Juventus vs Napoli match-up
In respond of the absence of Giorgio Chiellini, Massimiliano Allegri opted to play with 2 central defenders (CD). One interesting adjustment on his general set-up was the use of a flat 4-4-2 basic shape not only in their defensive-phase but also in attacking-phase with Sami Khedira situationally was more vertical than Claudio Marchisio. In the defensive-phase, it was still a compact 4-4-2 which would surely transposition into 4-4-2-0-esque, especially when Juventus were in a deep-block mode.
Stephane Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra, the full-backs, played as the conventional hugging-line ones. In the central defender, Allegri paired Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, the twin ball-players, with Bonucci initially covered more to the right. In the middle-line, Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado flanked the box to box , Khedira, and the deep-lying midfielder, Marchisio.
Maurizio Sarri fielded his usual 4-3-3 basic shape, displayed the usual positional play. A stable deep-circulation in their first phase of attack was established by the combination of the 4 backs and Jorginho-Marek Hamsik partnership at 6.
In this phase, Jorginho, as ever, has been the devoted-6. If needed, Hamsik would drop deep, to the left half-space, created the vertical access. Here, Napoli transposition their deep-circulation shape into a 4-2 or 2-4, with one of the full backs, situationally, occupied the more advanced areas. This was strong enough for Napoli to beat Juventus’ initial press which was started by the 9-duo, Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala.
Strong and stable circulation in Napoli 1st phase of attack, as aforementioned, was established by the combination movement of the four-back and Jorginho-Hamsik partnership. Juventus responded it by assigning their forward-duo to stay centrally, kept close to the area where Jorginho occupied on. This was the 1st phase of Juventus defensive-play.
In this phase, the ball-carrying CD’s of Napoli often able to find Jorginho easily utilizing the horizontal gap, between Morata and Dybala, or the vertical space, between the 9’s and second-line. This had been the Juventus early problem in their 1st line press, as the uncoordinated press between the 9-duo opened space for Jorginho. The 9-duo sometimes also positioned too close which nullified the working-space for Jorginho, but, on the other side, it opened the half-space for Hamsik or Allan to drop deep to create the vertical access. The understanding of Hamsik-Jorginho within Napoli’s deep-circulation was often crucial as it maintained the stability of the possession itself.
In some scenes of their build-up phase 1, the full back was a little bit too deep. This was a good support for their deep-circulation, but, then, when they needed to progress to the more advanced areas there was suddenly lack of presence. With Juventus were so compact, retreat and shifted well Napoli were forced to play it back or, at least, horizontally.
Hamsik, Jorginho, and Coulibaly in a 3v2 situation. Within the established pressing-shape between Morata and Dybala, Coulibaly found Jorginho. Hamsik realized the opportunity to create a triangle-shape which not only easing the circulation but also un-directly positively-impacted to the progression itself. The “dash” arrow on Hamsik was the indication of the movement he made which made Napoli numerically-superior to Juventus 1st line pressing. The ball was played from Coulibaly, to Jorginho, to Hamsik, back to Coulibaly, and switched.
Napoli arguably succeeded this phase several times, as it opened some space on the flank. But the stability of Juventus defense, particularly their block-shifting, managed to nullify such scheme. And the good side was it managed to avoid the back line to be directly-exposed to Napoli’s final-third penetration.
Below graphic was taken from the scene when Napoli progressed to the wide area and made a quick overload. Again, Jorginho’s positioning enabled him to establish a diagonal passing lane which was very helpful for Napoli switch-play to the other flank.
Napoli deep-circulation and overload the right-side after the ball was played to the right by Raul Albiol.
Sarri’s Napoli have been well-known for their indented wingers. In this match, we can obviously see these wingers tried to exploit any horizontal gap between Juventus’ winger and 6 and the vertical space in front of the back line. For example, when Allan or Hamsik with ball on the half-space, the near winger would occupy the vertical space, between the back and middle-line trying to find comfortable position to receive and create potential final-third penetration. But Juventus responded it well, they managed some interceptions and covered that intermediate-area properly.
In such phase we can also see some issue. Juventus were compact at defending the central and half-space. To overcome such committed-play, the opponent need to make a very good spacing, a lot of movements, and established a strong connection. Here, Napoli were slightly weak. For instance, in some scenes, the near-full back was positioning too wide, which not just isolating him from the near winger and Gonzalo Higuain but also avoided Napoli from creating a triangle formation for a “cleaner” progression.
Another minor issue in Napoli attack can also be observed. On their attacking phase, Napoli can’t maintain the distance within their structure consistently. For example, in a left side attack, the far-side winger positioned too wide, the near-winger was isolated on the half-space, Jorginho covered the space in front of the CD-pair and Hamsik went (too quick) to the near-flank, occupying the same space with the left back. This structural block basically eliminated Napoli chances to create a promising central access. Let alone Juventus displayed a very stable deep-block.
