Juventus – Chievo Verona: Clash Of Polar Opposites Ends As Expected (3-0)
This was a routine victory for Juventus, with a host of missed chances from Cristiano Ronaldo doing nothing to change the inevitable outcome. Chievo deserve praise for staying in the game as long as they could, and playing with a sense of pride that made them no rollovers — but the gap in individual quality between the two sides tells its own story.
Tactical analysis by Martyn Davis.
Juventus made three changes from their victory over AC Milan in the final of the Italian Super Cup. Wojciech Szczęsny was replaced in goal by Mattia Perin. Leonardo Bonucci made way for Daniele Rugani while Mattia De Sciglio played instead of João Cancelo. Miralem Pjanić and Rodrigo Bentancur were replaced by Federico Bernardeschi and Emre Can. Allegri’s famous rotation policy at work, clearly…
Chievo made three changes. Federico Barba, Valter Birsa and Filip Đorđević made way for Nenad Tomović, Sofian Kiyine and Riccardo Meggiorini. The back four that they had used in their victory over Frosinone was scrapped in favour of a back three.
Fluid Juventus pose colossal challenge for hard working Chievo
Juventus set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in possession, with Ronaldo as the striking focal point and a fluid attacking trio of Bernardeschi, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa supporting from behind. Blaise Matuidi and Can formed a steady midfield two that sat deeper.
Juve’s 4-2-3-1 formation in possession, Chievo tried to halt them in a 5-2-3 shape.
There was a slight lopsidedness in their attacking play as Alex Sandro showed far more attacking intent at left back, while De Sciglio was positioned deeper, often only slightly ahead of the center-backs. The wingers on each flank responded accordingly. Bernardeschi took up a slightly narrower position on the left from which he could have more influence on attacking interplay while Costa stayed wide and looked to isolate situations where he could run at Kiyine, Chievo’s left wing-back.
Although it is difficult to assign particular patterns of play to a front four as fluid as Juventus’, there were some clear patterns that defined their play in the first half. One was the freedom of Ronaldo. He was given license to do whatever he saw fit to impact the attack and everyone else adjusted their position and role accordingly.
At times, Ronaldo would drift wide left and look to cut inside, deploying the skillset that defined his younger years as a winger. Bernardeschi would respond by moving into the box and occupying the defense, giving Ronaldo the space to do what he wanted. If Ronaldo attempted to go in behind the defense, other players would try to create the space needed for such a run. For example, Benardeschi could be seen dropping deep, draw out a center-back, and Ronaldo would make an angled run into the space. If Ronaldo pushed wide right, Costa would come inside, if he dropped deep, Dybala would run in behind, if he stayed centrally, Juventus would look to get service into the box and so on. All these little attacking patterns have been installed into Juventus’ play quickly this season, and the way Allegri has fit Ronaldo into the system is a key part of the Juventus machine.
Chievo defended in a 5-2-3 formation and showed reasonable intent to press the opposition. Players from both the defensive and midfield line would freely step out and pressure nearby opponents while the front three would regularly push up to harry the Juventus backline.
Ronaldo had a slight bias towards the left side while Dybala tended to drift more to the right, which means the 4-2-3-1 formation could potentially be described as a 4-4-2 at times. This was especially clear when Chievo had the ball, as the team unsurprisingly defended in two banks of four with Ronaldo and Dybala up front. During counterattacks, Ronaldo was usually the player that would receive the first pass out of defense while Dybala would run beyond. This is just another interesting and noteworthy quirk of Allegri’s project.
Ultimately, the 2-0 lead Juventus took into halftime was more a result of individual quality than anything else. A dashing run and superb shot from outside the box got Douglas Costa on the scoresheet while a mix of tight combination play, close control dribbling and a glorious touch and finish saw Can double the home side’s lead right at the end of the half.
Chievo offer surprise attacking intent
Chievo were not only expected to lose this game, but also expected to offer very little in terms of a competitive performance. That was not the case though. In fact, they controlled several lengthy phases of possession in the first half.
Their 5-2-3 opened up into a broad 3-4-3 shape in possession, with the wing-backs spread out to the touchline and the front three positioned narrowly but high up the pitch. The midfield two dropped to offer short passing options to the back three, trying to make sure everyone was well supported on the ball, to prevent turnovers in dangerous areas. This inadvertently drew out the midfield line of Juventus and opened plenty of space for the front three to operate in between the lines. This was hardly ever exploited with a line breaking pass, however.
