Juventus are running away with Serie A this season, and are in with a great chance of winning the Europa league in their own stadium this season as well. Had their last group stage match ended differently in the Champions League they could well have gone close to winning Europe’s premier club competition on their current form.
So, why are they are such a devastating force at the moment?
Antonio Conte has guided his side to 24 wins from 28 fixtures in Serie A at the time of writing, losing only one match so far. They have a plus forty 45 goal difference, not only thanks to the deadly partnership of Tevez and Llorente up front, but also because of their ability to keep clean sheets. So it’s at the back where we’ll start.
Gianluigi Buffon is still between the sticks for the Old Lady, and looking as solid as ever. He is still capable of pulling out world-class saves, but his consistency is key to his continued presence. He has made key interventions this season.
Away at Genoa was an example of this. At 0-0, inside the last 15 minutes, Juve conceded a penalty in a match where Genoa had frustrated them, and created chances of their own. Calaio stepped up, but was denied by Buffon low to his left. Buffon stepping up to deliver at a vital moment.
In front of him Conte chooses to operate with a back three in a 3-5-2 system. Juventus have good strength in depth here. Bonucci, Caceres, Chiellini or Barzagli can all fill any of the three roles across the back-line, with Ogbonna providing additional cover.
All of these players have the attributes to play how Conte wants them to. The wider of three centre-backs often need to judge when to come out closer to the touchline to cover the two wing-backs, and the whole unit adjusts accordingly.
All are strong in the air, and the flexibility and tactical awareness they have is a credit to Conte’s work with them. Caceres and Chiellini can both come out and the win the ball in a more advanced position, with Barzagli or Bonucci, selection dependent, patrolling behind. The back three are also vital to the attacking method of this side.
Juventus like to play out from the back, but with the emphasis on getting the ball in to the front two as quickly as possible. Conte instructs the wide centre backs to bring the ball out from the back, into the opposition half if they can, and feed the ball into Tevez and Llorente from here. If the opposition are playing with a lone centre forward, its hard for him to close all three centre backs down as they move the ball across the back, and when one of them finds space they bring it up field, usually in the inside left or right channel.
If untracked, they can play into the feet of the centre forwards. This happened all night when they defeated Torino at home. If, as on other occasions, it hasn’t been quite so simple, often an opposition midfielder is pulled out of position to deal with this threat, allowing the ball to be played into the midfield where the defending player was drawn from, or wide to the wing back on that side.
Caceres in particular is skilled in this field, comfortable at coming out with the ball at his feet, and with a great range of passing to deliver the ball forward. A key to this is the communication with the front two, as often either Tevez or Llorente will drop of into space between the lines, and pick the ball up from here.
Wide of the back three are the wing-backs, Lichtsteiner on the right and Kwadwo Asamoah on the left. They both work tirelessly to provide defensive cover and width in attack. They’re tracking and communication with the wide centre backs allows the defensive unit to work as well as it does, and Juventus have rarely been exposed wide.
The midfield three is made up of Andrea Pirlo, operating in a deeper position in front of the back three, with Pogba and Vidal in front of him. Cover is provided by Marchisio, who is first in line to fill in for all of them.
Pirlo is key to this side, dictating the tempo, and providing options to the back three if the ball can’t be brought out. He makes it possible for the same attacking method to be used as his range of passing is exquisite, and he can receive the ball and quickly play in to the front men, both dropping off or in behind, or move it elsewhere.
He rarely gives away possession. He also does great defensive work shielding the backline, and breaks up numerous opposition attacks, and neutralises creative players in front of the backline, aided by Chiellini or Caceres coming out to cover. His set piece threat is also vital.
Returning to the previously mentioned Genoa away match, after the Buffon penalty save, Pirlo went on to win the match for Juve in the last minute with a twenty five yard top corner free kick. Three points won when a possible defeat was on the cards, that is how titles are won.
Vidal and Pogba both provide goals from midfield, are powerful players, and their defensive work is not taken for granted either. Pogba is capable of winning the ball in midfield, carrying it forward and scoring. The same is said of Vidal, and in tight matches, moments like that can make all the difference.
Up front Juventus have arguably the best strike partnership in Europe at the moment. Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. Both can drop of the front line, or play on the last man. Both can hold the ball up back to goal, turn and shoot, or find their strike partner.
They seem to work well together, and make runs that compliment one another. Llorente is also brilliant in the air, which provides another dynamic in attack for Juventus. Tevez has had a brilliant season so far, with fourteen Serie A goals to date at the time of writing. He has also pulled some world-class strikes out of the hat that have turned matches.
AC Milan away is one example, Milan having matched Juventus, before Tevez lashed a volley in from outside the box to kill the match. He also scored a good goal on the turn at home to Torino in a move that encapsulated his sides attacking play. Caceres brought the ball into the opposition half, finding Asamoah wide on the left, who cut the ball low to the edge of the box, where Tevez had dropped of his marker, turned and fired into the bottom corner.
Juventus are the full package at the moment, and are only going from strength to strength.
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