Fearful possession play
Villarreal just about stayed in the game before half-time, and the break allowed Emery to alter his approach to complete Catenaccio. “Come on then, break us down!” he told the Bianconeri.
Juventus were flummoxed. Amid their ongoing unbeaten run in Serie A, Juve have so often taken the lead and been asked to preserve it. Their flaws against a low block, that manifested during the early part of the season and throughout Andrea Pirlo’s reign, have been masked and it’s been a while since Allegri’s had to whip out his ‘How to Break Down a Defence’ manual.
Usually, it’s the Bianconeri frustrating the opposition in this manner.
Juve struggle at the best of times against deep-lying defences, especially without a fully fit Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa. While the latter can stretch the pitch and offer a threat in the limited space behind, Dybala offers masterful footwork in tight spaces to work an inch of space and create.
Villarreal were so compact and it was so difficult for Juventus to penetrate. But they had to be braver in possession. Metronome Arthur completed a team-high 12 progressive passes but his pass completion rate was 94.5% from 110 attempts! This indicates efficiency, sure, but a cautious effort, also. There was no risk whatsoever.
As Fabio Capello perfectly summated post-match: “Arthur looks like he’s playing rugby.”
The Brazilian, along with Adrien Rabiot consistently played around Villarreal’s block rather than through it which meant that the dreaded U-shaped passing patterns were frequent. They moved the ball with no real urgency, which made life oh so simple for the resilient Spaniards.
Juve’s cowardly midfield epitomised their woes in the second half on Wednesday night. Allegri had no answers and the longer their tepid possession play went on, the more inevitable the eventual outcome became.