Setup: 

– Juve were playing 433 in attack and 442 off the ball, with Khedira and Cuadrado switching positions in attack and defense.

– High, narrow defensive line, presumably to nullify the opponent’s pace in central area (Joao Felix and Costa)

– When on the ball, Juve had a flat 3-man midfield with a vertically moving Matuidi, supported by Pjanic behind him and Khedira alternating with Cuadrado and creating a wing overload in Atleti’s half.

Gameplay:

Ronaldo and Higuain did a good job in isolating the two defenders on each side, opening up the middle. But Juve didn’t have any runners from midfield occupy that space. This is likely something Sarri will take note of and correct in spread-out games such as this.

Build-up play was decent from Juve, moving the ball forward until halfway into the opponent’s half well. But the ball movement was too slow, which led to Atleti being able to recover to their positions.

It looks like Sarri was very insistent on a narrow back four, giving ATL’s FBs ample space to push forward and cross. Essentially, the same tactic we used last season against them. Atleti overloaded the wings and consistently pumped crosses in, with 2/3 connections. This was by far the only dangerous tactic they employed throughout the first half. Thankfully, Juve’s defense answered the call each time.

First Half player remarks:

– Cuadrado and Khedira were constantly in each others’ way. Something wasn’t working on the right side. This is probably what Sarri meant when he alluded to playing Cuadrado in attack instead of RB. 

– De Ligt and Bonucci were really smart in their defending. I’m not yet sure who led the line, but it looked like both of them were perfectly in sync with each other when it came to covering for each other or heading the crosses out of the box. The early jitters from running after Joao Felix wore off and they stabilized the central areas well.
Juve generally pressed in a ragged fashion. Not very purposefully, to be exact.
Cuadrado is generally just….dumb. Makes silly challenges, takes too long on the ball. His only plus is that he runs.

EDIT: And then he stuns us all….damn you, you flawed diamond!

Second Half:

– More direct play from Juve with better off the ball movement from the defense to the strikers. The ball traveled quickly from defense to the final 3rd, forcing Atleti to chase the game. Maybe the goal gave them more confidence? This rapid movement also led to Juve’s second goal, which essentially came out of a fast counter by Sandro on the left that stretched Atleti’s 3-man backline (their LB was way out of position). This allowed Matuidi to run between the defenders and score a bullet header that seared Oblak’s shoulder and ended up in goal.

– Throughout the second half, Atleti played a bit narrower and central in their attack, by using fullbacks to stretch the defense and then play back to the center to exploit. This helped them break through into the box a couple of times, resulting in a good chance that Hernandez failed to finish.

– As the game wore on, Atletico put the pressure on, not letting Juve keep possession and pressing high and as a team. This led to Juve losing the ball in their own half multiple times and being pinned back. The pressure had to give, and it eventually did through set pieces, of all things.

Overall observations:

Pretty obvious one, but Juve really need to work on their set piece marking. This is their 4th goal from corners in 4 games this season? The players have been pretty passive in defending corners and, well, it is pretty embarrassing!

The game was an excellent tactical battle between 2 teams with very different styles of play. Juve’s Allegri DNA did help them manage the game well and when they saw Atleti remove their foot off the gas, they played Sarriball for a bit. It is a shame to concede 2 goals from set pieces, but the good news is that it is a solvable problem. Atleti certainly weren’t at their best and their team reeked of inexperience, but Sarri didn’t let the team get complacent and ensured that each player played their role well.

Also, there are a host of new players yet to be introduced into the playing 11, which means that we are yet to see different dynamics in the midfield and attacking play. We saw a glimpse of that with Ramsey and Dybala coming on. 

Personally, I think Sarri won this tactical battle by a mile due to high quality defenders and a smart counter-attacking style away from home. It should be remembered that Juve hadn’t scored at the Wanda in 4 consecutive games, so scoring 2 there from open play is a huge plus and will give a lot of confidence to the team overall. Let’s hope the team carries this confidence back to the league this weekend!

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