Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus: home side dominate in a clash of similar systems
3-5-2 versus 3-5-2, and one point apiece.
Vincenzo Montella made three changes. The most significant involved him selecting the industry of Romulo over the creativity of Mati Fernandez. Adem Ljajic came in for Haris Seferovic, and Manuel Pasqual for Mattia Cassani.
Antonio Conte and Massimo Carrera decided to rest Claudio Marchisio, with Emanuele Giaccherini starting instead. Fabio Quagliarella replaced Mirko Vucinic after his impressive impact in the last couple of games.
Fiorentina were the better side but struggled in front of goal, with Juventus seemingly happy with a point.
This was a very ‘obvious’ tactical battle. The two sides set out very similarly – three centre-backs, energetic wing-backs expected to cover a lot of ground, a clearly-defined regista spreading the play, two central midfielders ahead doing battle, then a nippy support forward dropping off the main striker.
When four-man midfields play ahead of three centre-backs, they’re necessarily more conservative than when playing ahead of a back four, because the wide players have to defend the flanks more keenly. When two of these midfields face each other, the result is generally a cagey battle. To use a chess analogy, it’s as if all sixteen pawns have been moved two spaces forward, and there’s a mass block either side of the halfway line. There’s space in defensive positions, but little forward movement for the likes of David Pizarro and Andrea Pirlo (the queens?) to look for.
In such an identical clash of systems, there was concern about where the attacking drive and creativity in the final third would come from. In Pizarro and Pirlo the game had two of the finest deep-lying playmakers around, but the absence of both Marchisio and Fernandez meant the central midfield zone was otherwise functional. Borja Valero is a fine passer and showed good ability to play one-twos and move into dangerous positions, but Arturo Vidal’s role was mainly defensive, with Fiorentina dominating possession. Romulo and Giaccherini were runners.
The home side were better on the ball, moving it quicker across the midfield – but the primary cause for their dominance was simply their ambition, urged on by a packed Artemio Franchi. Juventus were cautious – the midfielders stayed in position, the wing-backs spent more time in their own half.
Fiorentina also started off more compact, with Ljajic and Stevan Jovetic dropping deep and helping defend – Juve’s forwards started in a more relaxed manner, although eventually did the same.
Ljajic and Giovinco
The key to the game was getting the two support forwards involved. Ljajic and Sebastian Giovinco are not dissimilar players – part-winger, part-playmaker. Because of that ability to play wide, they both offer good lateral movement, and both drifted into good positions towards the flanks, with the main strikers contained by the back threes. In one minute shortly before half-time, long balls towards first Giovinco and then Ljajic got both into promising positions – Giovinco miscontrolled, Ljajic dragged his shot wide of the far post from the game’s most promising opportunity.
In Facundo Roncaglia, Fiorentina had the centre-back most willing to step forward and join the midfield battle, and another thing Montella’s side did better was getting their main striker involved. Quagliarella’s movement was poor and he was the first player to be withdrawn, while Jovetic dropped deeper and had a bigger impact, providing another passing option and getting into the box.
Frustratingly, for a game between two well-matched sides, there was no real tactical progression. At the start of the second half Ljajic seemed to play deeper, occupying Pirlo more than in the first half. This made him less of a direct attacking threat, although he sped past Pirlo when Fiorentina got the ball, and Carrera was concerned enough to remove Pirlo and introduce Paul Pogba, who tracked Ljajic’s runs much more effectively. Vucinic replaced Quagliarella, Marchisio replaced Giaccherini – both attacking moves, but this changed little because Juve weren’t getting the ball forward.
Ljajic was nullified by Pogba, so Montella brought on Fernandez in his place, trying to provide more creativity. He waited until 77 minutes to make the first change, though, and his final two substitutions were in the last five minutes – indicating he was happy with his side – with the exception of their inability to find a finish.
A goalless draw was never assured as Fiorentina went close on an number of occasions, but the 0-0 was always a possibility simply because of the lack of attacking players in the final third. Giovinco and Ljajic were given huge creative responsibility – Ljajic was brighter yet typically frustrating, offering good movement and clever dribbling, but being booked for diving and missing the game’s best chance.
Fiorentina were more positive and better in almost every area. Pizarro outshone Pirlo, the wing-backs played higher up the pitch, the two forwards were more involved, there was more attacking urgency from the centre-backs.
Juve were underwhelming, but illustrated why they’re on such a long unbeaten run with a battling, committed display.