Allegri’s tactical nous the saviour for Juventus in Derby triumph
Juventus saw off their Turin rivals Torino 2-1 on round 11 of Serie A action in the season’s first Derby Della Mole, Ryan Wrenn takes a loot at why the Bianconeri owe a lot to coach Massimiliano Allegri for the result.
When Sami Khedira suffered a strained calf barely ten minutes into the Derby Della Mole between Juventus and Torino on Saturday, Bianconeri coach Massimiliano Allegri could have made the safe choice.
Indeed, most coaches in his situation would have preferred a like-for-like switch. Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina were both on the bench and perfectly capable of playing in Khedira’s box-to-box midfielder role. Either of them would have been the more practical option for filling the void left by the German’s departure.
Instead, Allegri took advantage of what should have been a tough situation and changed the look of his Juventus team.
To start the match he had the team laid out in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala sitting up top and Hernanes just behind them in a creative role.
In his time on the pitch, Khedira operated just ahead of Claudio Marchisio in central midfield, in theory, meant to trade runs forward with Paul Pogba.
To his considerable credit, Allegri realized early on that he’d failed to find neither his team’s best shape nor his best eleven.
It is difficult to derive much meaning from ten minutes of football, but in the opening stages against Torino it was clear that Juventus would struggle to assert itself if they continued to play as they were.
Torino fielded a familiar tactical strategy, one they had used in each of their previous ten Serie A matches; a 3-5-2 built around pressing high up the pitch and quick transitions.
Allegri set out to counter that style by crowding the midfield and thus making it difficult for Torino to play through the center of the pitch.
In the opening minutes of play, most of the passes Torino executed came within their own third, as the three centre-backs rotated the ball back and forth among themselves as almost every available route to midfield was blocked by a Juventus player.
The problem was Torino’s shape, specifically when Juventus were in possession. Morata and Dybala paired up reasonably well going forward, but in the end each and every one of their attacks was always going to have to deal with the fact that Torino’s defence would have an extra man waiting to cut off outlet passes and frustrate link-up play.
Juventus were playing right into Torino’s plans by fielding a narrow attack tipped by two strikers.
So when Khedira’s calf gave way, Allegri jumped at the opportunity fate had afforded. Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina stayed on the bench and instead Juan Cuadrado came into the game.
The on-loan Chelsea winger perched himself wide on the right while Morata shifted left, leaving Dybala as the sole striker. Hernanes dropped deeper into the midfield, taking over Marchisio’s dynamic role as the Italian moved up to fill Khedira’s half of the pivot with Pogba. Juventus were now playing in a 4-3-3.
Cuadrado himself proved to be the most decisive result of this switch. He assisted Pogba’s stunning opener eight minutes after he came on and then scored in the last minute of the match to give Juventus a 2-1 win over their local rivals.
There was more than Cuadrado’s individual genius going on here, however.
Prior to Khedira’s injury, the game was even. Juventus and Torino were level at about 60 passes each and neither had mustered a shot.
In the ten minutes following Khedira’s departure, Juventus doubled the number of passes Torino managed and had two shots on goal, one of which was Pogba’s stunning opener.
Breaking any game down into ten-minute increments will produce this kind of lopsided story. On Saturday though, Juventus didn’t let up.
Per WhoScored.com, by the final whistle they had managed 60% possession, outpassed Torino 541 to 356, outshot them 17-10 and won the game to secure an invaluable three points.
Cuadrado might have carved his name into this match, but the victory came from Allegri’s recognition that Juventus needed more in their attacking third.
Bringing Cuadrado in and moving Morata wide left stretched Torino’s three-man defence, leaving holes through which Juventus’ attack could more easily manoeuvre.
Moreover, it left three men nominally marking one central striker – even though Pogba usually found himself forward too – meaning that at any given time one or more of those Torino defenders were superfluous.
Were Torino coach Giampiero Ventura particularly brave, he might have countered Cuadrado’s introduction with a substitute of his own, bringing off one of the centre-backs in favor of an additional midfielder to break through Juventus’ lockdown.
As it stood, however, Torino persisted and were regularly caught out as a result. Their own offense continued to stutter as Juventus’ only grew stronger.
After Khedira’ substitution, Juventus managed 102 passes in Torino’s third. Il Toro managed a mere 42 such passes against Juventus.
The scoreline might suggest a closer game, one in which Cuadrado was the savior, but in reality this was a masterclass in pragmatism from Allegri.