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Juventus 3-0 Roma

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Courtesy of: Football.ua

Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to eight points with an impressive victory over Roma.

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Antonio Conte fielded his preferred starting eleven, as he welcomed back Andrea Pirlo from injury.

Rudi Garcia made no significant changes to his 4-3-3. Francesco Totti, Gervinho and Adem Ljajic led the line, while Kevin Strootman, Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi formed a midfield trio.

This fixture had no major tactical theme – Juventus’ approach without the ball nullified Roma’s main attacking threat.

Juventus without the ball

One of the most significant feats in this match was Juventus’ approach without the ball. Opposed to bringing the match to the away side, Conte instructed his men to sit deep in their half and minimize space between the lines for Totti to drift into.

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This approach was logical because it ensured there was no space behind the Juventus backline to attack on the counter and Totti would be unable to drag defenders out of position. Conte’s men sat in two compact banks of four, with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente sitting a few yards ahead of the midfield to maintain Juventus’ shape.

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Conte’s midfield trio sat in front of the back line, as Juventus became a 5-3-2, considering Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah sat deeper then usual. Vidal and Pogba pushed out wide when Roma’s fullbacks received the ball, to prevent them from pushing forward, and they diligently dropped deeper to ensure that their wingback wasn’t isolated against Roma’s front three – this meant Tevez and Llorente dropped into these central areas preserve structure in midfield.

Juventus’ approach out of possession was significant – Garcia’s men were left flabbergasted in possession, as the home side stifled their main attacking threats.

Roma struggle

Juventus’ reactive approach meant Roma enjoyed majority of the possession throughout the match. Apart from Tevez occasionally closing down defenders, and Juventus’ attempt to press from goal-kicks, Roma’s centrebacks, along with De Rossi, were free to push forward.

The issue that Roma encountered – besides Juventus’ great organization – was their slow ball circulation and a focal point in attack. Strootman retained possession well and Pjanic – who looked injured – attempted to penetrate, but the midfielders’ impact was minimal. Gervinho was caught offside when he broke into good positions, and was always put into 1v2 situations when he intended on isolating a wingback – and Ljajic drifted infield desperately looking for gaps to penetrate.

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Totti found it difficult to grow into the match, and he failed to create space for Roma’s attacker to run into. Whenever Totti dropped deep to receive the ball the closest Juventus centreback stuck tight to the Italian – Vidal also tracked his movement and closed Totti down when he roamed around the halfway line.

Ultimately, the only way Roma could create an opportunity to expose Juventus on the counter would be to press the Juventus backline higher up the pitch, or force them to concede possession in their third, and quickly commit men forward. Ljajic received a great chance early in the match when Totti dispossessed Leonardo Bonucci, but besides that effort, Buffon made routine saves to preserve his clean sheet.

Despite monopolizing majority of the possession, the away side rarely created legitimate goal-scoring opportunities because they couldn’t find openings in Juventus’ shape. The ball circulation was slow, their playmakers were nullified, and there was no space in the final third for Gervinho to attack.

Pirlo – De Rossi

Although Roma opted to drop into their shape and allow Juventus’ centrebacks to play from the back, Garcia instructed his men to press Pirlo. Totti was handed the duty to track the Italian maestro, and Pjanic occasionally stepped in when Totti was out of position. Garcia’s attempt to nullify Pirlo was logical, but as the game wore on, the Italian found it easier to receive the ball and build attacks from deep – this was down to fitness levels, and Roma’s lack of structure without the ball.

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On the other hand, De Rossi was free to play passes from deep – he often switched balls towards the fullbacks, but rarely played long diagonal balls or forward penetrating passes. De Rossi’s passing was conservative, and while his passing rate was phenomenal, it didn’t influence Roma’s attack. Here, De Rossi often dropped between the two Roma centre-backs to ensure a numerical advantage at the back, and help push Dodo and Maicon forward.

Although neither man dominated the match from midfield, both held pivotal roles – Pirlo helped Juventus get into better attacking positions as the match wore on, whereas De Rossi’s presence prevented Juventus’ strike force from isolating the Roma’s centrebacks.

Set-pieces

The home side’s threat from open-play was minimal, but they efficiently executed set-pieces. In fairness, Pogba and Vidal ignited attacks on the break, but their final ball let them down – however, Roma looked vulnerable defending set-pieces, and Juventus took advantage.

