Tactical Analysis: Cagliari @ Juventus Serie A 0-4 09/21/2016 the weakness of 4-3-1-2

Juventus welcomed Cagliari in Juventus Stadium. Juventus had the usual 3-5-2, with Hernanes as the central defensive midfielder. Rugani also got the first start. Cagliari fielded a 4-3-1-2 with three former Juventus players: Storari, Padoin and Borriello. The game was basically over before half-time when Juventus scored three goal. Juventus’tactics completely exposed Cagliari’s 4-3-1-2 weaknesses. Today we are going to discuss the weaknesses of Cagliari’s 4-3-1-2 and the contributions by Higuain.

Cagliari’s defensive phase

Like many teams played against Juventus, Cagliari used a high press against Juventus. But that did not happen very often. Juventus dominated the possession and pinned them down to their own half with their own high press. Cagliari’s players always defended in a 4-3-1-2 formation in their defensive phase.


Cagliari played a very narrow and compact defense. Many teams play like this against Juventus but this is extreme. The area formed by the midfielders and the defenders are very small. This is to prevent Juventus’ vertical penetration.

The major weakness of a 4-3-1-2 formation is on the flanks. Just like a 3-5-2, there is only one player on each flank. The inherent weakness of a 3-5-2 is the space between the wing-backs. Playing through this space exposes the left / right center backs who has have to defend wingers 1 v 1 (see the analysis of Juventus @ Inter in the previous post). The full-backs of 4-3-1-2 also have to defend opponents’ wingers 1 v 1. However the extreme compactness of Cagliari exaggerates this problem even further. Consider this sequence of event:


Here Cagliari sets up its very compact 4-3-1-2 shape in the defensive phase. All of Cagliari’s midfield players position very close to the ball except for Padoin, who has to mark Pjanic because he is in a dangerous position. This leaves a large gap in the middle of the midfield. Higuain (we will look at his contribution later) is now able to receive a pass from Dani alves without too much pressure. Because Cagliari is trying to maintain a extreme compact shape, it leaves a large distance between Alex sandro and Bittante.


Once Higuain receives the ball from Dani alves, he has all the time and sspace to turn and pass to Alex sandro, who has a lot of space.


Once Alex sandro receives the ball, the whole Cagliari’s defense shifts to his side, which now leaves Dybala with lots of space.


Now Murru is in a 1 v 1 situation with Dybala, which is the worst case scenario. Lots of similar plays happened in this game:


A majority of Juventus’ long passes were switch passes. In fact, for all the successful long passes, almost 90% of them were these cross-field switching passes and result in loads of dangerous plays by Juventus.

The importance of Higuain

Higuain is obviously an amazing poacher who is strong with both legs and headers. In terms of finishing he is top class. But he does not only bring finishing to Juventus. His positioning also brings so much variability for Juventus’ offense. Consider this sequence of events:





Higuain drops back from the Cagliari’s two central defenders. This allows him to receive a pass from Alex sandro. He then passes to Pjanic who then passes to Dani alves. But pay attention to his movement here. Shortly around Dani alves receives the pass, Higuain is already sprinting behind the Cagliari defender to try to catch an overhead pass by Dani alves.

Higuain often drops back from the midfield to receive the balls and help the build-up. Here are two more examples:



His dropping back from the Cagliari’s defenders is important. It can create a gap in the defense if the center backs follow him. If the center backs do not follow him, like above, he can have all the space and time to facilitate ball movements. This is also helped by the tactics of Cagliari. In this game they preferred to stay close and compact passively instead of actively tackling Higuain (or other Juventus players) when he had the ball in these areas:

Passes received by Higuain


All Higuain’s passes


Not only he can receive passes and build up in those areas outside of the boxes. He can also create space for himself with his speed and technique.

juv cag 1st half eng(2).png

juv cag 1st half eng(3).png

With his speed, skills, positioning and the keen eyes for goal, Higuain provides so many ways for Juventus to attack opponents.


Juventus dominated most of the game. Cagliari briefly changed to a 3-5-2 or a 4-4-2 in the second half in order to counter Juventus without much success. A major problem for them is that they were pinned down by Juventus’ high press for most of the time.


Another problem is that they were too passive. They did not press Juventus’ ball handlers and would rather sit deep. This is one reason why Hernanes played so well in this game.


Hernanes at this stage is still a good but flawed player. He is often too slow and too fragile to resist press. But in this game Cagliari did not create any pressure on him. His excellent passing ability was shown in the game. His pass success rate was 52/56, almost 93%. It happens for other Juventus players too, who achieved almost 88% pass success rate as a team.

My pick for the man of the match is Higuain. He almost had 3 goals in the first half.

All of data are from www.fourfourtwo.com statzone

Please follow us on twitter.com/FobsterHo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s