Juventus – AS Roma: Experienced Managers Need To Find Better Solutions (1-1)
Two of Serie A’s most well-renowned coaches have been backed in the market, without drastically adapting their old-school styles. After both Juventus and AS Roma failed to provide a great array of offensive options, the tactical display from both teams has left more questions than answers.
Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.
The Italian elite has made significant steps in the summer transfer market. Perhaps none greater than Juventus and Roma; drastically increasing the wage bill to break through the Milan axis that is in control.
Bremer is a great fit next to Leonardo Bonucci, who replaced Matthijs de Ligt and the ever-present Giorgio Chiellini. However, Juventus’ problems expand further than recruitment. Massimiliano Allegri’s defensive-heavy style has not suited the new age of Juve. Away to Sampdoria, they were geared to pass the ball around the outside, with zero midfield presence in place. If they are to challenge, Allegri needs to create a much better balance.
In a much happier spotlight, Roma could have easily won their first two games with significant bigger margins than the 1-0 scores suggest. Six expected goals from Mourinho’s men, with Paulo Dybala slotting neatly behind Tammy Abraham in the 3-4-2-1 formation. Having faced relegation-threatened Salernitana and newly promoted Cremonese, the away trip to Turin would provide a much greater test.
Sadly, injury problems would riddle both of these teams and their newest additions. Paul Pogba and Ángel Di María are both injured, whilst Federico Chiesa is out until October. Nicolò Zaniolo suffered a dislocated shoulder, whilst Georgino Wijnaldum is injured with a tibia fracture.
Allegri switched to a 4-2-3-1 system, with Mattia De Sciglio at right-back and Danilo next to Bremer at center-back. Weston McKennie was the only other change, with Fabio Miretti coming into the midfield. Mourinho started in his usual 3-4-2-1 formation, Zaniolo the only change, as Lorenzo Pellegrini pushed ahead to join the front three and Nemanja Matić.
Juve more potent in possession
A balanced possession game would be expected between Allegri and Mourinho teams, but even they must have been surprised by how quick the first goal came. A sloppy Roma pass lead to Matić bundling Juan Cuadrado over in a prime free-kick position. Dušan Vlahović stepped up and produced a fantastic opening, dipping over the wall, connecting with the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
This didn’t derail the kind of game one would anticipate, Juve and Roma had even passing spells, with one walking into more problems than the other. Roma’s 3-4-2-1 formation attempted to set up high against the Juventus 4-5-1 mid block, but poor positioning around the ball led to a lot of balls going loose as they consistently aimed the ball through the center. With the wing-backs wide and neither Dybala nor Pellegrini dropping deep in the buildup, Juventus could quickly move the ball out wide to one of their narrow forwards, left free on the shoulder of the pivot.
3rd minute: Example of how easy it was for Juventus to build on transition (Grey ball, first pass: black ball, second pass.) Poor orientation around the ball lead to a loose pass from Ibañez, intercepted by Rabiot, who put the ball straight to the free man Kostić.
After a poor passing display at Sampdoria, there were more encouraging signs for Juventus here, in a changed formation. Manuel Locatelli and Adrien Rabiot operated closely to the center-backs, their narrowness a key component to keeping the three Roma forwards together and leaving room for Juve fullbacks to receive.
The spacing between the double pivot and, the number ten, Fabio Miretti, wasn’t entirely viable: distances still opened up between the midfield, but Juve was still able to combine down the channels. Down the left, Alex Sandro was adaptable in his position to receive; he could either stick out wide or move closer to Danilo to help circulation. Miretti stuck behind Roma’s midfield line and always received in the halfspace, Juventus were able to build a good connection down this side as a result. On the right, Cuadrado could come closer to the ball, with De Sciglio sitting higher. This enabled Danilo to constantly feed him as they moved the ball from left to right, with the Colombian in space and the ability to turn.
13th minute: One of the Roma double pivot, being encouraged to interact with the opposition fullback, created a lot of space in front of the center-backs. Sandro was able to connect with Vlahović far too easily, once Miretti moved into the far channel.
However, Juve shots would not be produced by slow, methodical passing patterns. The operation of Roma’s midfielders was the platform to turn such passes into semi-transitional moments, as Bryan Cristante and Matić were encouraged to step up to confront the ball down their channel. Roger Ibañez was able to step up on Roma’s left of the back three, but Gianluca Mancini struggled on the right. As a result, Filip Kostić and Miretti were able to get the ball and turn up the tempo.
