balls from the back three to the two forwards.

The negative side to this switch for Cagliari was that with Cepellini dropping in deep to defend, their loan forward Mauricio Pinilli was left isolated higher up the field when they won the ball back.

Movement of Juve Forwards
Because Cagliari were in a flat back four and Juventus used two center forwards, both center backs had to mark a forward. There was no spare center back to provide defensive cover. Against teams that play a flat four, Juventus consistently use the same strategy for their forwards' movement. One will make a run back into the midfield, forcing one of the opposition center backs to track him. The other will then make a diagonal run into the space that opens up a result. In the 8th minute Bendtner made the run into midfield with Rossettini following him from his center back position. Giovinco made the diagonal run into space and was put through on goal but missed his chance. He was put through on goal in the same fashion later in the half but was flagged for offsides.

Wide Areas
Cagliari's numerical advantage came on the flanks. With Juve's two wing backs their only players positioned in a wide area, Cagliari had a 2 v. 1 advantage on each flank. However, in order to make use of that advantage they needed their fullbacks to get forward and join in the attack to overload the Juve wing backs. This never happened because they were unable to keep possession long enough for Murro and Perico to get forward from their fullbacks positions.

Defensively, Cagliari kept their wide forwards Ribeiro and Ibarbo high up the pitch, opting to use Murro and Perico to mark Isla and De Ceglie. However, Juventus began to overload Murro. Padoin (who had switched to right-sided center mid after an injury to Vidal) and Giovinco would float towards Isla on the right channel, leaving Murro to defend 1 v. 2. Juve's goal came when they were able to overload Murro. Isla received a cross field ball that forced Murro to the touchline to defend him. Padoin floated towards Isla unmarked, received a ball near the corner of the 18 and slipped it into the box for Giovinco. The pass to Giovinco was initially intercepted by Rossettini but he failed to clear it before Giovinco could win the tackle and score. It was a scrappy goal but developed because Juventus were able to overload Murro on the right.