Pirlo back on form as Roma commit tactical suicide

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Dominating the match in a way only Juve know how, they exploited their hunger and determination to demonstrate confidence and control as Roma's defence was effectively carved out and mocked by a Juventus side that scored repeatedly to destroy any hopes of a comeback.

As Alessandro Pignatelli noted in his latest article for calciomalato, at the highest level Zdenek Zeman's teams become like spreadable butter - a simile that has been repeated in several columns, such was the absurdity of their performance on Saturday night. "What a Juve" screamed the headlines of the sports dailies. This was a Bianconeri side that exacted revenge on Zeman, not by using their words but by playing the perfect game.

Dominating the match in a way only Juve know how, they exploited their hunger and determination to demonstrate confidence and control as Roma's defence was effectively carved out and mocked by a Juventus side that scored repeatedly to destroy any hopes of a comeback. That was some performance from the Old Lady and one that many of her fans had been waiting for because that high energy, innate understanding and intricate play that made her so appealing last season was missing in her previous game.

However, as much as Juve glowed, Roma made it incredibly easy to overwhelm them. With a non-existent midfield that failed to act as a filter for the defence and a back-line with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese, the Bianconeri were allowed to create and finish off their goalscoring opportunities.

Playing with a high defensive line against a home side that is begging for a chance to prove itself is tactical suicide. Zeman must realise that he does not possess the necessary players to play such a high-line against a team that loves to create and passes the ball intelligently. It was said Inter's greatest failure when playing Roma, was their inability to exploit the fragility of the Roman back-line. Where Inter failed, Juventus succeeded.

Whilst Zeman failed to realise the strengths and weaknesses of his squad, Antonio Conte showed off his understanding of Roma's game by opting to play Alessandro Matri - a true striker who loves to make well-timed runs and exploit gaps in the back-line. This was his moment. Juve had no option but to play a vertical game that moved quickly and who better to lead the attack than a real striker who can impose his hunger and talent on a back-line that was in constant disarray.

Another man who appeared revived on the day was Andrea Pirlo, who many recently suggested was no longer able to cope with such a heavy schedule. Left to play freely and compose intelligent attacking passages of play, the away side took no notice of the previous teams that had stifled the playmaker by marking him effectively and chose to stand back and permit him his game.

For the Italian, this was exactly the type of match that made the most of his skills. Whilst his vision and passes have made him infamous, playing in a side that boasts runners from midfield and a certain Matri, who overcame the offside trap on numerous occasions, allows him to look even better than he is. Playmaking becomes easy when both the Juve midfield and front line continuously attack space to latch on to his balls.

Attacking space was something Zeman's team failed to do on the night. Whilst the Czech is known for neglecting defences, he is celebrated for optimising attacking play. As such, Roma's inability to create anything on the night forced their sporting director to come out and express his discontent with the lack of commitment being shown from the players.

In fact, Il Messaggero posted an online survey in which 34.6% of their readers blamed the squad's lack of character for Roma's disastrous performance. On the other hand, just as many believed it was Zeman's fault as many are now buying into the theory that his style of football cannot win trophies at the highest level. It's the old saying; attack sells tickets (as Roma's box office will have you know) but defence wins you games.

For Juventus, this was a real sign of intent. After an embarrassing performance against Fiorentina, they needed to regroup and perform in true Conte style to reclaim their position on top and win back the praise of their harshest critics. With a compact team that made the most of their unity and skill, they're one step closer to another wonderful year.

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