This was a copy and paste Juventus victory. We’ve seen it so many times this season. Although, one slight difference was that they were forced to come from behind.
Juve were pretty flat throughout, struggling to work a high-quality opening, but they were still able to score twice as their sustained pressure eventually told. After Joao Pedro gave the hosts the lead, they were content with sitting deep in their 5-3-2 block. Cagliari went long from every goal kick, showed no intention of retaining possession for long periods, and ceded total control to the visitors.
And while Walter Mazzarri’s block was able to stifle Juve for much of the contest, the depth of Cagliari’s defensive line meant that Juve’s eventual winner was inevitable. They were always going to create an opening, and it took just two incisive passes to set up Vlahovic for the winner.
The Bianconeri, after a poor opening period, managed better against Cagliari’s low block in the second half and Allegri deserves some credit due to his subtle tactical tweak. When Juve had the ball, he instructed number eights Adrien Rabiot and Denis Zakaria to pull wider and stretch Cagliari’s midfield line. This challenged their horizontal compactness and opened up more passing lanes into Vlahovic and Dybala.
This tweak didn’t directly contribute to Juve’s winner, but it undoubtedly improved their performance with the ball after the second half. Cagliari’s transition threat, or lack thereof, meant Allegri was willing to sacrifice Juve’s own central compactness in favour of a more proficient performance with the ball.
Once Juve got ahead, Allegri went full Allegri. Immediately, Juve’s 4-4-2 became a 4-5-1 without the ball before Leonardo Bonucci made his return to action to create a back five. Why Allegri opts to unnecessarily invite pressure in the closing stages is beyond me, but he backs his defenders to hold off any potential onslaught. That wasn’t forthcoming on Saturday as Wojciech Szczesny enjoyed a quiet night.
Overall, this was a dull, uninspiring but predictable Juventus victory. It’s the Max Allegri way.