Club Features, Features

Exploring a lineup change for Juventus

May 12, 2016 - 7:49 am

Juventus have dominated Serie A during the last five seasons, winning five Scudetti in a row. Massimiliano Allegri has been in charge for two seasons now, taking over from Antonio Conte in 2014.

Allegri used the 3-5-2 lineup predominantly this season, winning 25 of their last 26 games before losing a meaningless game at Hellas Verona as Luca Toni said goodbye to football with a Panenka penalty kick.

However, that proved to be a switch from the 2014/15 season, in which Allegri’s favourite 4-3-1-2 lineup was used the most, a massive switch from Conte’s final season as the Azzurri coach played 3-5-2 in all Serie A fixtures.

The following table summarizes the different lineups used by Allegri and Conte during their time in Turin:

Lineup     2015/16     2014/15     2013/14     2012/13      2011/12

3-5-2              26                 17                  38                 33                   10

4-3-2-1            7                  19                   /                    /                     /

4-3-3               3                   1                    /                    1                     23

4-4-2               1                    1                   /                     /                     5

3-4-2-1            /                    /                  /                     4                     /

To conclude: Conte switched from a 4-3-3 lineup to a 3-5-2 one as he started trusting a three-man defence with Leonardo Bonucci. Meanwhile, Allegri implemented the 4-3-1-2, but had to stick to the 3-5-2 along the way. No wonder, the Old Lady were drilled non-stop playing that lineup by Conte and lineup stability is key to success.

Time for a change?

This season, the Bianconeri used a 4-3-1-2 formation on seven occasions. That resulted in four wins (Milan, Torino, Atalanta twice), two draws (Chievo, Bologna) and one loss (Napoli), and a 9-4 goal difference. Decent, but not exactly dominant in any way according to Juventus standards.

However, with Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, and Stephan Lichtsteiner getting older, and injuries hitting the defence, it might be time for Allegri to go back to his favourite formation, therefore using a four-man defence. The 48-year-old loves individual skill to create and finish chances, while Conte focused much more on the creative power of his system and tactics derived from it.

The current squad should be able to do well in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Alex Sandro has proven to be a strong left-back, while Lichtsteiner occupies the right flank. At centre-back, there are four options with Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci and Daniele Rugani. Giving the first two more time to rest during the season, as only two CB’s are required. Meanwhile, Juve have played a three-man midfield and two-man attack many times in the 3-5-2, meaning that transition shouldn’t be a big issue.



Missing link: the trequartista

There’s really only one problem for Allegri to transform Juve from a team used to playing 3-5-2 to one predominantly playing 4-3-1-2, and that’s the absence of a true trequartista. Paulo Dybala and Paul Pogba have been the Bianconeri’s best (and only) playmakers this season, providing a total of 20 assists in Serie A. However, Dybala plays at his best in a role as secondary striker while Pogba is also necessary in midfield with his superior box-to-box qualities, running, ability to win one-on-one duels, and fighting spirit.

Therefore, Juventus have to hunt for a creative player to play behind a two-man attack. A player who has the necessary vision, passing skills, mentality, and X-factor level to make a difference, especially in the Champions League. Domenico Berardi should be able to play this position in the future, like Kevin De Bruyne has been able to do at Manchester City and Belgium, transitioning from the wing to a more central role.

However, the Bianconeri want to win now and should give Berardi, if he joins, the chance to grow steadily. The likes of Andre Gomes, Miralem Pjanic, Oscar, Isco, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Javier Pastore and James Rodriguez have been rumoured to be on the Old Lady’s radar during the summer transfer window. It’s obvious Allegri is planning to make the switch, making this kind of transfer crucial to Juve’s success next season.

It will work

But the question that, in the end, remains: will Juventus benefit from such a lineup change? The 3-5-2 has given this club enormous success. Just think about this: five consecutive Scudetti, their first Coppa Italia in 20 years, three Italian Supercups, and one Champions League final. So why bother changing a system that has proven to be so successful during the past five seasons?

