Juventus hosted Milan in their new stadium in what was the first big match in the Serie A calender. Expectations were high from both sides, as the Conte-led Juventus looked to take full points from a Milan side ravaged by injuries of late. However, that is never an excuse when one is playing with a team filled with the likes of Buffon and Pirlo. Milan’s, rather Allegri’s thought was to come away with a draw as he felt “Juventus need to win this more than us“.

At the end, that was exactly what happened which left Milan fans everywhere with a bad taste in their mouth for sometime to come. From the high of holding Barcelona to a draw at Camp Nou to the most recent loss to Juventus, the one thing that is missing from the Milan team this year is consistency. Juventus, on the other hand, freed from European duty has focused all their attention on the national front and is looking to build a team that can challenge for top honors in years to come. Led by an inspired former player Conte, Juventus looks set to be a title contender this time around.

TheHardTackle analyzes the match that played out and tries to understand where the tactics clicked and where they failed; which player grew into the match and which faded away.

The starting formations

Juventus started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, reverting from their usual, tried-and-tested 4-2-4. This meant more ammunition in midfield and more cover for Pirlo to weave his magic. With Vucinic as the lone forward, Juventus looked to attack on the break with Pepe on the left wing and a super-fast Lichsteiner on the right. With Vidal, Marchisio and Pirlo pulling all the strings in the midfield, Vucinic was expected to be well-supplied.

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The starting formations - the immobile Milan back and the Juve flank attacks

 

Milan fielded their 4-3-1-2 formation, the one which has become synonymous with Allegri over a long period of time. Bonera came in at right back in place of Abate. The Milan back four, even though looked solid on paper, didn’t look like an attacking threat that could bombard down the wings. Boateng returned from injury after a long time and Rossoneri all over the world were expecting a match-winning performance from him. The top composed of Ibrahimovic and Cassano, probably the only two forwards left match-fit.

The first half

From the very onset of the match, it looked to be a physical one, at least from the Milan side. Ibrahimovic was to use his big frame to his advantage all night, and it started with him bulldozing Vidal. To the fans in the stands, there came a chance to see players playing for opposite sides – Pirlo, a former Rossoneri for as long a sten years, playing for Juventus and Nocerino, a Juventus product, now plying his trade at Milan. Juventus were the first to attack the Milan backline with their intelligent forays, but one thing that Milan never did was to wilt under pressure.

Milan backline and Van Bommel kept their positions at the onset of Juve attacks. This will come as no shock to Milan fans, as zonal marking was the order of the day at the back and not man-to-man. Juve pressed early on with Marchisio being the focal point of all attacks. With neat 1-2’s with Pepe or Pirlo or Vidal, Marchisio looked set to trouble the Milan backline all night. Suddenly Milan found themselves near the Juve penalty box with some much-needed pushing and shoving from the big Swede. The ball fell to Prince, who had all the time in the world to find a correct pass or more importantly, take a shot, but to everyone’s dismay he danced over the ball and gave it away. As if by chance, Chiellini and Nocerino banged their heads in agreement as they clashed over the ball.

Keeping possession

Lichtsteiner was to trouble Milan down the flanks, and it was apparent very early on. Even though his runs caused havoc, his final pass was still not up to the mark, as he shot way over the goal while trying to pass early on. Adding to that, Vidal alsoAi?? found his shooting boots as his early efforts sailed over the bar. As if he heard the fan’s plea to find a correct pass,Ai?? Lichtsteiner shot one at the goal, only to find Abbiati tip it over for a corner. One thing that was noted from both the teams was their emphasis on keeping the ball and more importantly, keeping the possession. This was seen on multiple occasions, as both the teams opted for a short corner on four consecutive occasions.

Milan soon found problems aplenty down the right, as Lichtsteiner found room again and again to run freely. Most of this was due to Zambrotta’s reluctance to go forward. In hindsight, Zambrotta staying back did help Milan as they gained man-to-man advantage in the box. Once a team gets more bodies inside the box, the only way the opposition could attack is to go for long-range shots. A nice dribble to draw out defenders also helps, as was shown by Pepe and his step-overs. But one thing that should always be kept in mind is that Milan is vulnerable to pace and not to skills. Barcelona learned it and now it was time for Pepe to do the same. As 20 minutes went by, none of the teams had any decent final cross inside the box – Pepe and Lichtsteiner were shooting wide when they were looking for a cross, and Ibrahimovic and Cassano was more intent on playing through the middle.

Milan then continued to change their formation upfront as the starting formation of 1-2 in front was replaced by 2-1 with Ibra the sole attacker. Cassano and Boateng flanked the Swede and even interchanged their position in an attempt to catch Bonucci and Chiellini on the wrong foot. That move, however, did not get the best out of Ibra as he was twice blocked by Chiellini, proving once more that when faced with Ibra, this Juve legend has what it takes to take him out. The first real shot on goal came from a Pirlo free-kick from just outside the penalty area. Having watched him take this kind of free-kicks at Milanello, Abbiati had a prior conception as to where Pirlo would shoot and as luck would have it, the ball flew straight at Abbiati who had no troubles in collecting it with glee.

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Pirlo and Seedorf - opponents now

 

On the back-foot, Milan looked to find some inspiration anywhere that would result in any meaningful attack. Their search found Nocerino, who was increasingly looking anonymous, and a player with legs made of brick – Seedorf. No doubt he is a Milan legend, but Allegri’s over dependency on him was beginning to show as Seedorf lost balls in the midfield again and again. The hurried nature of their passing to get the ball to Ibra was showing as Milan resorted to long through balls in the midfield, as against short, controlled passes.

