Juventus 0-1 Milan: leaders win poor game

March 5, 2011

The starting line-ups

Rino Gattuso’s scrappy goal settled a game lacking in creativity.

Gigi Delneri made various changes, with Gianluigi Buffon, Armand Traore, Luca Toni and Frederik Sorensen all coming into the side, in the usual 4-4-2.

Max Allegri was without Pato, so Antonio Cassano started alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Kevin-Prince Boateng just behind.

Many big Serie A games this season have been underwhelming because they’ve been slow, cagey and defensive. The surprise here was that the match was quite open from the start – but that didn’t translate into an entertaining contest. Neither side played good football in the final third, and the messy nature of the winning goal summed up the match.

Melo on Boateng

Milan had their usual problem – evident recently against Tottenham – when their trequartista is marked out of the game, they struggle to get the ball forward to their strikers and therefore become a broken team. Boateng has generally played very well for Milan since joining them last summer, but Felipe Melo did a good job on him (Melo seems to be at his best when tracking a specific man – he did a similarly good job on Wesley Sneijder last month), and Milan were too slow in possession.

With Melo staying goalside of Boateng, Juve’s wide players had to come inside to help out Claudio Marchisio, for otherwise he would be subject to a 1 v 3 situation in the centre of the park against Milan’s three central midfielders. They generally did this quite well, though the knock-on effect was that the Milan full-backs were free to overlap.

Full-backs poor on ball

There was little technical quality from full-back, though, and what the game needed was some drive from that position, some purposeful running or a player willing to take on opponents. Neither of Milan’s pair did this, and Juventus’ weren’t much better (they also had no direct opponent when in possession) – Sorensen was often having to keep an eye on Cassano, who moved out to his side, whilst Traore got forward but his final ball was generally poor. Luca Toni and Alessandro Matri did little of note, but then they had no service. Playing those two in a 4-4-2 and then failing to cross accurately is a disaster.

Milos Krasic was Juventus’ most promising attacking player, but Milan were very quick to get bodies around him, and often crowded him out when in possession. Mark van Bommel did his usual job of breaking up play ahead of his own defence – committing an amazing number of fouls and stopping quick Juve breaks.

At the other end, it was notable how tightly Juventus’ defenders stuck to the Milan strikers – tracking them all over the pitch. Giorgio Chiellini on Ibrahimovic was the most obvious case here, and it’s likely he felt able to do this because (with Melo tracking Boateng), there were no midfield runners looking to exploit that space.

Second half

The only change for the start of the second half was Boateng off and Robinho on, which created a more fluid front three for Milan, with Robinho playing high up the pitch in close contact with the front two.

The second period was no improvement on the first, though there was least a goal. It came from an unlikely source – Gattuso – and the surprise element probably caught Juventus out – especially as the centre-backs had been so willing to vacate their natural position in the first half. Buffon still should have done better with the shot, though.

Substitutions barely affected the game – Alessandro del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta came on, but Milan retained possession well – van Bommel was important here, often free in the centre of the pitch – and they saw the game out.


Both sides were extremely disappointing. Both had numerical advantages in different areas of the pitch, but neither side could take advantage of these situations enough to consistently offer a goalscoring threat. In particular, the full-backs offered little going forward, and the quality of those four players is simply extremely poor for a game of his magnitude.

Juve have now lost three league games in a row, and haven’t scored in any of them – has Delneri’s 4-4-2 has become too predictable and too easy to play against? It’s notable that Juventus have only scored more than two goals in a game once in 2011, and that was the only game they’ve started with a significantly different shape – a 4-1-4-1 against Cagliari.

That’s a very basic analysis and Juventus’ problems are more complex than that, but having lost seven of their last 11, it is ‘back to basics’ time.

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