Allegri’s game-changing alteration
Allegri, being the masterful coach he is, didn’t take long to identify Juve’s out of possession problem. His adjustment was a simple one, but it facilitated Juve’s sturdiest defensive effort of the new season.
Winger Cuadrado became a de facto wing-back. From the 15th minute mark, he was tasked with tracking the surges of Alonso down Chelsea’s left. This altered Danilo’s responsibility, too. The Brazilian shifted inside and was given the licence to engage Ziyech between the lines.
Alonso’s advanced positioning meant Juve created a back five with Cuadrado and their structure in the first half evolved into a lopsided 5-3-2. They defended the opposite flank differently. Alex Sandro had no man-marking obligations but he was instead forced to press Cesar Azpilicueta when the Spaniard received possession. Sandro’s engagement shifted Juve’s structure: de Ligt marked Havertz, while Leonardo Bonucci stuck with Romelu Lukaku.
Overall, Sandro timed his engagements on Azpilicueta superbly and Chelsea struggled to progress down the right in the opening period. Allegri’s ploy with Cuadrado and Sandro exposed the Blues’ lack of dynamism at wing-back and this shift in structure completely stifled the visitors. Wojciech Szczesny was untested.
Cuadrado’s man-marking job on Alonso signalled a switch to catenaccio. From that moment on, Juve were a deep block and counter-attacking side. By the end of the bout, the hosts recorded a mere 22 pressures in the attacking third. Compare that to a high-pressing Chelsea, who registered double.
Anyway, back to Cuadrado. The Colombian’s deep positioning meant Juventus lost an outlet in attack and were reliant on Bernardeschi and Chiesa to cause Chelsea problems in this phase. The former was quiet early on, but the latter was typically electric. The Allianz crowd rose every time the ball reached Chiesa’s feet in anticipation of what magic the Italian would produce next. He instilled fear in an excellent Chelsea defence that very few can do, and functioned as a one-man attack for much of the opening period.
Nevertheless, the hosts were gifted chances by a sloppy Chelsea. Mateo Kovacic was the culprit of poor giveaways on two occasions but the Bianconeri failed to make the Croatian pay. Rabiot couldn’t have done much worse when he attempted to pick out Bernardeschi in a two-vs-one situation, while Chiesa went close after breezing past a helpless Andreas Christensen before placing his effort across Edouard Mendy but beyond the post.
Despite their depleted attack, Juventus were most certainly a threat.