Formation change would play to Juventus' strength
Against Olympiakos, manager Massimiliano Allegri finally applied his own ideas to Juventus, playing a formation he thought would best exploit the skill of the current group of players available to him. Despite looking defensively fragile, the Bianconeri won, but more importantly, they played a better game, one in which they created, looked more in control when in possession and were capable of success.
Since the match, the media have speculated as to whether the 4-3-1-2 formation would be a mainstay and whom the club were targeting on the transfer market to play in the trequartista role going forward. In the meantime, the question being asked is: can Carlos Tevez, Alvaro Morata and Fernando Llorente all play together? Former Juventus player and youth team coach Fabrizio Ravanelli feels that unless a front line is willing to sacrifice incessantly, such ideas would not yield a positive result. But is he right?
It depends entirely on the opponent. If Juventus are facing Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, then such an attacking lineup may well result in humiliation. But if they are playing a struggling Parma, as they will be on Sunday afternoon, it may end in a positive result.
The Italian league and many teams within it face Juve with a certain defensive strategy -- to frustrate the Old Lady and concede as few goals as possible. A well-balanced Bianconeri side is almost wasted in their deployment against them, especially when the attacking department could do with a little more forward-thinking bodies in the box. In such matches, Allegri has the opportunity to take risks and play a more adventurous game.
Parma are, after all, the team who has conceded the most goals in Serie A. The sale of key personnel coupled with an injury crisis has left Roberto Donadoni incapable of transmitting his ideas and constructing a newly balanced side that can win. Defensively fragile, they are also offensively weak. Jonathan Biabiany is out for some time, while both Marco Parolo and Amauri were sold, leaving the current squad entirely dependent on the skills of Antonio Cassano to score. Donadoni has even moved Paolo Di Ceglie, a full-back, up front to help contribute to the attacking game; it's resulted in the former Juventus player scoring three goals in six games.
Vulnerable to pace and players who can dribble past them, Parma's back line is one that would crumble at the sight of all three forwards, especially considering their level of tactical intelligence. However, to play such a lineup against better opponents, like Ravanelli said, would not work for a multitude of reasons; the first being is that they don't boast the talent of the players he played with in the mid-90s.
The reason certain fans and this blog have demanded a formation change is because a good coach finds a way of incorporating his best players on every occasion. Allegri's best players are all in midfield; each and every one offers a different skill that can be useful to Juve's game both in attack and in defence. Thus it makes sense to deploy them all at the same time to exploit the potential of these players, balancing the side to accommodate them.
We saw against the Greeks that while Juve attempted to attack on all sides, when they went for goal they always went through the middle, making it somewhat easy for Olympiakos' defenders to control the pressure. Juventus must learn how to spread play, how to force their opponent to create gaps at the back, which will require better performances from Kwadwo Asamoah and especially Stephan Lichtsteiner.
With time and enough practice, the Bianconeri will better understand how to play in such a shape and vary their attack while simultaneously maintaining defensive strength. They may not have Arturo Vidal available against the Ducali, but perhaps it's an opportunity to test Roberto Pereyra instead, allowing him the chance to grow into the role.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.