There’s just one answer to this question: winning their first Champions League since 1996. At Europe’s biggest stage, the Bianconeri played a three-man defence and a four-man defence both four times this season. The results: 7 points with three at the back, 5 points with four at the back. However, Juve won at Manchester City and brought Bayern Munich to the brink of elimination using a four-man defence. And they went to the 2015 final using the 4-3-1-2.

Playing four at the back gives Juventus more defensive stability, while the midfield is able to focus on playing forward rather than making sure the defence isn’t overrun. That, in turn, gives the Old Lady more offensive power, definitely with a strong playmaker combining with a wizard like Dybala. In Serie A, Juve can win using almost any lineup, but in Europe the 4-3-1-2 might be their best chance.

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  • Avatar
    Moderator May 12, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Just read a sobering assessment of Juve’s potential mercato this summer which ties in with the great job Vince has done of looking at our possible lineup.

    From the article i read, it sounds like Morata could well leave, and we will invest in another striker to replace him, likely an Italian.
    No chance on Gotze, Rodriguez and all he other big names – too expensive and we don;t want to compete for their signatures.
    Pjanic might be a far flung option, but our relationship with Roma off the pitch is actually quite good, hence us not wanting to ruffle any feathers by going after him.
    A defender is a priority for Caceres who is definitely leaving.
    Lirola will come up from the youth team to get some time in the first team
    We will be sending 2 kids to Empoli and will perhaps get Tonelli or someone else in return
    Gomes is wanted by many – Beppe has made an offer but it’s yet to be accepted

    The long and short of it seems to be about money – Bayern and the like spending millions while we can’t really compete with the heavy investment and bidding wars for players.

    Sounds like, if this article is right, we’ll be shopping local and not overreaching……food for thought

    • Avatar
      BelgianJuventino May 12, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Perhaps we could add Berardi, Saponara, De Sciglio and Tonelli? Would cover all the roles we are in the hunt for and all of these are young Italians

      • Avatar
        ADP#10 May 13, 2016 at 1:27 am

        I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, but I don’t think shopping in Italy only will really help us get to that next level. Allegri has been asking for a top class TQ for a long time, if we don’t get that this summer mercato, we can’t really demand a Champions League title next year. Allegri, Marotta, Buffon, and co. have said that we just need 2-3 world class additions to the squad and we will be set, but if we don’t have the money to compete then there is not much we can really do. If we ONLY shop in Italy, I feel like we will have to push above our weight to challenge for the Champions League, but I believe we can do that.

        • Avatar
          BelgianJuventino May 13, 2016 at 5:36 am

          Fully agreed, though I think Berardi is a potential world class player, he just hasnt had the chance yet to play on the big stage.

          But then again, Saponara and Tonelli could also become great players.. De Sciglio is probably the most doubful due to his injury history.

          They would set us up with future Azzurri players, which has always been the Juve backbone.

          But they alone will not suffice for CL glory, at least not as soon as next season.

      • Avatar
        Moderator May 13, 2016 at 7:48 am

        Bish, bash, bosh ! i like that mate – all decent options, all could cover the positions we need covering in – all would be cheap, all know the league and all would grow under Allegri and the team.

        • Avatar
          BelgianJuventino May 13, 2016 at 8:04 am

          Exactly! Good long term investments, fitting for Juve. Future Azzurri too, which is important.

          I like it too, but I also think we need established players who can help winning the CL right now.

          But then the bill would be even bigger.. Sigh!

      • Avatar
        Vincent Van Genechten May 13, 2016 at 9:11 am

        Now that would be fun! Just need that one star playmaker and done!

        • Avatar
          BelgianJuventino May 13, 2016 at 9:38 am

          Indeed, one big star and those four would form a great Mercato for me. Now that one star eh! Pjanic, Hamsik, Gotze, Isco, Oscar, Gomes, Mkhitaryan… One of these or someone of their calibre should be lured!

    • Avatar
      Dar Black May 12, 2016 at 6:23 pm

      No way! Check out today’s 9 month financial statement on https://www... ‘The first nine months of the 2015/2016 financial year closed with a profit of € 36.1
      million, posting a positive change of € 41.9 million compared to the loss of € 5.8
      million registered in the same period a year earlier.’

