This season has witnessed continued debate among fans about Sarri’s philosophy and his success in implementing it. Juve’s recent 4-0 win over Cagliari was one of the team’s more accomplished performances under the new manager. While the team has been accused of playing “Allegriball” for much of this season, a look at the latest performance suggests that we may be witnessing a transition in style. With this in mind, we decided to compare Juve’s passing style in Monday’s 4-0 win with last year’s 3-1 home with against Cagliari. It should be noted that last year’s match was played on November 3rd during a busier part of the calendar. However, some of the results we are about to discuss appear to be significant enough to be beyond coincidental.
To start, we note an 11% increase in ball possession. We know that Sarri likes his teams to maintain possession, but let’s keep looking.
A similar trend is seen in territorial possession with a 13% increase in play in the opponent’s half.
Total passes also grew by a hefty 40%. This also falls in line with Sarri’s purported tendency to favor quick, short passes.
The jump in passes was most pronounced in the middle third of the pitch (midfield) at 64%.
There were also 36% more passes in the attacking third. The defensive third was largely unchanged (97 passes this season vs. 98 last season).
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, passes in to the penalty box dropped by almost half. This may be due to fewer long balls and crosses, and more indirect play.
It is hard to say whether this represents a meaningful trend, but the team switched play much less often than last season’s match.
To no one’s surprise, long passes dropped by a whopping 55%, from 8% of total passes to only 3%. Meanwhile, short passes went up by 51%.
Finally, the pass direction was largely unchanged. There have been complaints from some supporters that Sarri is making the team play sidewards and backwards too much, but this particular comparison does not show a significant change of pattern from last year.
It is still too early to say if Juve’s performance against Cagliari represented the cementing of a change in playing style. However, there are definitely some encouraging signs for Juve fans to be excited about. There is an argument to be made that many of the changes between the two matches analyzed are intentional and represent the Sarri brand of calcio. If true, it is only a matter of time before the team makes its newly learned style a genuine habit. While the shortcomings of Sarriball will still be there, we may witness a team that is, at the least, fulfilling its duty of carrying out its coach’s orders and, at best, exciting to watch and scary to face.