Copenhagen 1-1 Juventus

19 Sep

There is much to be said in favour…

…of sticking to a system which has claimed the lion-share of two domestic titles and laid the foundation for our re-emergence as any kind of force in Europe last season. Its too hard to even write the word LION without Llorente appearing in my thoughts and demanding a mention…

In a match where very obviously our opponents had set out to play to their strengths and our weaknesses, ceding control of the flanks and placing muscle and determination in a compact wall in front of their goal, we are left with two choices-
1. stick to our system but fight fire with fire, so take what is given, own the flanks, put in cross after cross after cross. Now to make something of this tactic, we must put into play our finest finisher from crosses. Ideally a target man, who can either score himself, out-jump/ out-muscle the defenders, or present a chance for a fellow player from a knock-down.
2. change tactics to attempt to draw our opponents out of shape and create openings to drive into and capitalize upon.

Matri was our best aerial threat in attack prior to his departure. If you are not Barca its always useful to have a strong man in the box. In his place, we have a new, potentially much more useful prima punta in the spaniard. The problem here is that Conte doesn’t deem him ready. Maybe he is correct. We have to take into account that its not simply a case of Llorente adjusting to our systems and players, there is also the rather poignant issue to ponder of his immense lack of playing time for the last year of his career. We are not Barcelona, although we do create and score some beautifully conjured goals. I prefer the old school approach of our forward line incorporating a duo of prima punta and fantasista. Considering we play with a huge amount of effort focused on owning the flanks and getting quality balls into the box from the flanks, it adds even more weight to the argument of playing a prima punta, a player adept at winning aerial battles, to create or finish. I remember, ever so fondly, the best of Del Piero and Trezeguet. Whilst its incredibly optimistic to suggest that Llorente is of Trezeguet’s class, we do have the option now of deploying a similar duo, for Tevez is, for me, as talented a player as Del Piero. Perhaps less fantasy, but a huge amount more work rate, muscle and clinical end product. The two are perfect for a Big man/ Little man combination. And I am sure we will see that given a run out closer to christmas…such appears Conte’s caution.

And its this idea of Conte’s caution which is the only observation, not criticism, I can offer on a coach I loved to watch as a player, and who has, more than anyone else at the club, taken us from two 7th place finishes to domestic powerhouse and respected opponent on the european stage.

The major point to focus upon is that tactically, we made a huge amount of good chances. The system was working. It was not a case at all of a failure to create goal scoring chances. If there is anything I question, its the determination and belief of the players. On the team we put out, on the large amount of chances, on form, we should have won this handsomely. We did not…Because we came up against a resolute, very well organized side and failed to convert more than one of at the very least five very good chances.

So onto this 4-3-3 discussion.

Every time I see Pogba play I believe more strongly that he is simply too good, and getting better by the week, to be left out of the midfield. Vidal is scoring goals and by now well established as one of the best box to box midfielders in the world. Pirlo’s form has been rusty, but if we take his distribution capabilities out of our line-up, our creativity, from open play and set pieces hugely diminishes. I am interested to discover the player who misses out when Marchisio returns to full fitness, regardless of a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. I like Marchisio, yet when even taking into consideration the poor form of Pirlo, I would be strongly opposed to Pogba dropping out to bring the italian back IN. Pirlo may well need a breather, but unless he is suffering from injury I see him as starting whenever fit. So how can we integrate four top drawer midfielders?? I’d be tempted, were I the manager, to make a stab at it. For I always lean towards looking at the squad, identifying your best players, putting them in a line-up and only then picking a formation around them. Which for me, would lead us to something like this…

Buffon
Lichsteiner Barzagli Bonucci Chiellini
(flat back four…Giorgio is a monster left back and with added presence through the middle the wingback focus is greatly lessened)
Pogba
Vidal Marchisio
Pirlo
Llorente Tevez

Its a diamond midfield. My only uncertainty would be whether Pogba plays in Vidal’s role or vice versa. Even with Vucinic instead of Llorente I would go the same way.

a 4-3-3 seems viable, but who drops out of the midfield? By far our most capable on the ball Pirlo I will stick to my guns and include the strongest players in the starting XI, so avoid the issue of leaving out Pogba or Pirlo or Marchisio and play to our strengths.

On a side note, Peluso has been fine. I do not rate him highly as an offensive threat, but defensively, once he has found his feet, he is stronger than Asamoah. De Ceglie is not even worth mentioning at any length. And to continue this side note routine…Giaccherini’s insatiable hustling and potency near to goal and in the box has not been replaced. I am unsure as to why that transfer was authorized and above all else, Who had the final say, but regardless of his lack of physicality, his effort and direct focus on scoring goals has proven brilliant so many times for us, and now…he is conspicuous by his absence. I expect us to sign an attacking midfielder in January, for as much hope as people put into Pepe, of the two, the little goblin was always the most potent to my eyes and juve heart.

To finish…the humbling Real Madrid gave the Turks is encouraging. They are surely lesser opponents than Donesk. So we need not repeat our heroics of last season to progress.

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