Thursday February 2 2017
Juventus can't forget 3-5-2

Juventus’ new style is exciting, but Gaby McKay won’t be surprised if it’s dropped for the Champions League.

“Every now and then I come up with a mad idea and try it on the pitch,” Juventus Coach Massimiliano Allegri explained after a 2-0 win over Lazio. The tactician’s ‘mad idea’ had been to field all his attacking options at once in a bold 4-2-3-1 shape. The Bianconeri have stuck with the approach for the two subsequent games, and have won both of them.

It’s hard to argue with the benefits of the switch. In defeat to Fiorentina, the final game before the change, the Old Lady looked slow and unimaginative. In the subsequent fixtures against Lazio, Milan and Sassuolo, the opposition have barely been able to lay a glove on Allegri’s side.

Gonzalo Higuain's explosion in form predates the adjustment, but the Argentinian international is clearly thriving on the increase of service, with eight goals in his last six Serie A games. Similarly, the switch appears to have solved the dilemma of choosing between Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic. Where previously one would play off Higuain, the current system uses Mandzukic’s phenomenal work-rate and aerial ability to lock down the left flank, while Dybala can use his dribbling skill and creativity in a trequartista role.

Given the antipathy many Juventini now feel toward the 3-5-2 shape, it has been gleefully declared that this move should be a permanent one. However, while the 4-2-3-1 is another string to the Bianconeri’s bow, don’t be surprised to see it ditched for certain games as the season enters what Sir Alex Ferguson famously called ‘Squeaky Bum Time’.

With Juventus looking to go all the way in the Champions League this year, it’s legitimate to ask whether there is enough solidity in this new shape to contend with Europe’s biggest sides. Sami Khedira is tactically intelligent and capable of going box-to-box, but the German isn’t a tackler.

Miralem Pjanic adds vision and creativity, but must live in constant fear that Turin’s winter winds will blow him into the river Po. Would you be confident in fielding them as a pair against, for example, Arturo Vidal and Javi Martinez?

Perhaps the 4-2-3-1 will be retained to face Porto in the Last 16, but Allegri may opt for three central midfielders should the Old Lady advance to face one of Europe’s leading lights, with Claudio Marchisio coming in at the expense of Dybala or Mandzukic. A third option - other than 3-5-2 or 4-2-3-1 - could be the 4-3-1-2 which took Juve to the Champions League Final in 2015, with Juan Cuadrado dropping out.

Another concern is rotation. The current system works, in large part, thanks to Mandzukic. The 30-year-old is willing to initiate the press, to track back, help out his full-back and to sacrifice personal glory for the team. On the other side, Juan Cuadrado may not be as diligent, but he’s comfortable in a more defensive wing-back role, and brings that to his more advanced position.

What happens if one of those players is injured, or simply needs a rest? Marko Pjaca is a promising winger, but it would be unfair to expect the same defensive contribution that his compatriot Mandzukic provides.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and there are limitations to the 3-5-2 - just as there are with any formation. But don’t forget, the ‘BBC’ defence became renowned as the best in Europe for a reason, and it was largely the balance provided by playing as a three. Why else did Antonio Conte build his Italy side on that bedrock?

As things stand, Allegri’s mad idea has given his side an extra weapon and a new way of playing. What really would be crazy, though, would be to abandon all else in favour of it.

Have your say...
3-5-2 under Conte was only effective because we had exactly the right players for the job. The versatility of Vidal and Marchisio alongside Pirlo's unique reading of the game was key. In the space of just two seasons we've gone from having one of best midfields in Europe to a mediocre one lacking in cohesion. Winning the CL will take some radical thinking from Allegri. You're not going to win a CL without a midfield, no matter what formation you play.
on the 3rd February, 2017 at 4:30pm
4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 ... These are just numbers. The most important thing is the intensity in which you go into games with.
How you read the game and react to it. This is MORE important than any numbers formation.
I am not a fan of Mandzukic, but his temper, work rate and sacrifice is a lesson for everyone in that team. Forza Juve
on the 3rd February, 2017 at 2:27pm
You wrote 4-3-1-2 took Juve to the finals that should have been the end of the discussion. What did 3-5-2 ever do in Europe under Conte???? To close a game I can understand having an extra defender but not to start. Juve weakest link is the midfield this isn't Vidal,Pirlo and Pogba anymore.. there is a reason why so many teams don't play this rubbish 3-5-2. To be clear I never liked this season...even while winning the league under Conte.
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 11:49pm
You can dream up all the excuses you want but the results from games speak for themselves. The problem is the 4-2-3-1 should have been adopted far earlier so the team can get used to playing it. Winning builds confidence in players. Just getting by and almost loosing does not. Injuries? please if you have 90mil to spend on a player you should know how to build a team that supports your best formation.
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 9:45pm
I agree, Juve cannot just ditch a formation/system that has been the foundation for 5+ years.
Once Barzagli and Chiellini are done playing then maybe we can ditch it completely.

Though I also think we should use 3-5-2 much less than before, because many players who are used to it are already gone (Tevez, Pirlo, Vidal, Pogba, Morata).
You should pick the formation based on the available squad.

As for the current 4-2-3-1, well it's very fragile.. as fatigue and injuries will render it useless, unlike the more flexible 3-5-2.

Not to mention that the 4-2-3-1 is still untested.
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 5:46pm
Whatever formation they play calcio and Italy as a country is finished. Economy has seen no growth for 20 years.Just look at the empty stadiums. So nobody cares about football in this counry. The final nail in my patience coffin was the story of Stadio Della Roma. Run down mafia land that is good only for holidays for their glorious past!
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 5:31pm
You're just straight up delusional, or have no knowledge in football.
If you call the current formation ; a formation, you're just as ignoramus as our garbage if a coach.
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 3:46pm
the 3-5-2 is dead and gone. It's time is done. Move on Gaby. if we don't use the 4-2-3-1 it has to be 4-3-1-2 the few times we used 3-5-2 we either lost are were lucky to get a win and nearly every serie a loss this year came whilst using it I read.
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 8:23am
Squeaky wot!? And yes, I'd be confident in fielding Pjanic and Khedira as a pair against Vidal and Martinez. We literally have no formation that would give us a clearly superior midfield, at least we can depend on wingers in 4-2-3-1 when that's the case. We had Pogba last year, losing him left a huge hole in midfield that had us struggling for so long.

We had the midfield to afford dropping an offensive player for a CB. This is no longer the case and Fiorentina proved why.
on the 2nd February, 2017 at 6:44am

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