Juventus opens its first Serie A game of the new season facing Fiorentina at home. Juventus fielded a 3-5-2 formation with buffon in the goal, BBC at the back, Alex Snadro and Daniel Alves at the wingbacks. Lemina played in the central defensive midfielder role flanked by Asamoah and Kiedera. The front two are Dybala and Mandzukic. Fiorentina played with a 3-4-2-1 formation. Tatarusanu started as the goalie. The back three are Astori, Rodriguez and Tomovic. Alonso, Badelj, Vecino and Bernadeschi form the midfield. The front three are lead by Kalinic supported by Chiesa and Ilicic as inverted wingers.
Fiorentina’s defense strategy
Both teams employed a high press to disrupt the build-up plays of their opponents in the opening minutes. It was pretty successful and resulted in early opportunities for both teams.
However after about 15 minutes of warm-ups, Juventus started to dominate procession and Fiorentina tried to sit back and waited for counter-attacks opportunities. A major focus of their defense is to deny any space in the center area. Juventus defenders, especially Bonucci, are really capable passers. They have the abilities to place vertical passes to the final third of the opponent. These passes become more important now because of the absence of Marchisio. Lemina has grown a lot compared to last season but he is not at the level of Marchisio in terms of build-up play (at least in this game). Moreover, the departure of Pogba remove the ability of Juventus to penetrate defense through his dribbling and power. By denying these central spaces, Fiorentina minimized Juventus’s penetration in the central area, cut off supply to Mandzukic and Dybala and forced them to attack through the wings.
Juventus’s tactical and technical dominance
Juventus dominated most of the first half by maintaining high press. Three reasons why it worked so well for them: 1. Fiorentina’s keeper Tatarusanu is not good at his feet. Many of his goal kicks went straight out of the lines. 2. It disrupted Fiorentina build-up, especially without Valero, they were mostly incapable of any useful build-up play for much of the game. 3. Juventus’s players are much more capable for physical challenge than Fiorentina’s players, resulting in most of the long balls intercepted by Juventus.
Juventus also successfully stretched Fiorentina’s narrow defense through its ball circulation by their three center backs, who often positioned very wide in the build-up play. Being pinned down for much of the first half, Fiorentina also offered almost no threats through their wings, allowing both Dani Alves and Alex Sandro to push really high up to support Juventus offense. These eventually open up Fiorentina’s defense and expose their major weakness.
Fiorentina’s defense weakness
There is a really bad communication problem between Fiorentina’s players in defense. It is shown from the fact that they could not defend the space between their midfield and defense. Numerous times in the game, including the two Juventus goals, resulted from the failure of Fiorentina’s defense to track Juventus player in these spaces. These resulted in Fiorentina’s players over-committed on one Juventus player while completely ignored the other, leaving gaps in the defense. Here you can see that Asamoah simply by running behind Tomovic, he is almost completely free in the box area. Neither Vecino, Badelj, Tomovic nor Rodriguez went to pick up Asamoah. Chiellini simply needed to place a forward pass and resulted in Asamoah’s shooting.
The first Juventus goal followed a similar sequence of events. Asamoah passed to Dybala, who retreated back from Fiorentina’s defense. This pulled a Fiorentina defender out and left a huge chuck of space behind. Asamoah continued to run into Fiorentina’s box, which dragged three Fiorentina’s players attention. At the same time, Chiellini is completely free, received a pass from Dybala and placed a cross into the empty space of Fiorentina’s defense where Khedira coolly finished with a header.
These kinds of bad defense repeatedly happen in the game. Both Juventus’s goals are results of that. In fact, Juventus should have scored more goals if they were not so wasteful.
Juventus sat back and Fiorentina failed to attack through wings
Now leading one goal, Juventus stopped its aggressive high press and sat back. The roles between two teams now swapped, with Fioretina dominated procession while Juventus sat back and denied central space to prevent Fiorentina’s penetration through the middle. You could see from these pictures that all 11 players of Juventus camped in its own half. With Dybala often dropping back to join the midfield, Juventus played almost a 5-4-1 formation, with 4 midfielders clustered around the central part of the field.
Fioretina could not penetrate through the middle and connect with its attackers. Paulo Sousa changed the formation from the starting 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half for two purposes: 1, With Dyabala often dropping back to help dictate play, they don’t need 3 center-backs to defend against Mandzukic, the really only Juventus striker. 2, to promote attacks through the wings through overloads. However, the later purpose was not fulfilled. The absence of Valero was keenly felted, where Fiorentina failed to stretch Juventus’s defense through ball circulation. This problem only improved until the introduction of Carlos Sanchez.
Paulo Sousa introduced Carlos Sanchez for Badelj in about 65 minutes. A major skill-set of this player is his ball circulation. With him on the field, plus the 4-2-3-1 formation, Fiorentina could now consistently stretch Juventus’s defense through cross-field passes. In fact, their goal came from a corner that was a result from a play of Carlose Sanchez’s diagonal cross-field pass.
After 1-1, Juventus retook its aggressive approach. The Fiorentina’s defense again showed its problem, where Higuain scored the go-ahead 2-1 goal. After taking the lead Juventus again sat back, but applied more aggressive pressure on Fiorentina’s procession. Fiorentina created only one more chance, again through cross-field pass to Juvenuts’s left, this time with Erva failure to clear the cross. But Fiorentina could not score this time. In the end Juventus won 2-1, while wasting several goal-scoring opportunities with Fiorentina desperately finding the equalizer, leaving a lot of space from behind.
Juventus dominated most of the match, both tactically and technically. Asamoah played really well in this game (same for Khedira, but we are used to performance like this for him while we have not really seen Asamoah for almost two years). So he is my man of the match.
- There is some weird problem in Juventus left side defense. Both Sandro and Erva failed to deal with a cross. It actually also happened in Espanyol friendly, where Sandro failed to clear a cross and led to a goal. Maybe they are not warmed up yet
- Juventus really miss Pogba’s creativity right now. You could see how much more time Dybala is dropping back to help create play.
- Lemina and Asamoah could really be something special. Lemina has a lot of room to grow. He is so strong physically that he is able to make up most of his positional mistakes. Asamoah was producing world-class display week-in-week-out before he got that nasty injury. In the games we have seen so far, he really showed how intelligent and technical he is as a player. It’s like Juventus bought like two really good new midfielders.
- Higuain is WORLD CLASS. He really had two half-chances and he almost scored two goals. We also saw two other aspects of his game from his two other actions. One is how he helped the build-up play through his distribution when he dropped back and received the ball in the half-line. He also showed how good he is to create opening in tight space at the left corner. So excited to see him when he is in top physical condition. He is definitely upgrading Juventus’s attack.