No construction in either attack
Semi-transitional moments were a constant in Juve’s charges forward but were unable to convert such sparks into qualitative shots. Vlahović was the only constant presence against the three opposition center-backs, with the wingers too deep to properly pull a man out of his position. Juve did have the ball in the net, as Cuadrado received out wide, the Roma midfielders dropped deep and made space for Locatelli to curl an excellent shot from range, but VAR pulled play back on a handball in the buildup. The closest Juventus came from scoring in these moments.
Despite the execution, this phase emphasized the problems in their counterattacking. The ball constantly funnelled to Kostić or Cuadrado out wide and the speed of the attack would drastically decrease, allowing Roma to support. As the first half continued, these moments became a lot less common as Mourinho’s team was able to put out fires and Juve’s only solution was to cross the ball towards the box.
Roma still had plenty of the ball in the first period, but they also were unable to string good attacks together. Passing around the backline was usually slow, not causing Juve problems who sporadically pressed out of their midblock. Once Roma had reached the halfway line, only then would Dybala peel off the ten position and create some dynamism with Rick Karsdorp, whilst the switch onto the left to Leonardo Spinazzola become more consistent as the game continued.
40th minute: The change of formation kept the central space very congested. Pellegrini received from Matić but was unable to turn and open play up, whilst being double up by the center-midfielders. Locatelli’s tackle created a turnover in possession.
However, Juventus created a lot of problems for Roma in the buildup, able to switch to a 5-4-1 low block as Cuadrado moved to the right of the defensive line. As a result, space was heavily congested on the two tens as they got on the ball as the Juve midfield line was reactive in these phases. Though Roma boasts a very impressive attack, this is still a team that has lacked mobility for several years and an effective dribbler to get them out of these situations. Mourinho’s team tried to hit Tammy Abraham earlier up the field with long balls behind the last line but failed to connect with their star striker.
Roma changes but game state remains
Neither Juve nor Roma broke over 0.5 expected goals in the first half, and neither would, even as the game had gone on for over an hour. Mourinho took off Mancini and Spinazzola, replacing them with Stephan El Shaarawy and Nicola Zalewski at half time, subsequently moving Roma into a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Despite the added attacker, Roma’s passes were still not entirely progressive from the back. In controlled possession, passes would move sideways across the defensive line and double pivot. Though Dybala was moved to the right, he would continue to position himself centrally, but Roma failed to build the central combinations that they were aiming for, with Pellegrini on the receiving end and Abraham making a run in behind.
54th minute: Roma’s 4-2-3-1 in possession. Karsdorp high position resulted in some deep space for Dybala to move into, but horizontal passes were constant against Juventus’s asymmetric 4-5-1 mid block.
Juventus weren’t threatened, whilst their offensive play was just as uninspiring. Allegri’s men worked the ball to the wingers, but a lack of overlapping or third-man runs meant their attacks were still very predictable. Denis Zakaria attempted to shake things up by taking up good positions down the right, as he replaced Rabiot who picked up an injury, but it would still involve desperate attempts to connect through crosses.
Nevertheless, after the hour, Roma began to work with a few more phases and got higher up the pitch once Cristante, Matić and Pellegrini showed a slight adaptation in their positioning. An attempted cross from Zalewski resulted in Roma winning a corner; Dybala was free at the back post to put the ball back into a dangerous area and Abraham nodded the ball into the net from close range.
Substitutions would come from both sides, but neither manager was able to sway the game in their favor, in a final twenty minutes that produced very little shot activity. Juventus dominated the ball but continued to pass themselves into problems out wide with very little central connectivity. Allegri’s old plans may have worked with excellent midfield passers and combative strikers, probably getting them over the line in this match; whether it can take the new Juve back to elite European levels remains to be seen.
There is a good core of Juve players for Allegri to work with. Fabio Miretti, Nicolò Rovella – who was substituted on – as well as the variety of younger players they have recruited. It will be interesting to see how many are ready when the big hitters return, but for now, Allegri can’t rely on his old tricks, through conservatism and crossing, if they are to return the Scudetto to Turin.
Roma’s expectations have increased, with the latest additions and fully committing to the Mourinho project. Nevertheless, this is a team that is deprived of mobility, one of the downfalls under Paulo Fonseca. Roma will produce with excellent attacking options available, but a tricky dribbler would be the get-out-of-jail-free card that can truly elevate them to the next level.
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