With Milan happy to give the ball away, Juve players were looking dangerous than ever as Vucinic came close on many occasions. A player of immaculate talent, he found his shot being tipped on to the bar by an alert Abbiati. The first yellow of the match went to Boateng for his arm-in-the-face challenge to Lichtsteiner. Boateng and Seedorf were looking uneasy on the ball and as half-time grew near, it looked like they would be soon subbed. The first half soon came to a finish with Buffon not having to make one single save! Vucinic was looking dangerous from Juve as the two teams headed down the tunnel.

The second half

The second half started much like the first and for some reasons, Nicola Rizzoli kept his cards in his pocket, even after some pretty bad challenges here and there from both sides. Pirlo was the first from either side to take a shot on goal, which Abbiati once again saved. On the sidelines, Antonini was seen warming up and it looked like Bonera would be taken off and replaced by him. That way, Antonini can shift to the left, which would mean Zambrotta moving to the right back position. Cassano started to attack now from the left and his movements dragged three Juve defenders to him; he was able to find a cross to Boateng, whose shot was saved by an alert Gigi. From the resulting corner, Milan found their second yellow of the night, as Nesta made a clumsy challenge on Vucinic as they looked for a fast breakaway. Giaccherini soon replaced Krasic, as Juve opted for a fresh pair of legs to threaten down the wings.

The substitutions

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Allegri - did i make the right changes?

 

Milan pushed forward with more intent and zeal, looking to increase pressure on the Juve back four. But for their all their efforts, the midfield once more proved to be their downfall as Seedorf gave evidence of the fact that his chest is better to pass the ball to Juve players rather than his legs. In a strange substitution that followed, Emanuelson replaced Cassano. It was strange for two reasons – one, it was not logical to withdraw a forward such early on in the game, knowing very well that the attacking edge will be lost and two, Cassano was by far the best when it came to attacking on the night. No one knows what went in Allegri’s mind when he made that substitution; maybe he opted for more bodies in the midfield in order to combat Juve. That move could see Ibra sitting pretty lonely upfront. The next substitution was more straightforward as Antonini replaced Nesta, who was already on a caution. The latest substitution meant that Silva would now have to pair up with Bonera as right center back. Also, it meant that Allegri was now pursuing one point and not three.

One player who played his game to perfection was Pirlo. From his passing skills to his link-ups with Marchisio, with his ball-winning tactics to his long diagonals, Pirlo never made a mistake. The pass-master that he is, he was esentially the whole of Juve midfield and it was surprising not to see Milan mark a player for him in the midfield at least. On the other side of the pitch, whatever was left of Seedorf was gone as he time and again misplaced a pass. If there was a record of the number of passes he made to a Juve player, it would rank second after Pirlo. More baffling was Allegri’s reluctance not to sub Seedorf with Aquilani – a much fitter and much more better option.

As the game entered its final five minutes, a draw looked likely as both the teams looked to hold on to the possession. Bonera had other plans, as he gave away the ball only to find Marchisio score the first of the night. The wild celebrations that followed from Conte and the players was further increased as Boateng received his marching orders in the dying moments of the game. A man down and also a goal down, Milan were stunned. Their misery was complete few minutes later, as a Marchisio shot went through the legs of Abbiati. Juventus stadium was close to explosion now as fans now cheered every pass. In the end, the last five minutes of the game were the decisive ones, as Juve went to the top of the table, leaving Milan with only 5 points from 5 games.

What was learnt from the game

Juventus

  1. Lichtsteiner is a gem of a player but he needs to improve his final pass into the box.
  2. Marchisio and Vidal have benefited a lot from Juve’s confidence in them to shine.
  3. Chiellini is still the same – the same never-say-die attitude coupled with the outstanding ability to be at the right place at the right time.
  4. Last but not the least, Pirlo is indeed enjoying the new-found lease of life at Juve and it was on display last night. From his inch-perfect passes to his well-taken free-kicks, Pirlo gave Milan a dose of their own medicine.

Milan

  1. Bonera should never be started again. Youth should be the priority now with the emphasis on De Sciglio and Taiwo. Why those two never saw a minute of action was not known, but the importance to shift to young players cannot be denied.
  2. Cassano should not have been substituted with someone like Urby. You never take out an attacking player so early in the game, and specially not one who was effective. The move would have been logical if Milan were in the lead but that was not the scenario.
  3. Seedorf needs to be replaced with Aquilani as soon as possible. While the dutch master should be reserved for Europe, his reluctance to move at more than 2 kmph and his over-indulgence to pass to Juve players should have seen Aquilani replacing him. But that was not to be.
  4. Ibra should be supported upfront with a player comfortable on the ball and also one who is likely to pass or shoot correctly. Although, Milan fans miss Robinho and Pato, at least El Shaarawy should have played. Alas, he was not even on the bench.

With the international break coming up, Milan now have 13 days in hand to regroup and rebuild. It’s never too late to start realizing one’s mistake, and Allegri has to sort out the mess Milan presently find themselves in.

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2 Responses to “Juventus 2 – 0 Milan ai??i?? The Post Mortem”

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  1. shanu says:

    juventus are looking very strong this season….no surprises if they continue to play this kind of game,they shall be the new champions…..pirlo is a master of passing…pepe is a maniac down the wings…..and to add it marchisio is too much too handle….milan lack consistency…last season they were better but this season they are not at all consistent in their performance…..seedorf needs to be rested and hundred percent ready for the rest of the games…while in defence taiwo shud be considered as a permanent winger….also the absence of pato was greatly felt…..Milan need to buckle up and start putting lot of pressure on opponents in such kind of games…….

  2. Aditya Sharma says:

    Nice review