After the disappointing 2-1 defeat against bitter enemies Fiorentina, Juventus Coach Max Allegri sprung a surprise with his team selection, unleashing a 4-2-3-1 formation with all three of his recognised strikers in the side. Gonzalo Higuain led the line as Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzukic operated behind the record buy from Napoli.
As the team sheets emerged, Allegri will have afforded himself a wry smile, knowing the embarrassment of attacking riches at his disposal would provide a suitable psychological blow to the opposition.
The visitors, who were in good form coming in to the showdown, looked visibly shaken from the opening exchanges, and within 16 minutes the match was effectively over. Allegri gambled, and his bravery was rewarded. Unfortunately for Simone Inzaghi, his men were on the receiving end of a bold, new set up.
Juventus performed with such vigour and intent and the Biancocelesti were left bamboozled, with no answer to an onslaught they faced from the first minute to the final whistle.
On this occasion, Dybala and Higuain got on the scoresheet, but Mandzukic proved his worth, as he always does, contributing an assist. The Croatian’s selfless attitude is a contributing factor to the success of a new system and his willingness to track back sets him apart from fellow centre-forwards who neglect the defensive element of the game.
Allegri confessed the switch in style wasn’t pre-planned, but will have been conscious of Mandzukic’s industry and Dybala’s versatility, making the transition a smoother process.
Dybala, who is comfortable in partnership or in a withdrawn role, also benefited from his teammates’ endeavour and relished the continual fluidity of moving positions, so this was simply too much for Lazio to contend with. Essentially, Juventus had two strikers and two playmakers on the pitch, not to mention marauding full-backs in the form of Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner.
The forward-thinking line-up did not stop there. Sami Khedira was at the base of midfield with Miralem Pjanic and neither player can claim to be defensively-minded. Juventus are used to large spells of possession and Allegri will have noticed this, and Pjanic is more than capable of orchestrating play from deep.
Khedira, a renowned box-to-box midfielder, assumed the defensive role of the pair, but Allegri should be mindful that such an adventurous formation will most certainly require an orthodox holding midfielder, particularly if his side is to be littered with such an array of attack-minded players. This is something to consider, especially in Europe when the margins are so fine.
For the Bianconeri boss, the victory and performance was the perfect way to bounce back from defeat. The hosts were at their rampaging best and, although Inzaghi’s men offered little, they will recover.
If Juventus can ruthlessly dispatch a side with European aspirations, no team in the league is safe. The reigning champions continue to set an unrivalled standard in the domestic game and closest competitors Roma will be especially despondent. The Lupi have won their last four matches, but remain short of the league leaders, who have seemingly added another string to their bow.
With some fine tuning, Allegri’s bold and adventurous line-up could become the norm for his side.