SERIE A: Juventus v Fiorentina analysis; Dybala as Messi

First game of Serie A offered a great match up in Turin where eternal favourite for the title Juventus hosted historical rival Fiorentina. Despite selling Pogba to Man United, Juventus managed to assemble the squad deemed capable of mounting serious challenge for Champions League so conquering Italy yet again shouldn’t really be in question. All the stars in the team and expectations put a pressure on Massimo Allegri to show off this force from the first match.
On the other hand, anything but a heavy loss would be acceptable for Fiorentina. They went on the pitch in a formation rarely seen outside of Italy, a strange 3-4-3 which was really a 3-4-2-1 with Milan Badelj as deep lying playmaker and young prospect Federico Chiesa in attacking midfielder role paired with Josip Iličić. They were, however, missing midfielder Borja Valero with an ankle injury.

Juventus indeed started off in extraordinary fashion. Since big signing Gonzalo Higuain isn’t ready yet for full match, Dybala was paired with Mario Mandžukić which suited perfectly Allegri as Croatian striker is more adept at high pressing game than Higuain. Juvenuts’ coach had a clear idea how to stop visitors from Firenze and during the first half Fiorentina found itself under constant pressure unable to string three passes in a row.

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Well executed team pressing from Juve in first half was key as it made Fiorentina insecure on the ball and disorganized in defence which will prove crucial in Juve’s first goal

Above you can see how well Juventus closed down their opponents. Four Juventus players were able to cancel out six of their opponents and only way out for Fiorentina is to pass the ball back to goalkeeper and clear it up field. This was an approach taken throughout the first half that forced Fiorentina to give the ball away every time they got it. Once cleared three Fiorentina forwards had trouble getting to the ball since they were outnumbered two to one by Juventus players. Allegri’s plan was clearly to prevent Fiorentina to get onto ball with his high defensive line and well executed team pressing. It worked to as a charm since Fiorentina had the ball only 39 per cent of time in first half.

Once visitors were forced to aimlessly clear the ball Juventus was ready to take over and go with lower tempo build up shifting the ball and opposition defence from side to side in order to find a hole between the defenders.

Juventus was patiently probing left and right to catch Fiorentina defence out of balance (source: @11tegen11)

Above you see Juventus’ average positions coupled with passing lanes and you can clearly see the “U” shape pattern as hosts probe around the defence to get into scoring position although they didn’t refrain from direct long balls. It was Asamoah and Chiellini who were searching mostly Dani Alves and Dybala on right side once Fiorentina was concentrated on left.

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Constant pressure put fear into Fiorentina players and they gave away possession. This insecurity translated into defensive phase as they went too deep and with lines too close allowing Juventus time and space on the ball

Constant pressure and inability to keep the ball made Fiorentina insecure and quite disorganized. Above you see how their defensive block compressed in five yards. Paolo Sousa must have been tearing his hair watching his team give so much space in central areas. In fact, less than 10 minutes later Juventus scores precisely because of this defensive disorganization.

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Pressure finally payed off as Khedira’s run through the disorganized defence got on the end of Chiellini’s cross

Again you see Fiorentina defensive block compressed in five yards of space leaving Juventus with all the time and space on the ball. Chiellini, who often surged forward, notices run from deep by Khedira and pings a perfect cross on to his head for one nil lead. Important part of this goal were previous 37 minutes of hard pressing that took away all the confidence Fiorentina might have brought to Turin. The other part was Allegri’s confidence and bravery to push forward in numbers. If you count, you will see nine Juventus players 30 yards from Fiorentina goal and that includes two central defenders one of which made an assist.

While Juventus attacked from both sides quite evenly, attacks from left were far more direct while on the right side they were much more eager to use skills of Dybala who tried to pass around the defence. This was all more visible in the second half once Juventus refrained from such high pressing and looked to shift attacks to left.

Second half brought a change in Fiorentina game as they switched to defending in 4-4-2 which allowed them to control better the spaces and also keep the distance between the defensive lines.

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Both teams altered their approach in second half. Juventus didn’t press so high and Fiorentina changed into 4-4-2 while defending. All this meant Viola had more time on the ball but didn’t prevent defeat. Dybala’s role changed significantly as he dropped deep and looked to connect the middle and attack as well as finish himself. Kind of what Messi does in Barcelona.

You can see above Fiorentina in their new shape. It is difficult to say if it was this change from Paolo Sousa that tamed Juventus a bit, or a fact that Juventus stopped their high pressing that was so effective in first half. You can also notice Dybala playing somewhat different role from the second period. He isn’t anymore high up the pitch but in Messi’s position and role. He is searching to get the ball deeper on the right side and move the team forward with his vision and dribbling abilities. With Dani Alves (player with most assists to Messi in Barcelona squad), that doesn’t seem like an outrageous idea.