In Juventus attack, particularly in their build-up, Paulo Dybala often dropped deep to the 10 and even 8 to create passing-line as well as being the vertical-access. A role that Dybala very good at. Sami Khedira played with his usual duty. The German made a lot of vertical or diagonal movement to the 10 around the right half-space, particularly when Juventus on their fast-attack mode from the left hand side. Khedira was needed to take part in the execution-phase or establish a stable connection from the wide to the center.
When Juventus reached the wide area, it was hard for them to create a clean play form there. Because: (1) Napoli shifting was stable and strong enough to deal with any wide attack. (2) Juventus didn’t assign enough players to deal with Napoli touchline-overload.
In Napoli touchline-press, the near winger and near full back would defend the wide areas, Jorginho and near ball side 8 created support by going wide and overloaded. They were supported by two central defenders, one in man-marking duty and one to cover the touchline-trap. With this scheme, Napoli could create a lot of numerical-superiority situation which eased them to stop Juventus’ circulation. The principle is simple, numerical superiority.
Napoli compact shape dealt with Juventus wide attack.
In the early minutes of the second-half, Juventus showed some promising shape within their wide-area circulation. When they attacked from the wide-area, there were more presence than what they did in the first-half. An improvement.
In the first half, it was common view to see them being underloaded but still insisted to make short combination, which was not too effective, as discussed earlier. Allegri adjusted it, by assigning more player so there would have been 3 passing-lanes near the ball-carrier.
With good positioning in the central zone, Juventus’ wide-attack gained a good support in their effort of accessing the final-third. This adjustment resulted some potential scenes in turn.
Another area which Allegri djusted on, was the Juventus first phase of build-up. Paul Pogba moved to the central area. Allegri needed him to pick the pass and progress. With Pogba moved to the center in this phase, it was Khedira who moved wide. When Juventus reached/approached the final-third, Khedira roamed from the wide area and occupied the 10 to create attacking connection, as shown below.
Khedira at 10 and Pogba moved from 8. Callejon?
In other moment, Pogba moved narrower and dropped-deep to the half-space resulted a quick 2v1 situation between him and Marchisio against Jorginho which, again, helped Juventus to progress. This adjustment, with its flexibility, created some promising attacking scene for the host.
For example, when Pogba took the ball and switched from the left half-space to the right-flank, Khedira shifted to the ball-side half-space, at 10. But, when Lichtsteiner received the ball, Khedira would drop-deep to provide passing lane for Lichtsteiner. The near #9, mostly Paulo Dybala, dropped to this ball-side area and overloaded. The 3v2 suddenly occurred and, basically, gave Juventus strong shape to progress.
3v2, Khedira, Dybala, Lichtsteiner vs Jorginho and Lorenzo Insigne.
In their defensive-phase Juventus maintained their man-oriented. It was even more intense on wide area, as the wide-men, especially the pacey Juan Cuadrado, would go as close as possible to his assigned opponent. This in turn helped Juventus to halt Napoli ability to switch from one side to the other one. On top of it, their heavy-orientation to the central area was so stable as it managed to block any central penetration effort of Napoli attack.
In the second-half, Sarri improved the movement of Hamsik. As in the first-half Hamsik was found several times moving too soon to the wide-area, when he needed to stay centrally. But such issue was still there. In some scenes, Hamsik made the-too-soon wide movement (again, something he didn’t have to do), because Ghoulam had stayed there stretching Juventus’ horizontal compactness. Hamsik movement made him occupying the same space with Ghoulam.
Another important highlight was the battle between Higuain and Andrea Barzagli or any Juventus’ players who dealt with Higuain movement to the 10, as Napoli needed the Argentinian to be the vertical access or create space for the “arrive-late” movement of the deeper players. Although Higuain could still create some nice bridging but you can say that Juventus defensive-play had managed to overcome his threat.
An equally-strong tactical battle which appeared to end up scoreless. But, no. In an attack, Simone Zaza made a lucky strike which Coulibaly should regret with, as the central defender was little bit late to cover the intermediate-area and gave Zaza some space and time to release a long distance shot.
The battle of the season ended up with 1-0 for Juventus. As usual, Paul Pogba and Paulo Dybala could always play special part in Juventus tactic. Dybala with his smart positioning and explosive movement. Pogba with his excellent technical ability and strength. Khedira continued his nice debut season, a box to box who hardly out of position. In the end, Napoli actually deserved a draw but was ruined by a small individual mistake.
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