Matchday 25 in Italy’s Serie A would see relegation battlers Bologna take on a dominant Juventus side at the Renato Dall’Ara. The game would end 1-0 to Juventus in what was quite a dull affair. It would take a substitute, Paulo Dybala, to separate the two sides on the 67th minute and sustain the 13 point lead over Napoli.
The reverse fixture saw Juventus beat Bologna 2-0 at home. This eventually led to the sacking of Filippo Inzaghi and saw Siniša Mihajlović, once again, take the helm at Bologna. Incidentally, the last time Bologna beat Juventus in all competitions was back in 2011.
In this tactical match analysis, we will look how Juventus edged out Bologna to extend their unbeaten run in Serie A.
Bologna started with a 4-4-2 formation after several weeks of 4-3-3. With several injuries including Federico Mattiello and Mattia Destro, Siniša Mihajlović started Mitchell Dijks and Frederico Santander respectively.
Juventus would start with a 4-4-2 formation, but, would change throughout the game depending on possession. Sami Khedira is recovering from heart surgery and Emre Can was still serving a suspension. There were three changes from the 2-0 Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid. Perin replaced Szczesny between the sticks, Rugani relegated Stalwart Chiellini to the bench and Bentacur jumped in for Pjanic.
Both teams would adapt and shift in their formations. Early on Bologna would switch to a 5-4-1 formation when under heavy pressure. This would be an attempt to nullify the league’s most dangerous attacking team. It would keep the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo at bay for most of the game.
Bentacur the pivot
With Juve’s 4-4-2 / 4-3-3 / 2-3-2-3, Bentacur was used as a pivot in the midfield playing behind Matuidi and Bernadeschi. Playing behind them he swept up loose balls and won 10 of his 17 duels whilst also making 47 accurate passes (79% success). By doing this it allowed Matuidi and Bernadeschi to move forward and take up better-attacking positions. This also made life more difficult for Bologna, any through ball or pass that needed a bit of space Bentacur intercepted it.
Both teams lacked the final pass going forward. Ronaldo didn’t seem his usual self and Manzukic seemed to be happy trying to just win free kicks regardless of how strong the challenge. What Juventus did well though, however, was swarming the ball carrier and shutting down any possible passing lanes. This forced Bologna to stop progressing and pass backwards. Notice Matuidi moving right, leaving his man but closing down a passing lane towards the centre of the field.
The player is ‘swarmed’ in possession in Bologna’s half. This prevented Bologna from getting a foothold in the game and setting up any kind of structured attack.
Three man block
Juventus also often deployed a three-man block when defending deep. Once again, closing down the passing lane and removing any chance of progression for Bologna. Below you can see how this was done as players form a wall of three to stop Bologna passing to the forwards. Bentancur also positioned himself so that another channel and option is blocked.
Bologna favoured making progress down the left side of the pitch and then cut into the middle. They did this because they had little width and options to pass out wide.
As a result, the ‘I Rossoblu’ had a total of 18 shots on goal and 90% of them were hit from a central position and straight at the keeper. This along with Juve’s positioning completely nullified attacking attempts and shows why they have the best defensive record in Serie A.
Bologna never really looked like scoring in this game until near the end of the game. The Juve defence has again blocked the opposing striker receiving the ball as well as tracking the other one running into the box. This again forced the ball back but was hit first-time and Perin made a fine save, pushing the ball onto the post.
Here, Juventus let Bologna attack centrally and deploy a three-man block again. This secluded Bologna and limited their options and once again forced them to pass backwards to re-think an attack.
Countering predictable Bologna
With Bologna progressing down the left and attacking through the middle Juve started to counteract this method. Juventus would win the ball back and then spread play across to the other flank. This caught Bologna off guard and forced them to re-position as they tracked back. However, Juventus were also poor going forward and could not take complete advantage of this situation. Thus, the ‘Old Lady’ recorded only one counter-attack.
Not long after the above picture, Dybala managed to hit home a deflected ball which came from an attack down the left-hand side of the field. With Bologna constantly driving down their left side of the field left them vulnerable down their right flank.
Looking at attack momentum it looks fairly even. The only difference is Juve, in general, worked into their opponents half a little deeper.
The statistics also show how even the game was. Neither team really had a huge advantage as the totals are almost like for like. Bologna had 11 more shots but they were ineffective whilst Juve recorded more long ball passes 31 v 19 but with a similar success rate 49% v 48%.
It is fair to say Juventus’ attacking overall was poor in this game and did not look like a team 13 points clear at the top of Serie A. Defensively they were quite impressive, shutting down passing lanes as well as the three-man block. Bologna never really looked like dangering Juve despite the 18 shots made and gave a rather unspectacular account of themselves.
Juventus now face Napoli away where they will have to up their game if they want to stay undefeated. Bologna travel to Udinese in what will be a crucial game to dig them out of the relegation zone.
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