      We are not short of cash.

      What / who is the source of the article? Are they credible? Based on what Agnelli said in the Buffon / Barzagli presc conference it seems very odd when it was clearly stated that CL is now THE priority next season.

    • Avatar
      ADP#10 May 13, 2016 at 1:39 am

      If Morata leaves for 30M, which Italian striker can we get to replace him? I thought Berardi was going to come in for 25M anyway, regardless of Morata’s situation. In my opinion, we already have the best Italian striker in Zaza, and surely not Lapadula to instantly replace Morata? Even if we extend the limit to players in Serie A, there are only a couple of realistic alternatives to Morata, someone like Icardi, Bacca, or El Sharaawy, although we would never get them on the cheap.

      James I can understand, he is far too expensive, but Gotze surely is within our budget? I can’t see him being worth more than 20-25M, especially now considering that he is not wanted by Bayern. Liverpool is nowhere near us in terms of quality, but they can easily better us in an economic sense, so I’ll be damned if Gotze doesn’t end up there, plus the Klopp factor is important.

      I’ve stated on some other article that a stronger Roma pushes Juve harder, so I wouldn’t mind them keeping Pjanic and Nainggolan. It makes calcio as a whole better too. Let them have Caceres too if he wants it, and I hope for his own sake he can last more than 10-15 games a season now.

      So Lirola is the back up RB to Lichtsteiner, the one that we have stated for a long time that we need? That’s a bit underwhelming, but I’ve only seen 5 minute highlights of him so I’ll reserve further judgement. Tonelli is the only deal that so far seems positive.

      A sobering article indeed, but whatever the final outcome, I believe in Max Allegri to get the best out of the resources he is given.

      • Avatar
        Moderator May 13, 2016 at 7:47 am

        From what i read, it would be someone local but it might change – The news today is that it might be Cavani who is a standby option if Morata leaves.

        I ‘d never want Icardi anywhere near Juve – dreadful mentality and an average striker in a poor club 🙂 Thats just my take on him though.

        I read Ancelotti has told Gotze: “If you want more regular playing time, you’ll have to leave Bayern 🙂
        What does that say about him though ? Jesus, if he can’t break into their team, he must have some issues – Imagine leaving Dortmund as a superstar to join Bayern and live on the bench! I like him though, could be a long shot, but i can;t help but feel if he is on the market, United or someone else will snap him up…..plus he’ll take the side where he gets the most money.

        You make a really good point on a strong Roma – We need the opposition – They will challenge nxt season and make a good push for the title.
        I think Lirola will be a back up and understudy to Lichty and another player, like Rugani was across the back 3 – other CB’s ahead of him, but in some games, he could play – Allegri really likes to ease them in, not overwhelm them. i like that.

        Take a look at the other player we were linked with today – Gaby Jesus – i just posted a really brief story – GdS and some others are saying we made a bid !

        • Avatar
          ADP#10 May 13, 2016 at 2:26 pm

          Now that Ibra confirmed his departure from PSG, I can see Cavani staying there. Regardless, it would be almost impossible for him to accept a wage reduction to that on par with Pogba and Dybala, as TGP mentioned earlier. So basically, Cavani staying where he is is most likely IMO.

          I know there’s a lot to dislike about Icardi, but even with my huge bias against his useless team, I think he is a quality striker. I have no comments to make about him as a man and why he wouldn’t fit Juve, I don’t think anyone knows enough about that situation. I know he plays for Inter now, but you have to start somewhere :).

          If Gotze doesn’t come to us, then I don’t care where he goes. On Lirola, I just thought he would get loaned out first, as is the norm. But maybe Allegri thinks he is too good for that!

