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For the majority of the last two seasons, Juve has emerged from the locker room in a 3-5-2 formation. It's been a perfect fit for Juve—it emphasized their strengths and was able to neutralize a few key weaknesses.
As the 2011-12 season wore on, Antonio Conte was faced with a serious dilemma on his left flank. Swiss international Reto Ziegler—acquired before Conte was hired—did not seem to impress the coach and was sent on loan. That put the left-back position into the hands of youth product Paolo De Ceglie—who had been decidedly failing to impress.
After tinkering with moving Giorgio Chiellini back to the left, Conte took a page out of the book of his main rival and started using a three-man defensive line. The move had a double impact and was an ingenious stroke of tactical nous. Conte could now hide De Ceglie's deficient defense on the left and field all three of his excellent center-backs—Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci—at the same time rather than leave one of them on the bench.
Ahead of the defense, it allowed the MVP midfield—Marchisio, Vidal and Pirlo—to form themselves into an interior triangle that proved devastating. Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal were able to provide excellent cover for Andrea Pirlo in the traditional deep-lying regista and afford him the room he needed to completely dominate opponents. At the same time the two midfielders were able to both supplement the back three and roam forward to run the channels to join the attack and score goals.
And score they have. Vidal has scored 22 times and notched 14 assists in all competitions since joining Juve last year, while Marchisio has scored 17 times in the last two seasons along with 11 helpers. Their penchant for goals has relieved another weakness for Juve—the lack of an established finisher on the forward line.
Mirko Vucinic is probably the team's best forward, but he's what the Italians call a secunda punta—a man who plays in the hole between the striker and the midfielders and helps facilitate the last pass. The rest just don't have the quality to be a top option for a team that wants to be one of the best in Europe.
The formation is equally efficient at attacking through the middle or up the wings—manned by Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right and a menagerie on the left that has included De Ceglie, Simone Pepe, Kwadwo Asamoah and Federico Peluso over the last two years. Pirlo's distribution has been key, but the formation has enhanced the entire team.
As incredible as the team's performance has been using this formation, recent imports will make this formation less effective next year.