With numerous changes in second half (offensive shape change to 4-3-3) Fiorentina managed to control the match better and regained possession. They even managed to score off the corner but Juventus was never in danger to lose the track of the match. They went to 5-4-1 and saw off the game although they gave much more space to their visitors.

In conclusion, Juventus did what they had to do. They have won confidently and showed few new things. Incredibly well organized team pressing, no fear in pushing numbers forward and Dybala in new Messi like role on the right side of the pitch. Allegri’s plan to completely stifle Fiorentina worked to perfection as Viola was completely lost in first half that made confusion in the defensive lines which, ultimately, was key in scoring first goal. Slight shadow of doubt was cast on the second half as Juve stopped playing so aggressively but they controlled the game nevertheless. Fiorentina showed they can adapt well and threaten even the biggest club in the country so nobody will be really disappointed with result.

Brexit and what happens to football

No doubt Brexit will influence the English football but it will also shake whole football world. Not only Europe, but world. Top players will move for top money and that will be an occasion for rich investors in Arabia to further their influence in Europe or we could even see a super league rising over in China.

It might be strange or unthinkable at the moment but football has been a multi-billion industry and if all restrictions associated with Brexit roll over to football the money will look to move to more pleasant surroundings.

For two decades Premier League was patiently building its image of European and world’s top football league. After erratic 80’s the politics made the circumstances in which football is again as marketable as vacations in Maldives. Football became a prime product attracting every investor from Russian oligarch, over Arab oil moguls and everyone in between. With all that money came the best players, stadiums, derbies…

More than third of players in Premiership wouldn’t get work permit

It all becomes less attractive suddenly. More than a third of Premier League players will become foreigners and will not be allowed to get the work permit any more. In fact, last year, a BBC study found that “more than 300 European players in the Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premiership would not qualify for work permits under the rules governing non-EU players. Last season, only 23 of the EU nationals in the Premier League would have met those criteria, with the likes of Dimitri Payet and Anthony Martial unable to secure work permits”, says the study. It also reveals that “only 23 of the 180 non-British EU players currently playing in the Championship would get work permits… Remarkably, none of the 53 non-British EU players in the Scottish Premiership would qualify for a permit on the basis of their international career alone”.

source: BBC Sport

While some of the top players will remain, most of them will have to find another place to play their football. This will produce a chain event as TV stations will be reluctant to pay 5.2 billion pounds (as the current deal stands) to show less than top world players. With less money, the game will be less attractive even for those top players to remain and English game might soon drop into vicious spiral. If that is actually good or bad for English football, that is completely different story we won’t be tackling today.

If Premiership can’t get the stars it won’t get the money

“Revenue is clearly tied to the quality of players that the Premier League is able to present to viewers on TV and in the stadium, that is why big broadcasters are paying billions. If those EU players weren’t present, the value of the broadcast rights would be significantly diminished”, said Dr Babatunde Buraimo from University of Liverpool Management School to The Telegraph. That is precisely why all the Premiership clubs openly sided to remain in the Union while Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chairman, argued that “it would be “incongruous” for him to back the UK leaving”, reports The Independent.
However, rules for non-EU players that are currently valid, might be changed.


UK could relax them to attract the new stars into English game as they aren’t your typical immigrant and earning a lot gets back in form of taxes. “However, it may be difficult for such an agreement to be put into place because footballers are considered workers in law and it may be the case that they cannot be treated as a special category”, said Dr Gregory Ioannidis, a senior law lecturer from Sheffield Hallam University when speaking to BBC.
As everything with Brexit, even the influence it will have on football in the UK is unclear and won’t be resolved in any short future. There will be time to adapt, the problem is, if it takes too much time, all the money that currently circulates in English football might seek safer surrounding.

European football is dependent on Premiership money

The pressure is not only on English football. A lot of money is getting over to the continent. Huge transfer fees Premiership clubs were paying for international stars were a significant income for leagues in Germany, Spain, France… everywhere.
“Last summer the English top division spent close to $226 million (220 million Euros) on players from the Bundesliga, most of whom are German nationals or from other EU nations. As things stand these players are free to move from Germany to England with very little red tape getting in the way. Should Britain leave the EU, it would be far harder to sign such players. All of a sudden, Bundesliga stars would be far less appealing to the cash-rich Premier League clubs.”, says an article on Deutsche Welle.

Football is too big and heavily dependent on English league. Teams all over Europe will find the financial survival much harder without the money that comes from Premiership and this will leave space for new openings if things aren’t sorted in reasonable time.
In the end, Premier League will find the way to attract stars, the question is how many? Are they going to be enough to keep huge TV rights incomes? If not, football world will change as investors will seek to keep the revenues selecting some other top European league for cash cow. And who knows what China is planning?