Serie A 2019/20: Juventus vs Lecce – tactical analysis
The signs on matchday 28 could hardly have been more different, as record champions Juventus faced U.S. Lecce. Ahead of the game, “la vecchia signora” was already in first place in the Serie A table. In addition, Lazio Rome (2nd place) lost their away game against Atalanta Bergamo on Wednesday. So, it happened that Juventus had the chance (at least for the time) to be ahead of Lazio by seven points. Lecce, however, was already in the run-up to 18th place and will continue to fight for relegation till the end of the season.
With a look at the last games, it becomes even clearer who went into the game as the big favourite. Juventus have only scored four goals in all competitions in the last five games, but they have only conceded one goal. After the COVID-19 break, Juventus remained without conceding a goal, although they still weakened in the offence. Nevertheless, Lecce lost three of their last five encounters, with an important win against SPAL and a surprise win against Napoli. The defence is particularly weak, having conceded 13 goals in the last three matches against Roma, Atalanta and Milan.
In this tactical analysis, we will delve into the tactics that decided the match and provide an in-depth analysis on how Juventus wore down Lecce before seizing control of the match in the second half.
When looking at the line-ups, Juve were the huge favourite to win this match. Maurizio Sarri lined up his team in the typical 4-3-3 formation. Some media thought of Sarri rotating to spare some important players like Cristiano Ronaldo. In contrast to that, Juventus started with their best possible first eleven and Sarri only changed in one position. Since Alex Sandro and Mattia De Sciglio are injured and Danilo was suspended, central midfielder Blaise Matuidi needed to play as a left full-back. Federico Bernadeschi, who played very well in the last match against Bologna, got the preference over Brazilian international Douglas Costa.
Fabio Liverani changed Lecce´s system from a 4-3-2-1 into a more defensive and compact 5-3-2 formation. Therefore, he changed in four positions as Brayan Vera, Nehuén Paz and Giulio Donati completed the backline and Yevgen Shakhov was used as the second striker together with Filippo Falco.
Lecce´s good start
Straight from the beginning, it was Lecce´s priority to hold the ball in their own ranks as long as possible and then trying to discharge it in Juventus´ half. As usual, Juventus pressed high up the pitch in their 4-3-3 formation. The image below provides a great example for their pressing intensity as Paulo Dybala even runs towards the opponent´s goalkeeper and Bernadeschi marked the ball-near centre-back. So, Juventus tried to interrupt Lecce´s build-up play and wanted them to play long-range passes from the back.
However, Lecce did a good job in the build-up play. Goalkeeper Gabriel was used as defender number six and played out short from the back with the centre-backs dropping deep to receive the ball in the own six-yard box. That is how they forced the first line of Juventus to press so high that spaces were opened up if the midfield and the defensive line would not push up as well.
In the following image, Lecce´s centre-backs dropped back to support their goalkeeper in the build-up play. Therefore, Bernardeschi was forced to press them in their own six-yard box. However, since Rodrigo Bentancur is still in the centre of the pitch, Vera is completely free on the left side. Once, Vera receives the ball, Bentacur and Bernardeschi will try to press him. Then, it is up to Lecce´s midfielders to provide passing options.
So, thanks to their system change from a back-four to a back-five, Lecce found solutions against Juventus´ high pressing and were able to overplay it. Crucial for that was the good movement of Lecce´s central midfielders who always recognized the space in the central areas on the pitch and filled them. Lecce´s Panagiotis Tachtsidis played a very good first half dropping deep and overplay Juventus´ pressure thanks to his pressing resistance.
In the situation below, Vera receives the ball from one of Lecce´s centre-backs and immediately was pressed by Bernardeschi and Bentancur. Because of Bentancur´s movement from the centre of the pitch to the sideline, he opened up a big space. This space was recognized by Tachtsidis several times as he filled it and therefore, could provide an efficient passing option for Lecce´s wing-backs in every situation. Juventus´pressing failed.
In these areas, they had enough time and space to receive the ball and pass it on through the centre or by switching the point of the attack with long-range diagonal passes to the right-wing. In this way, Lecce got several goal-scoring opportunities. So, Lecce was often able to be in possession in the opponent´s half during the first half.
In the following image, Tachtsidis just received the ball from Vera as he was surrounded by seven opponents. Smartly, he turns and switched the point of the attack. Because of the diagonal long-range pass to Lecce´s right wing-back, Lecce were able to hold the tempo high in their game and Juventus needed to move up to the ride side of the pitch.
Juventus´ difficulties in attack
Without possession, Lecce started to defend with their offensive line in their own half. So, they made sure to stay very compact in their 5-3-2 shape as the distance between their first and their last line were approximately 15 meters. This helped them a lot by closing down any space in the centre.
In the image below, we can see the centre covered by the three centre-backs, three central midfielders and two forwards. So, Lecce had always numerical superiority in these kinds of area and forced Juventus to play the ball out wide to the wings.
Juventus wanted to play centrally, but they were too predictable in their build-up play and the players in the offensive line were not creative enough to tear Lecce´s defensive block apart by making smart movements. Therefore, they were very slow in possession and did not open up any space in the centre which resulted in difficulties in the final third.
