Juventus came into this match undefeated, and left undefeated. Three wins and three draws sees them in third place in the Serie A table, chasing league leaders AC Milan. With former Real Madrid man Cristiano Ronaldo as leading goal scorer for Juventus, with five goals so far this season, and midfielders Arthur and Adrien Rabiot in excellent form, another league title or at least a UEFA Champions League qualification finish is more than likely. This tactical analysis will show the tactics used by Juventus in their win against Spezia.
Spezia left this match in 17th place in the league table. Despite what the score line might suggest, Spezia can walk away with their heads held high by showing a resilience to play their style. High-pressing, aggressive man-marking and exciting tactics are promising signs that they have what it takes to stay up this season after this analysis.
Spezia lined-up in a strict 4-3-3 formation, rarely merging the midfield and forward lines when defending. The objective was to press from the front with Daniele Verde, Diego Farlas and M’Bala Nzola. Midfielders Paolo Bartolomei and Tommaso Pobega marked Juventus’ more creative midfielders. Spezia kept pressing all game long, even after conceding four goals. It’s respectable to play in such a style against Juventus, who are title favourites every single season.
Juventus line-up in a 4-4-2. They rarely broke shape and made it hard for Spezia to pass through the middle of the pitch. Juventus are comfortable on the ball and regularly build-up play from defence. They showed many times that they could withstand the Spezia press and pass their way through it. It wasn’t a tactical masterclass from Juventus, as they needed to be rescued by Ronaldo in the second half after he started the game on the bench. Against stronger opponents, they might struggle to rely on Ronaldo like they did this time, however, Alvaro Morata, Arthur, Danilo and Leonardo Bonucci all showed that they can keep up with the Portuguese.
Differences in defence
Below is the first example we will look at when analyzing how both teams defended. Spezia opted to use a more aggressive style of defending. By clogging up the midfield, this forced Juventus to play the ball wide or recycle possession amongst the defence. The front three pressed the defenders knowing that any midfield passing options were marked by teammates.
Below we see Juventus in a 4-4-2. This ensures that play cannot go through the middle, but with less emphasis on pressing the Spezia defenders or midfielders. Spezia could only go wide, and while at times it worked for them, Juventus handled the Spezia attacks well.
When Spezia attempted to begin play from defence, Juventus man marked the opposition while still remaining in a strict 4-4-2. Arthur circled below, is seen man-marking Matteo Ricci, the deepest Spezia midfielder. Ricci would try to link play from defence to attack but struggled because of Arthur.
How to beat the press
Below, Bonucci is on the ball. He has two passing options to his side, however, to beat the press effectively he must go forward. Arthur could often be seen sitting between Spezia’s attacking and midfield lines. By operating in this space, he gets more time on the ball further up the pitch than his defensive teammates.
Juventus did push higher up the pitch frequently, meaning Spezia had to beat the Juventus press too. It’s difficult to pass through a midfield four but Spezia managed to beat the press a few times. Below we can see Spezia midfielder Bartolemei stepping away from his marker, eyeing the space in between the Juventus midfield. This is an easy target for Ricci to pass to. Spezia didn’t get many opportunities to do this but were able to score by exploiting this space.
Both sides relied on a deep-lying playmaker in Arthur and Ricci to pass through the lines while also linking defence to attack. Both sides saw their creator sit just in front of their defending teammates, to avoid being overloaded in the middle of the central parts of their final thirds.
The Spezia press
Despite conceding four goals, Spezia put on an attacking show that should be appreciated by any football fan. To put six or seven players deep into the opposition half in an attempt to win the ball shows bravery and courage from a side also battling relegation.
Below we see Spezia at their best. When play moves to either side, the whole team presses aggressively. Spezia used the edges of the pitch as a 12th man to force turnovers. Every player has a job to do. The goal is to make the pitch small and force one-vs-ones high up the pitch.
Below we see Spezia players man-marking or pressuring their nearest opposition player. Juventus were put under pressure when playing at the back, but due to the quality of players they have, they managed to beat the Spezia press. When playing so far high up the pitch, this forces the Juventus players to go long or recycle possession even deeper in their own half.
The Juventus attack
It was inevitable that Juventus were going to score goals. With the quality of players they have, it’s expected.
Below we see how important Alvaro Morata is to the Juventus attack. Many times he can be seen making runs in behind to lure his marker out of position. In doing this, it leaves space for Weston McKennie to run into. Morata’s build-up play and influence in goal-scoring moves show that he can still be an asset to most European clubs.
In the 55th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo was subbed on for Paulo Dybala and the rest in history. If you give Ronaldo the ball, he will score. That being said, as he gets older he has adopted a more central striking role, instead of playing as a winger. Morata thrives when he has intelligent teammates who can make well-timed runs in behind the defence.
Below we see Morata dropping into the space between the Spezia defence and midfield. Rodrigo Bentancur is starred, as he is on the ball. In front of him is Arthur, who sees Morata dropping deeper. It becomes very simple to play through teams when everyone is as talented off the ball, as they are on it.
Spezia’s inexperience shows
While the Spezia press is impressive and admirable, it isn’t without flaw. Below we see six Spezia players marking six Juventus players. When done during a throw-in, it’s very easy to simply throw the ball over the press to any Juventus player who is outside this small part of the pitch.
While coming back from a three-goal deficit is unlikely, it isn’t impossible and shouldn’t be treated as such. Below we can see Spezia finally splitting the Juventus defensive line. After 80 minutes, Juventus eventually showed some defensive vulnerability. However, Spezia never looked to take advantage of these moments. It doesn’t make sense to keep up their aggressive pressing style if they don’t look to maintain the same energy when they win the ball.
If Spezia had players who were more creative off the ball, we would see their chances come from off the ball movements and runs.
For Juventus, this was business as usual. However, a case can be made against the reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo and how much longer they can take advantage of his footballing ability.
Spezia can walk away from this match with their heads held high despite conceding four goals. They pressed aggressively and with intensity. Many teams can learn from their bravery and willingness to play exciting football, no matter their opponent.