In one of the most important games of round ten of the Serie A, Juventus and Torino faced each other in the “Derby della Mole”. The start of the season was not the best for both teams, considering the expectations. But the motivations in matches like these are always very high, and the match resulted in a fascinating tactical battle.
Even if it was not the best performance of the season for Andrea Pirlo’s team, Juventus managed to win 2-1 with a last breath goal from their captain, Leonardo Bonucci.
In this tactical analysis we will see how, even though Torino played a very good defensive match, some set-pieces situations led Juventus to a significant win.
Juventus lined-up according to their very fluid 4-4-2, as we will see later in this analysis. Wojciech Szczęsny started as the goalkeeper, Juan Cuadrado, Matthijs De Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci and Danilo formed the defensive line. Dejan Kulusevski, Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot and Federico Chiesa played in midfield. And Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo formed the offensive duo.
Torino instead played with a pretty defensive 5-3-2 formation. Salvatore Sirigu was the goalkeeper, a back-three composed of Wilfried Singo, Lyanco, Nicolas Nkoulou, Ricardo Rodríguez and Christian Ansaldi in the back-five. Soualiho Meïté, Tomás Rincón, and Karol Linetty played in midfield, and Simone Zaza and Andrea Belotti leading the way.
Torino’s match in possession
From the first minutes of the game, the tactical approach of both teams was pretty clear. Juventus were high pressing on Torino‘s defenders, especially when they tried to build-up with the help of the goalkeeper. As we can see from this image, both the strikers and the wingers moved forward on the pitch going almost man on man on Torino’s centre-backs.
With such a high pressing and a midfield without a real playmaker, long balls were almost the only option for Torino. And this is why for the entirety of the match Juventus were the team that kept the ball, while Torino were more focused on the defence, also considering they went ahead in the very first minutes. The real problems for Juventus‘ defence were only brought by fast counterattacks led by Belotti, one of the best strikers in the League in these situations. As we can see from the following image, Juventus defence was always pretty high on the pitch, and Belotti made great work to take long balls and play penetrative passes for his teammates.
From this image, we can also see the great work made by Zaza in these actions. Juventus’ centre-backs man-marked Torino’s strikers throughout the game. Dropping in the midfield, he attracted Bonucci out of position, opening space for Linetty to make very dangerous runs.
Juventus’ dynamic shape
As we previously said in this analysis, Juventus’ tactical shape was very fluid. While in non-possession, they lined-up in a pretty compact 4-2-3-1 formation, with Dybala working behind Ronaldo. As we can see from the following image, the Argentinian played very close to Rincón, and Cuadrado was on the defensive line.
But when in possession, Juventus’ tactics have totally changed. The team lined-up in a kind of 3-2-5 formation, with Cuadrado moving forward a lot to play in the offensive line. As we can see from the following image, Kulusevski moved in more central areas, playing near the strikers.
This fluidity was not only in the overall tactics, but also in the single players’ positions. The offensive players switched their positions a lot in order to create unpredictability to the actions and try to stretch Torino’s defence.
Torino’s defensive work
In non-possession, Torino made a great work closing every space to great players as Juventus’ ones.
When Juventus tried to build-up from the back, they kept a really tight midfield, not allowing the midfielders to participate. As we can see from this image, Belotti and Zaza dropped close to the midfielders, leaving a lot of space to the centre-backs to build-up, but with the only option of the pass on the flanks.
And when Juventus managed to progress on the pitch through the flanks, defence and midfield were tightened a lot. In this way, they left no space for plays between the lines, one of the best Juventus’ offensive weapons. As we can see from this image, Torino brought many players to defend in the box, but with midfielders ready to cover passes behind for a long shot.
Juventus’ offensive problems
This amazing defensive work from Torino was a real deal for Juventus. Going behind in the first minutes and playing against such a well-organised team is never easy.
However, the biggest problems for Juventus came exactly from what should have been their extra weapon. Against such a compact defence, players tried to find free space in wider areas of the pitch. But this created empty spaces in the central area, where the real danger could come from. As we can see from the image above, Ronaldo, realising he didn’t have any space in the middle, moved wider to get the ball, but none of his teammates occupied his space.
And this lack of men in the middle became even more evident when it came to more dangerous areas. With Torino defending with at least eight players, it was fundamental for Juventus to have the support of their midfielders in the box. But, as we can see from this image, many times Juventus’ attacks were just five against eight defenders, and Torino never really had problems dealing with this.
After a great tactical battle, the match was completely decided by set pieces. Torino never tried to create after the first goal, always leaving the ball to Juventus, and in the end they got punished.
Juventus got very important three points, keeping up with other big teams like Inter and Milan. Pirlo still has a lot of work to do with his team, and technically speaking there was not a lot to save from this match.
Torino maintained their position in the relegation zone, losing again after being ahead in the first-half. Despite the almost perfect job in non-possession, the problems in the last third remained, and this is something which Giampaolo should really work on.