Tactical Analysis: Sassuolo @ Juventus Serie A 1-3 09/10/2016 A technical and tactical win for Juventus

This is probably the first game that Juventus fans most wanted to see this season, where two of the most expensive summer buys, Pjanic and Higuain, would start. Juventus displayed some very entertaining attacks from the start to the end. And most Juventus would be quite happy with their performance. Allegri’s team dominated their opponent technically and tactically. However, there are some issues for Juventus to look at. Our analysis today focuses on Juventus’s tactics.

Juventus 3-5-2, with Pjanic replacing Asamoah and Higuain replacing Mandzukic. Sassuolo 4-3-3, with Berardi and Defrel injured, Cannavaro and Missiroli were also rested.

Sassuolo’s defensive strategy

We will discuss first Sassuolo’s defensive strategies and how Juventus dismantled them during the game. Sassuolo’s defense in this game consists of several elements:

1. High press and blocksass press#1.png

Sassuolo pressed very high in the early part of the game. The goal is to disrupt Juventus’ build-up.

2. Deny penetration in the middle#3.png#4.png

What you should notice from their defense set-up is how their 3 midfielders stayed very close to each other to try to deny Juventus’s penetration through that area.

3. Very compact vertically and horizontally#1.png

You can see from the above capture how narrow both vertically and horizontally the Sassuolo defense is.

Juventus’s dominance

Juventus’s insistence to initiate build-up from the back

Even with Sassuolo’s high press, Juventus insisted on developing plays with their center backs. Obviously Juventus has center backs who can pass very well and they want to take full advantage of it. With build-up from these center backs, it provides a lot of stability and helps them to control possession. With that in mind, Juventus countered Sassuolo’s high press in several different ways:sass press#2.png

The positions of Juventus’s midfielders were often flexible. In particular, Pjanic operated in many very different areas. You can see from the above capture that as the deep-lying playmaker, Lemina positioned himself way more advanced than Pjanic. These often creates confusion for Sassuolo, because their high press was man-oriented and involved man-marking but not zonal marking. But more importantly, another element for Juventus to be able to resist these kinds of high-press that is often over-looked is Buffon’s ability with the feet:pass to buffon.png

When facing high press, Juventus often uses Buffon as the extra man to circulate the ball. You can see from the goalkeeper’s ball distribution between Buffon and Consigli:

Buffon’s distributionbuffon.jpg

Consigli’s distributionconsigli.jpg

Not only Buffon distributed more balls and with a higher%, you should also see that many of Buffon’s passes were also shorter and more horizontal. His ability to pass provides an extra man for Juventus during their backup from the back.

With the center backs’s excellent passing ability, the flexible positions of midfielders and Buffon’s ability to pass, Sassuolo’s press was not effective against Juventus.

Juventus’s excellent positional play

Juventus displayed some excellent positional plays throughout the game. The excellent movement and passing ability of Pjanic and Higuain really reinforces this already very solid part of Juventus’ game.


You can see from the above captures how Dybala and Khedira moved in the opposite direction with Lichtsteiner. The timing is very precise, distracting Duncan from chasing Lichtsteiner.

Here is another play#2-1.png#2-2.png

You can see the Khedira forward move and Higuain backward move occured at the same time. You rarely see plays like this with Mandzukic.

These positional plays occurred almost everywhere in the pitch, with different players involved. Juventus often has very strong positional plays since Conte took over. But the extent they displayed and the numbers of players involved in this game are rare comparing to previous years.

Ability to switch side anywhere on the pitch

To counter the very narrow and compact defense of Sassuolo set-up, Juventus switched between flanks very efficiently. Look at the pass received from Alex Sandro and Lichtsteiner:sandro pass received.jpglicht pass received.jpg

You can see that both Sandro and Lichtsteiner received passes at almost any vertical layers along their sides. Also notice how long the passes were, particularly for Sandro. You can imagine these abilities to switch to the flanks can really stretch the Sassuolo’s defense.

Having seen how Juventus successfully counters Sassuolo’s defense, lets look at how well they also imposed themselves in offense:

Juventus’s high press to disrupt Sassuolo’s build-up

Throughout the game, Juventus used a very high press on Sassuolo. They also man-marked Magnanelli, who is the deep-lying playmaker for Sassuolo. The idea is to force Sassuolo to play long-ball. This is advantageous for Juventus, who is physically superior to most of the teams in Europe. First example:juve press#1-1.pngjuve press#1-2.png(Gazzola, not Mazzola)

Second Example:juve press#2-1.pngjuve press#2-2.png

Lets take a look at how effective this strategy is. This is all the long passes from Sassuolo:sassuolo long pass.jpg

Long passes are useful way to look at how physical a team is, because most of the time, these passes result in duels. What you can notice from above is that most Sassuolo’s long passes are not efficient at all, less than 25%!!! This also results in a lot of interceptions in the middle third:

Juventus’ all interceptions:juve interception.jpg

The superior physicality of Juventus is an over-looked part of their game. Juventus used this to harass Sassuolo, preventing them from developing any build-ups and dominated the possession.

Attack from all directions and positions

Juventus attacks Sassuolo almost from anywhere and to anywhere. This is obvious from their passes in attacking third:attack third pass.jpg

Basically all these passes arrived to everywhere around the boxes. This means that Sassuolo narrow defense had to defend Juventus from all directions. They were basically completely stretched.

You can also see that from the positions where a player receives their passes:

Dybaladybala pass received.jpgKhedirakhedira pass receivec.jpgLeminaleima pass received.jpgPjanicpjanic pass received.jpgHiguainhiguain pass received.jpg

dThe passes received data would not capture the individual positional plays when a player only contributes the movement but does not receive a pass.  But it is still a very good indication on where a player mostly operates. You can see how much area these Juventus players operated during offensive phase, especially Pjanic and Dybala.

Juventus’ issue

One issue Juventus has in this game is their offense-to-defense. Lets see an example:#1-1.png#1-2.png

You can see from above that once Lemina’s ball was intercepted by Ragusa, Sassuolo initiated a potentially dangerous attack. The problem is all the space on the flanks. This is a systematic issue for Juventus. With their 3-5-2 where Sandro and Lichtsteiner surged forward, losing possession during offensive phase in the middle third will leave a lot of space for the opponents to attack. If Chiellini and Benatia do not move centrally, this would only leave Lemina and Bonucci in the center, which is very dangerous. Therefroe, the flanks are often the most vulnerable areas for Juvetnus while being counter-attacked.


We did not cover another aspect of Juventus’s excellent play in this game, their very fast defense-to-offense transition. Their first goal is the perfect example of that. Nevertheless, they display such a potent offense in this game that most of Juventus fans will be very happy about. More excitingly, Higuain is not even 100% (you can see sometimes he looks slow) and Marchisio is not even back.

There are two issues for Juventus. We discussed the first one. One solution they may consider is to employ a temporal counter-press to buy some time for their defense to set up. Another issue is that they are not being clinical enough in this game, being so carless in front of the goal after scoring three. They should have killed off their opponent a lot earlier.

For Sassuolo it is a game to forget. They were dominated from start to finish. The good thing is that their most potent attackers were not available. However, their full-backs are too slow. This is something they should look into.

Forgot to list my Man-of-the match, I pick Dybala, who really creates a lot of chances.

All of passing data are from www.fourfourtwo.com statzone

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