When Maurizio Sarri arrived at Juventus, he was expected to take time. Despite having won the Europa League with Chelsea last season, the Italian had taken a while to get his system going. Juventus, whose last two managers have been pragmatic, were to take time to do the same.
They seem to be going in the right direction. Even though they were a goal down in games against Hellas Verona and Brescia. Juve have had the second-highest amount of average possession per game this season- 57.1 percent. They’ve registered the third-highest number of shots on goal- 18 (via Whoscored).
There is still some room for improvement as the play did look slow in the early games. But since the win over Inter in the league, there seems to be a confidence about how Juve are playing. And Sarri has done well to rotate his side to adjust all the players into the system.
Sarri did start with a flat 4-3-3 shape against Parma in the opening game of the season. Douglas Costa, who was fit at that point, started on the right. Gonzalo Higuain started up front, flanked by Cristiano Ronaldo. Juve did pick up a 1-0 win, but it wasn’t as convincing as Sarri would have liked.
In the big game at Napoli, the midfield and front three remained the same. Juve scraped through, thanks to a Kalidou Koulibaly own-goal. They scored three goals in the first 70 minutes- a promising sign for a thriving attack.
But Ronaldo’s positioning in the 4-3-3 was interesting. Unlike Costa, he did not come deeper to receive the ball. He stayed up front on the left side of the final third- almost like a left-striker.
Against Parma, it was the same. In fact, Ronaldo played like a striker. He kept exchanging positions with Higuain upfront.
The next game at Fiorentina saw Sarri play a 4-4-2 shape, with Ronaldo and Higuain upfront. It didn’t quite work as the Juve midfield kept getting overrun by the two Fiorentina false nines in Franck Ribery and Federico Chiesa. Costa came off injured very early in the game and that proved to be a blessing in disguise.
From the Hellas Verona game onwards, Sarri went about fitting other parts of the team into the side. Higuain and Ronaldo had played enough to form a strike pair. But it was Paulo Dybala who started up front, with Ronaldo on the left and Juan Cuadrado on the right.
Dybala enjoyed himself in a free role. He completed five dribbles in the game and played two key passes. Cuadrado put in a shift too. He won both of his two dribbles and also won as many as four tackles. (via Whoscored).
Aaron Ramsey scored his first Juve goal in this game. The summer signing was one of Juve’s best players on the pitch and in the game at Brescia, another new integration experiment followed.
Sarri played a 4-3-1-2 shape, with Ramsey at the tip of the diamond. Dybala started. But instead of Ronaldo, Higuain started upfront with him- another sign of forging link-ups. Juve weren’t at their best but did well to grind out a 2-1 win away from home.
In the win over SPAL, a new combination was tried. In the same 4-3-1-2 shape, Ramsey started behind Ronaldo and Dybala. They were being integrated together game-by-game. Both Ronaldo and Dybala impressed, with the latter scoring one and La Joya assisting once.
Ramsey’s fitness issues saw Sarri bring Federico Bernardeschi into the side for the game at Inter. The Italian had a poor game and lost the ball twice. But Ronaldo and Dybala’s link-up saw the Argentine score the first goal. Dybala made way for Higuain in the second-half and his compatriot got the second-half winner.
Ronaldo praised Sarri’s approach after the game. He told at a press conference (via AS):
“The team is confident, we’re playing with a lot more of that ball. The team has changed for the better and we’re improving week by week.”
This was the game that pointed towards how well Sarri had rotated his front players. They had played together enough to thrive in the system.
With Ramsey and Costa still out, Sarri has given Bernardeschi three opportunities to play at the tip of the diamond. He played there in Juve’s 1-1 draw at Lecce too. But he has struggled.
While Sarri isn’t to blame for that he has also rotated his midfield well. Summer signing Adrien Rabiot has played in games against lesser sides, while Blaise Matuidi has played in the bigger games in the same position. Before arriving in Turin, Rabiot hadn’t played first-team football after mid-December at Paris Saint-Germain. He is taking a while to get his sharpness back on track.
Young Rodrigo Bentancur started at Lecce too. So did Emre Can, who is not part of the Champions League squad.
Juve’s inability to offload players has come as a blessing in disguise for Sarri. He has so many options at his disposal- other teams can only dream of that. It is a gradual process of integration that Sarri is undertaking. And it is going very well indeed.