Juventus – Torino: Torino Lose Two Points In Derby Della Mole (1-1)
For a team already crowned Serie A champions, Juventus have been playing some incredibly bad football recently. In this derby, Torino were leading up until the 85th minute, controlling Juventus and allowing very little chances. Guess who came through with a goal out of the blue to prevent a home loss against the city rivals?
Tactical analysis and match report by Erik Elias.
The Derby della Mole has been a cakewalk for Juventus in the past few seasons. They won six of the last seven editions, drawing the other. Torino came into this match as Italy’s hot team however, having lost just one of their last fourteen domestic league fixtures, and with Juventus already having claimed the scudetto, one could think a little surprise might be on the cards.
A quite sad side story to this derby is that it was played a day before the seventieth anniversary of the Superga disaster. On the 4th of May in 1949, a plane with Il Grande Torino aboard crashed on the Superga hill, east of the city of Turin. All 31 people aboard died. This is also the reason this match was not played on Saturday, but on Friday evening.
Juventus had some serious personnel problems, most notably on offense, as Massimiliano Allegri could not field Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandžukić, Douglas Costa, Sami Khedira, Alex Sandro, Daniele Rugani and Martín Cáceres. Some starters and some role players that typically do feature in these kinds of matches.
As a result, Juventus started the match in a flat 4-4-2 formation with Wojciech Szczęsny in goal, defended by João Cancelo, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Spinazzola. Blaise Matuidi got to play in his former role of central midfielder, alongside playmaker Miralem Pjanić. On the flanks, two attack-minded wingers in Juan Cuadrado and Federico Bernardeschi, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo and Moise Kean as the striking pair.
Torino – eighth in the league and still chasing European football – started the match in their nominal 3-5-2 formation. Seasoned veteran Emiliano Moretti was out suspended, meaning the Brazilian Bremer got to play as a left central defender, alongside Nicolas N’koulou and Armando Izzo. Lorenzo De Silvestri and Cristian Ansaldi on the flanks, aided in defensive midfield by former Juventus player Tomás Rincón and Soualiho Meïté. The third midfielder was shuttler Saša Lukić, who was constantly in support of the adventurous attacker Álex Berenguer and traditional center-forward Andrea Belotti.
Torino suddenly draws first blood
In the first fifteen minutes of the match, this game was not played in either penalty area because of good pressing and defending by Torino, even though they rarely produced something on the counterattack if they won back the ball.
Whenever Juventus attempted to play out from the back, both the strikers took care of pressing one central defender. Lukić took care of Pjanić, as all teams normally first find a way to mitigate the amount of touches Pjanić takes from deep. This setup leaves the fullback open; whenever Cancelo or Spinazzola would be played in, one of Torino’s wing-backs would step in to press, or Torino would not pressure the ball, instead opting to shift their whole team over to that flank and try to prevent the fullback from playing the ball forward.
The way Torino attempted to press Juventus.
Juventus struggled with this in the opening minutes, not finding ways forward or losing the ball. Gradually, the solution became clear, as either one of Bernardeschi or Cuadrado dropped into midfield, offering a pass out of the press. Whenever that happened and Torino had to fall back, they adapted a 5-3-2 or 5-3-1-1 shape, as Lukić went back into the midfield line of three and Berenguer slotted into the number ten position.
In the seventeenth minute, the stalemate was suddenly broken. A careless throw-in by Cancelo was at the base of this goal, as the right back threw the ball backwards to Pjanić. The Bosnian midfielder elected not to take a touch, meaning a sprinting duel between him and Lukić ensued. The Serbian muscled the Bosnian off the ball, and needed only one further touch to put the ball into the side netting.
Juventus look to their left side
After the goal, Torino somewhat let their pressing go and set up to form their defensive 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. One of the dangerous aspects of a midfield line of three that is constantly shifting over to the sides, is that it leaves the halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. and flank on the other side exposed. When playing with three center-backs, one of them naturally can step out of the defensive line, but that immediately leaves a hole in defense
Snapshot from the first half. Ball at the feet of Bernardeschi.
