As the last match for Juventus and Sampdoria came around, the excitement was building. Last matches are always matches that stick in the players and fans’ minds. As such, as always, Serie A offered us a great matchup against two sides that have been embedded in the history of Calcio. In this piece, we will, through tactical analysis, showcase the tactics and statistics of both Sampdoria and Juventus.

Teamsheet:

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here is the lineup for both teams. [Credit:WyScout]
Marco Giampaolo changed six players from Sampdoria’s squad, from the last game, that lost to Empoli. This change constituted replacing Emil Audero for Rafael Cabral. Nicola Murru and Lorenzo Tonelli were rested for Omar Colley and Bartosz Bereszyński. Albin Ekdal, Jakub Jankto, and Gianluca Caprari were replaced by Karol Linetty, Édgar Barreto, and Gastón Ramírez. Lastly, Manolo Gabbiadini was rested by Grégoire Defrel.

On the other hand, Maximiliano Allegri changed a total of five players. Wojciech Szczęsny was replaced by Carlo Pinsoglio. The pair of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Spinazzola were replaced by Daniele Rugani and Martín Cáceres. In the midfield, Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanić were rested by Rodrigo Bentancur and Matheus Pereira. Up top, Cristiano Ronaldo was replaced by Moise Kean.

Sampdoria look to bypass Juventus with buildup

Under Giampaolo, Sampdoria have become a team that relies on possession-based plays to clinch victories. This is clearly evident with the fact that 87% of all their passes are short passes. This roughly translates to 466 short passes per game for the Blucerchiati. As such, Sampdoria’s main approach against the Zebre was to utilize build-up, the concentration of play in the central corridor and wing-play.

To start their build-up, Sampdoria changed their formation from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-2-1-3. This change in formation was because Juventus when applying pressure, changed from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-2-4. The primary aim of Allegri was to match the four at the back-formation of the Blucerchiati.

To bypass a potential formation of numerical superiority, Giampaolo had his two fullbacks upfield from the defence and hugging the touchlines. Moreover, the centrebacks were situated deep while a midfield duet dropped deep with the centrebacks.

This meant that Juventus had to supply two more players to keep a check on the two Blucerchiati midfielders. This narrow buildup pattern meant that the two fullbacks were left in acres of space and could link with the attacking midfielder and as such the front three.

Problems for Juventus due to Sampdoria’s buildup

This pattern of buildup caused troubles for Juventus. The first problem was that it presented Juventus with a dilemma. Should they commit their man to the buildup pattern or should they sit deep? Each option presented itself with negative consequences.

Committing men left spaces, more specifically in the central corridor, behind their wave of pressure. Sampdoria could utilize this space for quick counterattacks. If they sat deep, they would allow Sampdoria to place their players in advanced positions which could cause trouble in their defence.

Sampdoria want to press high and aggressively in Juventus buildup

To execute their possession-based plan, Sampdoria had to obtain the ball as fast as possible. As such, when Juventus started their own buildup, Sampdoria engaged in a high and aggressive pressing pattern.

Juventus had their build-up in textbook fashion. The two fullbacks spread horizontally but did not go far vertically. Between the two Juventus centrebacks was a two-man pivot. From there the remaining of the midfielders and the attackers were situated near the half-way line.

There was one problem with this pattern of buildup. The absence of Juventus players between the defensive line and the attack meant that there was ample amounts of space for Sampdoria. As such, Sampdoria situated two to three players in that space. This meant that any potential dribbles into this space could be stopped as there would be a 3v1 or 2v1 situation.

The presence of the players also reduced the number of direct passing lanes through the centre. As such, Juventus had to resort to long balls, diagonal balls, and vertical passes on the wing.

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here we see, in yellow, the space left in the middle by Juventus’ buildup. [Credit: WyScout]
Here we can see the passing lines between the centrebacks, fullbacks, central defensive midfielder, and goalkeeper. As such, the only build up that Juventus can accomplish is through the ings. Notice how the massive space in the centre of the pitch, shown in yellow, is covered by 3 Sampdoria players.

