We saw a new Juventus today, one that we haven’t seen in a while. Juventus won a game that could only be qualified as a roller coaster of emotions. There was a sensation of excitement, disappointment, stress, relief etc. Juventus won a crucial game that will have a huge weight at the end of the season if both these clubs share the same number of points. In Serie A, the decisive factor to declare the winner in that case is the head-to-head games. It took me a day to calm down. I just hope Sarri gets better and didn’t get too stressed after watching that game.

The Comeback!

We saw a new Juventus today, one that we haven’t seen in a while. Juventus won a game that could only be qualified as a roller coaster of emotions. There was a sensation of excitement, disappointment, stress, relief etc. Juventus won a crucial game that will have a huge weight at the end of the season if both these clubs share the same number of points. In Serie A, the decisive factor to declare the winner in that case is the head-to-head games. It took me a day to calm down. I just hope Sarri gets better and didn’t get too stressed after watching that game.
Overall, the game was balanced. We’ll analyze each half in detail below. Napoli controlled more the ball with 56% of the possession. If we only look at the statistics below, we’ll believe that Napoli had the edge throughout the game. Napoli had more shots, more tackles, won more aerial duels and had more dribbles. Napoli had more passes (545 vs 432) and more touches (702 vs 588). Luckily, statistics do not provide the full picture. As mentioned in the figure below, Juventus mainly played with width and attacked more down the left side. 

First Half

In the first half, except for the first few minutes where both teams were cautious, Juventus started playing some beautiful football. We saw Khedira like never before (I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m impressed). Matuidi was playing much better than last game on the left. De Sciglio, before getting injured, was running and dribbling. At some point, we could have called him De Sciglinho. Danilo came in for the injured De Sciglio and what did he do ladies and gentlemen? He scored after just 26 seconds from stepping on the field (who could imagine such a scenario?). The engine of all plays is, as always, the talented Douglas Costa. He brings so much to the team and he became essential (hopefully he stays fit throughout the full season). All juventini were impressed with the Sarriball. The second goal was a perfect example of that tactic. In the pictures below, we see the triangles being formed where players play short passes and move into empty spaces until Higuain positioned himself between all the defenders and dribbled them with an impressive move and hit a unstoppable shot that went into the top corner.

Second Half

At the beginning of the second half, Juve was still dominating and scored a third goal by the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo and he did an interesting celebration (pictures below).
And then, the nightmare began. Four minutes later, Napoli scored the first goal through a set-piece. Manolas, who just joined Napoli from Roma this summer, scored a header. Bonucci was not positioned well and let Manolas have a free header. Two minutes later, Napoli scored another goal with another new signing, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. This time, de Ligt was at fault. For some reason, he stopped running and let Lozano room free in the area. I believe he thought that someone was covering Lozano. And then at minute 81, Di Lorenzo scored a third goal tying up the game. The goal was from another set piece and again de Ligt was not able to cover well.
But then, for those true Juventini, who know the real meaning of fino alla fine (till the end). Juventus received a freekick in min 92. And the miracle happened. Koulibali jumped and scored a marvelous own goal. Juventini everywhere were jumping up and down from joy. That made the score 4-3 and Juventus took the three points. I have to say, this is a very unusual result for Juventus. In the last few years, we usually won by scoring one or two goals. 

Match Analysis

Best Player

Let’s have a quick look at some facts. According to whoscored.com, Danilo got the best rating based on the following:
  • 76 minutes
  • 1 Goal
  • 1/1 Shot on target
  • 1 Areal won
  • 2 Tackles
  • 2 Interceptions
  • 4 Clearances
  • 3 Dribbles
  • 40 Passes
  • 82% Pass accuracy
  • 0/2 Accurate crosses

Defense

The defensive line was not as high as against Parma. From the heat map, we see that it was balanced on both sides. There were 264 touches (the most between the three position types: attack, midfield and defense) between the defenders. On the left, we see that this time Alex Sandro was going forward unlike the Parma game. Bonucci, on the right, stayed closer to Szczesny.

Juventus made 18 clearances, half were from de Ligt (the highest number) and Danilo. De Ligt cleared the ball 4 times inside the penalty box and once on the left side. Danilo is the one who cleared the ball on the right as shown in the figure below. Bonucci and Sandro both cleared the ball inside the penalty box. We can then see how Sandro contributed a lot defensively on the left side and covered for de Ligt when the latter was closer to Bonucci. The same could be said for Danilo with Bonucci.

