Juventus did not start their new season well; they sacked Maurizio Sarri and put Italian football legend Andrea Pirlo as the team coach.
They won only one match in Serie A (they did not play against Napoli), and drew with both Roma and Crotone; this made the fans apprehensive about the team’s performance in the UEFA Champions League. However, they travelled to Ukraine and got the three points after beating Dynamo Kyiv 2-0.
Mircea Lucescu’s Dynamo Kyiv started in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Ukraine centre back Illia Zabarnyi partnered another Ukrainian Vitaliy Mykolenko in defence. Viktor Tsygankov started on the right flank; Carlos de Pena started on the left; Vladyslav Supryaga was the lone striker.
Pirlo preferred to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation, Alvaro Morata was alone in the front line, due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s infection with the Coronavirus. Adrien Rabiot returned to the starting line-up, and Rodrigo Bentancur maintained his place in the starting XI.
The defensive structure of Juventus
Both teams defended well, with both teams having low XG rates. 1.69 for Juventus, 0.22 for Dynamo Kyiv. Frankly, both teams gave an excellent defensive performance.
We will start with Juventus, Pirlo did not ask his team to advance and pressure in the final third, as the average PPDA for Juventus in this match was 16.
Instead, Andrea Pirlo preferred to play with a middle block, while closing all the deep passing options, and directing the opponent’s passes to the sides.
Pirlo’s idea worked, as you can see on this map, most of Dynamo Kyiv’s passes were sideways.
If Dynamo Kyiv decides to move the ball to the sides, Juventus will be able to recover the ball. In this example, Dynamo Kyiv moved the ball to the side and fell into the Juventus trap.
In this example, the Juventus block moved to the side the ball is on, and they blocked all passing options. You see, Bentancur marked De Pena, Cuadrado marked Oleksandr Karavaev, Dejan Kulusevski marked Mykolenko and used his body to covered Shaparenko, Chiesa with Buyalskyy, and Morata with Sydorchuk. In this case, the ball holder does not have any solution.
If Shaparenko and Buyalskyy try to back down to help the backline, Bentancur and Rabiot will follow them, as you can see in the picture.
Dynamo Kyiv against Juventus’ defensive structure
Dynamo Kyiv coach Mircea Lucescu introduced some tactics that helped his team break the defensive structure set up by Pirlo.
These tactics helped his team advance the ball and reach the final third across the sides. So Shaparenko and Buyalskyy were positioned widely.
Mircea Lucescu’s tactics helped the ball holder a lot and provided him with many solutions. For example, in this picture, full-back Karavaev advanced, and Shaparenko positioned is in his place, De Pena entered in deep, this confuses Kulusevski’s focus, and the ball holder is now able to play pass in the deep.
If Kulusevski or Cuadrado blocks the deep, the ball holder will be able to pass to the full-back.
Then the full-back can lean on the wing, then switch play. For example, in this picture, Dynamo Kyiv uses the one-two technique by Karavaev and De Pena, after which Karavaev switch play
If Kulusevski advances to pressuring the ball holder, Cuadrado will be forced to advance and pressure Karavaev, in which case Dynamo Kyiv can use the half-spaces.
The defensive structure of Dynamo Kyiv
Dynamo Kyiv was defending in the same way as Juventus, where he was trying to protect the deep and force the opponent to pass towards the sides.
However, Dynamo Kyiv was defending, applying a man-to-man marking system for Juventus midfielders, with the wings going deep to prevent the centre-back from passing into the deep.
For example, in this picture, Dynamo Kyiv marked the Juventus midfielders, and the entry of the wings in the deep prevents the Juventus center-backs from passing to depth.
When Juventus moves the ball to the sides, Dynamo Kyiv will block the pass channels close to the ball holder, as Juventus does.
Lucescu’s idea was somewhat successful, as you can see in this picture, Juventus have already lost a lot of balls on the sides.
Juventus against Dynamo Kyiv defensive structure
Pirlo had some ideas and tactics as well, which helped Juventus break the defensive structure of his opponent, Dynamo Kyiv, and reach the final third.
The advance of Rabiot and Bentancur forces Shaparenko and Buyalskyy to retreat and Sydorchuk will attempt to position behind them to mark Ramsey. This creates space for Bonucci, and he can use it to dribble
This forces Buyalskyy to leave Bentancur and advance to pressure Bonucci, at the same time Sydorchuk advances to mark Bentancur so that Ramsey will be free.
Now Juventus can move the ball towards the side because the wings of Dynamo Kyiv are positioned in the deep, then Juventus can use Ramsey to hit the gaps that appear in the backline.
Another idea is similar to the one I mentioned above. Juventus were playing with three defenders, and as I explained earlier in this analysis Dynamo Kyiv was pressing a player on the centre-backs. This gives Demiral and Danilo ample space, which they can use to advance to half of the opponent.
At the same time, Rabiot or Bentancur will move forward, in this way Juventus will create a 3v2 situation, and Demiral or Danilo will have a safe pass option at least towards the final third.
I mentioned in the previous section that Dynamo Kyiv was applied man to man-marked, Buyalskyy marked Rabiot, Shaparenko marked Bentancur, while Ramsey was positioned between the lines, and Sydorchuk has marked him.
That is why Morata was pulling back to create a 2v1 situation between the lines; this sometimes helped Juventus move the ball into the final third.
In the second half, Dybala entered the place of Kulusevski. Juventus needed this change, the team needed a player to help them control the midfield.
Because Dynamo Kyiv’s defensive tactics made them dominate the sides, this made Kulusevski useless, as you can see in this picture. Most of his touches were unsuccessful.
So Pirlo involved Dybala, his idea was to create numerical superiority in the middle; that way, he would have more control over the ball. Moreover, his idea succeeded, as the possession ratio rose to 56.91% in the second half.
Dybala’s entry and Morata retreat made Juventus able to get a free player in the middle of the field, and this gave the Italian team more control over the game.
For example, in this picture, due to Morata falling back and the positioning of Bentancur, Dybala, and Rabiot in the middle of the field, Ramsey becomes free.
Positioning four players in the middle forces Dynamo Kyiv players to position narrow, this way Cuadrado or Chiesa will be in a 1v1 situation, and they can play crosses without pressure.
As stated in this analysis, it was a fascinating tactical battle. Dynamo Kyiv played a great game. They controlled Juventus and confirmed that Juventus needs some tactical adjustments.
As for Juventus, they faced many difficulties in this game, Pirlo showed that he is a smart coach and may be able to face the best coaches in the world, but the sure thing is that his team suffers from some problems that must be dealt with quickly.