The Derby D’Italia has disappointed in recent years. With Inter’s chaotic regime acting as a complete juxtaposition to Juventus, with their recent trophy cabinets exhibiting this statement.
So it was assumed this would be much of the same, with Juventus’ 100% record in Serie A this season and Inter struggling to adapt to life under Frank De Boer, coupled with a loss to Hapoel in midweek. This had the making of a bloodbath.
How they lined up
The line-up was almost as expected, with Eder coming in for Perisic. From kick-off it was evident the striker’s inclusion was related to Inter’s desire to press Juventus’ backline and disrupt their CBs from building. Banega’s role was interesting in relation to this game and he is the breed of #10s I like. The Argentine was able to occupy the #10 when Inter were in possession, but in the defensive phase he was able to drop back and form a midfield three and stabilise the midfield.
Not too much to note from Juventus with this line-up. They did have an alarming lack of ball carriers in their XI and Pjanic has done his best to fulfil the regista role in Marchisio’s absence but the Bosnian lacks many qualities of the Italian and the downgrade is clearly noticeable in Juventus’ play. Dybala would drop into his CF/#10 role and act as a receiving link to the midfield three and advance the ball when required, or at least, try to.
Inter’s forward press
One of the main criticisms of Inter in the past few seasons has been how passive they are in dictating tempos of the game. When De Boer was hired, everyone expected a far more rampant and effective pressing game and it seems as though the principles he’s installing are coming to fruition.
In the clip above you can see how the Inter forwards are pressing the Juventus CBs as soon as the ball is released by Buffon. When pressing they shift into a 4-2-4 with a front four containing Eder, Icardi, Banega (slightly behind) and Candreva. As we saw with Italy in the summer, Eder is a superb presser of the ball but can also act as a striker.
Juventus did shift into a back four in these situations, with Lichtsteiner dropping into RB and Chiellini shifting over to LB. This created more passing options across the backline to release the ball, but as illustrated in these clips, even this adaptation couldn’t prevent turnovers.
This really disrupted Juventus’ build-up. With the injured Marchisio unavailable for the start of this season, Pjanic has been resuming regista duties and he hasn’t fulfilled the role as well as he is expected to. This has meant the Juve backline have had to concentrate on initiating the first phase, which they’re more than capable of. But if you disrupt their rhythm and put the first phase responsibilities onto Pjanic, or Khedira, Juventus become surprisingly shaky.
Inter shrinking the field
Set pieces are an interesting tool in terms of being able to dictate the tempo and control a game. They’re essentially a restart button which allows you to correct your positioning for the offensive phase and make any adjustments you may want to. One of these adjustments, that is incredibly difficult, and rather risky, to make during open play is shrinking the field.
It’s an interesting trend that Juventus seemingly struggle with, other examples including Fiorentina on MD1, Napoli (A) last season and against Bayern Munich in the Champions League last season,
I believe the intention of Inter shrinking the field was all to do with chance creation and their pressing. With the field smaller and all the players in closer proximity, it makes Inter, an aggressive pressing side in this game, much more likely to win the ball back via pressing.
This means it’s much more likely that the ball will be won in a dangerous area and Inter have essentially skipped through the first and second phases of build-up play and would have the ball in a dangerous area.
However, it is a high risk – high reward situation, as it could easily lead to Juventus exploiting the space behind the Inter backline and launching a counter attack.
Inter in the defensive phase
In the defensive phase, Inter dropped into a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1. This was to combat Juventus’ midfield three and ensure Juventus didn’t have numerical superiority in midfield. There was also a focus on Eder and Candreva dropping deep to stifle Lichtsteiner and Sandro’s runs. With them dropping deep, it would help ensure no numerical advantages were created for Juventus on the wings. The 4-4-1-1 also gave Inter flexibility in terms of counter attacks, as the wingers simply have to push up for it to become a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3.
Inter’s second half improvements
Inter’s decision making improved leaps and bounds in the second half, most notably their decision making in terms of overloads and creating numerical advantages.
The opportunities for 1 v 1s were there in the second half, as illustrated here, but Eder unwisely opts to shoot instead of passing to Candreva on the right. But Inter improved in these situations in the second half.
Switching play is crucial when facing a back three and especially this Juventus side. Attempting to penetrate via central spaces isn’t going to work and numerical advantages have to be created elsewhere.
By switching the ball over to the weak side, it often left the Inter wingers (Eder/Candreva) in 1 v 1 opportunities, with a FB overlapping. It’s so crucial to stretch a back three as you pull a CB out of their natural position into a wide area (52:14), and a MFer, who wouldn’t be such an apt defender, has to cover their area in the box. Then scoring opportunities begin to arise.
One little sequence I liked was over on the left hand side. Eder as a winger is interesting because he can operate as a winger but also a secondary striker. As illustrated in the second clip at 49:33, with Eder drifting in, it vacates space on the left hand side, which Santon can exploit.
I have focused on Inter up until this point, because naturally I think I like to point out what went well rather than what went wrong. But here’s what I think went wrong for Juventus on Sunday.
— 11tegen11 (@11tegen11) September 18, 2016
As stated earlier, Juventus relied on their CBs for build-up play, which is totally fine and they’re capable of it. But with Inter’s press, they couldn’t complete their duties to their full capacity.
Juventus’ spacing and positional play is messy here, too. Pjanic should be far more involved as the regista and Dybala should be dropping deeper into AM space to help advance the ball and act as a passing link. Alex Sandro should have also been focused on closing to the touchline.
Juventus really struggled to advance the ball. There was a lot of focus on the wingbacks, who were severely limited due to Inter having two players on each flank with their 4-3-3/4-2-3-1. For me, Juventus really missed Paul Pogba’s ball carrying abilities in a game like this. There were just not enough passing options for Juventus in this game. Asamoah has become a severely limited player in terms of his ball carrying ability and he couldn’t advance the ball at all.
With Marchisio back in training, Allegri will be thanking the high heavens. Marchisio is far better at circulating the ball around the MF and participating in build-up play in deeper areas. Pjanic will be playing the more advanced role that Khedira has featured in, as he’s great at making himself available in the more advanced areas, but struggles to do so when playing deep.
A promising performance from Inter. As illustrated by their 15/16 selves, a fast start can mean nothing, just as a slow start can mean nothing (hello 15/16 Juventus). Inter made the mistake of not getting rid of Mancini sooner but in the end the right decision was made, De Boer is beginning to stamp his principles upon this Inter team and it seems as though they’re buying into his philosophy.
I have a feeling Inter will be a big game team this year, playing better when they’re the underdog. But they’ll struggle to break down compact, smaller teams who let them have the majority of possession.
As for Juventus, there should be no worries here. As illustrated by the xG plot for this game, on a different day, this is probably a different result and Inter are in an even worse state. Once they’re playing their full strength XI, Juventus will be fine. Nothing to worry about here.