Saturday August 31 2019
Tactical Analysis: Juventus 4-3 Napoli

Matthijs de Ligt received a baptism of fire, writes Elio Salerno, as Juventus and Napoli showed their best and worst sides in a Saturday night thriller.

Juventus v Napoli was expected to be an open and entertaining affair. It most certainly did not disappoint.

Dutch centre-back Matthijs De Ligt was handed his Italian top flight debut in place of captain Giorgio Chiellini, who suffered a serious knee injury and could be out for six months. It proved to be a baptism of fire for the 20-year-old.

Knowing Maurizio Sarri’s preferred 4-3-3 style of play, Napoli looked to stifle Juve’s build-up early on with varying levels of success. The focus was on stopping Miralem Pjanic controlling possession. At every opportunity Juve’s visitors boxed Pjanic off with Polish international Piotr Zielinski paying close attention to the Bosnian controller. This did open up space around Pjanic, with Sami Khedira and especially Blaise Matuidi exploiting the gaps in midfield – Matuidi’s forward runs would become a key feature of the first half.

Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti’s men morphed into a 3-4-3 in possession. Right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo moved alongside Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly. Going forward, Jose Callejon and Faouzi Ghoulam provided width high up the pitch with Lorenzo Insigne taking up his preferred role off the left. Centrally Dries Mertens and Fabian Ruiz sought to provide options around the box, with Allan and Zielinski providing support behind.

Juventus opened the scoring with a rapid counter-attack. Following a brave piece of defending from Leo Bonucci, the resulting break was all Douglas Costa. After travelling most of the pitch will the ball at his feet, Douglas Costa picked out Danilo inside the box, who scored with his first touch some 30 seconds after being introduced as a sub. The perfect start to Danilo’s Juve career.

Napoli wasted positive attacking positions, their hosts did not. Matuidi picked out Gonzalo Higuain with a slide pass and the Argentine then reminded everyone of his class. Spinning away from Koulibaly, he adjusted his body to strike across a bouncing ball and his shot rocketed into the far top corner. It was a great individual goal and in the space of minutes, Juve were in the driving seat.

From that moment, the hosts took full control. Their press was intense, Juve smothered spaces and locked up the pitch as they sniffed out loose balls and forced Napoli into mistakes. If required, La Vecchia Signora retreated into a lower 4-4-2 block with Matuidi covering in left midfield, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to save energy and move inside closer to Higuain.

As the half developed, Juventus grew in confidence, their play had a fresh fluidity. Passing was slick, Napoli were struggling to prevent ball progression and found themselves on the back foot. Come half-time, the Italian champions could have been further ahead but for a fine intervention from Alex Meret, who moved to quickly to block a Sami Khedira shot.

If those observing thought the second period would pass quietly, then they were in for a shock. Ancelotti reacted instantly with two substitutions. Mario Rui stepped in at left-back for Faouzi Ghoulam and there was a debut for big money signing Hirving Lozano. The Mexican attacker formed part of Napoli’s front two with Mertens, as skipper Lorenzo Insigne went off injured. Zielinski moved to the left, with Spaniard Ruiz dropping into a central midfield role.

The away side suddenly had a different feel about them. Fabian Ruiz’s presence in midfield aided the quality of their play through the pitch and Juve’s press was now less effective. Zielinski and Lozano’s penetrating runs began to cause Juve problems and Napoli now carried a different, more effective threat. However, it was Juve that appeared to seal victory with a third goal.

World Cup winner Matuidi combined with Douglas Costa down the left again and the Brazilian picked up his second assist of the match, as his cross found Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar had an off day at Parma last week and would have been delighted to see his left-foot shot bobble into the bottom corner. It was 3-0 and surely game over?

No one could have predicted what was to come in the last half-hour. Less than 10 minutes after that CR7 goal, the score was 3-2. Manolas headed home from a free kick and a couple of minutes later a swift forward move saw Lozano grab his first Napoli goal. The former PSV player was allowed the freedom of the area as he slotted the ball past Wojciech Szczesny. It became a debut to forget for De Ligt, as he completely lost Lozano and failed to track his run, instead making the questionable decision to pull back in anticipation of a pass that did not come.