Ronaldo tried to drop back deep to receive some passes and to get some ball touches, because he did not get any passes into dangerous areas like zone 14, which is the area directly in front of the opponent´s penalty box.
That is the reason why Juventus tried to overplay Lecce´s defensive block on the wings. However, Matuidi was too defensive in the first half and rarely received passes. I picked the image below as an example: Miralem Pjanić is in possession looking for an efficient passing option. Ideally, Matuidi would move up the field to provide not only width but also height. By doing so, Dybala could move into a more advanced and central position on the pitch or even in behind the defensive line as well. Then, Lecce would have had problems to organize the marking for one moment.
Bernardeschi tried his best to come through the defensive line but ended up in the offside trap several times and so couldn’t create chances at all. In the following image, not just the offside of Bernareschi is remarkably but also that no Juventus player is in a central position in the orange marked area. That is why they only provided width but no depth in their game.
Juventus´ play was full of negligence and even big counter-attacking situations were not played out efficiently. In the situation below, they have a 3-vs.-2 situation, but Ronaldo played a failed pass to Paulo Dybala.
In general, there was no team creativity or individual creativity from Juventus and they struggled to create chances in the first half.
One man down
After Fabio Lucioni´s red card in minute 31, Liverani was forced to change his formation to a 4-3-2 with one man down. We can see that shape very well in the image below as the forwards are in an even more defensive position and the whole team dropped 10 meters deeper to focus on defending.
This automatically opened up space for Juventus on the wings, as Lecce still did a good job with a numerical superiority by closing down spaces in the central area on the pitch. In the following image, Dybala wass in possession in a central area. Nevertheless, the centre is completely closed by six Lecce players who were in a numerical superiority against Dybala, Ronaldo and Bernardeschi. Instead, Juventus´ wing-back Juan Cuadrado could use lots of space on the right-wing. Unfortunately for Juventus, Dybala was not able to pass the ball out wide to create a goal-scoring opportunity.
Juventus controlled the match in possession more and more at the end of the first half. However, even if Juventus got chances by crossing into the penalty area, they did not use them. In the following image, we can see Ronaldo completely free in front of the opposition´s goal. Normally, he would score a goal from these situations, but twice he failed to.
All in all, Juve played a weak first half without encouraging and they had problems to change their match plan (playing through the centre) as they did not make use of the space on the wings. However, even being outnumbered Lecce played a very good and tactical disciplined first half.
In the half time, centre-back Luca Rossettini came in for the injured central midfielder Jacopo Petriccione. That is how Liverani changed his backline to a five men defence again playing with a 5-3-1 formation. In fact, this tactical change led to the fact that Lecce did not find discharge anymore and were busy with defending. Therefore, they did not have possession in Juventus´ half anymore.
In the following image, we can see Lecce´s 5-3-1 shape without possession. Juve still did not use the whole width and depth of the pitch and they were looking for solutions.
Douglas Costa as a game changer
In the 52nd minute, right-wing Douglas Costa came in for central midfielder Adrien Rabiot. Right after his substitution, the Brazilian solved Juventus´ problems with his individual creativity and take advantage of the spaces on the wing. In the image below, you can see Costa with an overlapping run and followed by a dribbling from wide into the opponent´s penalty box in his first action. It was the first time, Juventus were dangerous coming from the width.
As you can see in the key pass map down below, Costa (11) provided the most key passes for Juventus after his substitution in the second half and therefore set Lecce´s defence under pressure very often. His substitution ignited new momentum to Juventus´game in the second half.
After 53 minutes, Dybala was able to score after Lecce´s Andrea Rispoli made an individual mistake. The goal was scored from zone 14. The area directly in front of Lecce´s penalty box and space, Lecce closed down particularly well in the first half. It was the first time that Lecce were unsorted and therefore, were not able to mark this area. Juventus immediately took advantage of that.
After that, Juventus finally played the typical “Sarri ball” with lots of dominant possession in the opponent´s half. Adding to that, Lecce´s players were not able to cover the central areas anymore as they played with only 10 men for nearly 30 minutes. That is why they did not close down the dangerous zone 14 anymore but tried to block Juventus´ shots. That worked out well until Ronaldo was fouled within the penalty area and scored the penalty in the 62nd minute. After 75 minutes, Lecce played in a 5-4-0 formation with the hope to concede no more goals. In the image below, you can see that Lecce dropped 5 metres deeper than before in this shape.
Because Lecce dropped too deep and nearly every single player were positioned directly in front of the penalty box, Juventus could even increase their powerplay and their dominance in possession within Lecce´s half. So, it was just a matter of time until they would score the 3:0 (Gonzalo Higuaín) and 4:0 (Matthijs De Ligt).
All in all, it was a deserved compulsory victory for Juventus. After a weak first half, they were dominant in the second half and with the substitution of Costa, they finally used the spaces on the wings. Ronaldo, who scored one goal and assisted two more goals, had two more big chances to score and to increase the result.
Lecce played a very good first half. Their match plan was then cancelled out because of the early red card. The following dwindling forces in the second half forced them to only being able to defend. This is why they had no chance to even earn a draw against Juventus. However, they will need to win the points in direct duels against their competitors in the relegation battle.