In the twelfth round of Serie A 2020/21, Juventus hosted Atalanta to regain the opportunity to compete again for the title.
Juventus, the defending champions of last season and the well-known champions of the last decade of Serie A, are suffering so far this year with their new coach Pirlo, while Atalanta are playing with their current coach Gasperini, who has built a team worthy of respect with some of the advantages that distinguish them from other European teams.
The two teams played a very good game, tactically and technically, the match ended in a 1-1 draw. In this tactical analysis of the match, we will shed light on the tactical aspects of each of the coaches and how each faced up against each other’s ideas.
Juventus started the game with their classic 4-4-2 formation. Wojciech Szczęsny was the goalkeeper; Juan Cuadrado played as a right-back while Danilo was the left-back. Matthijs De Ligt and Bonucci played in the centre of defence; Arthur and Bentancur as a double pivot; Federico Chiesa was the left-winger whereas Mckennie played on the right, and the attacking duo up front was composed of Ronaldo and Álvaro Morata.
Atalanta started the game with their usual 3-4-1-2 formation, Pierluigi Gollini as the goalkeeper, the three defenders were José Luis Palomino, Berat Djimsiti and Cristian Romero, and the midfielders were Marten de Roon Remo Freuler. Both Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens were the wing-backs. The attacking trio consisted of Ruslan Malinovskyi Matteo Pessina and Duván Zapata.
Juventus’ defence and their pressing style
Juventus entered the match with their starting line-up 4-4-2 formation, which changed when the team was in a state of 4-3-1-2 defence with Morata and Ronaldo in advance of the ball.
This defensive method was a major obstacle to Pirlo and his players. Defending with eight players behind the ball against an opponent like Atalanta who were spreading offensively everywhere on the field, was like a suicidal order for Pirlo and his players, but Pirlo was well aware that if he wanted to benefit from Ronaldo and Morata’s offensive quality, he must make a defensive sacrifice as well.
This method allowed Atalanta players the spaces to move freely in the offensive third and to implement their offensive diamonds well and take advantage of them because there was always at least one player free of pressure (we will mention that later).
Below we can see that the Juventus players were lining up as 4-3-1-2 with Morata and Ronaldo ahead of the ball. We can also see the gap between Juventus’ vertical lines, in which Atalanta’s players move freely.
On the level of pressure, the team used the mid-block well by relaying the defensive towards the side where the ball was, where the close defender moves to the half-space to cover the space behind the full-back during which he moves to press the ball bearer.
Juventus players’ pressure always changes from match to match according to the opponent. When they face a strong offensive team like Atalanta, they do not prefer high pressure to avoid the problems they will face as a result of the spaces they leave behind, which may be used by Atalanta players to create dangerous opportunities that may cost them three points.
Below we show a detailed method for Juventus players’ pressure against Atalanta; Juventus players applied the mid-block method, as we can see, overloading the side of the ball. As we can see, de Ligt tended to press in the half-space to cover behind Cuadrado, who moved to press the ball bearer.
Atalanta’s attacking phase
Atalanta players in the offensive phase relied mainly on their usual method spread throughout the field, with the positional rotation of all players.
Gasperini’s attacking idea relied on providing space and time to pass the ball in the best way, which helps his players to create more opportunities in the match, so in the offensive phase, he gave his players freedom to move in all spaces to create a lot of attacking diamonds in different areas of the field.
Attacking diamonds always allowed his players to easily pass in the offensive phase in the best way, because there was always a free player without pressure, which allowed the ball bearer to pass to him and create another attacking diamond, thus continuing the team in the offensive phase and creating a lot of opportunities in dangerous areas of the field.
Below we illustrate Atalanta players overloading the right side with four players to make an offensive diamond with a player without pressure, noting that De Roon joined to complete another offensive diamond when the ball passed to the player standing without pressure.
As we previously mentioned Gasperini’s offensive idea depends on providing space for his players. This is also reflected on the performance of his players in the offensive third in this match. Zapata, the striker in theory, always moved towards the half-spaces on both sides to leave space for those coming from the back.
This method helped Atalanta’s players create many dangerous opportunities against the Juventus goal, but the Atalanta players were not effective enough to take these chances, as the xG ratio of Atalanta players in the match is 2.6, despite scoring one goal in the match, which indicates their ineffectiveness in the opportunities offered them from dangerous places on the field.
Below is an example of this case, Zapata moved toward the half-space, leaving space in the depth to be exploited by Malinovskyi or Pessina, who left their places and entered the box, but they did not make good use of it and could not score a goal.
Atalanta players in the offensive case were overloading the box with a large number of players for two reasons, so that they confused the opponent’s defensive players inside the box and weakened their control, and also so that there were one or more Atalanta players inside the penalty area without pressure, using the opportunity to score goal.
Here is an example, where the Atalanta players overloaded the box with five players with an empty space around the box in which De Roon could move freely.
Juventus transitions and their attacking style
Atalanta players always play their advance in offensive areas throughout the match, leaving large areas behind them. The opponent can easily form an organized counterattack against them, especially behind the two wing-backs who are always ahead and leave a space behind them.
On the other hand, Juventus players relied on transitions on both sides of the field behind the two advanced Atalanta wing-backs, Hateboer and Gosens, where one of the Juventus strikers, constantly in advance of the ball, drops to receive the ball while the other enters the area completely empty of the players.
Here, for example, Ronaldo drops to the left side in the space behind the advanced wing-back Hateboer, which prompted Djimsiti to press him and leave the space in which Morata moved, but he did not use it well and could not score a goal.
In the offensive phase, Juventus players rely on diversifying attacks, exchanging roles and positions between offensive players, they also switch play across both sides of the playing field by overloading one side of the field and then passing the ball to the other side away from the pressing structures.
Below we explain this with the Juventus players overloading the right side of the field while quickly switching the play to the other side, where Ronaldo moved to reduce the left space, drawing the Atalanta defense with him and Morata entered the space that had become empty as a result of Ronaldo’s previous move.
In a very good tactical match between the veteran coach Gasperini and the young coach Pirlo in his first term in his coaching career. Neither of them were able to get the three points, but as a result of the tie, both of them lost two valuable points in the competition for the title this season which left the two Milan’s in pole position at the top of Serie A.
Atlanta continued to play them in the same usual 3-4-1-2 manner and applied advanced pressure across the field and organized offensive diamonds that helped them a lot in creating a lot of opportunities. While Juventus defended well with eight players with Morata and Ronaldo up top, the Portuguese star, former Real Madrid player, and former Atletico player Morata were also exchanging positions in offensive situations, but they did not take advantage of the spaces in the defenses of the advanced Atalanta, and consequently they could not claim the three points.