Serie A Women 2020/2021: Milan Women vs Juventus Women – tactical analysis
For the first time in italian football history, San Siro opened its doors for a women’s match on Monday and this occasion witnessed Italy’s classico between Milan Women and Juventus Women. The match ended with a Juventus’ precious win that put the team first in the table and gave more confidence to the whole squad since this win will be fundamental in determining Serie A Women’s winner later on.
Why? because beating a direct opponent in an away match can only be considered as a first step towards escaping from opposing teams and conserving the first spot.
Milan however lost three points that could have made the team gain points over their direct opponent Fiorentina who lost against Sassuolo. This first loss of the season therefore, made Milan equal in points with Fiorentina and Empoli who are now all in the third spot, while Sassuolo comes second behind Juventus.
The match was very balanced with the two teams trying to score first. Juventus were the team who scored early thanks to Cristiana Girelli’s penalty goal. Afterwards, and especially in the second-half, Milan showed their attacking power and created some dangerous chances but failed to equalise.
And in this tactical analysis article, we will delve deeper into both teams’ tactics and plans in an attempt to provide readers with a meticulous analysis of this clash as well as identifying Milan and Juventus’ strengths and weaknesses and most influential players.
For this game, the locals who are coached by Maurizio Ganz lined-up according to a 4-3-1-2 formation with Mária Korenčiová as a goalkeeper behind four defenders, Valentina Bergamaschi on the right flank, Laura Fusetti and Laura Agard as centre-backs and Linda Tucceri Cimini as a left-back.
The midfield was made-up of Refiloe Jane as a defensive midfielder and both Dominika Čonč and Claudia Mauri as central midfielders. In front of them, Ganz relied on Christy Grimshaw to link the midfield to the attack and provide both Milan forwards Natasha Dowie and Valentina Giacinti with passes.
Juventus, coached by Rita Guarino, played this match according to a 4-3-3 formation that was formed of Laura Giuliani as a goalkeeper and Tuija Hyyrynen on the right flank while Cecilia Salvai and Linda Sembrant played as centre-backs since the captain Sara Gama was injured.
On the left, Lisa Boattin played as a left back while the midfield was composed of three midfielders, Aurora Galli, Martina Rosucci and Sofie Junge Pedersen. In attack, Rita Guarino chose to play with three players, with Cristiana Girelli as a forward, Barbara Bonansea as a left winger who cuts inside so often to help Girelli, and Valentina Cernoia on the right-wing.
A frustrating loss for a promising Milan side
Milan did not start the match in the best possible way since most duels were won by Juventus who had more possession of the ball and made life harder for Milan’s midfield before scoring a goal early in the match. However, in times in which Milan had the opportunity of launching counter-attacks, they usually failed in the last and decisive pass.
You can see in this example how Dowie received the ball in a counter-attacking action and had the possibility of making a key pass to Giacinti to enable her to find herself in a one on one situation with Giuliani, Juventus’ goalkeeper. However, even though Dowie intended to pass the ball, she failed to make it reach Giacinti mainly due to Salvai’s crucial interception.
But despite this chance, both Giacinti and Dowie, which constitute the source of Milan’s attacking threat, were tightly marked by Juventus’ defenders as they were disturbed as soon as they received the ball. And this made Milan’s attacking chances less dangerous and reduced Milan’s forwards’ freedom with the ball in the box and even in midfield.
As you can see here, Giacinti and Dowie were always marked by two Juventus players and if they receive the ball a midfielder joins those two defenders to disturb Milan’s forwards even further and prevent them from passing or shooting. This shows that Rita Guarino read her opponent’s strengths very well and created solutions to alleviate Milan’s danger.
Ganz relied on Grimshaw in the first-half to create chances and provide passes to Dowie and Giacinti. But due to Juventus’ tight marking to these forwards, Grimshaw was not able to be effective as a trequartista since she had no clear passing options in attack and was usually surrounded by Juventus midfielders who were stronger than her in duels.
And this made Milan’s transition even more difficult and obliged Grimshaw to give more backward passes instead of feeding forwards with passes. And even when she was able to give them passes, they were not able to create danger due to Juventus’ defence.
Juventus’ penalty which was converted into a goal by Girelly happened due to both Tucceri’s advancement and not marking her direct opponent, and Čonč’s mistake in committing a foul that was not necessary.
As a left-back, Tucceri should have marked her direct opponent Cernoia and obliged her to pass the ball backwards or committing a foul on her outside the penalty area. But leaving a winger like Ceroia alone in the wing was a defensive mistake from Milan that enabled Juventus’ player to cut inside and get the penalty that she aimed for.
In the second-half, Milan became more dangerous in attack and created many chances while Juventus dropped back and chose to secure their win by defending and relying on counter-attacks when possible.
With the subbing of Miriam Longo in the place of Čonč, and moving Grimshaw to play as a central midfielder while Longo as a trequartista, Milan started to reach the final third more often since Longo was more dynamic, physically powerful and able to provide her teammates with more key passes.