Juventus’ opening goal came from a simple Lichtsteiner throw-in that led to the Swiss wingback playing a pass into Tevez, who cleverly turned De Rossi, slid an incisive ball towards Vidal, and the Chilean beat Morgan De Sanctis at the near post. 20 minutes later, Pirlo tricked the Roma defence into thinking he’d play a ball into the six-yard box, and laid it off to Pogba, whose shot was blocked – Roma failed to clear their lines and Barzagli’s diagonal pass to Tevez subsequently led to the Argentinian striker whipping a ball across the six-yard box, which Bonucci couldn’t latch onto.

Bonucci doubled the home side’s lead minutes into the second half, when he broke free from Leandro Castan and guided in Pirlo’s free-kick at the far post. Roma further displayed their inability to defend set-pieces when Chiellini nodded back Pirlo’s free-kick at the far post and Castan handled the ball in the area, thus leading to his dismissal and a penalty, which Mirko Vucinic converted. Although Juventus’ influence from open-play was minimal, Conte’s men exposed Roma through set-pieces, and were rewarded with three goals.

4-2-3-1

Garcia opted to bring on Mattia Destro and Vasilis Torosidis for Pjanic and Dodo, as Roma moved to a 4-2-3-1.

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The move was logical as Roma now possessed a focal point in attack, but unfortunately for the away side, they struggled to get the ball into Destro – Pjanic’s departure deprived the away side of any penetration, as they were left with Strootman’s complacent passing and De Rossi in a deeper role.

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Garcia’s final attempt to alter the match saw Alessandro Florenzi replace Totti, but De Rossi and Castan were sent off within four minutes of his introduction. With Roma down to nine-men away from home against the champions, the match was over, and Juventus comfortably sustained their two-goal lead.

Conclusion

Juventus’ defensive solidity and set-piece efficiency merited three points – this was far from their best performance of the season, yet their defensive display was superb, as Conte’s men stifled Roma’s attack.

Roma dominated possession for large portions of the match, but the away side lacked invention, guile and penetration when they broke into Juventus’ half. Garcia’s men circulated the ball too slow, allowing Juventus to maintain their shape, while their set-piece defending was abysmal. Roma have overachieved by some margin this season – considering this is their first loss of the season – and if they can positively bounce back from this result, then the title race is far from over.

Roma’s overall performance wasn’t great – nor was it poor – here, they lost to a better side, executing a well-thought-out approach.

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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Roma combine defensive organization and quick transitions to defeat Inter Milan

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Over the past few weeks, Rudi Garcia’s fantastic start as Roma manager has been overlooked, laughed about, or simply ignored. Unlike last season, when Zdenek Zeman’s tenure was highly anticipated, Garcia’s was closely critiqued – at some points harshly ridiculed. But as we embark upon the second international break of the season, Garcia’s men has silenced more critics, and remain undefeated at the top of the table.

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This weekend it was Walter Mazzarri’s Inter Milan that provided another obstacle for Roma to overcome. The Giallorossi produced a mature performance at the San Siro, combining defensive organization with quick transitions on the counter, to keep their unbeaten record intact. And it was their two-standout performers this season – Gervinho and Totti – that were brilliant on the night.

Francesco Totti continues to look ageless in Roma’s 4-3-3, which arguably is a 4-6-0 due to the Italian’s tactical intelligence. Totti is not your typical conventional striker – he drops deeper into midfield searching for space to receive the ball, allowing his wingers to attack the space behind him. Nonetheless, it was Totti who led the cavalry to three points with a first half brace.

However, Roma’s goals stemmed from Garcia’s initial game plan – defend deep and get the ball to their wide players . The Giallorossi pounced on Andrea Ranocchia’s failed clearance, and Alessandro Florenzi played a pass to Gervinho, who laid the ball off for Totti to thump a fabulous strike past Samir Handanovic. Totti added to his tally from the spot 20 minutes later, courtesy of Gervinho’s direct threat from wide areas, which led to Alvaro Pereira fouling the Ivorian in the box.

Florenzi put the match out of reach in the 43rd minute, which showcased a brilliant counter-attack straight off the training ground. Totti cleared his lines, playing a ball towards the advancing Kevin Strootman, who drove through the heart of the Nerazzuri midfield – the Dutch midfielder slid the ball into Florenzi, who hammered a one-time shot into the far corner.

For all of Roma’s attacking threat on the counter, their defensive work was equally impressive. Inter was allowed to dictate possession as Roma dropped into their shape, but Mazzarri’s men were unable to get behind the Giallorossi backline. The midfield trio of Daniele De Rossi, Strootman and Miralem Pjanic did a great job in minimizing space between the lines, while maintaining a compact shape ahead of the back four. Inter relied on width from their wingbacks, but Florenzi and Gervinho worked diligently to nullify Pereira and Yuto Nagatomo’s threat from wide areas.

