Napoli 1-1 Juventus: Tactical Analysis of Titanic Serie A Tussle
Walter Mazzarri and Antonio Conte—two of the most tactically reactive managers in world football—went head-to-head on the touchline and created an enthralling spectacle.
Let's break the game down for you here.
Containing Each Other
For long periods in this game, both sides efficiently bottle-necked each other by using similar shapes and committing resources to win the wide battle.
With both sides starting with a 3-5-2 formation (although Mazzarri's was very loose), the wing-back tussle was key to territory and possession.
No individual battle was more significant than Federico Peluso vs. Christian Maggio, and the Italians fought it out in entertaining style on the touchline.
Peluso contained Maggio for 70 minutes, and even when the Partenopei committed Hugo Campagnaro forward from centre-back, Peluso shut them both out.
It wasn't until the final stages of the game that Maggio's athleticism finally shone through, as he broke the stranglehold of his opposing wing-back, and the crosses he was firing in made for some nervy Juve moments.
But the work Peluso did on Maggio for the lion's share of the game seriously hindered Edinson Cavani's production and prevented Napoli from breaching the box.
It was telling that their goal was a long-range effort from Gokhan Inler.
Pressure from Napoli, Space for Juve's Front Men
Napoli threw resources forward, using a holding duo of just Inler and Valon Behrami while Marek Hamsik slipped into space in and around the forward line.
This pushed Juve all the way back and their defensive credentials were severely tested. Mazzarri was intent on keeping his team high up the pitch and forcing Pirlo back toward his own defensive line—a strategy that worked, but only due to Vucinic's bad day at the office.
That left the Partenopei outnumbered in the middle on the counter, and Andrea Pirlo consistently elected to slip Mirko Vucinic in behind the two Swiss players.
But when the Old Lady weren't able to claw their way back up the pitch, they packed the box; here, you can see all 10 outfield players within 30 yards of their own goal.
Mazzarri was forced into a change at halftime, replacing the concussed Miguel Britos with Blerim Dzemaili.
That's a defender for a midfielder, and it became clear Mazzarri had switched to a back four. The shape further up the pitch was still unclear though, as Edinson Cavani rarely occupied a central role until Lorenzo Insigne came on and Marek Hamsik was playing a peculiar role.
Was it a false-nine from Hamsik?
It sure looked like one, and it remained this way until Insigne entered the fray and Mazzarri switched again. The third and final formation looked a little like a midfield diamond, with Hamsik at the point and Behrami at the base.
Juventus truly held on for this win. Napoli piled the pressure on and would have been good value for a win.
Mazzarri's high-pressure strategies pinned the Bianconeri deep into their own half, but Vucinic should have had a brace and subsequently led Juve 3-0 up at the break.
The formation switches from Napoli were very interesting, but the 4-3-3(-ish) looked a little scruffy from the Partenopei.
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