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If you’ve come to read an article analyzing Juventus vs Inter from a tactical point of view, you have come to the right place. Juventus hosted Inter on April 3rd, 2022 in a very important game. Inter was looking to stay close to the league-leaders AC Milan. Juventus was looking to widen the gap for 4th place and keep the title hopes alive. With just 8 league games left, the match was crucial for both sides.
The game did not disappoint. It did, however, disappoint Juventus fans. It was a tale of two halves. The first half was dominated by Juve against Inter’s will. However, Inter managed to take the lead in the dying minutes of the half through a controversial penalty. The second half was again dominated by Juventus, but this time Inter was happy to sit back and absorb the pressure. In the end, Inter walked away with all 3 points.
Juventus did not do much wrong. It created most (all?) chances, hit the post twice, and created good scoring opportunities. Inter ended the game with a single shot on target. That too from a completely avoidable penalty shot. But, it was all they needed.
Below, you can read how the game unfolded from a tactical point of view. If you are interested to see my pre-match thoughts (which I got completely wrong… for reasons…) you can read them here.
LINEUPS AND SETUPS
Against (my) expectations, Juventus lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with 3 forwards (and an offensive winger). It seemed unusual that Max Allegri would set his team up so offensively in such an important game. However, Atalanta losing a game earlier and ensuring they would not close the current 5 point gap could have emboldened Allegri to go for a win and keep the title hopes alive. It’s also worth noting that Juve has utilized 4-2-3-1 a few times this season when Max had healthy personnel for it (and the team looked pretty good too on these occasions).
As expected, Inter came out in a 3-5-2 formation.
GAME PLAN AND EXECUTION: ANALYZING JUVENTUS VS INTER
As I wrote above, this was a game of two halves. Both were dominated by Juventus, but for different reasons.
Juventus outshot Inter 22 to 5. Inter managed only 1 shot on target (from a penalty) to Juventus’s 5. In addition, Juventus hit the post twice. Corners 8:1 in Juve’s favor. Shots inside the box: 11:3 again in Juve’s favor.
In the first half, Juventus dominated Inter in every way. Inter simply had no answer. After Inter managed to score late in the first half, and against the run of play, they were happy to concede possession. Juventus struggled to break them down, just like they have struggled against low-block oppositions all year long. Let’s take a look at how things unfolded.
FIRST HALF: ANALYZING JUVENTUS VS INTER
Juventus started the game with high intensity. They were able to completely overpower Inter. They managed to do this by doing three things. Let’s take a loot.
- First, Juventus took the game to the flanks early on. Here, Juve tried to take advantage of their numerical superiority (two Juve players in wide positions on each side vs one for Inter). By doing so, they also ensured that Inter would not take advantage of their superior, (in both numbers and quality) central midfielders.
Right from the first minute taking the game to the sides was the plan. Watch how quickly Locatelli finds Cuadrado after he recovers the ball, who extends the game to Danilo even further out. (Below video).
Watch (below) how the game moves from Sandro on the left side to Danilo on the right very quickly. Danilo just as quickly moves the game up the field but keeps the possession on the right side by Finding Dybala and Cuadrado. Notice how 1) Dybala has moved all the way to the byline (which he does like to do) and 2) how quickly he switches possession all the way back to Sandro on the left side. Again, overlooking the central players to keep the ball in the wide position.
Again, Rabiot recovers the ball in the central area. It takes 3 very quick touches to get the ball to Cuadrado on the side.
In this below clip, we see three things that Juve did successfully against inter all game long. Watch carefully, as there is a lot to unpack.
1) The team pressed at the right moment. Notice how initially there is no high press. Juventus players are in their possessions and waiting for Inter to make a move. As soon as the good moment comes De Ligt and Rabiot close Dzeko down immediately as a team and recover the ball with ease. Juventus did this throughout the first half. They pressed many times, but they were very careful with their pressing and hardly got it wrong all game long.
2) Take a look at Locatelli. He has taken a passion right next to De Ligt, as a third center-back. This allows De Ligt to pounce on Dzeko 2 seconds later and recover the ball without having to worry about leaving open space behind him as he steps into that higher central area. Locatelli (Zakaria) and Rabiot did this quite frequently in this game. Their main task was not to build the game. But, they were excellent in breaking up the play, taking up crucial defensive positions, and advancing the ball very quickly to those players that were tasked with offensive creativity.
3) Keeping with the theme, soon after the ball is recovered, it finds itself with Cuadrado by the free-throw line.
Here is another clip (below). This one is from the second half. Once again, Look how quickly the game moves from Cuadrado to Sandro to Morata to Danilo. All four Juventus wide players are involved. Only two quick touches from Zakaria to keep the ball moving to the right.
Last one on this topic. Once again, Danilo and Cuadrado combine down the right side to create a pretty good chance. But, as was the theme of the game, the final touch was missing. This time, unfortunately, from Morata.
- Second, if/when Juventus did go centrally, they bypassed the midfield. When Juve could not go out wide, it moved the ball directly to the forwards in central areas. Once again, ensuring the team could avoid a battle in the central midfield area, which they were likely going to lose. Juventus has had difficulties dominating inferior teams with 3 midfielders. They were never going to win the battle playing with two. Looks like Max Allegri sensed the danger it would pose to challenge Inter in the middle of the field. Instead, he set the team up for success. offensively somewhat irrelevant, Juventus midfielders were excellent in defensive phases. The duo won many bottles and covered important spaces all game long.
In the clip below, you can see how Juventus tried to bypass its midfielders time and time again. They went directly to the strikers without getting the central midfielders involved. It also allowed Juve to try and hit Inter with a quick counter. They did manage to get in dangerous positions. But that was all they were able to do.