          • Avatar
            Moderator May 13, 2016 at 3:42 pm

            You are right there, ADP – i have a habit of letting my assessment of the ‘man’ and not just the ‘player’ enter into my judgement. The truth be told, i prefer the classy players because it fits in with the ones we already have. Something about Icardi…. he seems like a diva, talks too much and wants his own way – now he’s bossed around by his wife…..i just don’t like that kind of setup – last guy who let his wife dictate things left us for Real Madrid for 40m ! 🙂

          • Avatar
            ADP#10 May 13, 2016 at 4:43 pm

            Hahaha yes I agree with you my friend, there is a certain lack of class that is pretty evident from Icardi. I am just saying, as a footballer he is right up there with Morata, and to be fair to him his goalscoring record while playing for a significantly poorer team is much better than Morata’s.

            Hmmm which player left us for Real Madrid for 40M on his wife’s insistence, I can’t remember off the top of my head.

    • Avatar
      Vincent Van Genechten May 13, 2016 at 9:10 am

      I don’t agree on the statement that Juve has no chance of luring in “the big names”. Why not? You don’t have to spend a massive amount, but just pay big on 2-3 players. Like Bayern has done for years. But you have to spend to win, especially if Juve are serious about winning the CL.

      • thegutterpoet
        thegutterpoet May 13, 2016 at 12:29 pm

        Given the massive upsurge in funds for the premiership clubs, financially speaking we will be unable to compete with transfer fees and wages with most of the top half of the premier league. Bayern’s pile of gold is vastly higher than our own. And whilst I agree with the value of adding a couple of top drawer players each season, to do so means that we will need to fend off much brighter treasures from especially premier league clubs, not just Real, Barca, Bayern but even West Ham!

        Take Batshuayi for example…young, spritely, lightning quick, and clearly for sale. The Irons are after him, can afford to pay more in transfer fee and wages, and so it leaves our allure as a project, as a club vying for top honours, as a storied club of glory. Talk of Sanchez and Rodriguez and Gotze seems to lead to the wage structure in place, where presently the top earner is Pogba on 4.5m, being completely demolished. For if West Ham can offer 7m per season, and we match that, or get near it, assuming champions league football and our prestige make up the difference, what will Pogba and Dybala and co think? Why should a newcomer, unproven in Serie A, unproven in the champions league, earn so much more than them. This will not happen, for we will not break our wage structure. Players must want to play for Juve, more than seek primarily riches. Yet how many players can this be said of? How many players have more interest in emulating their boyhood heroes? Dybala seems one, rare and precious.

        I contest, Vince, that we are unable to match many other clubs financial reach and this is set to worsen. Why did Aguero choose City over Juve? Why did Sanchez choose Arsenal over Juve? Money. Nothing more, nothing less. Just money.

        When the winning team in Serie A earns the same from TV money as the bottom team in the premier league, the gulf is certain to grow wider…which adds weight to our focus on developing youth and making careful punts on talent yet to become established at the top level.

        • Avatar
          Vincent Van Genechten May 13, 2016 at 1:39 pm

          The imbalance in European football is just nuts… No matter the Financial Fair Play rules.

        • Avatar
          Moderator May 13, 2016 at 3:48 pm

          As always, TGP is able to articulate things in an elegant and informative manner that far exceeds my own limited responses !

          Totally agree with everything you said there – This is the reality that we face. When a kid like Draxler is turning us down to join a team in the BuLi that he KNOWS will never be competing for the title, what does that say about the state of football today?

          We can beat Man City on the pitch, but off it, there’s no chance we’re going to pay the mad salaries these players are on. And rightly so. Players at Juve aren’t there for the money or the glory – they want to be part of something unique.

          Dybala, as you rightly say, is a true jewel – A player that fought to get to Juve – he wanted us as much as we wanted him. That is such a rare commodity – the same goes for Polpo – look at his interview the other day – winning is all he cares about, not the colour of currency.

          I am so grateful, so damn grateful for the players we have. In these fickle times, we have men that fight for the shirt and want to stay with us, through thick and thin – There is no price you can place on that

          • thegutterpoet
            thegutterpoet May 14, 2016 at 1:33 am

            Brilliant to read as I nurse my regular Saturday morning hangover, my friend! And now for the pool…sink or swim eh!