Pressure was now on Sarri’s team and with him missing from the sidelines, his players lacked the support they needed. The atmosphere had changed and Juventus appeared stuck between old habits of wanting to defend deeper and a new pro-active approach. Their earlier confidence had eroded, passes were now going astray, energy levels dropped and the absence of Chiellini was evident.

Then in the 81st minute an incredible comeback was complete. Napoli full-back Di Lorenzo bundled the ball home from another set-piece, as he too escaped de Ligt. A baptism of fire for the 20-year-old defender. A concerning trend from last season continued for Juventus here, a weakness defending set-plays cost them last term and they will need to address the issue quickly.

For Napoli, a weak defensive display had turned into an unthinkable recovery. They looked to be on the verge of securing a memorable point that would have felt more like a win given the circumstances, but football has a cruel way of changing emotions in an instant.  

Koulibaly – who had been excellent for most of the game – had a rare reckless moment deep into stoppage time. As Pjanic swung in a free kick from inside the Napoli half, Koulibaly under no pressure misjudged the flight of the ball and an attempted clearance was shinned into the top corner of his own net. It was like a circus mirror image of his stoppage-time winner here in April 2018.

For the neutrals, it was a fantastic advertisement for Calcio and follows on from an entertaining opening weekend. There are positives for both Coaches to build on, but a more balanced approached will need to be found as the season continues.

Have your say...
Perfectly put. I can feel the self loathing from most Juventini in every comment section. And these are the same ones who holiday in the south and sing the praises of the south’s food all the time. They are disgusting.
on the 6th September, 2019 at 9:16am
Nice to be in the shadow of Milan's European glory though isn't it? I mean Knowing Juve can't buy a champions league must hurt coz that really would be the only way they would stand a chance.
on the 4th September, 2019 at 10:16pm
Most so called Juve supporters are descendants of Southerners who worked for Fiat. Like any colonised spirit, they have a chip on the shoulder, they show a lot of zeal, and aggressiveness towards Napoli, it makes feel more Northerners than the real Northerners, they are obsessed with denigrating Napoli, like Juve, the Club, they cannot live without an enemy the psychopaths, they have to have a club to hate in order to feel good, and to be accepted as Northerners, the sad “terrone".
on the 4th September, 2019 at 12:27pm
Yes take your time @Jeremy and remember every sweet moment when Milan was a real giant because right now there is only one word to describe Milan : TRASH. Hahahaha...
on the 4th September, 2019 at 1:07am
Absolutely. As long as he keeps scoring Juve will keep winning the scudetto and maybe coppa italia. Juve won't win champions league. But thats ok as Serie A is back on the map! So i will take AC Milan record of... what is it... 7 Champions league and smile. We may not be the team we once were and i accept that, while you watch Juve age and get smashed year after year by Real and Barca.
on the 3rd September, 2019 at 10:02pm
@Anonymous Juventino, what are you talking about, I am talking to Napoli about Insigne, and you're defending the indefensible, Juventus who use all means to intimidate, corrupt, and have advantages over their opponents, they have stolen at least 12 titles, and completely killed Italian football, which is considered a joke in the rest of the world today, you should be ashamed of yourself, you should go go for a swim, it would do you good.
on the 3rd September, 2019 at 6:09pm
@jeremy as long as Ronaldo scores (he scored vs Parma and he scored vs Napoli), it's wiser if you can keep your mouth shut and mind your own pathetic team AC Milan. Without Ronaldo, Serie A brand wouldnt'be recognized globally as big as now. Thanks to Ronaldo Serie A is back to life and Juve becomes a wanted club for world class players, so take your sympathy away we Juve fans simply dont give a damn.
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 5:00pm
Positives for Juve, Juve move the ball "much" faster and the attack has more purpose. Watching Allegri's team I wanted to put a gun to my head many times it was so bad. Lets hope Sarri can continue to build his ideas. Juve I think benefited from Sarri and even Piguan playing overseas, they can integrate and use what they've learned. It's a plus. As for defense, calm down, it was individual errors not team mistakes that led to the goals. Loss of Chiellini will be a problem though.
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 4:23pm
Didnt Napoli get a very fortunate penalty last week??? where as Juventus were penalised to the very letter of the law under VAR, despite there being clear statements suggesting that there are inaccuracies to the degree with which VAR can measure of side, and what was it Ronaldo's shoe lace or something that was 1 mm ahead of the defender, so stop the 12th man rubbish.
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 2:39pm
I agree with Luca:
Ronaldo was always going to lose pace I mean what is he 34/35 years old and has a whole team revolving around him. He can train 10 hours a day if he wants too but the fundamental fact is he is getting old his days of running around a defender and wasting 40 chances per game are coming to end.
Selling young talent in the hope the soon to be pensioners will win a Champs league is totally ludicrous.
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 7:29am
Bigger picture is Italian teams no longer no how to defend. Hence we don't win anything anymore.
BUT who cares as long as its entertaining though... right?!?
on the 2nd September, 2019 at 7:23am
Off-Topic, but it's a DISGRACE that Cagliari FC, for the third time in a row, have racially abused a black player.


