Juventus emphatically highlighted to those watching on Saturday just why they are the best team in Serie A after a comfortable 2-0 home victory over second placed Napoli. Juventus have now extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to 47 games, here are five quick observations…
Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli set up in their usual 3-4-1-2 formation featuring Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga as wing backs. Gokhan Inler operated as the deepest central midfielder, with Valon Behrami the more attack minded of the two. When Napoli beat Juventus in the Coppa Italia final last year, the movement of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik was very different to how Napoli usually play, and this was the case again on Saturday. In the final last season, Cavani and Lavezzi both started deeper than usual and made runs diagonally into wide positions, leaving space for Hamsik to run into, past Pirlo. On Saturday, something similar happened with Cavani playing very wide on the left and Goran Pandev equally so on the right. However, Hamsik was positioned more to the left than usual, and was often very close to Cavani. As a result it was Behrami who was able to take advantage of the space opening up through the middle and he caused more problems for the Juventus defence when getting forward than Hamsik.
Dealing with Pirlo
As with any side facing Juventus in the last two seasons, it is vital to have a plan to restrict the amount of time Andrea Pirlo gets on the ball. Hamsik tended to be quite reactive when Juventus attacked quickly, often just jogging back until he found himself in a goalside position against the Italian – normally when he was ten yards inside the Napoli half. But when Juventus attacked more slowly Hamsik (yellow ring) often got goalside of Pirlo (see left diagram), but once Napoli grew restless of Juventus keeping the ball at the back, it was Hamsik who moved forward to press Leonardo Bonucci. Cavani was responsible for marking Andrea Barzagli – to the point of following his runs into the Napoli half of the pitch – and Pandev split wide to mark Giorgio Chiellini. This now meant Napoli were pressing Juventus high up the pitch in a 3v3 but also meant Pirlo was now free. Often Inler (red ring) would then push up, leaving behind him Arturo Vidal (right diagram), but there were times when Napoli weren’t able to react quick enough and Pirlo was able to receive the ball in plenty of space, and therefore dictate his side’s passing.
Sebastian Giovinco has three goals in seven appearances for Juventus in the league this season and should have added to that total on 56 minutes when he picked up the ball in the 18 yard box and made room with some quick feet, but he shot well wide of the target. This shouldn’t take away from his overall performance on Saturday though. The striker had more shots than any other player and completed three successful dribbles. His movement, coming deep then stretching the play, caused Napoli’s backline all sorts of problems.
Asamoah v Maggio
As the diagram to the right best highlights, the majority of the match took place on the Juventus left/Napoli right hand side, and revolved around the battle between Maggio and Kwadwo Asamoah – it was the latter who came out on top. Maggio was restricted to making just one successful dribble by the Juventus wing back, although he did also make six crosses and win six aerial duels. However, Asamoah dominated that flank with 85% passing accuracy, six crosses, two key passes and perhaps most tellingly of all, he had five successful dribbles and was fouled five times. The battle on the other flank between Zuniga and Stephan Lichsteiner was not very influential on the game, with neither player really making much impact.
Juventus look solid
In honesty, Napoli never looked like scoring. Juventus kept the ball better, made better decisions and restricted the opposition to just four shots – only one of which was on target. The back three of Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini are both solid and unforgiving, the wing backs work incredibly hard out wide and Vidal and Claudio Marchisio do all the leg work so that Pirlo can look for pockets of space when Juventus win the ball back. The home side certainly showed they are capable of going unbeaten domestically again this year, and perhaps those in Europe’s top competition will start to turn their heads.
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