As Inter Milan pushed forward looking to find a goal, Gervinho became Roma’s biggest threat going forward. The Ivorian was the main outlet going forward confidently skipping past defenders, as he was a nuisance from wide areas – which was a rarity in his overall game during his time at Arsenal. Gervinho and Totti completed the most passes in the attacking third of any player in a Roma shirt, as Garcia’s men stifled Inter’s attack, an targeted the space available on the counter.

Roma produced another terrific performance against an Inter Milan side that were on a great run of form, prior to the result. Last season the Giallorossi were abysmal at the back, and would’ve struggled to maintain a three-goal lead, but Garcia’s men – who have only conceded one goal thus far – continue to be magnificent defensively. It’s uncertain as to whether Roma will be able to sustain such brilliance for the duration of the season, but it’s refreshing to hear the Giallorossi mentioned in the title conversation.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Adem Ljajic’s movement steers Roma past Lazio

The summer sales of Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo and Bojan Krkic left many questioning Roma’s front-line heading into the new season, however a certain Serbian attacker is slowly silencing those critics.

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Adem Ljajic’s arrival in the second half turned the tide for the Giallorossi as they earned their 48th Rome derby victory. Prior to the Serbian attacker’s introduction, the match looked certain to end in a draw. Vladimir Petkovic’s cautious approach saw his side sit off in their half, maintaining a solid foundation in a 4-1-4-1, but this left lone striker Miroslav Klose isolated upfront. Alvaro Gonzalez and Hernanes pressed Kevin Strootman and Miralem Pjanic, leaving Daniele De Rossi free to play passes, but the Italian didn’t have a significant impact on the match.

Due to Lazio’s ability to contain Roma’s midfield, Rudi Garcia’s attacking three didn’t receive many opportunities to cause havoc in the final third. Gervinho scampered down the flanks lacking quality in the final third – while Francesco Totti was forced to drop deep into midfield to receive the ball and Alessandro Florenzi was a limited option on the opposing flank. Frankly, it was a poor half from both sides that resulted in no shots on target, minimal Lazio attacking threats – besides Antonio Candreva and Senad Lulic bombing down the flanks – and Garcia’s men unable to get behind the Lazio backline.

Six minutes into the second half, Garcia decided to introduce Ljajic for the disappointing Florenzi, and this is when Roma – specifically Totti – grew into the match.

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Ljajic, celebrating his 22nd birthday, drifted around the final third linking play on each flank – he found pockets of space in key areas to receive the ball, and dropped deeper into midfield to provide an extra passing outlet. The Serbian attacker provided an attacking element – his immaculate off-the-ball movement – that freed up space for his teammates to slot into.

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Maicon and Federico Balzaretti surged forward to help create overloads, and Totti, who had himself a frustrating first half, found spaces in wide areas to provide Roma with the creativity they lacked prior to Ljajic’s arrival.

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Balzaretti and Totti benefitted from the Serbian’s second half cameo the most, as the Roma captain was no longer the creative focal point, while Balzaretti had space to attack due to Lazio’s narrow shape. And it took 11 minutes for the duo to combine as Totti drifted to the right flank and played a lovely ball to the advancing Roma fullback, but he drove his shot off the post. Seconds later, Totti played a short corner, received the ball back, and delivered a lovely cross to an unmarked Balzaretti, and this time the Italian put the ball past Federico Marchetti.

Petkovic brought on an extra striker, two midfielders, and altered his formation, but an Andre Dias red card – minutes after his introduction – ended Lazio’s chances of snagging an equalizer. Nevertheless, Ljajic continued to impact the match, combining with Balzaretti again, which led to substitute Marco Borriello nodding the Italian fullback’s cross at Marchetti. But, in the dying minutes of injury time, Ljajic received a pass on the edge of the box, awing the Lazio defence with his footwork, then squirming into space, where he was fouled, handing Roma a late penalty. The birthday boy confidently stepped to the spot, scoring his second goal of the season – off the bench – for the Giallorossi, as their perfect record stays intact.

Ljajic has yet to complete a full 90 minutes for Roma, but he continues to display why he’ll be a pivotal component to their success this season. His persistence to roam around the final third linking play, score goals, and provide space for his teammates is beneficial against well-organized sides. Roma struggled in the first half, but Ljajic’s work rate in the final third led to the Giallorossi’s second half superiority against a good Lazio side.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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