Antonio Conte showed his team’s tactical flexibility as he switched to a 3-5-2 formation to combat Udinese’s similar shape and did so with great success. A 2-1 victory on the night may be too small a reward for the victors who convincingly beat their opponents at their own shape. With similar formations in a notational sense the tactical battle was shaped by contrasting styles of play.
I Bianconeri patiently build their attacks from the back and looked to dictate the tempo of the match through regista (deep lying playmaker) Alessandro Pirlo. Francesco Guidolin’s men had success minimizing the former Milan midfielder’s impact early on. However, the home team with a 4v2 advantage in this area utilized one of the two spare men to bring the ball forward and initiate attacks if the playmaker was tightly marked. The wingbacks were deployed in advanced positions in an attempt to pin their counterparts back and gain territorial advantage. The Turin unit’s shape in the attacking phase was basically a 3-1-2-4.
Le Zebrette is a counter attacking team who usually invites their opponents onto them in order to capitalize on the gaps left at the back. Each time they were in possession they attempted to get the ball forward to create chances with the fewest number of passes. They also did not commit many players to attacks as Juventus did. Their wingbacks, in contrast to the hosts’ joined the attack late, only when space opened up in front of them. Midfelders, Almen Abdi, Mauricio Isla and Pablo Armero, were responsible for providing support to Antonio Di Natale and getting the ball to him. Serie A’s Capocannoniere for the last two seasons who is the pivot of their attack had a difficult task influencing the game as he came up against three central defenders.
The Old Lady dominate via space between the lines
Once the 27 times Serie A champions got into their stride they had little difficulty linking up play from the back to the front. Their midfielders and forwards did well finding space between the Fruili team’s midfield and defensive line. This space was created by Gelson Fernandes being forced to leave his holding position between the lines one to provide cover for one of his fellow midfielders who had to close down one of the spare men the home team had in a deep position initiating the attack. This helped Juventus dominate, as winning the ball back in the midfield is vital to Udinese’s system.
Contrasting substitutions yield same results
Coach Guidolin was the first to make a tactical switch as he brought on the forward Antonio Floro Flores for attacking midfielder Abdi. In the first half, the Swiss midfielder was often too deep to support Di Natale. His replacement’s duty was to play alongside the talismanic striker giving them a favourable 2v3 match up against the opposition defense. The Treviso born tactician change paid off as the substitute finish a counter attacking move which they outnumbered the opposition 3v2.
In search for the winner Antonio Conte did the opposite to his counterpart and withdrew a forward and brought on a midfielder. Due to the space being afforded just in front of the defense the former Juventus captain obviously saw it beneficial to bring on Claudio Marchisio to drop into this pocket of space and create chances for goal poacher Alessandro Matri. It did not take long for the lifelong Bianconeri fan to setup his Azzurri teammate with a lovely bit of invention. The midfielder’s presence also helped the host retain possession and see out the victory.
Udinese switched to a 4-4-2 and even utilised a more patient build up later on. But they soon ran out of ideas and an equaliser never looked forthcoming.
Antonio Conte was the clear winner in this tactical battle as his deployment of his players ensured that they had spare men in key positions. This way he was able to nullify le Zebrette’s threat and give his team the best chance of winning.