Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Thiago Motta to Juventus

I am very fascinated to see what Thiago Motta will bring to Juventus next season. Add versatility, remove the one-dimensional players, sign one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, and platform the youth players by not repressing their ability to think for themselves.

There’s so much movement and interchanging of position, you must feel comfortable playing in every position. One weak link can exaggerate the weaknesses of the team as a whole when you have to trust your teammates to fill the role you vacate. All the out-and-out one dimensional players are surplus.

Midfielder Weston McKennie and winger Federico Chiesa are rumored to be on the outs. McKennie’s departure wouldn’t be surprising, because how comfortable are you with him playing on the back line or out wide as a winger or fullback?

Chiesa to me is an out-and-out winger, not someone that will feel comfortable rotating all the way back to left center-back or moving into the midfield, like Thiago Motta has asked his wingers to do at Bologna, especially those that play on the left. Chiesa can play on both wings, but I think he needs to at least be effective in midfield to be wanted by Motta.

Right-back Danilo was rumored to not be wanted, but he has reportedly since made it clear he wants to stay to lead as captain. He might have been seen as not versatile or lacking the ability to contribute when he rotates into the midfield. I’m not sure.

The goalkeeper is going to have to be able to read the game with the ball at their feet and pick out more unorthodox, intricate passes a midfielder would make because of the movement ahead of them. It was likely a prerequisite for Motta to join that he would be able to upgrade the goalkeeping position.

Wojciech Szczesny is a legend of the game, but Michele Di Gregorio is one of, if not the best, goalkeepers in Europe last season. A top shot-stopper but that ability to pass out from the back isn’t make-or-break, in my opinion, but it makes it so much easier when Di Gregorio is as secure with the ball at his feet.

Defenders that are prepared to move essentially everywhere, wide left or right, in the midfield, through the channels to the forward line are a necessity. The fullbacks must be able to shift from their position to center-back and the center-backs to fullback. Thiago Motta taking Riccardo Calafiori with him from Bologna is not a surprise, for this reason. Cambiaso and Bremer fit into that category.

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of a potential Juventus line-up under Thiago Motta.

Ignore the formation because, when you watched Bologna last season, you quickly realized how unimportant the starting formation is. Sure, there’s a structure, but Calafiori could end up in the right half-space from left center-back.

Teun Koopmeiners is, to me, an advanced midfielder who can play on the wing, either behind Vlahovic or out wide. I could see him drifting in from the left.

The two main highlights of the team will be Douglas Luiz and Nicolo Fagioli. Both are remarkable passers. Douglas Luiz was Aston Villa’s most valuable and underappreciated player last season. Someone who you would notice most when he isn’t playing because of how vital he is to the way they move the ball. Fagioli is a very highly regarded midfielder of the future. Both are players who would be comfortable dropping back or playing more advanced in the half-spaces.

I’m a bit undecided on whether it will be a midfield three with Rabiot, Locatelli, or Alcaraz as the third-wheel midfielders or if they’ll have two wingers with Koopmeiners playing as a 10. I don’t know who the left-winger will be if Koopmeiners plays centrally or who the right-winger will be, period. Whether it will be one of their current wingers or if they’ll bring a new one in.

This is the beauty of the versatility and talent they’ll have. They’ll be spoiled for choice. There are so many different combinations they can go with to play the style of football Thiago Motta likes to play. Very fluid, unpredictable, relational football. A mix of youth with high expectations and experience.

Center-forward Dusan Vlahovic is the most fascinating piece of the puzzle. Joshua Zirkzee was a chameleon last season for Bologna, able to drop anywhere on the pitch and immediately fit in. I initially thought Vlahovic would fit into that out-and-out center-forward one-dimensional category of player to be sold, but that does not seem to be the case. Turning one of Serie A’s most potent center-forwards into a chameleon is going to be an interesting project to follow closely.

Thiago Motta will both be able to exaggerate the strengths of each player, extract the most out of the attributes they possess now, and bring out some of the hidden creative attributes other more rigid positional systems suppress.

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