After Barcelona’s success with three-at-the-back yesterday, it was interesting to see whether it would be more of the same with Juventus. Unfortunately for Juventini around the world, it was a very disappointing display from the Bianconeri. Juventus lost the game by three goals all scored by Edinson Cavani.

Juventus lined up in a 4-4-2 system playing two wingers and two midfielders you can consider ball-playing. Melo was absent through suspension so there was no ball-winner. Both strikers fielded by Delneri, Luca Toni and Amauri can be considered as big lumps who offer little movement who rarely drop into space effectively and this conclusion can be drawn from today’s game. Napoli lined up with their usual 3-4-2-1 with two wing-backs, Maggio and Dossena being the wide men in the four.

Since this series focuses on playing three-at-the-back while in attack, the question arises whether Juventus employed this system today. Juventus did as shown in the diagram above. If attack built up from the right, Grygera would join the attack with Traore forming a back three with Bonucci and Chiellini. A similar situation would occur if the attack began on the left. All through the game, Traore joined the attack more frequently than Grygera hence their placement on the diagram. It is also important to note that the Juventus back-three are relatively narrower than the Barcelona back-three. In defence mode, Pepe would help Traore by tracking back while Krasic rarely did this. 


Juventus weakness today was the clear inability to transform effectively from a back-three to a back-four. Much of the blame has to go to Grygera who maintained his narrow position in 3-mode and in 4-mode. This usually left lots of space on Grygera’s blind side which Krasic failed to effectively cover. Two players took full advantage of this situation – Andrea Dossena and Edinson Cavani. This situation formed the basis for Juventus defeat today.

For the first goal, Maggio floated a cross from the right flank towards the far post and Cavani converted this chance with a header on Grygera’s blind side. Throughout the game, Andrea Dossena constantly made runs into the empty left-flank which Grygera and Krasic constantly ignored. In the 26th minute, his intelligent movement was finally rewarded. After some reasonable build-up play from Napoli, the ball was slipped to Dossena and while Grygera tried “his best” to close him down, there was no way he could considering how narrow he was and Dossena floated a cross once-again to the far post. Cavani was marked by the young Traore and Cavani conveniently converted the chance with another header. The third goal was a carbon copy of the first. A chip to the far-post by Hamsik was converted in the same way by Cavani on Grygera’s blind side.

Juventus had little chance of scoring in this game because their strikers were both “lumps”. The easiest way to score would have been from a cross into the box to be converted by either Toni or Amauri. Considering this point, playing two wingers might seem more reasonable but playing two wingers is rarely successful when playing with two ball-playing midfielders in Aquilani and Marchisio. Toni basically did this from a corner but the goal was ruled out because he had committed a foul. This would have been the equalizer and the story could have been different.


– It is very important players in a back-three understand the transformation to a back-four. Grygera tipped by some to excel in this system failed woefully. Krasic didn’t do him any favours either. Blame for this has to go to Delneri as two players on the same flank lacked any understanding of their “assignments”

– The absence of Felipe Melo from the starting line-up allowed Napoli more time on the ball and if he was present, Juventus would have had a ball-winner in midfield and Delneri might have employed Marchisio wide like he has done this season and that changes the system completely.

– Overall, Juventus weaknesses were there for Napoli to exploit and exploit they did. 3-at-the-back failed today because some players had no idea what they were supposed to be doing.


Defending with three-at-the-back can be quite confusing if players do not understand their roles well enough. Grygera seemed lost and Krasic did him no favours. The duo didn’t seem to learn from their first-half mistakes. If I can spot something, Delneri would have no troubles spotting it and even much more. Why nothing changed on that flank at the break, I do not know.  

Feel free to leave comments about anything you think and you can also recommend another team you feel play three-at-the-back while attacking. Ciao

3-AT-THE-BACK has a category dedicated to it

One thought on “Napoli Juventus. 3-AT-THE-BACK Juventus#1

  1. Good review of the defence and the problems suffered due to the failings of the Krasic-Grygera partnership on the right. Ultimately, (and in addition to weak full-backs)without a physical Juve midfield to cut the supply to the Napoli attackers, Juve were overwhelmed by the movement of the top three. Melo was sorely missed.

    There is a reason why Juventus play with 3 cms and Krasic in midfield and yesterday proved why. Furthermore, I agree with your points in attack. Without a mobile striker who can move between the lines, Juventus were restricted to a predictable offensive approach to the game. Onwards and upwards we hope.

    Looking forward to reading more 🙂

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