In another examination of the system being deployed by Juventus, today focuses on the two different shapes the team currently use when not in possession. With an impressive defensive record over the past eight games - conceding only four goals - it is strange to think this new-found solidity comes such a fluid & changing setup. Even more oddly is the discovery that the choice between the two is primarily dependent on who plays at right back.
Coach Delneri is often derided for being inflexible & rigidly sticking to his belief in a 4-4-2 system. This principled faith in a tactical framework many deem obsolete in today’s game has been criticised in some quarters, but watching any Juventus game this season proves this to be an invalid notion. The team may well begin matches in a nominal resemblance of the old favourite but rarely remain that way for too long.
Yellow highlights the back four, the arrow indicates Melo’s withdrawn role
The first system is used when Marco Motta or Simone Pepe plays at there, a more natural fullback, mirroring the use of Paolo De Ceglie, Fabio Grosso or Armand Traoré on the opposite flank. The midfield is now settled & sees one striker - usually Fabio Quagliarella - fill in on the left flank as Claudio Marchisio tucks into central midfield alongside Alberto Aquilani.
This is vital as Felipe Melo often drops deep, to a position between the two central defenders, making a five man back line when the fullbacks retreat. So the nominal 4-4-2 becomes a 5-4-1, giving more assurance to the weaker defenders by offering greater protection. Melo is playing with renewed confidence, believing in his own abilities, as his shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Marco Rossi in the game against Genoa.
From there it is the energy of the team that becomes key as Melo, Marchisio & Quagliarella must move quickly to get back into their role in the attacking setup, as do the fullbacks, making for much movement & creating difficulty for opponents. This has resulted in a number of goals, notably Quagliarella’s late arrivals in the box or a complete failure to pick up Marchisio who has netted three himself already.
Recent games however have seen Juventus rely on eighteen year old Danish defender Frederik Sørensen at right back due to injuries & suspension. Ostensibly a central defender he would be ineffective if pushed too far wide, so Delneri has slightly altered the system. This was also the case earlier in the season when Zdenek Grygera came into the side. Masking a clear weakness in this manner is intelligent coaching & prevents the kind of poor performances from the team seen last year when Grygera or Jonathan Zebina were asked to provide width.
Instead of Melo becoming the third central defender Sørensen does, while Simone Pepe - starting as a right winger - drops back into a full back role, making the same 5-4-1 shape. The difference is slight, but worth noting, particularly in light of the events in Genoa this past weekend, namely Motta being particularly poor, while Sørensen followed up his impressive displays against Roma & Cesena with another intelligent performance.
Alternative shape with Sørensen (43) becoming the third central defender
There was so pronounced a change in quality that the Dane must surely start next weekend against Fiorentina, meaning the second system is the ideal one to use. However the other issue is the return to the line up of Milos Krasic. The winger destroyed Genoa, particularly in the first half, but can he cover back down the flank the way Pepe did to such great effect against Roma? Delneri seemed to be intimating the same question post-game yesterday when he said;
“Milos has great talent but he still needs to get used to Italian football, which means helping out the defence”
Given that the impressive Juan Manuel Vargas is slowly coming back to full fitness & Pepe’s return from his one game suspension another slight shift may be in order. Putting Pepe ahead of Sørensen on the right would help shackle the Peruvian, while moving Krasic to the left would certainly surprise the Viola. It is a tactic used already & discussed here on Il Tifosi & has made an impressive impact at the start of the season.
All these alterations are slight, but make a huge difference to the roles of certain players. It is credit to men such as Pepe & Marchisio that they are willing to sacrifice their own games for the team, & hugely impressive from Delneri to utilise them in a way to hide any weaknesses. What is certain is that this it is far from simplistic or basic, if indeed it is 4-4-2 at all.