Juventus 3-3 Sampdoria: All-out-attack from both sides produces a superb match

September 13, 2010

The starting line-ups

A brilliant, open, end-to-end classic as Miloš Krasić and Antonio Cassano dominated the game.

Sampdoria continued with the interesting Roma/Brazil-esque shape they used against Werder Bremen, with Franco Semioli wide on the right, Daniele Dessena tucked in on the other side, and Antonio Cassano drifting in from the left. They were without Giampaolo Pazzini, so Nicola Pozzi came in, whilst Vladimir Koman played an attacking midfield role.

Gigi Delneri played his usual all-out-attack 4-4-2 system, with Fabio Quagliarella partnering Alessandro Del Piero. Felipe Melo was the holding player, with Claudio Marchisio just ahead.

The first thing to note was the fact that each side was only fielding one defensive midfielder – very rare, in an age of 4-2-3-1s. Felipe Melo and Angelo Palombo were both exposed too often by their teammates, and this was the main reason for the extremely open game.

Juventus were trying to exploit this by dropping both Del Piero and Quagliarella into deep-lying positions, to the point where Juventus often looked like they weren’t playing with any strikers. Sampdoria’s centre-backs found this difficult to deal with, as they were reluctant to come out from the defensive line, but Juventus’ early interplay wasn’t good enough to manufacture many goalscoring opportunities.

Sampdoria start strongly

The first genuine chance came when Melo’s midfield stumble on the ball resulted in Pozzi going clear, and missing a one-on-one. Whilst the chance can be attributed to a simple slip rather than a tactical error, this did highlight how much responsibility Melo had in that postion, with Krasić, Marchisio and Simone Pepe all playing high up the pitch.

Both Juventus and Sampdoria’s primary aim was to get the ball into wide zones – doubtless the Delneri impact on both. Sampdoria floated balls out towards Cassano, who constantly beat Marco Motta by drifting in from a left-sided position, Thierry Henry style. He created the first goal from this role, cutting the ball back towards Koman, who stepped over the ball for Pozzi to smash into the net.

Juventus strong down the right

Juve’s main threat came when they had a man over on the right-hand side. With the popularity of one-striker formations, teams are so used to having a spare man at the back that when they face two strikers, and have 2 v 2 in that position, they miss the extra cover. Therefore, the full-backs played much narrower than usual to offer an insurance policy there, and this often creates space on the flanks.

Few managers are brave enough to try and exploit that with two out-and-out wingers in addition to two out-and-out strikers, but Delneri is. Pepe and Krasić swapped sides and both found themselves free when Reto Ziegler became dragged out of position (as did Quagliarella when he drifted to that flank) and with Sampdoria playing no true left-sided midfielder, that side was always going to be a danger.

Juventus were also doing very well to get the winger on the opposite side to play into the box to provide a goalscoring threat, and Krasić kept popping up at the far post to provide aerial danger. When he switched to the left he created Juve’s equaliser, knocking the ball down for Marchisio’s late run into the box.

Second half

The game was similar after half-time, and Krasić was again involved in most of Juventus’ good moves. His superb cross from the right wing into the six-yard box created mayhem, and Pepe eventually converted from practically on the goalline, possibly from an offside position. Cassano didn’t want to be overshadowed, and he hit back soon after from that left-sided position – drifting in unmarked to meet a Palombo chip over the defence, and sidefooting home.

Both sides were content with their starting shapes for most of the second half, with a couple of ’straight swaps’  but no major formation or tactical shifts, and both sides persisted with their intention of getting the ball to their wide players. Pepe created the fifth goal by cutting in from the left and shooting – the rebound hit the post and fell to Quagliarella, who tapped in. Six minutes later, Guido Marilungo (who had replaced the ineffectual Semioli) fired in a brilliant cross that was headed home by Nicola Pozzi.

Delneri substitutes

With 15 minutes to go, we seemed to be set up for a brilliant finale, but Delneri made the slightly strange decision of taking off both Krasić and Pepe, introducing Alberto Aquilani and Vincenzo Iaquinta, and going 4-3-3. Although Iaquinta went close, withdrawing Krasić (who had been involved in two goals) and Pepe (who was involved in all three) off the pitch was a disappointment, and the final ten minutes was the least exciting period of the game.


With both sides sides fielding only one holding player, the poor defending in this game was a good advert for the use of a ‘double pivot’ in the centre of midfield. All too often, either side’s attacking midfield players was able to drive at the opposition defence straight away, with no need to pass or dribble through a midfield – hence why there were so many goals and goalscoring chances.

The use of Del Piero, Quagliarella, Krasić and Pepe made Juventus an exciting side going forward, but they were always likely to be exposed at the back with simple counter-attacks from Sampdoria, who got the ball quickly to Cassano to run at the hapless Motta. It remains to be seen whether Delneri has the right set of players to make his 4-4-2 / 4-2-2-2 work.

Sampdoria will be delighted at managing to score three goals away from home against a top side despite the lack of their main striker, but their defending was very poor. Ziegler got himself into som dreadful positions (as against England), although in fairness he never had cover from either a left-sided holding player, or a left winger.

Neither side deserved to lose the game after putting on such an entertaining spectacle, but neither side deserved to win it having defended so poorly.

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