      • Avatar
        Moderator May 13, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        For me, it goes back to Beppe’s words and actions. He’s not inclined to go all out and enter a bidding war for talents who are tracked by all of Europe’s elite. He always stresses that he’s looking for quality thats affordable – thats how we’ve improved our financial situation and bought the club back into the black.

        Look at the seasons gone by – Van Persie, Aguero, Dzeko, Draxler – There’s a lesson to be learned here

  • Avatar
    Moderator May 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Nice assement here Vince – i’d like to see us try another formation that is more to Allegri’s choosing – something that allows for a little more invention in the middle of the pitch – i wouldn;t mind sacrificing a CB for some more attacking intent.

    Strong case made for a switch after all these years – great work Vince !

  • Avatar
    BelgianJuventino May 12, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Enjoyable read indeed, I personally like a 4-man defense more, because it is nicer to look at.

    Besides that, if Allegri decides to continue 3-5-2 and wins, I wont mind it too much, Hehe

  • thegutterpoet
    thegutterpoet May 13, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Interesting, timely article, Vince, on what I and many others have been pondering season upon season. When will the 3-5-2 era end and must it really?

    From what I have seen the 3-5-2 is far more solid defensively than a flat back four. Wtih 3 CBs only one of whom ever pushes high up the field and two wing-backs, again, mainly one of them attacks at one time, and also a player in the regista position who screens the defence, it can be and has been rock solid so many times.

    However, the cost of the extra body in the middle at the back, of the extra defensive strength, is to lessen the bodies in midfield and attack, which is why we often see Dybala coming deep for the ball and the other striker isolated. Any formation with one less CB is going to be more attacking.

    As the manager has stated, his formations are fluid, and often what we see on the field does not perfectly illustrate the positions of the formation on screen or paper. Having more offensive talent on the field levels out the absence of the defensive strength it has replaced by offering greater chance of possession higher up the field and also should lead to more chances created. 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2, 4-3-2-1 are all slight variants of a simple 4-3-3 with one striker surely remaining a reference point, and the other two roaming, swapping, dragging defenders all over the place, allowing the midfield to drive through the gaps.

    There was no 3-5-2 formation whenever Cuadrado played on the right, regardless of the records and stats. That was far closer to 4-4-1-1 in look and feel.

    The nut of the matter is that we could do with adding creativity to the side, as you rightly pointed out. I would argue that Sandro has also brought creativity which has been absent from the left flank since Asamoah (mainly due to injury) gave way to Evra.

    As I mentioned elsewhere and added to the words of Linez, the opinion of Beppe and Fabio will surely be that we dominated the league despite major upheaval and horridly consistent misfortune with injuries, we are in the coppa final and were very unfortunate indeed not to progress in Europe. Which does not scream for major renovation. That work was done last Summer, on the back of the huge haul of gold earned from our champions league campaign. Which has hugely lessened this term. We do not have the funds or need to compete with clubs to sign players for huge fees. The only certain needs are a RB and suitable replacement for Marchisio in the DM role.

    This could change if Morata leaves. It seems odd that Cavani is the only striker I know of who Beppe may have mentioned, albeit in admiration of his ability. Still, he knows the league. And would be a strong signing. Other than which the only potentially sizeable move we seem sure to make is for DM. Unless Khedira is going to move central and Sturaro/Lemina share the CMR position. Bring in Mandragora and we could be fine.

    Also Zaza seems unsettled, which is fine, I’ll happy see his fee used to bring in Berardi. A strike force of Dybala, Cavani, Mandzukic, Berardi will offer more options and a wonderful mix of established and up and coming talents.

    As for young Pol…I have read the rumours of his progression to the senior squad, yet still find it far-fetched at present. What adds some weight to the idea is that indeed he has had a sterling campaign, we have an opening and I am yet to find any repeated links to other clubs, which I have done for most of the other primavera starlets. Perhaps Allegri will run the rule over the flying wingback over the Summer when he can train with the seniors. Given his lack of making any of the senior squads when we have had only one recognised RB his promotion seems anything but assured. Would be great to see though!