The game ended 0-2 to Juventus with goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo (pen) and Paulo Dybala. Although Bologna made their best to equalise or at least score a goal, things did not go the way they wanted.
Instead, players like Matthijs de Ligt, Federico Bernardeschi and Paulo Dybala shined throughout the match and enabled Juventus to secure a fundamental away win, despite the difficult moments they faced at certain times of the match.
It was a win that consolidated Juventus’ position ahead of Lazio and Inter, while Bologna remained in their same position with a risk of moving even downwards since many teams are still to play their 27th games.
Bologna lined up in a 4-2-3-1 that often becomes 4-2-1-3 when the team attacks. Siniša Mihajlović, Bologna’s head coach, played with four defenders; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Danilo, Stefano Denswil, and Mitchell Dijks in front of Łukasz Skorupski, the goalkeeper. He relied on Mattias Svanberg and Gary Medel for ball recuperation, and especially for serving the ball to either the full-backs or the three attacking midfielders, Roberto Soriano, Riccardo Orsolini on the right wing and Nicola Sansone on the left wing.
Musa Barrow, the team’s striker, plays in front of them and moves to the right and to the left when needed to support the two wingers. This gives an extra passing option as he is also required to press high on Juventus’ defenders and goalkeeper.
As for Juventus, Maurizio Sarri used Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt as centre-backs ahead of Wojciech Szczęsny while Juan Cuadrado played as a right-back and Mattia De Sciglio played in the left flank, since Alex Sandro was injured. In midfield, Sarri relied on Miralem Pjanić as a regista despite the rumours that linked him with Barcelona during the last few weeks, and used Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot as central midfielders. They support the attacking transition and create numerical superiority with runs behind the opposition’s defensive line when the ball reaches the final third.
They were also asked to regain possession as soon as possible when the ball is lost to prevent counter-attacks. So in attack, Dybala plays as a forward on paper but in reality, he plays as a false nine, since he helps the midfield in the build-up and moves to the left at times to switch roles with Ronaldo, who plays as left winger. Moreover, Dybala has a tendency to move to the right since that’s where he finds himself more comfortable to dribble and especially shoot, taking the place of Federico Bernardeschi who plays as a right winger.
First half tactics
Bologna started this game in a rather excellent manner by pressing high on Juventus’ defenders and goalkeeper, which led to a dangerous mistake by Juventus that nearly resulted in an own goal by De Ligt, as shown in the picture. Bologna used Barrow as their first line of pressing, with Soriano, Sansone and Orsolini supporting him by pressing on full-backs and on Pjanić.
And it is obvious in this picture that Mihajlović asked the players to not allow Juventus to build from the back and use all their pace to win the ball at Juventus’ own third.
And even though this pressing led to some problems in Juventus’ build-up play, it didn’t make the required impact for Bologna, since Juventus found their rhythm bit by bit and started to overcome Bologna’s pressing, by using fast passes and wide positioning perfectly to make it harder for Bologna to win back the ball.
Also, the battle of midfield was soon won by Juventus thanks to the efforts of not only Bentancour, Rabiot and Pjanić ,but also Dybala and Bernardeschi. They helped a lot in ball protection when Bologna were causing a threat to Juventus’ defence, especially during the first 15 minutes.
And you can see in the following picture how both Dybala and Bernardeschi helped in the build-up from defense.
Bologna channelised all their efforts on high pressing since their manager’s philosophy relies heavily on attacking play, and, more importantly, because they are not used to stay at the back and defend. Therefore, they did not have the mechanisms or the mentality to do it, and preferred to keep pressing high instead.
This tactic was successful at times, and enabled Bologna to reach Juventus’ goalkeeper several times. However, it was not enough to score goals, partly due to De Sciglio and Cuadrado close and smart marking of Orsolini and Sansone throughout the game, which isolated these two from Barrow and made Bologna’s chances less dangerous.
On the other side, Juventus made use of their quality players in midfield, and started to create fast combinations of passes, with off-the-ball movement, to break down Bologna’s defence. After scoring the first goal on the 22th minute from a penalty by Ronaldo, Juventus gained more confidence and started to improve their possession play, even though Bologna did their best to react to the goal, but in vain.
The skills of Juventus’ players also made the difference, since these players had no problem in using one-touch passes in defence to escape Bologna’s pressing in a clean manner, and get rid of three opposing players at once. In the next example, Pjanić received the ball from De Ligt under pressure from Soriano, and passed it with one touch to Bonucci who also used a one-touch pass to Rabiot, and made Bologna’s pressing efforts seem useless.
To face Bologna’s powerful attacking play, Sarri switched the formation to 4-4-2 when out of possession, making two lines of defence; one composed of the four defenders and the other is made up of Bernardeschi, Bentancour, Pjanić and Rabiot. While the first line of defence is fronted by Ronaldo and Dybala, as shown in this picture.
Bernardeschi’s fast passing exchanges and one-two passes, especially with Dybala at the right, created the difference for Juventus’ attack. Even though Ronaldo also made some good efforts on the left wing, he was not always effectively supported by Dybala or by the midfielders. What lacked was the fast movement without the ball and the quick passes.
However, Dybala benefited from his tendency to move rightwards to combine with Bernardeschi and reach the penalty area with the support of Bentancour, Rabiot and Ronaldo, who provided other passing options as well. In other words, Juventus found the right wing more effective than the left wing when trying to create danger and reach Bologna’s goal thanks to Dybala and Bernardeschi’s dynamism.
And this combination was not fruitless, since a second goal was scored by Dybala after a pass from De Ligt to Bernardeschi. He made a backheel pass to Dybala while moving to the opposing direction, which fooled Bernardeschi’s direct marker, and enabled him to win a few seconds and run in the free space that he created.