This change in Milan’s tactics enabled Grimshaw to have more freedom in midfield and find more spaces especially on the right wing. And Longo was intelligent in many instances to provide her and Mauri with passes on both wings to create crossing opportunities. However, what lacked was the precision of passes and crosses in the final third.
Despite Juventus’ strong defending, Milan were able to create danger many times in this match especially in the last 30 minutes but failed to score mainly due to poor decision-making at times, and due to the lack of shooting/passing accuracy at other times.
For instance, in this action Longo made an excellent effort in running past Juventus’ midfielders thanks to her physical strength but in the end she preferred to shoot even though she knew that her shot would be stopped by the defenders who are one step away from her.
This action would have been more dangerous if Longo crossed the ball to Giacinti who was ready to run and receive the ball in the back of Juventus’ defender. Moreover, Grimshaw was without marking on the right wing and could have created something dangerous if she received a through ball in the back of her direct opponent who was not aware of her presence.
An important first step towards the title for Juventus
Juventus knew how to win over Milan by experience, talent and realism. In the first-half, they were aggressive on the ball and disturbed Milan’s build-up from the back as well as their two dangerous forwards. And at the same time, they created some chances and the danger was created mainly on the wings through the accelerations and crosses of both Bonansea and Cernoia.
Moreover, the interchangeability of roles between Juventus’ three attacking players created space for them in the back of Milan’s defence. And changing positions enabled them to escape direct marking as well.
For instance, in this action Bonansea cut inside and had two passing options with only one defender against them. And these two players were Cernoia in the center and Girelli coming from the wing as if she was taking the place of Cernoia. Yet, even though Girelli received the ball in a shooting position and without much disturbance from Milan’s defender, she opted for passing and therefore missed a scoring chance.
Juventus were better than Milan in exploiting their opponent’s mistakes though, by getting a penalty and scoring it. However, following the penalty Milan obviously wanted to make a reaction and started attacking and Juventus opted for continuing their high pressing and preventing Refiloe Jane, Milan’s defensive midfielder, from getting the ball.
And if she gets it, three and sometimes four Juventus players surround her to prevent her from passing the ball forward, like you can see in this picture.
Nevertheless, Milan were able to create a lot of threat in Juventus’ final third especially in the second-half when Juvetus preferred to drop back and defend more than looking for a second goal. So by relying on Longo in the center and on the wings at times and on long-balls at other times, Milan were very close to equalising in many instances. They also pressed high on Juventus’ defence which made the latter struggle in keeping the ball and in building from the back easily.
And this enabled Milan to attack with more numbers and more determination especially in the last 30 minutes of the game in which Juventus were not able to get out of their half only for a few times. And if the two centre-backs Salvai and Sembrant were not attentive enough throughout the game, Juventus could have conceded the equalising goal.
Moreover, what helped Juventus to maintain their win is the subbing of valuable players with players with almost the same efficacy and who are obviously not tired. Players like Lina Hurtig, Andrea Stašková, Arianna Caruso and Maria Alves made a good impact as soon as they were subbed on and helped Juventus create some chances upfront especially in the last minutes of the game. And this enabled the team to win some time over Milan and give some rest to Juventus’ defenders.
In the following action, Stašková gave a precious key pass behind Milan’s defenders for Alves who failed to exploit it. However, generally speaking, these players helped a lot in maintaining Juventus’ win in the last minutes of the game when Milan were more determined than even to equalise.
It is fair to say that both teams did their best to win this important match, however, some players did stand out as game-changers and played better than others.
For Juventus, Salvai and Sembrant were excellent in defence and contributed by a large part in Juventus’ win by marking Dowie and Giacinti effectively most of the time. Also, the trio of Bonansea, Girelli and Cernoia created problems for Milan’s defence and were the source of the goal.
Concerning Milan, Agard was the player who did an excellent job in defence and helped accurately in the build-up phase as well. Also, Bergamaschi was very energetic and made a very good performance despite the loss since she was solid defensively and contributed to the attack so often through her passes, accelerations, crosses and penetrations into the box as well.
Moreover, Longo was a game-changer for Milan since her entrance made Milan more effective in their attacks and more determined to score when reaching the final third. She linked the midfield to the attack through her accelerations and physical strength and made a lot of key passes to her teammates on the wings as well. But what lacked the whole team was the inability to make the right decisions in crucial attacking moments.
This Juventus win will surely give the team more confidence and determination to continue on this right path especially against their direct opponents and soon in Champions League too. However, they need to do better in attack in the future in order to secure games earlier and avoid suffering until the last minutes.
The match can also be considered as a referral point for Milan because it showed the team’s weaknesses, even though it was the first loss for Milan this season. And therefore, it will give more motivation for the players to do much better in the coming fixtures especially when knowing that they will soon face another direct opponent, Fiorentina.