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After a two-week break, Juventus returned to action to make their fourth defence of the Coppa Italia against lowly Serie A opponents Bologna. The Bianconeri started on the front foot and didn’t let off the throttle as they strolled to victory with goals from Bernardeschi and Moise Kean early in the first and second halves respectively.
It was Juve who made the early running at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, forcing the home side onto the back foot early on as they dominated possession and territory. The pressure paid off in the ninth minute when Bologna handed their visitors the lead. Back-up goalkeeper Angelo Da Costa attempted to claim Mattia De Sciglio’s hopeful ball forward, only to crash into Arturo Calabresi. The ball spilled to the feet of Filippo Bernardeschi who finished from 18 yards out.
Juve all but sealed the game just four minutes into the second half when the bright Douglas Costa was put through on the right channel. Making a rare appearance was Moise Kean, who was quickest to tap past the sprawling Da Costa to claim just his second goal as a Juventus player, both coming against Bologna.
Bologna boss Inzaghi is hanging onto his job by a thread. With big games at the bottom of the table to come against SPAL and Frosinone, he used his first game of the new year to test his latest signings.
Angelo Da Costa started in goal to replace Lukasz Skorupski who played behind a 5-3-2 formation with Calabresi, Danilo and Filip Helander as three central defenders. They were flanked by ex-Juventus right-back Federico Mattiello and left-back Mitchel Dijks. The back five were screened by Roberto Soriano, Eric Pulgar and Mattias Svanberg, with new arrival Nicola Sansone and form-chasing Mattia Destro leading the line.
Juve’s Massimiliano Allegri used the start of his side’s Coppa Italia defence to rotate his lineup, giving time to some of his fringe players. However, number one goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny did start. With injuries across the back four, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were partnered in central defence with De Sciglio on the right and Leonardo Spinazzola playing left back.
In midfield, Emre Can and Sami Khedira formed the engine room alongside Miralem Pjanic as Juve set up in their usual 4-3-3 formation. Douglas Costa and Bernardeschi played on either flank, with teenage striker Moise Kean making his first start for the Old Lady in place of the injured Mario Mandzukic.
Changes make the difference for Allegri
With the usual big hitters not included for Allegri, the starting XI was changed. The rotation that has developed between Mandzukic and Ronaldo wasn’t on show against Bologna. This combination has accommodated the former drifting to the left channel allowing overloads, and Ronaldo inverting from his left forward starting position. In its absence, we saw a new twist which might be a sign of things to come as Allegri brings fresh ideas to his team.
With the young and mobile Moise Kean as the focal point in attack, it allowed Juve to bring out slightly different rotations to what we’ve seen previously. Bologna’s left-back area was overloaded, enabling the release of their own left-back Spinazzola to play in a much higher area of the field on the opposite flank.
The evidence of Bologna’s left side of defence comes with Dijk having attempted the home side’s most tackles (27) at a 30% success rate. Juve winger Douglas Costa attempted 26 himself, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly recorded a success rate of 46%. Just over a third of those tackles came in Juve’s attacking third of the field.
With Douglas Costa putting in a complete performance, he was also successful in 56% of his offensive duels. He also provided two shots on target as well as four crosses, more than any other Juventus player.
Juve make overloads count
Juve made their overloads count against the deep defensive block of Bologna. The protection which the deep-lying Pjanic gave to Chiellini and Bonucci to play against two forwards allowed for Juve to overload in higher areas of the field to hurt Bologna.
It was evident in the build-up to both goals where Allegri’s men took advantage of their rotations. The first goal came somewhat fortunately thanks to Da Costa’s mistake, but the confusion came prior to his handling error.
The image above shows the moment when De Sciglio plays a hopeful ball over Bologna’s central defenders. What might seem hopeful, could be seen as well thought out by the Juve right-back. It’s the combination of Douglas Costa in the bottom right corner of the image and left back Spinazzola who cause the disruption, forcing the Bologna back five to stretch almost the entire width of the field.
Spinazzola’s higher starting position is a compliment of Bernadeschi’s inverted starting position as shown by his heat map below. It was his attempt to win the first ball which led to Da Costa’s handling error. With Moise Kean and the higher positioning of Emre Can next to Douglas Costa on the left, Spinazolla and ex-Borussia Dortmund man Khedira created an overload on the right. This gave Juventus a 6v5 advantage over Bologna once the hosts’ midfield three had been bypassed by Di Sciglio’s initial long ball.
The image below once again shows Bernadeschi’s superior positioning and combination with Moise Kean in the centre, causing disruption to Bologna’s three central defenders. This image also shows the ease with which Juve penetrated the three Bologna midfielders. One entry ball from Can removes all three Bologna players from the game phase, allowing Juve to attack the central defenders with ease.
As Bernardeschi inverts from left to right across the field, his movement allows Kean to play on Bologna’s left side central defender in tandem with Douglas Costa. This allowed two of the quickest players in the Italian game isolated against their opposition defenders.
As Juve struggled with numerous injuries, head coach Allegri will be delighted to come through the first game of the new year with a win to start their defence of the Coppa Italia. Having secured their place in the quarter-finals, he’ll be especially pleased with the performance 18-year-old Moise Kean and back-up left-back Leonardo Spinazzola.
With sterner tests to come for the Old Lady, the depth and quality of Allegri’s squad will be tested. Juve fly to Saudi Arabia next to face old foes AC Milan in their Supercoppa Italiana tie, before facing Chievo in Turin to restart the Serie A season.
After six games without a win and having lost his last three, Filippo Inzaghi will be desperate for more positive results against SPAL and Frosinone to lift them out of relegation trouble. Early next month, they face Inter. If results do not improve, Inzaghi may well pay with his job before too long.
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