This run allowed Dybala to have two options; either pass to Bernardeschi like defenders predicted, or aim for the more complicated option which is a shot from distance. Dybala took the second choice since he was confident in his shooting abilities and more importantly, defenders made the mission easier for him, by allowing him to have some space to shoot, since they thought he will be passing the ball to Bernardeschi.
After the second goal, Bologna continued their high pressing but with no real threat to Szczęsny, since the solo efforts of Sansone and Orsolini were either blocked by Juventus defenders or reached the hands of Szczęsny at times.
Second half tactics
The second half witnessed some serious attempts of Bologna to win possession rapidly and start their attacks. But even though they succeeded to do so in the first minutes, Juventus closed all possible ways for Bologna and regained possession, thanks to their compact defense and midfield, and especially thanks to Dybala and Bernardeschi’s defensive contribution. This created a numerical superiority in midfield and even in Juventus’ own third at times.
Apart from his exchanges with Dybala on the right wing, Bernardeschi also moved to play in the centre as an advanced playmaker and he created some danger by playing in this position. As shown in the image below, he passed the ball to Bentancour when he was on the right flank, and then moved to the centre. He received the ball before passing it accurately with one-touch to Ronaldo, who found himself right in front of the goal but missed it.
And you can see in the picture, this change of position created a lot of space for Juventus especially when knowing that Bologna were not defending with ten players.
Afterwards, Ronaldo, Dybala, Bernardeschi, and Pjanić all had scoring chances but missed them. Bernardeschi even hit the bar with an outstanding long-shot. In response, Rodrigo Palacio was subbed on for Bologna to play in the position of Soriano. And this change added additional movement in the final third, reduced Juventus’ attacks and obliged their defensive block to move backwards, in order to limit the danger of Palacio’s movements behind the defensive line, since this latter played as a second striker and not only a playmaker.
This awareness of Palacio’s danger made him look for alternative options to create a threat. instead of waiting for passes behind the defense, he kept moving near the two wingers, to give them extra options and play one-two passes with them. Despite Palacio’s contribution, Bologna’s threat was limited due to Juventus’ marking, that did not give room for the likes of Orsolini, Sansone and Barrow to shoot easily. Even when they were able to shoot, they were not able to shoot accurately since they were always being disturbed.
As you can see in this example, Orsolini dribbled past two defenders and moved from right to the centre, but he was still faced by two Juventus’ players who made him shoot from a long way out, and did not allow him to find the best shooting angle.
Also, in the same opportunity, we can notice how Palacio moved to the right to support Orsolini, and replaced him to fool Juventus’ players. This in itself was like a double-edged sword, since by moving rightwards, the depth was lacking and passing options near the goal diminished, especially when Barrow was moved to the left wing and Palacio became the team’s forward.
Bologna continued to attack and focused on the right flank, which was problematic for Juventus. Mihajlović subbed on Nicolás Domínguez, Andrea Poli, Musa Juwara and Gianmarco Cangiano, to enhance the attacking play with fresh players, but all chances were blocked by a compact Juventus’ defense.
Sarri put on Blaise Matuidi, Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa to strengthen the midfield, in both defensive action and also attacking transition. Ramsey joined the attack several times and acted like an attacking midfielder. However, even though Costa is known for his outstanding individual skills, he was the reason for missing some counter-attacks that could have finished the game earlier than expected, due to keeping the ball for longer than required and doing unnecessary dribbles at times.
Just like in the example below in which Juventus were having a counter-attack and Costa ruined it by preferring to wait for all defenders to return to their positions, then doing an unnecessary dribble and playing a wrong pass, instead of serving Ronaldo or Ramsey who were well-positioned and could have scored the third goal easily.
This match witnessed good performances overall from all the players who did their best to contribute to their teams’ win, whether in defence, midfield or attack. However, some players did shine more than others. For instance, Bernardeschi, a player who was not playing regularly for Juventus in the past fixtures, proved that he can be very beneficial to the team. He was behind almost all Juventus’ attacking actions. He made the second goal assist, hit the bar and contributed in many other chances, in addition to his defensive contribution and participation in the build-up play.
Dybala was also very influential during this game, even though he did not play in his natural position. He scored a very beautiful goal and made a lot of troubles to Bologna’s defence, with his frequent movements in the box, on the right wing and also by his well-placed shots. Credit also goes to De Ligt, Bonucci, Cuadrado and De Sciglio for their defensive compactness and resistance to Bologna’s all-game-long pressing. And even though at times they made mistakes, they soon corrected them and regained the ball or reduced the threat of Bologna’s attacks.
For Bologna, however, Orsolini can be considered as the player who made more effort than the others and strived for scoring goals. He dribbled past Juventus’ players many times, but couldn’t create a lot of danger since he was not always supported, thanks to Juventus’ compact defence.
Barrow and Sansone were also very energetic during this game and pressured high on Juventus’ defence and goalkeeper. This actually made them lose a lot of energy and this worked against them when attacking. Nevertheless, their pressing was usually effective as they prevented Juventus from playing their usual build-up from defence and created some chances from nowhere.
To sum up, this game was a balanced one between a team that concentrated on not conceding goals and scoring when the chances came, and a team that focused on pressing high and playing the attack without always securing the defensive lines effectively, which resulted in their loss. It was a loss affected by the qualitative gap between the players as well as the misfortune of Bologna in some attacking opportunities as well.
Following this result, Juventus consolidated their first spot and are hoping for a loss of their direct opponents which are Lazio and Inter, while Bologna need to return to winning as soon as possible if they aim at reaching European spots.