In this specific snapshot, one of these situations is depicted. Bernardeschi played in Spinazzola, who found himself open in the left halfspace. Torino’s right center-back Izzo stepped out, as Spinazzola tried to slip in Matuidi in behind, but the attack was stopped afterwards. Little moments like this are where Juventus missed the spark offensively, a spark they have been missing at key moments all season long.
As the half progressed, left winger Bernardeschi gradually started to play more on the inside, leaving Spinazzola in one-versus-one situations with De Silvestri multiple times. Spinazzola, right footed but playing as left back, was often shown the outside by De Silvestri, leaving him with a weak-footed cross from an unfruitful position as outcome.
All of this left Juventus with an attacking strategy of crosses, deep crosses and forced shots from distance by Cristiano Ronaldo. No surprise therefore the scoreline was 0-1 at half-time.
Allegri is often pointed out as a tactician, a manager that can change the course of a match with his substitutions or changes. Here at half-time, with his team struggling, he did not change anything. Even though he was left with an empty toolbox to work with, he could have changed formation or player roles in order to exploit the spaces left by Torino.
The fact he did not elect to do so is the main reason the second half felt very much like the first, as Juventus had the ball, but could not breach the wall put up by Torino. As a result, both of these teams did not create more than one expected goal The amount of goals a team is expected to score based on the quality of the shots they take. in the entire match.
In the sixtieth minute, Spinazzola had one of the bigger chances for Juventus in the entire match, as he received the ball on the left side after combining with Ronaldo, not being attacked by Torino’s midfield and defense, he dribbled all the way through, just shooting wide from inside the penalty area. One of the few clear-cut chances for Juve, who persisted in crossing and had some dangerous set pieces as well.
One of the reasons Allegri’s team had a hard time attacking, was because of the dysfunctional attacking striking duo. Kean and Ronaldo had very little interplay. If Kean dropped deep, Ronaldo adapted his position, but the other way around seldom happened. The rarely found each other and were never able to exploit the spaces behind Torino’s defense. Ronaldo typically does not play well with a traditional number nine positioned next to him, and this game against Torino serves as another prime example.
After taking off Cuadrado for the Brazilian Pereira in the 77th minute – Allegri’s first change! – Bernardeschi moved to the right wing altogether, Pereira taking over his position as false right winger, playing on the inside and vacating the right halfspace.
Torino first win since 2015 looked to be on the cards, but guess who showed up to save the day? Well, Ronaldo and Spinazzola really, credit where credit is due. The left back came up with his best cross of the day after a one-versus-two dribble, and crossed the ball with his weaker left foot. He picked out Ronaldo, whose towering leaps remain one of football’s biggest joys to behold.
Sirigu never had a chance as Juve suddenly found themselves chasing a winner. The fact Ronaldo immediately picks up the ball out of the net is testament to the fact that Juventus were indeed invested in winning this derby, but they had some tactical and personnel problems in doing so.
Great header from Ronaldo . Saving Juventus yet again. pic.twitter.com/dp7SPTczVm— Arshil (@arshil_futbol) May 3, 2019
Ronaldo’s goal would be the last big chance of the game, however, meaning Torino took a huge point from this derby and Juventus continue their horrid post-scudetto form.
One could argue that Juventus are champions anyway and matches like these do not matter. Fair enough. However, the main reason for this loss was their offensive predictability and an overall lack of chance creation. The same reason Juve where knocked out of the Champions League when they were chasing goals in the second leg against Ajax. We also already wrote a piece about the fact that their offense from open play is not notably better than Napoli’s, and set pieces are what brought them this title.
Ironically, Torino now has to hope Juventus will get their nominal super power form back, as Allegri’s team will be pitted against AS Roma, Atalanta Bergamo and Sampdoria in the coming weeks. As a title race has never been on the cards om Serie A, it feels as a sort of retribution that the jostle for third and fourth place is so exciting.
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