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In late Autumn and early Winter Juventus strung together an unbeaten run that lasted eighteen games, a feat they managed playing a largely unchanged line-up and using the same formation every week. What began the season as Gigi Delneri’s favoured formation became very different, dropping the wing-based shape he utilised at Sampdoria and relying on eighteen year old defender Frederik Sørensen at right back due to injuries, poor form and suspensions.

Ostensibly a central defender the Dane would be ineffective if pushed too far wide, so Delneri slightly altered the system. Masking a clear weakness in this manner was intelligent coaching and prevented the kind of poor performances from the team seen last year when Zdenek Grygera or Jonathan Zebina were asked to provide width. Claudio Marchisio, used in a mezz’ala role on the left, was key to the formation, adapting his game and shuttling back to the central area to prevent the team being outnumbered.

The coach deserved credit for this but it was the willingness of the players to work hard for each other and ensure the gaps were plugged at all times and the goalscoring form of Fabio Quagliarella that were key to making it work. By the same token it was not the tactical framework that ruptured its knee ligaments nor kicked a Parma player in the face and received a three match ban. Some of the criticism levelled at both the coach and his tactics during January and February bordered on this exact level of insanity.

Juve ended the slump by winning against Cagliari and Delneri again received much praise for moving to a 4-3-1-2 that brought the best from Luca Toni and Ale Matri who both found themselves on the score-sheet. But it was not long before the team once again struggled and it would be Delneri receiving the criticism with many calling for him to be sacked immediately until an Alessandro Del Piero winner saw off Brescia.

From there Juve would head to the capital to face Roma and would do so shorn of Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Del Piero. Once more Delneri would switch formation, first to a traditional 4-3-3 and then a 4-3-2-1 to capitalise on Roma’s frailties. This too was applauded and the coach would stick with the same shape - albeit without the suspended Fabio Grosso - for Genoa’s visit to Turin this past weekend.

After a first half which saw the Juve midfield over-run Delneri would make more changes, bringing off Felipe Melo for Toni and going back to his favoured 4-2-4. The move would pay high dividends as the former Bayern Munich striker would first get an assist on Matri’s equaliser before going on to score the winner against another of his former teams.

Another common trait to the play of Delneri’s sides - and one that has been seen a number of times this season - is one of the wide players getting into the box when the other has the ball. As play develops down one side of the field, the winger on the far side has been stealing late into the box, popping up - often unmarked - at the far post to cause problems for the defending team. This was again highlighted against Genoa as Pepe’s header lead to Juve’s first equaliser, repeating a move from just before half time.

Now with three very different wins against vastly different opponents but, rather than credit the coach for shifting from his allegedly rigid and ancient 4-4-2, the common factor has been the execution of the players on all three occasions. In the victory over Brescia it would be Alberto Aquilani, Milos Krasic and the match-winner Del Piero who stepped up, while in Rome it was Marco Storari’s goalkeeping ability and the attacking input of Grosso. This past weekend Melo, Simone Pepe and Toni took their turn to shine in the lunchtime sun.

Not only was this the first time Juventus had won three games in a row since September 2009 but it was their first come-from-behind triumph since February 14 last year - another 3-2 against Genoa. With match-winning performances from Del Piero, Grosso and Toni it has been the heroes of Berlin 2006 who have led the way for Delneri.

Yet almost exactly the same team that beat Brescia, Roma and Genoa lost to Lecce, Bologna and Milan. There have been no major changes, yet now they have begun to once again take points from the so-called smaller teams, against which the Bianconeri have struggled this season. It is perhaps no coincidence that the improvement has come since being almost completely written off, and the shift in mentality has had far more impact than moving Melo a little deeper or Krasic more centrally.

Of course there is no denying the impact of Matri - his seven goals in ten games since joining from Cagliari speak for themselves - but Delneri needs to show that both he and his players can deliver when the pressure is on . The Champions League places may well be beyond reach but over the last six games these performances must continue, because that is what being ‘da Juve’ demands.

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3 Responses so far.

  1. ted says:

    How is CL place beyond reach Adam? Most of my Juventus friends think CL qualification is impossible, but if you look at the table, Juve are only 6 points away from 4th. Lazio still have to play Juve,Inter,and Udinese.

    • Adam Digby says:

      Key word in that sentance is ‘may’, it’s not over by a long way, especially looking at the run-ins of Udinese, Lazio & Roma

  2. ted says:

    It may come down to the last day Adam. Udinese have Milan,and Juve have Napoli. On top of that, the title might be decided on that day! LET THE BLOODBATH BEGIN!

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