It's astounding that were in the 2nd decade of the 21st century, and such a serious, flagrant issue is still being swept under the carpet.

Football-Italia won't come up with even an editorial, because they cannot target Juventus or add frivolous rumours in it.

on the 2nd September, 2019 at 4:30am
@Napoli, I repeat again what I heve been sayin for the last 7 years, "No one can win the scudetto with 9 men against 12, which is the case every time INSIGNE plays, now it is very clear that the camorra has been imposing him on every coach Napoli have had since mazzarri, the only one who had the Cojones to paut him on the bench and tells him to shut up. He brings unbalance, and negative energy to the team, he should go, he was as always PATHETIC.
on the 1st September, 2019 at 8:45pm
Agree with Luca 1
on the 1st September, 2019 at 8:21pm
Sarri has made his impact well felt already... Its already a Sarri defence... Woeful defending

Juve going to suffer in Europe especially without captain g
on the 1st September, 2019 at 4:20pm
This game was perfect... it showed that Juve can attack and also that De Ligt should work harder. Many people were saying he should start and well look what happened. It just showed that Serie A is no easy league. Also, though very early, it gave Juve a peek at what it's like to play an attacking team under a new system (if they meet teams like Liverpool, Barca, Man City etc the defense needs to be way better). What was the best part of it? An injured DiSciglio started the whole thing!!
on the 1st September, 2019 at 1:18pm

Admittedly some of those teams have other issues that Juve don't have but in terms of attacking threat Juve need more. I wish Dybala could find space in this team but unless they play a 4-2-3-1 with Dybala as the No.10 then I don't see how else he plays which is a huge shame.
on the 1st September, 2019 at 9:32am

They should have got Ndombele who has both technical quality and pace and energy for the midfield and at £55million is pretty cheap. As well as another attacking player with pace. I do understand however that they struggled to offload aging slower players which is not entirely their fault. If you look at the best teams in Europe currently they all have more than 1 attacking player that can hurt you in behind. Salah/Mane, Sterling/Sane, Mbappe/Neymar, Dembele/Griezmann, Son/Moura,
on the 1st September, 2019 at 9:29am

This Juve team worries me, and in particualr the midfield. The signings in my opinion do not address the main issue Juve had last season which is a lack of pace and energy all over the pitch. The only 2 players who have the kind of speed that scares opposition defences forcing them to sit 10 yards deeper and therefore create space in midfield is D.Costa, and Cancelo who has now left. Ronaldo has lost pace, Higuain is slow and a midfield of Rabiot/Pjanic/Khedira/Ramsey will get out run
on the 1st September, 2019 at 9:26am
1st half: Sarriball
2nd half: Allegri

