Juventus failed to qualify into the Champions League semi-finals. After disappointment in previous games, Juventus could only try their best to win Serie A in this week. They lead Napoli by 17 points before the game, with 6 games to go. A draw could secure the title.
Fiorentina did not perform to the same level as the last two seasons. They are not contending for the Europa League spots at this stage. Fiorentina only have 40 points and were in 10th before the game. However, they played quite well in this game and caused problems for Juventus. Therefore, Massimiliano Allegri made some changes at half time to seal the victory.
Allegri had no choice but to start a strong team in this game. The Italian manager made a few changes. Portuguese right-back João Cancelo started ahead of Mattia De Sciglio. Juan Cuadrado replaced the injured Paulo Dybala. Cuadrado, Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Bernardeschi formed the front three. It was a 4-3-3 formation when the game started.
Vincenzo Montella played his young strikers as a pair again. Both Federico Chiesa and Giovanni Simeone started. Luis Muriel stayed on the bench after seven successive starts. Experienced former Belgian international Kevin Mirallas also started the game. It was a 4-4-2 formation.
Allegri prepared something for Fiorentina
Allegri had prepared some tactics for this game and he wanted to take the lead as earlier as they could. Juventus was so offensive, they committed a huge number of players in the opposition half. Another goal of Allegri’s approach was to stretch the pitch.
Despite having players who could do harm down the flanks like Ronaldo and Cuadrado, these players did not stay wide. All the outfield players of Juventus stayed in the middle in order to keep the Fiorentina defence tight. This won space and time for full backs Cancelo and Alex Sandro who provided width on both sides. They would cross in one v one situations if the ball was switched to them, with the other outfield players getting into the box to look for chances. The photo below showed that all 10 Fiorentina players were kept in the middle. This was because all Juventus’ midfielders and forwards stayed in the middle. As a result, Cancelo and Sandro were freed and they could attack both flanks.
Juventus always had a player lurking at the far post when crosses came in. Sometimes it was Ronaldo, sometimes it was Bernardeschi. The player lurking in the below screenshot was Cuadrado. Fiorentina full backs would step out early and try to prevent Juventus’ attack from the side but sometimes they failed. The player who has stepped out below was the Nikola Milenković. This attack eventually ended with a cross from Ronaldo but it did not find Cuadrado.
Fiorentina did well in both attack and defence
Fiorentina’s defence can be split into two phases. The first one was high pressing that delayed Juventus build-up. The second phase was putting men behind the ball with two compact defensive lines as Juventus’s attack continued.
Here comes the high pressing. The entire Fiorentina defensive line moved forward to reduce spaces between the lines. One of the forwards would press the ball carrier. This time it was Simeone in the image to cover the passing lanes. Furthermore, the entire Fiorentina defensive line also moved forward to contain Ronaldo and Cuadrado as shown below, so they did not have much time and space to make decisions.
Another phase was a compact back four and midfield line of Fiorentina. When Juventus moved the ball past Chiesa and Simeone, Fiorentina defended in numbers. These two defensive lines were close to each other so Juventus’ players could not utilise spaces between the lines. Fiorentina left-back Dávid Hancko stepped out to prevent Cuadrado from receiving the ball. They kept Juventus’ players out of the box in the first half, the home team only had three shots in the area.
Fiorentina was dangerous when countering. As I mentioned above, Sandro and Cancelo stayed in advanced positions. This could provide width and options when Juventus were attacking but it had an issue: spaces behind them. Fiorentina did well to utilise spaces behind Cancelo and Sandro on both sides. Below was a typical example. The ball was cleared to the left side of Fiorentina and Sandro left his position. Then the ball was switched to Mirallas at the right, where those spaces were behind Cancelo. Juventus were outnumbered. Eventually, this counterattack resulted in a shot. Unluckily, Fiorentina only found the net once with Chiesa hitting the post twice.
Tactical moves by Allegri
Allegri made some changes at half time. First, Juventus’ formation switched into a back three. Emre Can dropped to become an additional centre back as shown below. The benefit of this move was to increase the number of players defending behind. When Fiorentina tried to hit the spaces behind Sandro and Cancelo, a Juventus centre back could deal with it. When Juventus build-up, Cancelo and Sandro also stayed higher as shown below. This could allow them joining the attack quickly. Eventually, the cross from Cancelo created the winning goal thanks to this change.
After Juventus took the lead, they ceased to commit numbers forward. They were satisfied for a two-one victory. They changed the defensive approach to men behind the ball. In the screenshot below, only Ronaldo stayed up front. All other nine outfield players dropped back. They defended in numbers, closed all the gaps, and they secured a win.
Congratulations to Juventus! They have won eight Serie A titles in eight successive seasons. The gap in the table reflected how consistent they were. Sometimes Juventus did not play well but the most important thing is they still win a game. It’s really a big achievement.
Fiorentina still took time to adapt Montella’s tactics. I think if they could have taken their chances, the result will have been better. Fiorentina got 14 shots in this match, just four less than the home team. This is not the best season for Fiorentina, let’s see how they could improve in the future.