It was Juventus’ first home game of the season in the Serie A, with Lazio as their opponents. The home side had emerged victorious a few weeks earlier when the two sides met in the Italian Super Cup. While the scoreline does suggest a sense of domination, the game itself was a well-fought affair; it was a perfect example of how much Italian football has developed since it’s ‘boring football’ tag. The game was anything but a drab affair, quick movement, slick passing, excellent vision, were all witnessed at this fixture. A true modern-day Serie A battle. The final score of Juventus 4-1 Lazio was not necessarily a true representation of the way the match went on.
Juventus’ width & spare man
Lazio used a cautious approach, fearing the dominance of a talented Juventus midfield. While this approach did dampen the effect of the midfield trio to a certain extent, Juventus found a different avenue (as they have in the past) by utilising the width provided by Asamoah and Lichtsteiner. Lazio often failed to have a man over to cover the wide areas, allowing the likes of Asamoah to move into crucial areas of the pitch.
The home side almost always had a spare man over. To compensate for this advantage, Lazio starting taking note of the wide full-backs. This took one man out of the tight Lazio defence, allowing the central midfielders (Vidal usually) to run through on goal, unmarked. The first two Juventus goals were created as a result of Vidal taking advantage of the gap in Lazio’s defence, following one of it’s contingent’s decision to cover the flanks. Both goals represented this smooth system, and were works of class.
The essence of Juventus’ approach is their use of the full-backs, the two on either side are extremely hard-working individuals who more often than note have an unmarked run on goal. As soon as Juventus take possession in their own half, the two are seen advancing forward. They waste no time in spreading the play and increasing the pitch/playing area, making it increasingly difficult for the opposition to cover the field.
Adopting beautiful football
Juventus have been at the pinnacle of Italian football for the past few seasons, and we’ve seen gradual improvement in their overall play as the season has progressed. But the game against Lazio was a testament to how far Antonio Conte has brought this side. Juventus now have a clear identity, an effective one, and one that is aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. Creativity erupts through the core of the side, and all Juventus players are now able to play at the same wavelength in that regard; the creativity & vision is a feature of Conte’s Juventus side.
Paul Pogba is the best example of how this identity has influenced the Juventus contingent. Pogba has slowly developed into a quality midfielder, and he showed his class against Lazio. His set-up for Juve & Vidal’s first goal was immensely gratifying. Utilising the spare man approach explained above, Pogba gave the deftest of flicks to chip Vidal through on goal, a thing of sheer beauty. Vidal’s touch and finish was nothing short of class either.
Two of the other Juventus goals were made directly from the back with Leonardo Bonucci showcasing his creative ability as well (as shown above). Vidal made his run through again taking advantage of the spare man/wide man tactic; the Italian defender spotted his run from the back and played a pin-point ball through and the Chilean wasn’t going to let that chance pass. Soon after the restart, another clever run (and wonderful coordination) between the Juve strike partnership of Tevez & Vucinic, saw Bonucci attempt another defense splitting long ball, and again there was only one end result.
This quick passing, expert movement and how it has all come together just tells you how far this side have come and how far they can still go.
Let’s not take anything away from Lazio either. The scoreline is a bit flattering to the home side, but Lazio did put their own in. The difference between the two sides was the clinical character of Juventus; they knew how to take their chances.
But Italian sides are known for having solid defenses; Juventus and Lazio showed this on the night. The game witnessed just below 60 tackles, which is above the regular average. The likes of Vidal, Asamoah, Chiellini, Pogba, Cana & Biglia all had more than 5 tackles each, an example of the physicality of the game.
Lazio made the game tight from the start, attempting to narrow the playing field in the middle of the park. There were three men quickly to position themselves around the Juve man in possession, attempting to force him off the ball. Juventus did overcome this with their use of the width, but it did reduce their general influence in midfield. Juventus on the other hand were no less defensively solid. As Juventus continued to control the tempo of the game, Lazio tried to calm things down and take control when in possession. This resulted in Lazio slowing the game down and opting to keep possession in their defensive third; this could also have been due to lack of personnel in the attacking third. But Juventus weren’t going to hang around and invite Lazio forward, this isn’t 2002 Italian football. The Juventus attackers, along with the attack-minded Arturo Vidal constantly pressed the opposition, forcing them to make quicker passes. While this tactic favoured Juventus, for a neutral it livened up the game as we forcibly saw Lazio also adopt a more smooth and slick game.
Hernanes has to be mentioned here, the Brazilian made 3 interceptions in dangerous positions in Juventus’ half. He, alongwith Candreva, looked the most threatening Lazio players. Antonio Candreva in fact, finished off with the most shots, most on target and he created the most number of opportunities as well.
We need to talk about Carlos
Without going into too much detail, Carlos Tevez has to be mentioned here. The Argentine has appeared in 3 games for the Old Lady, and has got himself on the scoresheet in each and every game. Not only his record, but the smoothness and fluidity with which he has transcended into the Juventus side is immense. He has fit the system, with ease, and has developed a good understanding with his midfielders and fellow attacker.
We need to understand here that Carlos Tevez isn’t forming a traditional 2 man strike partnership. He loves to drop behind the striker (Vucinic in this case), and play a more ‘second striker’ role. Often he found himself playing alongside Vidal who opted to advance forward. As he showed against Lazio, Tevez loves to take the ball and use his strength to run at defenders. Nothing fancy, no unnecessary footwork, or over the top skills, just a plain and simple dash towards the opposition.
This made Juventus almost play in zones with 3 distinct zones ahead of the deep midfield duo of Pirlo and Pogba. Vidal ahead of him, Tevez further advanced and Vucinic in the final zone.
Tevez had an incredible understanding with Vucinic against Lazio, which was evident for the 3rd and 4th goals.
What did you think of the game? Let us know your thoughts by dropping a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.