Their presence in such field allows each one of them to intercept any passes to the attacking line of Juventus. We can see in the picture how a potential pass to Juan Cuadrado, shown in red, can be intercepted by the run of the Sampdoria midfielder, shown with the yellow arrow. As such the only option for the Juventus defender is to play a long ball.

As such, during pressing for Juventus’ buildup, Sampdoria assumed a 4-3-3 shape. The front three pressed aggressively, with one forward pressing the Juventus player with the ball. The second forward man-marked one of the members of the pivot.

Finally, the third forward stayed between the second centreback and the second midfielder in the pivot. This allowed the forward to initiate pressing on either one if the ball switched.

Sampdoria’s pressing with Juventus in possession

Sampdoria also employed a second pattern of pressing and this was when Juventus were in possession of the ball, trying to play through the wings or the centre. Sampdoria switched their shape to a 3-4-3.

The effect was that there would be more players in the middle of the pitch to control Blucerchiati’s central corridor. Moreover, since Juventus were playing in a 4-3-3 when in the attack, the back three could deal with the three attackers in a 3v3 situation.

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here we see a high man-marking press on Juventus’ defence. [Credit: WyScout]
Here, a back pass was played by Juventus, and quickly Sampdoria start to press almost every Juventus player. Almost every player is man-marking their Juventus counterpart. This puts the Juventus player with the ball under intense pressure. His only option, then, is to pass back to the goalkeeper. While Sampdoria have not regained the ball, they have pushed the ball back into the opponent’s half. From there, they can switch to the pressing pattern involved in Juventus’ build up.

In the shape of the 3-4-3, Giampaolo’s men pressed aggressively whenever the ball was passed forward or when the ball was not in their own half. As soon as the ball entered their half, the intensity of the pressed was not as high.

This was due to the fact that when Sampdoria were entering their own half, Juventus, by that time, had five to four players involved in the attack. Any attempts to press aggressively would shift the defensive structure and open holes.

In both of these implementations of the pressing, some problems existed. One of the problems was that Juventus could get out of the build-up pressing pattern of Sampdoria by simply concentrating the play on one flank. With a diamond, Juventus could draw in the Sampdoria players, including the duo/trio present in the centre, and through the quick interchange, the Goeba could find space in the middle of the pitch.

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here we see Juventus bypassing the high pressing on Juventus’ buildup by Sampdoria. [Credit: WyScout]
The Juventus diamond, consisting of the fullback, centre-back, midfielder, and winger (Cuadrado) can get past by the high pressure of Sampdoria. Through their concentration of play, Juventus have found a hole in Sampdoria’s press which allows them to pass it to a free Juventus midfielder. He can, then, run into space, as indicated with the green box. Moreover, he will be attacking the central space, an area which allows Juventus to spring passes to the wings, through balls to diverting runs and over the top passes.

Additionally, Juventus could get out of the possession pressing pattern of Sampdoria by playing diagonal balls to the flanks. This would isolate one of the defenders of Sampdoria with one winger. Moreover, this tactic was enhanced by putting two Juventus players on that one defender which could be used to get further down the pitch and cross.

Sampdoria look to unravel Juventus defence with short and quick interplay

After advancing their players and possession in the final third, the main tactic for Sampdoria was to use short passes and do quick little interchanges with the front three. Two midfielders would come just behind the front three in case of any back passes. From there, one of the midfielders would play chipped balls to the wings.

Sampdoria utilized this type of tactic due to the compactness of Juventus. The Vecchia Signora kept her defensive unit compacted into a very tight rectangle. This meant that there was a lot of space left on the wings. As such, Sampdoria looked to exploit Juventus’ structure.

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here we see the rigid rectangular structure of Juventus [Credit:WyScout]
The rigid rectangle of Juventus constricts space in the middle but allows Sampdoria too much time and space on the wing flanks. This space can be seen with the blue rectangles the left and right-hand side of the pitch. Sampdoria can freely attack this space and use this space for crosses and cutbacks

The first step to accomplish the goal was to be in a formation that encourages expansiveness and width. Sampdoria chose to switch to a 3-4-3 which allowed them to do exactly that. Moreover, the 3-4-3 also put, at a minimum, 2 players on the wing flanks. This meant that any attempt by Juventus to cover those areas were quickly foiled through quick 1-2s.