- Third, defensively, Juventus pressed exceptionally well; picking the right moments for it. They waited patiently for the right time to press. Finding good opportunities, Juventus hunted in packs to press the ball with multiple players and to cut passing options. Let’s take a look.
In this clip below, you can see Juve waiting patiently, allowing Inter to move the ball and keeping the shape as a team. As soon as Inter looks to advance into a more dangerous position, 3-4 Juventus players rush to close the ball down and cut passing lanes.
Here again (clip below), the video is a combination of two separate plays about 3-4 minutes apart. In both, as soon as the ball is lost, Juventus is ready to recover it by pressing the player and cutting out his passing lanes. In both clips, below and above, Juve is doing a terrific job. The team understands that it takes effort from multiple players working in unity to recover the ball. They did not run at 100 mph for the entire game. Instead, the team read the game really well to evaluate good pressing moments.
What you do not see is one player pressing with high intensity while the rest of the team is watching. That is a receipt for an unsuccessful pressing attempt.
In the clip below, you can now see just how smart Juventus was about pressing. When there is no good opportunity, the team conserves energy and falls back into a better tactical shape. Observe how as soon as the ball is lost, two attacking players try to cut forward passing lanes to prevent a counter, forcing Inter to move back/sideways while simultaneously two Juventus players retreat back in defense. Right after, the rest of the team drops deeper too. Not wasting energy on a ball recovery attempt that is unlikely to happen.
Here is another example of Juventus conserving energy and moving smartly (below video). Watch how it moves as a unit from side to side. The team is keeping good shape, cutting important passing lanes but at the same time moving somewhat slow; conserving energy. The team is allowing Inter to have the ball in a non-threatening position, while simultaneously forcing them to retreat. Ultimately, all passing lanes are cut out, so Inter defender is forced to take risks with a long pass. This leads to another recovery for Juventus.
This is why Inter walked away with close to 50% ball possession in the first half and 0 shots on target from an open play. Juventus picked the right moments to press with high intensity but also allowed Inter to keep the ball for extended periods where these ball possessions would not lead to anything dangerous.
SECOND HALF: ANALYZING JUVENTUS VS INTER
Analyzing Juventus vs Inter, the second half had a much different feel to it. Juventus continued to be in possession. More so than in the first half. They continued to attack from the sides and pressed. However, this time around, Inter was happy to allow it. Juventus has struggled all year against teams that sit deep and this game was no exception. Inter ensured they could keep the score by doing two things.
- First, Inter set back and defended deeper. They allowed Juventus to go in the wide positions. This time, they were ready to defend centrally. Take a look at the below clip. I used this earlier to show how quickly Juve moved from one side to another. But now let’s look at it from Inter’s perspective. They have all but two players behind the ball. The two, Lutharo and Dzeko, are also very close. More importantly, look how packed the central area is. Five to seven players are controlling the middle area at any given moment as Juve moves the ball from right to left and back to right. In the end, Juve crosses the ball that Inter players are happy to deal with.
The picture below gives another example. Inter has 9 players centrally. Cuadrado and Danilo are unmarked on the right side. Inter is keeping a compact shape; making sure nothing will get through the middle. Here, they are happy to defend another cross from Cuadrado/Danilo.
As you are reading this, you might ask if it was advantageous for Inter to let Juve attack from the sides, maybe it was not Max’s game plan after all. How come I wrote that Juventus was smart to attack from the sides initially but here, it’s Inter that is doing the smart thing by keeping Juventus out wide. The answer is simple. Until Inter scored their goal, they did not have the luxury to sit so deep to defend.
at 0:0 both teams needed to win. Both stats and eye test tell us that Inter simply had no answer to Juve’s ideas offensively or defensively. They did not create dangerous opportunities going forward. They also did little to stop Juventus from finding their own chances when Juventus attacked from the sides.
The situation changed with a 0:1 scoreline. In the second half, Inter had the luxury to find comfort in the defensive phase because they were able to defend with extra players without having to worry about offensive outlets. That is why attacking from the sides hurt them less in the second half.
- Second, Inter continued to slow the game down. They kept the possession when they were able to. Inter players were also smart enough to use tactical fouls to their advantage. They committed 19 fouls to Juve’s 9. They also committed 7 of those 19 fouls in the last 25 minutes of the game. Juve fouled only once during the same period
This is called game management. It is infuriating when you are on the receiving end of it, but there is little to nothing the ref can do about it. These small fouls do not warrant a red card. The best the ref can do is give many yellow cards, but that hardly does much. As a player, you should know when to risk a yellow. It is a calculated decision. From Inter’s perspective, they would have been happy to walk away with 11 yellow cards from this game.
Below is a video demonstrating how Inter managed to take advantage of these small fouls.
Juventus really did not do much wrong in this game. But when you lose a game, it is hard to pretend there were no mistakes. Here are three errors of Juventus.
- The Penalty. Juventus fans spend a lot of time debating the validity of the penalty. They also took issue with the penalty being retaken after Szczęsny saved the first attempt. However, from a tactical perspective, this was a terrible mistake by Sandro and Morata. They had surrounded Dumfries. He had nowhere to go. He could only go out of the box or pass back. The path towards the goal was closed. Here, Morata and Sandro should have let him walk out of the penalty box. Instead, they became physical and risked the penalty. It was a low IQ play from two experienced players which ultimately cost Juve all 3 points.
- Dybala was too passive in the middle. I was expecting Dybala to really dominate this game. Given how this could be his last Derbi d’Italia and how he will not be here. Winning this game would have kept Juventus’s dream of the title alive. I thought Dybala would have something to say about it. However, he was passive. Drifting out wide too often, even though Juventus already outnumbered Inter on the right side (Cuadrado and Danilo vs Perisic).
He did not play a bad game. But, it felt that he could have done more in the middle and closer to the box.