The 30th round of the Italian Serie A saw two very different team’s face off in a match that was easier than thought for those led by Massimiliano Allegri. Cagliari came in good shape after three wins in the last four games, but a solid Juventus without several of its usual players knew how to take advantage of the opportunities it generated. With this victory, the Bianconeri team approaches the title.
This tactical analysis will show the plan each one of the coaches prepared, but with a novelty made by Allegri: he found a new system that can give him results in the most important part of the season.
The home team set up in the Sardegna Arena with a 4-3-1-2, the most used formation by Rolando Maran. Luca Gigarini played as the only defensive midfielder, while Arutur Ioniță and Paolo Farago were the interiors in charge of partnering with the 22-year-old Nicolò Barella to generate goal opportunities for Leonardo Pavoletti and João Pedro, who was returning to the starting line-up today.
For their part, the visiting team presented many new features in its line-up. The number of injuries facing Juventus and the double Champions League duel coming next week against Ajax made the coach change system and try something new. For example, some of the injured players are Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Sami Khedira.
For the first time in the season, Juventus played with a line of three in the back-line with Martín Cáceres, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini; while Alex Sandro and Mattia De Sciglio were placed as wingers to form a line of five in the middle. Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean played as strikers to complete a 3-5-2 system.
The match started with two opposing ideas. On one hand, Cagliari went out to exert a high pressure with enough men on the Juventus’ players. Cagliari’s first idea was to counter the game of Juventus with Pavoletti, João Pedro and Barella covering the pass lines of the defenders and forcing them to play some long balls for their strikers. Maran’s boys hoped to generate some mistakes in Juventus’ build-up to recover the ball and break fast to the attack.
On the other hand, Juventus took possession of the ball to propose a game coming from deep. The other idea was to play a lot on the wings with fullbacks Alex Sandro and De Sciglio playing more open than they usually do. Both were more open and had more freedom to attack than on other occasions because of the new formation.
It must be said that throughout the whole match Juventus tried several systems, always depending on the context of the game and especially when Cagliari had the ball. At times they made a 5-3-2 formation with De Sciglio and Alex Sandro coming down to occupy their positions in the defensive line. Less often they also made a 4-4-2 formation with Alex Sandro going t the left full back position and Cáceres slotting into right back, a position that he knows very well.
A Cagliari without ideas
Although Cagliari played with very compact lines, the transition from defence to attack was slow and they could never generate danger on the counter-attack. They were always very pressured, especially in the middle of the field, and it was difficult to make three or more passes in a row. Juventus did not make any mistakes at all.
Without the ball, Cagliari made a 4-1-3-2. Cigarini was the only player in front of the defensive line, which seemed insufficient. Cagliari retreated far back. Cagliari was a team without any surprise and without depth.
Possession and position of Juventus
Miralem Pjanić fulfilled the function of being the axis of Juventus in this match. He was always receiving a pass from the defenders and being the link between lines, looking several times for the strikers Bernardeschi and Kean. At times the Cagliari players surrounded him well, but with his movements, the Bosnian could play with freedom. Pjanić understands perfectly the use of time and space.
Another of the highlights was Bernardeschi, who constantly left his area to get down to carry the ball. When he left his zone, the player that was going to occupy that place was Blaise Matuidi. Matuidi occupied the position of the second striker. They alternated positions with really smart movements.
Another interesting movement that was seen in Juventus was on the right with Cáceres and De Sciglio. The Uruguayan has played many times as a full-back and this made him get forward constantly to the attack, despite playing as a centre back in this game, allowing De Sciglio occupied a place within the area almost as a striker.
The first goal of Juventus came through a corner kick, another of the strong weapons that the team has. It was incredible that Cagliari did not reference Bonucci, one of the best headers in Serie A. Bonucci was at the edge of the area and attacked the ball in front of the space where it was sent.
The second goal comes in a good collective play that starts from the middle of the field. Emre Can gets a great pass between the defensive line of Cagliari for Rodrigo Bentancur, who read the play perfectly. The Uruguayan ran into space and then makes a perfect pass for Kean to score easily.
Although in the build-up to this game it could have seemed an even match because of the good form of Cagliari and for the number of injured players Juventus have, it was the team from Turin that finally managed to impose its superiority thanks to the quality of its players. Allegri managed to leave with the satisfaction of the three points and being very close to obtaining the title. But the most important thing was that he used a scheme not tested before in the season and that brought him a solid defence, a lot of mobility, and many variants in the middle.
Cagliari, meanwhile, were very weak in this game because they lacked depth. The home team looked very static and never had any explosion and surprise. The team sits in the middle of the table and has little worries about relegation zone for now, but should not neglect that issue totally. There are still several points at stake and anything can happen.