The reality of Chievo’s attacking strategy turned out to be more focused on width, as most progressions into Juve’s half came through the wing-backs. The compactness of the Juventus shape allowed balls to be played out wide from which crosses could be played into the box. These were largely ineffective, for no particular reason other than that crosses are a very difficult kind of pass that rarely find their target and even less commonly find the back of the net. Especially when you are up against some of the best defenders in the world.
The attacking threat from central areas came almost entirely from the dynamic and technically adept Emanuele Giaccherini, ex-Juventus, mind you. He would shift wide or deep or pretty much anywhere to pick up the ball and then try to carry it forward himself or pick out a pass and try to link the attack. His free role meant that Chievo’s shape often looked more like a 3-4-1-2. The tightness of the space within Juventus’ block A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block. made dribbling a difficult task. Lack of intelligent movement from attackers made penetrative passing a challenge as well. Given the difficulties he faced, Giaccherini put in a good performance but it is hard to say he created many dangerous chances.
Juventus find counterattacking threat as Chievo change formation
At the beginning of the second half, Chievo came out with ambitions of clawing themselves back into the game and happily held possession for longer periods, as they had done at times in the first half. This opened the door for Juventus to use their brilliant attacking talent in transition phases. One specific type of counterattack proved fruitful —the switching of play following a turnover. When Chievo attacked down Juventus’ right, they seemed to leave a lot of space on the far side. Therefore, when the home side won the ball, they were able to switch to the onrushing Bernardeschi who had space to run into.
One such attack led to a penalty as Bernardeschi played a cut-back to Douglas Costa who struck the arm of a Chievo defender from close range. Ronaldo missed the resulting spot kick and the score remained at 2-0.
Domenico Di Carlo was not afraid of intervening early in the match as he made all three of Chievo’s substitutions before the 67th minute. Midfielder Perparim Hetemaj was withdrawn for Emanuel Vignato while Mariusz Stępiński was introduced in place of Sergio Pellisier up front. Left back Paweł Jaroszyński came on for Fabio Depaoli completing the three changes. Chievo switched to a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Ivan Radovanović at the base of the diamond and Vignato at the tip. Kiyine and Giaccherini became central midfielders and Nenad Tomović moved to right back.
The result was far more presence in the middle of the field. Chievo were able to more regularly find the free man in central areas, allowing for more penetration through the middle than before. Despite this, they were still dependent on crosses for entries into the penalty box and therefore still failed to generate a multitude of quality chances.
Juventus see out victory with controlled game management
Juventus took longer to make changes as their first substitution did not come until the 76th minute with the other two happening in the 86th and 89th minutes respectively. The home side were already comfortable with the scoreline and did not need to change the game. Nevertheless, Allegri is a coach who likes to see out matches with astute in game switches that prevent the opponent from finding a way back into the contest.
The changes he made reflected this. Rodrigo Bentancur made an appearance in place of Douglas Costa while Leonardo Spinazzola and Moise Kean came on for Bernardeschi and Sandro. Bentancur is a central midfielder and Spinazzola is primarily a left-back. This allowed Juventus to lower the tempo with slower possessions and disciplined defending. The game fizzled out in typical Allegri fashion and Juventus comfortably cruised to the final whistle.
They also managed to find a third goal. An inexplicably poor piece of defending allowed Bernardeschi’s chipped free kick to find the head of unmarked Daniele Rugani who scored with ease to put the game beyond any reasonable doubt.
Juventus cruised to three points without ever having having to put their foot on the pedal, a state of affairs which has become all too common this season — at least from a neutral’s perspective. The victory extended their lead at the top to nine points and their Serie A campaign now seems more about fine tuning in preparation of the Champions League knockout stages than anything else.
Bottom club Chievo put in what can only be described as a hearty performance. They never lacked ambition — whether it be their attempts to contain a fluid offense or break down a compact defense, there was always effort involved. Even their in game switches portrayed a sense of determination. But a considerable gap in quality made for a mountain that was simply too big to climb. Ultimately though, this result was exactly what was expected, so it should not disrupt any plans they may have for escaping the relegation zone.
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