Midfield

The midfield was balanced as well compared with the Parma game in which the main plays were on the right. Matuidi improved a lot and was ever present on several occasions, linking well with Sandro, Pjanic, Higuain and Ronaldo. Khedira, these two games, has been exceptional: great positioning, great one touch passes, great penetration and a great shot.

We then ask ourselves these questions:

  • Why was Khedira picked over Can or Bentancur?
  • What does he bring?
  • And why did we hear some journalists claim that Khedira impressed Sarri during the summer?

Let’s have a quick look at the number of touches shown below. He did not have the most touches (Sandro has the most with 82) but he was positioning himself close to the touchline providing crucial one-two passes with Douglas Costa. He was also linking well with Pjanic in the middle. We saw two shots from him, one of them from outside the box and it would have been a beauty if it went in.

As a side note, Can, today (September 3rd, 2019), has been excluded from the UEFA Champions League list. This provides an insight on Sarri’s views on him. It seems he does not fit his style of play and preferred to keep other midfielders.

Rabiot should be introduced soon but we saw when we introduce a player (I’m referring to de Ligt) before being a 100% ready, it could have negative impacts on the final result. In my opinion, Sarri will introduce him once he starts guiding the team from the bench. But then, Matuidi you ask?

Yes, Matuidi has improved a lot from the last game in which he was absent. Against Napoli, he was aggressive with 4 fouls (the most), he participated in many plays (55 touches vs 28 for Khedira) and had one shot. He was linking more with Sandro on the left and provided a key pass to Higuain. Essentially, he plays the role of Douglas Costa on the left side and that gives freedom to Ronaldo who can find spaces between defenders.

Attack

In attack, the most active was Douglas Costa, the source of creativity in the team. Higuain is great at positioning himself inside the box and at attracting defenders which leads to opening gaps in front of goal. Cristiano was given the liberty to run anywhere and that he would get the necessary service to score.

First, let’s talk about the phenomenon called Cristiano Ronaldo. He was not involved in the first goal but ran an impressive 92 meters in 10 seconds. Ok wait, what? A 34 years old ran at a speed of 33.12km/h? Are you kidding me? He also had the most shots (3), scoring one of them and the most dribbles.

Higuain is very crucial to the Sarriball because of his positioning but also because he retracts to the middle of the pitch and allows other players to use him as a focal point. He tackled (2) the most compared with other forwards. He only had one shot though, and he scored it. He was subbed with Dybala 15 minutes from the final whistle. Dybala was not able to do much except for a few touches. He did shoot once, though.

Let’s ask this question: Why would our number 21 (formerly number 9 which is unassigned this season) be preferred to our number 10 (formerly number 21)? Against physical defenders like Manolas and Koulibali, Higuain is stronger physically and clinical inside the box. The one who benefits from that is Cristiano Ronaldo who can infiltrate on the right or on the left and shoot. Let’s see how would Sarri fit Cristiano and Dybala who, in my opinion, share the same position. Both enjoy the freedom of running right and left and trying to find spaces between the defenders.

What can one say about Douglas Costa that hasn’t been said already? When fit, he is amazing and can dribble past one, two, three or more with speed and unpredictable moves. He provided two assists and had the most touches upfront and covered the full right flank. He also had two shots, but not on target. This is something he’ll need to improve.

Finally, the last picture provides an idea of how the left side was more active for both sides. This also led to defending more on the right side. 

My Final Take

In the first half, like the Parma game, Juventus was playing fluid and entertaining football. This is closer to what is called the Sarriball. The major drawback at this stage is that players get exhausted by the hour mark and start to fall back which leads to having the other team control the ball. There is still a lot of work to be done to maintain this high intensity style.

To conclude, I would like to thank that great team for providing us three precious points at a point where we still do not have a coach, the team just started the season and the new players need more time to integrate. There shouldn’t be any finger pointing for the three goals we conceded. The team is still working hard to get to what Sarri has in mind, but this would require patience from the fanbase.

What is your take on Saturday’s game? Did you enjoy it? Do you see any difference between this Juve and last year’s?

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