After the walkover against Napoli two weeks ago and the break for the international fixtures, the reigning Serie A champions returned to the field in Crotone for the match against the newly promoted team, coached by Giovanni Stroppa. The excellent tactical attitude of Crotone allowed them to bring home a great 1-1 draw, winning their first point of this season. A Juventus side with still unclear ideas and rather listless, lost important points in the standings, and could not take advantage from Inter‘s loss against Milan. Now the question is: will they be able to win the tenth consecutive Scudetto?
In this tactical analysis we will examine how, despite the incredible difference between the squads, Juventus managed to not win the game.
Crotone confirmed the tactical approach of the previous matches, with a five-man defense which obviously becomes 3-men in the offensive phase, a very interchangeable three-men midfield, and the attacking duo composed by Simeon Nwankwo and Junior Messias, and more firm points of the team.
On the other hand, for Andrea Pirlo, once again a really difficult formation to read and interpret on paper. A defence that starts with four men, but which is very mobile. The South American duo Arthur-Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield, forming a double pivot. Three men on the frontline, Manolo Portanova, Dejan Kulusevski, and the new signing Federico Chiesa, behind Álvaro Morata.
Juventus’ build-up phase
As always, Juventus started the match with a very proactive attitude from the first minutes and from the high construction phase. By raising the center of gravity, the team was in an almost 2-3-5 shape. Chiesa and Gianluca Frabotta provided width to the manoeuvre, while Kulusevski in particular acted between the lines. Meanwhile, Morata and Portanova filled the penalty area, helping to lower the opponent’s defensive line.
As we can see from this image, Danilo was alongside the midfielders, to always offer many options to the ball carrier and force the opponents to keep almost the entire team behind the ball. The Brazilian full-back is one of Pirlo’s Juventus tactical keys so far. He never acts as a classic full-back, he went forward almost as a third in midfield in the build-up phase, but in the defensive phase, he becomes a third centre-back on Bonucci’s right.
Instead, in the construction from the back, Crotone raised the pressure, rarely giving space to Juventus defenders. Arthur and Bentancur acted as a classic double pivot, but when Crotone brought more pressure, one of them went down the defensive line to build upon the defensive line, and always had numerical superiority, as shown in this image.
Obviously, Juventus’ unscrupulous attitude had consequences during the match. Although Crotone never refused to build-up from the back, it rarely brought danger to the Bianconeri’s goal.
Stroppa’s team often left the ball to Juventus, who were ready to take advantage of the counterattacks. The physical and athletic skills of Simy and Messias were a big problem for Juventus defenders. As we said before, with Danilo high on the midfield line, Juventus conceded many 2v2, never really exploited, but always potentially dangerous, as we can see in the following image.
The full-backs did an excellent job both in the offensive and the defensive phase, providing width and often depth to the manoeuvre. With Frabotta and Chiesa often staying very high, this forced the centre-backs to open up, allowing the possibility of exploiting half-spaces. And as we can see from this image, this was exactly how Crotone’s penalty action was born.
The Chiesa-Kulusevski duo
With Cristiano Ronaldo stopped by Covid-19 and Paulo Dybala still with some physical problems, the new signing, Federico Chiesa was instantly included in the starting XI. Even though his role was almost the same he had at Fiorentina, at least on the paper, he proved that he has got a great ductility. His understanding with the other new Juventus player, Dejan Kulusevski, has already looked great, until the red card of the Italian youngster.
Both players did their best on the right wing, despite their brief career so far, but their technical abilities made them become great players in central areas as well. That’s why, even if the Swedish started near Morata and Chiesa, he reversed their positions so often. This kind of unpredictability was the real and only threat for Crotone’s defense. Juventus’ goal was born from these movements as well.
In the non-possession phase, both players proved all their dynamism in pressing on the first opponent’s defensive midfielder. Always maintaining this interchangeability between them, the most advanced one pressed highly on the pitch. The other one, instead, pressed on the opponent’s playmaker, Luca Cigarini, as we can see in this image.
With their work being almost every time on the right-wing, a fundamental job was done from the almost debutant Manolo Portanova. Most of the offensive actions developed on the right side, and with crosses coming from there, and Morata attacking the near post, Portanova occupied central areas, giving another option, as we can see here.
Despite being very young and not very used to this kind of games, he proved that he has great tactical awareness and adaptability. In such a long and hard season, this could lead him for sure to be a regular part of Pirlo’s side.
After the red card
At the 60th minute, an action could have changed the course of the game: Chiesa received a red card due to a foul on Cigarini. From that moment, the game inevitably transformed, with Juventus forced to drop and Crotone who can raise the lines up and put pressure like never before, as we can see below.
Juventus, instead, without Chiesa, dropped but without giving up on their winning chances. Portanova went out, and the team shifted to a 3-4-2, with Juan Cuadrado and Frabotta providing width and Kulusevski with Morata in the front, as we can see in the following image.
The offensive attitude remained similar, so much to create several more occasions, particularly with Morata, probably the best of his team. The only thing missing was the pressing, which inevitably was lowered to not expose themselves too much in the spaces created by numerical inferiority.
Despite the difference in “cost” between the two teams, the game seemed incredibly balanced. This analysis proved how Andrea Pirlo’s tactics are still very unclear, with many ideas but still too confused to give a true identity to the team. The only real positive aspect was the performance of the new signings Morata, Kulusevski and Chiesa until the red card.
Crotone, however, who probably will have to face a difficult season, brought home a very important point with a performance that bodes well for the season. Saving themselves from the relegation will be difficult but not impossible if Giovanni Stroppa’s boys maintain this level.