How did Parma hold Serie A giants Juventus?

Artwork by @chapulana.

Christiano Ronaldo went top of the Serie A goalscoring charts for Juventus when he scored a brace against Parma, but it wasn’t enough for the league leaders to take all three points as Parma hit back from two goals down to take an away point.

Juventus dropped points for only the third time this season, with Ronaldo putting them ahead in the 36th minute with a deflected shot from inside the penalty area after slipping after collecting Matuidi’s pass. The first half came to a close after Juve were awarded a penalty before the referee revoked his decision after reviewing footage on the pitch-side monitor.

Rugani doubled the lead for the home side in the 62nd minute after a goal-mouth scramble before Parma found a lifeline just two minutes later through a headed goal by Barilla. Juve’s star man wasn’t to be kept quiet though, Ronaldo restored the home side’s two-goal lead with a towering header in the 66th minute.

With three goals in just four minutes, the game exploded into life before Gervinho hit the headlines. The former Arsenal and Roma forward reduced the lead to one goal again with a clever flick at the near post with 15 minutes of time left on the clock.

Gervinho hit again deep into stoppage time after Juventus failed to clear the ball and dropping a chance to take all three points. Parma’s top goalscorers for the season combined when Inglese pulled back from the end-line for a Gervinho strike, which stand-in goalkeeper Mattia Perin got his hand to, but couldn’t divert the ball away from his goal.

The teams

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Juventus lineup

Allegri was able to select Mario Mandzukic after a little over a month on the sidelines, he lined up as the centre forward in Juve’s 4-3-3 formation flanked by Christiano Ronaldo and Douglas Costa. Pjanic was selected in the starting 11 again after being left on the bench for the last two games, he anchored the midfield three alongside Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi.

The back four caused problems for Allegri though, with both Chiellini and Bonucci injured, the Juve boss turned to on-loan centre-back Martin Caceres to partner Rugani in central defence, with Joao Cancelo and Leonardo Spinazzola at right and left-back respectively. Mattia Perin took the reins in goal, as Allegri continues to have faith with his goalkeepers across the board.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Parma lineup.

Parma boss D’Aversa lined up in a 4-3-3 of his own, to match with Juve’s playing shape, anticipating a sacrifice in possession. Luigi Sepe took his place in goal, with Bastoni and Alves partnered in central defence along with Gagliolo and Iacoponi lining up as left and right-back respectively.

The experienced Scozzarella anchored midfield along with Kuckla and Barilla, with Inglese leading the lineup front flanked by Gervinho and Biabiany.

Juve’s left-sided attack

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Juventus attack sides.

Juventus favored the left side of the field to attack, naturally given the personnel on that side of the field for them. With Christiano Ronaldo becoming an inverted winger, it was Blaise Matuidi who became a vital part of their attack, adding an assist for his work on the day.

Ronaldo’s starting position as a second forward for Juve meant that he left space for Matuidi and Spinazzola to attack through, with the left-back having three shots to himself, a sign of intent from Allegri’s men.

As illustrated in the graphics to follow, it’s shown that Ronaldo’s narrow starting position in times of possession in the attacking half of the field, alongside his returning strike partner Mandzukic. It’s this positioning by the Portuguese star that allows Juve to create quantitative and qualitative superiority by effecting Parma’s defensive.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Juve overloads.
Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Juve overloads.

In the above illustrations, it’s shown that both Ronaldo and Mandzukic are able to occupy Parma’s central defenders, by this positioning by Juve, it forces Parma’s back-four to narrow off to ensure coverage of their central defenders and to avoid playing 2v2 in front of goal. The positioning of Matuidi isolated against Parma’s right-back Iacoponi and the half-space found by Douglas Costa at the bottom of the picture, forcing Parma’s left-back to narrow off, leaves Spinazzola free in the right channel for Juve to utilise in the attack.

The overloaded left side relates to the shots taken with the sheer amount of players, plus the ever-dangerous Christiano Ronaldo who took 10 shots against Sepe by himself, was stationed predominantly on the left side of the field.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Juve overloads.

The above image once again shows the positioning between Ronaldo and Mandzukic, who often managed to isolate Parma’s central defenders, allowing Matuidi on one side and Douglas Costa on the other side the freedom to attack their respective full-backs at every opportunity. Here, it is shown with Matuidi once again being released by Ronaldo’s positioning, forcing Parma into an uncomfortable 3v3 situation in the final third.

Parma take advantage

With Juve’s back-four lacking so much game time together, despite their lack of overall possession in the game, Parma still managed to unlock the table-toppers’ defence with their own numerical advantages.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Parma shot locations.

With so many of Parma’s attacks coming from the central areas of the field, it was clear that it was a plan to attack Juve’s inexperienced central defensive duo. The image below shows the qualitative superiority the visiting team creates on the left flank, pulling Rugani out of position into his right channel which has been vacated because of Parma’s positioning in possession. That positioning on the left flank for Parma has allowed Inglese and Siligardi to play 2v2 with Juve’s remaining defenders, Spinazzola and Caceres.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Parma’s positioning.

The next image shows once again the inexperience in the back-four, with Caceres failing to communicate with Spinazzola which forces Caceras to mark Parma’s forward rather than passing on his man, leaving a 2v1 situation behind him with Rugani marking Inglese as Barilla ghosts in behind him to score Parma’s first of the game.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Parma’s positioning.

Ronaldo keeps performing

Christiano Ronaldo has proved his worth in England, Spain and now Italy, and he keeps proving why he is one of the greatest of all time. With ten shots on the day, he also created more chances (7) than any other player. His superior positioning along with quality which he possesses on the ball led to him having such an influential performance.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Ronaldo’s heatmap.

Not only did Ronaldo take a staggering ten shots compared to just one against Lazio last time out in Serie A, but he was also successful in 64% of his 11 dribbles along with a huge 75% of aerial duels won, showing his prowess both on the ground as well as his aerial superiority.

Juventus Parma Serie A Tactical Analysis Statistics
Ronaldo’s shot map


After a shocking 3-0 away defeat against Atalanta in mid-week, Allegri will have wanted his side to bounce back to winning ways against mid-table Parma and given the way his side dropped the points in the dying moments of the match, will be bitterly disappointed at his team’s failure to take all three points.

“We were too soft defensively” laments Allegri after the game, referring to his back-four who had never played together before this game. After an 88th-minute winner from the penalty spot against Lazio last week, the Juventus boss will be hoping that his team can regroup and return to their dominant ways against Sassuolo next weekend.

With Parma’s seventh point in the last five games, German head coach Roberto D’Aversa will be delighted to take an unexpected point off Juve. Parma face Inter and Napoli at home in their next three games, with a trip to Cagliari sandwiched between two of the league’s top three.

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