The second step was to play on the wing flanks which inadvertently attracted Juventus players. This attraction was further emphasized when Sampdoria started crossing to the dangerous Fabio Quaglirella.

After Juventus’s shape started losing its rigidity, Sampdoria would start playing centrally, where space started being created. The interchanges between the front three alerted Juventus and as such the Zebre reassumed their structure.

However, in the process of restructuring, some players were not in line with the defensive line or were simply out of position. Sampdoria took this chance to quickly pass to the wing, again, and look for simple passing options to the front three. These options include crosses, cutbacks, and diagonal runs.

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here we see the quick interplay between the forwards of Sampdoria. This move ultimately results in a goal. [Credit: WyScout]
Sampdoria’s quick switches from the central corridor to the halfspaces and wing flanks mean that Juventus players are caught out of position. In this particle position, the Juventus players leave their right halfspace free. Sampdoria pounce on this opportunity, playing a quick 1-2 to eliminate 7 players with one pass. This tactic worked as evidenced by the fact that this movement yielded in a goal.

Juventus want to counterattack and cross their way to victory

While Il Doria looked to execute their possession-based attacking style, Juventus relied on more conservative methods. Their conservative style can be seen in their insistence to use the wing and cross from there.

The main strategy from Juventus, seeing that Sampdoria were not going to allow them important possession of the world, was to counterattack. The first step in the counterattack process was to patiently wait for the Sampdoria. They did this by keeping a narrow formation and not applying aggressive pressure. The pressure would increase as soon as Sampdoria players entered their narrow central block.

Their second step/procedure was to play quick diagonal balls that isolated a Sampdoria defender against a potential 2v1 or 1v1 situation in favour of Juventus. The other attackers situated themselves between the Sampdoria defenders in order to cause chaos to a rigid defensive structure.

Serie A 2018/19 Tactical Analysis: Sampdoria vs Juventus
Here we can see the positioning of the forwards of Juventus. They are all between the defensive line of Sampdoria. [Credit: WyScout]
While the Juventus ball-carrier has no other Sampdoria opposition, note the positioning of the forwards of Juventus. Each of them is positioned between defenders or alongside defenders. This allows Juventus a chance to counterattack as special movements from the striker and the winger can disrupt the defensive line of Sampdoria. Moreover, a simple diagonal pass can lead to a 1v1 situation on the left-hand side of Juventus.

The third step, from there, was to cross the ball or cutback. Sometimes, Juventus tried different techniques to achieve the third step. For example, the main striker, Moise Kean would drop deep.

The ball would be passed to Kean who would hold up the ball and pass to the running fullbacks. Meanwhile, some of the other attackers would start diagonally running, making themselves open to the crosses.

This tactic, however, did not work. One of the main reasons is the absence of Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a great attacker of a crossed ball and is Juventus’ main aerial presence. His presence allows some of the other wingers and midfielders to find space.

Kean, while talented, does not pose the same danger as Ronaldo and as such, the defenders are less reluctant to leave their zones or players. Juventus’ attacking output was so poor that they only had 1 shot on target in comparison to Sampdoria’s 3 shots.

Conclusion

Allegri and his men will have some thinking to do. After failing to advance in the UEFA Champions League, this loss will already increase the pressure on Allegri. With such a talented squad, their inability to beat some of the younger squads, and now Sampdoria, will surely raise questions about Allegri. On the other hand, Giampolo’s squad will be ecstatic. Beating the Serie A champions, that too on the last day is surely a sign of good times for I Blucerchiati. As Serie A closes it curtains, Italians will desperately look to the upcoming transfer window for any whiff of the beautiful game.


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Abhishek Mishra

Writer at Ronnie Dog Media
Hi, I’m Abhishek. I am a current student and come from India. I am interested in providing and improving tactical analyses.