Cheuk Hei Ho writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Italian Super Cup final that finished Juventus 2-3 Lazio
Juventus (4-2-3-1): Buffon // Barzagli, Benatia, Chiellini, Alex Sandro // Pjanic, Khedira // Cuadrado, Dybala, Mandzukic // Higuain
Lazio (3-5-2): Strakosha // Wallace, Vrij, Radu // Basta, Parolo, Leiva, Alberto, Lulic // Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile
Lazio controlled the game through Inzaghi’s tactics and Juventus’ inherent shortcoming. Juventus’ quality almost allowed them to come back, but their arrogance cost them the first title of the season.
Lazio lined up a 3-5-2 formation, but it is a hybrid between 3-4-3, 3-5-2 and 3-6-1, depending on the phases and tactics of the team. When pressing high, Luis Alberto would join Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile in the first line of defense and form a 3-4-3. When defending deep, Alberto would retreat to the midfield and form almost a 2-2 two layered midfield in the center.
After surviving the first ten minutes of Juventus’ pressure, Lazio quickly settled and gradually implemented their strategies. Their aim is simple: to defend aggressively in the second line of defense in the center and hit Juventus through counter-attack. During the initial phase of Juventus’ build-up, Lazio would apply limited pressure to Juventus’ center backs and the double pivots. They would let them pass and advance the ball freely. However, when the ball moved to the flanks, especially when Andrea Barzagli had the ball, Lazio wing back (especially Senad Lulic) on this side would aggressively close him down.
Lazio aimed to prevent Juventus from attacking through the flanks so that their defense would not be stretched. By limiting the ball to the middle, Lazio could generate a high-pressure environment against Juventus with their two layered 4/5 men midfield. Because they did not press aggressively, the midfield players could maintain a very close distance between each other, and therefore limited the space between the lines and kept high pressure on the ball-handlers. In this game, Juventus lost a lot of possession in this area, and Lazio was able to intercept the balls and generated a lot of counter-attacking chances.
Juventus’ shortcomings also aided Lazio’s success in this game. On the right flank, Barzagli lacked the ability to carry the ball past defenders or keep hold of the ball under pressure. Lazio’s players often tried to close Barzagli down immediately and aggressively when he had the ball on the right flank. Whenever a Lazio player tried to close him down, he would try to pass the ball back immediately. When he couldn’t do that, he would often lose the ball.
On the left flank, Alex Sandro had the ability to inflict damage. However, he often lacked support because Mandzukic mostly played as a striker in the offensive phase. Alex Sandro would often need to attack Basta and a covering defender on his own.
In the case when Giorgio Chiellini had the ball on the left side, he often lacked passing options on the flank because Alex Sandro was marked tightly by Dusan Basta while Mario Mandzukic rarely came back to help to progress the ball. Juventus’ 4-2-3-1 is usually potent because Mandzukic often out-muscles regular full backs who usually lack the physique to play against him. However, he also lacks the skills to dribble the ball or play delicate passes.
For a majority of the game, Juventus could not utilize the width in the offensive phase. Lazio would shut down Juventus’ advances on the flanks while encouraging progression in the center. Once Juventus’ players pushed the ball to space in-between the two layered midfielders, Lazio would aggressively try to recover the ball.
Juventus did not respond to Lazio’s tactics in the first half. Lazio was able to limit the flanks because the wing backs could close down Juventus’ full backs immediately and aggressively. To do so, Lazio’s left and right center backs had to shift to the ball-close side to mark Juan Cuadrado and Mandzukic, respectively. In this case, if Juventus’ players were smart, their wingers and full backs could have stayed close to the flanks to pull Lazio’s defenders and used long balls to bypass Lazio midfield’s block. They did not do it until after the first half.
Defensively, Juventus plays a very passive zonal defense. They occasionally play a high press for a segment of the match to pressure the opponents. However, in this game, Juventus’ high presses were very “soft.”
These presses did not have enough pressure because the players were not coherent enough. Eventually, these soft presses opened up the spaces for Lazio’s players to exploit and led to the second goal.
Juventus was able to apply immense offensive pressure on Lazio after Douglas Costa, and Mattia De Sciglio came on to the field. Their introductions allowed Juventus to regain access on the right flank during the offensive phase. After scoring the second goals, Lazio sat deeper to try and defend the lead. With De Sciglio playing as a more traditional right back, he and Alex Sandro could position very deep and wide in Lazio’s half, stretching their defense.
With the extra space created by the full-backs, Costa (and to a lesser extent, Federico Bernardeschi) was able to ignite Juventus’ offense. Costa’s style is very different from his teammates. He is very aggressive and direct with the ball. Once he received the ball, he would carry it directly towards the Lazio’s defenders before they had time to settle into a preferred shape. Moreover, his constant movement and presence in the zone 14 were able to pull the defenders away from Paulo Dybala.
Lazio played a great game. Simone Inzaghi’s strategies played off beautifully, and they deserved to win this trophy. It will be interesting to see the ceiling of this Lazio’s team and if Inzaghi can improve furthermore. Although Lazio played this game brilliantly, it is essentially the same game plan they used in their notable victories last season (such as against Roma). Inzaghi could design and implement these very target-specific counter-attack strategies. But he has yet to show that he could fixate on any pro-active style. For his coaching career (and for Lazio) to advance to a higher level, some improvements need to be made.
Everyone knows that Juventus need midfield reinforcements. But the qualities or characters of their current midfielders are not the reason they lost the midfield battle (or the game) in this match. They lost because Lazio’s strategies exposed their systematic weaknesses in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Juventus also showed arrogance in this game. Although they were a bit slow to react to Lazio’s tactics, they still equalized in the 90th minutes. The problem is that they again conceded almost immediately afterward (think of Atalanta game last season). It is an arrogance that they see a problem and never fix it. There is one positive sign for them: Costa and Bernadeschi showed that they are the different types of attackers that Juventus desperately need. They are very aggressive towards the defenders and can unsettle the defense before they take shape. These kinds of styles are very unusual in Italian teams. Rumors have it that Massimiliano Allegri personally requested these players. It may be a sign that he intends to guide Juventus into a more modern European style.
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