Talking Tactics: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Put A Square Peg In It…

Posted on 25/10/2010


(…no, I know it doesn’t & I did it on purpose)
That headline is as seriously mixed a metaphor as the team it describes. The whole summer was spent watching Beppe Marotta chase across Europe to secure players capable of playing in coach Gigi Delneri’s trademark 4-4-2 system. The early part of the season then saw the side struggle to come to grips with the complex movements & patterns of the coach’s ideas.
Finally, through victories over Cagliari & Lecce as well as draws with Inter & Manchester City, it seemed as though the scheme had clicked & the team looked impressive. In the past few games however, that early uncertainty has returned, & there is a clear reason why.
Firstly, & most importantly, the system is being mis-used by its creator. Coach Delneri is seriously impacting on the effectiveness of a very good set-up by depriving it of a key element. The continued inclusion of Claudio Marchisio on the left wing is damaging the goal scoring prowess of what was previously the leagues best attack.
Now lets make one thing abundantly clear, Marchisio himself carries no blame here. While he had previously struggled for form, by the time of the Inter clash that was almost fully behind him, & his display drew much deserved plaudits for both player & coach in the decision to use the Turin native to nullify Maicon’s forward surges.
Perhaps that display, along with the impending return to San Siro next Saturday, is foremost in the coach’s mind, but in games like the one against Bologna it simply does not work. Marchisio cannot provide the natural width necessary to stretch a team determined to hold its shape, & thus denies space for the forwards to exploit.
Whilst it is easy (not to mention fashionable) to attack a player like Amauri for under performing, it is worth noting that he has had only seven shots in Serie A this season – Samuel Eto’o has taken 33 to score 5 goals from open play. So not only does the unbalanced midfield deny space to the strikers, it also stunts creativity – Milos Krasic has five assists from the right, the rest of the squad has just four in total.
Two heatmaps from Bologna; the left is Marchisio, the right Krasic which clearly highlights their different styles. The graphic below shows average positions from the same game, again note the difference between natural winger Krasic (in blue) & the out of position Marchisio (in red)
While Simone Pepe seems set for a move into defence & Davide Lanzafame is injured, Jorge Martinez finally seems to be getting into playing shape & this may see a return to the usual set up. His late cameo against Bologna showed the impact he can have, & Delneri must be hoping el Malaka can dance his way down the left as Krasic has been doing on the right.
These injuries have been badly timed, & also impact on the options at the teams disposal, but Delneri simply cannot afford to cut off the attacking threat of one whole flank. Eventually Paolo De Ceglie may shift forward to become more of a winger & this too would help, his crossing is vastly improved & his pace would trouble the best defences.
A central player deployed on the wing is known in Italy as a mezzala which literally translates as “in between”, a perfect analogy for what the system has become in the past few games. No longer 4-4-2, but not quite 4-3-3, it is hurting the progress of Delneri’s Juventus & must not continue for too much longer.
Marchisio must return to battling Alberto Aquilani & Felipe Melo for a spot in the middle, while one of Pepe, Lanzafame, Martinez, De Ceglie or even Armand Traore has to step up & make the left wing slot his own. Only then can this team be truly effective, only then can Delneri be a success. For Juventus there is no in between.
Source: Il Tifosi
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