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After Roma did well to beat Napoli in their clash on Friday evening, Juventus had to win this match up in order to keep pace with their Roman rivals at the top of the table. Fiorentina on the other hand had slipped into 6th place, after flattering to deceive, with many of their performances not getting the desired results. It was therefore a clash that was important to both teams in the context of their positions on the table and the momentum they needed.
Vince Montella started his side with 3 at the back. Savic, Gonzalo and Roncaglia in defence. In midfield, they had the wide men, Cuadrado and Pasqual bombing down the wings. In the holding role in midfield, Pizzaro was the star through the match. He was initially accompanied by Massimo Ambrosini, who got injured and had his position taken by Alberto Aquilani. In front of these two holding midfielders, were Borja Valero, and Mati Fernandez. Aquilani had started in this position, but was pulled back after the Ambrosini substitution. Giuseppe Rossi started as the main striker. Valero and Fernandez were tasked with taking on Pogba and Marchisio in midfield, as the runs of those two players are often problematic to the opposition. However, the major consequence of this shape was that Andrea Pirlo was left in a lot of space, with no one coming up against him for direct combat. This, and the deeper positioning of the Viola midfield left him in a lot of space. The Italian played 9 accurate long balls, and crucially, started both attacks that led to Juventus goals.
Lack of Pressure
Fiorentina hardly put any pressure on the ball in the first half. The Viola were quite content to sit off Juventus, allowing the Bianconeri defenders to have the ball and build with it. Barzagli and Bonucci in particular saw a lot of it, and used it to try and create from the back. Fiorentina meanwhile, pushed their midfielders much deeper and focused on closing spaces between the lines that the likes of Tevez and Llorente were managing to exploit with their passing and movement. While this was a fair tactic in the short run, over time, it led to space for opening up for Andrea Pirlo.
Juventus usually have three out and out midfielders, and Fiorentina too, like to try and make overloads in the middle of the park. With both managers sharing this philosophy, space in the middle of the park was going to come at a premium, and so, both teams had to find methods to bypass it. Juve did this much better in the first half. With the lack of Fiorentina pressure high up the pitch, Pirlo could drift deeper to collect the ball and play his magnificent passes. By doing so, he automatically forced the opposing midfielders deeper and deeper. A lot of his passes were directed to the wingers, and they too were an effective outlet for the Old Lady. Secondly, the champions also maintained a very good tempo. When the ball got into the Fiorentina final third, there was a change of pace, with quite a few one-twos. The home side had trouble getting to grips with this, and both the goals that they conceded came after some good passing moves started by Andrea Pirlo.
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Fiorentina too tried to utilise the wide areas and attack down the right hand side. Cuadrado especially, saw a lot of the ball, but Asamoah did very well to shut him down in the first half. Most of his tricks and skills came to no avail. He succeeded with only 2 of his 4 attempts. Not a lot of play went through Pasqual on the left, and so Viola found it extremely difficult to make breakthroughs in the first half. Another ploy from the Viola to counter the crowded midfield was to get Roncaglia to get forward a lot more. As there was no direct opponent for him on the pitch, he had space ahead of him, and used it well, getting forward regularly.
Change in Shape
As the match was slipping away from them after the first half, the home manager Montella decided to make some changes to his side to enable them to fight. The most important change was that of shape. The home side shifted to a back 4, with Savic and Gonzalo in the middle, Roncaglia on at right back, and Pasqual at left back. This wasn’t a defensive move, as essentially they were still leaving only three at the back. Roncaglia and Pasqual were the ones providing the width. Up ahead, Pizzaro and Valero formed a holding duo in midfield. Valero had the license to get forward, and Pizzaro constantly stayed deep, making the third man at the back. Fernandez was then moved to the center, where he played as the second striker just behind Guiseppe Rossi. On either side of him, were Joaquin and Cuadrado, each playing about 10 yards infield to provide the space for the full backs to get forward. Cuadrado was moved over to the left. This move had huge benefits, as the Colombian caused the Old lady problems with his pace and willingness to run at players. He even provided the assist for the fourth goal, using his pace to get into a good position and pass to Rossi.
Another important change that was made was the incorporation of pressing. While it was virtually absent in the first half, Fiorentina were charged up and chased down the Juventus players in the second half. There were a number of occasions when the Viola intercepted, won tackles, and stopped clearances in the Juve half, and this pressure told on the Old Lady.
Juve dominated the first half thanks to some excellent work from Pirlo, who was able to dictate the play. However, Montella won the match for his side with some smart changes to personnel and tactics. The pressing used worked like a charm, and his substitute Joaquin got the crucial third goal for them. The Viola are now in fourth, and this win will do wonders for their confidence. As for the Old Lady, they seemed quite efficient and solid in the first half, but Fiorentina’s pressing tore them apart in the space of 15 second half minutes. Conte will have to work on this with his team, as even Bayern had used the same strategy to beat them last season. The unbeaten record is gone, but now they’ll probably be hungrier to bounce back in a key game against Real Madrid in midweek.
Over to you! That was our analysis the clash, was there anything particular that you (tactically) noticed? Let us know by dropping a comment below.