De ligt will learn his mistakes, still young bright future.
We need the coach back as soon as possible.
Having Matuidi instead of Rabbiot is isane.
Juve should finished the game with Khedira for a sitter
on the 1st September, 2019 at 9:07am
Juve fan, good game nice to see the front foot applied. I don't expect to see a solid style and week to week performance until maybe week 6or 7 so... good going so far, lol... I wonder, if we had got the meartens luck in the first round and then won this game napoli and inter fans would be going crazy, but we didn't, we won 2 games legitimately (like always) and I haven't heard much from anyone moaning about how napoli got soft treatment
on the 1st September, 2019 at 9:05am
This game was straight out of the twilight zone. Juve letting a 3 goal lead slip, the last time I recall that happening was against Torino all those moons ago; Danilo scoring after 20 secs from cf position, Khedira turning an opponent and hitting the bar, De Ligt having a shocker. I was thinking to myself that the only way this could get weirder was if Koulibaly was to score an own goal in the last minute of injury time. Lo and behold.. Juve vs Napoli & Lazio vs Roma is a waste for week 2
on the 1st September, 2019 at 9:03am
Same old Juve issues - useless Pjanic and struggling with set pieces. De Ligt should improve the overall set pieces defensively and in attack, but he needs time to settle to Seria A and jJuve style. Pjanic is useless, Bentacur or Can will do better job there. Sarri should think about replacing Matuidi for Rabiot. A midfield Rabiot Khedira Bentacur will cover and help more in defence than one with Matuidi and Pjanic
on the 1st September, 2019 at 8:37am
What a horrible and unconvincing display.

This horrible trend of not working on set-plays both during attack and whilst defending is the bane of the current Juventus.

Atlético will be rubbing their hands with glee looking at how an entire season has passed and yet we've not worked on a mix of zonal + man-making. Jeez what are the trainers getting paid to do, pat the defenders on the back for doing their workouts or sitting all day watching cat videos?

#FinoAllaFine #ForzaJuvePerSempre
on the 1st September, 2019 at 8:06am
Game showed clear difference in quality.

Inter and Juve seem to have clear ideas despite new coaches. Napoli still no identity and formation unclear.

Napoli did better fullbacks, another holding player in midfield and a top striker. Above all it needs leaders.

Juve will be exciting with Sarri. They looked very good in first half.
on the 1st September, 2019 at 7:53am
I said it before. douglas costa is the key to juve going all the way in everything. he is juve most important player. De Ligt has to get better or quite frankly in the pre-season Dermiral has looked better. I would give him 1 more chance but he continues, he deserves some time on the bench to reflect. no way Napoli should have scored those 2 goals. didn't see much of Dybala when he came on to suggest the false nine will work. but it is early days yet.
on the 1st September, 2019 at 7:40am
Juventus wasted too much time on Allegri. The attack is much better and enjoyable. We need a top De Ligt or have to look for a new Chiellini. Alderweireld Is a money wise option.
Anyway it’s great that Juventus didn’t buy Manolas, another flop. He overlapped with Koulibaly and no click at all.
on the 1st September, 2019 at 3:26am
Higuain the bane of Naples and btw Koulibaly failed to stop him on the 2nd goal, not that he could do much, but that makes Koulibaly. I am very happy for Higuain as he was chased away in an ugly way, just as they are chasing away Dybala... thanks CR7...
on the 31st August, 2019 at 11:44pm
Great game. Really entertaining. Juve played their best 60 minutes of the past 2-3 years! They could’ve had 2-3 more from Khedira’s 2 chances and Douglas Costa’s rocket. I’m really excited to see more of this. They’ll need to clean up their defensive play quickly for the champions league mid-September. De Ligt lost concentration in that 2nd goal and could’ve done more on the third but I wouldn’t make a fuss about it. He will get A LOT better once he’s settled in.
on the 31st August, 2019 at 11:16pm

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.