With half of this season’s league fixtures completed, we decided to take a look at how Juve have performed in the current campaign versus the same opponents last year. In particular, we tried to get a sense of whether Sarri’s style of play is showing up in the statistics (even as fans continue to debate whether or not it is visible to the naked eye). We excluded teams that were relegated and the ones that were promoted to ensure a more apples-to-apples comparison. 

Possession

The team’s possession has generally been more consistent this term. On the whole, it appears that the team is adapting to Sarri’s philosophy and maintaining more possession. This is the case in spite of many changes to the squad, so the results are encouraging.

  • With the exception of fixtures against Napoli, Inter, and most recently, Roma, Juve’s possession has ranged between 53% and 71% 
  • The overall average of 58% compares favorably to last year’s figure of 55%
  •  The possession has been higher than the same fixture last season 69% of the time

Territory

Similar trends emerge when we look at the percentage of time spent in the opponent’s territory. 

  • On average, this figure for the current season is 54% (versus 51% last season). This may be in part due to the high press favored by Sarri.
  • Once again, the team has outperformed last season 69% of the time
  • The match against Roma had the lowest territorial advantage for this season at 40% followed by the match against Atalanta

Passes

Another indicator of whether Sarri has had some success in implementing his brand of football is passing style. Looking at the number of successful passes for each match, it is easy to see a general improvement against last year.

  • Juventus have average 489 passes per match this season versus 449 last year (9% increase)
  • With the exception of the first two matches, the team has improved upon this figure in 11 out of 14 fixtures (with Roma being one of the other 3)
  • The performance against Roma was amongst the worst this season based on this indicator

Short Passes

Where there’s Sarri, there’s short passing. Juventus have made a clear transition toward a shorter passing style.

  • In general, the team’s performances are correlated with how well it does in short passing based on this evidence (highest correlation with goal differential among the statistics we looked at). This indicator has also shown an upward trend recently barring the match against Roma.
  • The ratio was higher than last year 75% of the time
  • Overall successful short passes went up from 421 to 473 (12% increase, which is 3% more than the rate at which total successful passes grew)

Forward Passes

This one is a mixed bag as there is no change overall. However, it is important to note that the team is not playing fewer forward passes as many have suggested.

  • The ratio of successful forward passes to total successful passes remains unchanged at 48%
  • There was an increase in this indicator in half of the matches analyzed
  • Overall successful forward passes grew from 214 to 233 (9% increase)

Attacking Third Passes

The number of successful attacking third passes grew sharply, while the percentage of successful passes in the attacking third has generally been in line with or better versus last season.

  •  This season, 25% of passes were in the attacking third versus 23% last season
  •  Overall average number of successful attacking passes per match rose from 106 to 123 (16% increase, which is 7% higher than the general growth in successful passes). The team has done a good job of pushing into the attacking third.

Penalty Area Passes

As with attacking third passes, penalty area passes grew significantly. However, the percentage of passes in the penalty area also went up significantly. 

  •  There was a 22% increase in penalty area passes from 10 to 12 per match
  •  The ratio of successful penalty area passes to total successful passes went up from 2.2% to 2.5%. 

Chances From Open Play

In general, Juve has created more chances from open play this season. While the conversion rate could improve, it is heartening to see that more chances are being created. The hope and the goal is that conversion will improve with time as the team adjusts.

  •  On average, the team created 11 chances per match versus 9 last season (17% increase)
  •  More chances were created in 63% of the matches

It Ain't Perfect, But We're Heading In The Right Direction....

Based on this evidence, we are likely seeing the fruits of a more attacking setup and hopefully the results (in terms of goals scored) will keep increasing with time. Transitioning to a drastically different style takes a lot of time and work and we don’t believe that Juve are anywhere near their peak potential under Sarri yet. This transition has also occurred in conjunction with major injuries and the addition of multiple new key players to the squad. In spite of all this, the team has managed to finish the mid-season top of the table and progressed to the Champions League Round of 16 as group winners – while playing half-decent football (both statistically and, arguably, visually). We think there’s much to be thankful for and much to look forward to in the remaining half of the season. Forza Juve!

Note: Data from Stats Zone courtesy of Opta.

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