Monaco, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona moved on to the quarter finals of the Champions League this week and will join Porto, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and PSG. Here are a couple of thoughts on tactics from Juventus versus Dortmund and Arsenal versus Monaco.
Juventus will be a really difficult side to beat over two legs
Juventus's 3-0 win away to Dortmund was a masterclass in how to protect a first leg lead away from home. They spent the majority of the 90 minutes comfortably defending in their own half with all ten outfield players behind the ball then countered quickly and effectively through the front pairing of Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata with the energetic box to box midfielders Arturo Vidal and Roberto Pereyra making bursting runs from deep.
Juve set out in a diamond 4-4-2. Massimiliano Allegri often plays four at the back in the Champions League rather than the 3-5-2 they use most often in Serie A (as did his predecessor Antonio Conte). Claudio Marchisio played at the base of the diamond with Vidal and Paul Pogba in the shuttling roles and Pereyra at the tip of the diamond. Marchisio, Vidal and Pogba dropped into a tight bank of three just in front of the back four while the front three of Pereyra, Tevez and Morata also dropped well inside their own half to pick up Dortmund's deepest lying midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender. Dortmund didn't have the ability to break down such a deep and compact defense. They are a side that prefers to press around the halfway line then transition into attack rapidly against an out of shape defense with quick vertical passes. Juventus didn't push enough players forward to open up such spaces for Dortmund to transition into. The German side didn't have the quality to find space and never looked a threat.
Pogba was forced off with an injury in the 26th minute. By then Juve had a goal lead through Tevez in the third minute. Allegri introduced center back Andrea Barzagli and switched the formation to 3-5-2. Pereyra moved to Pogba's shuttling midfield position meaning Juventus replaced the #10 position with a centerback. Already with a goal advantage the move further solidified Juve's defensive shape in the middle of the pitch. Lichsteiner and Evra operated more as fullbacks than wing backs. Juventus defended with a defensive bank of five and the same compact midfield three. Tevez and Morata continued to pick up Dortmund's deep lying midfieders.
Juve's defensive organization and ability to play on the break make them a really dangerous team in this tournament. It'll be important their next opponent gets a decent first leg result. Juventus are such a tactically intelligent side that they're incredibly difficult to play against when trailing. They rarely make the type of mistakes that allow the opposition back in the game.
Ferreira-Carrasco work rate provides Monaco desperately needed pressure relief late
Monaco just about did enough to hold on for a nervy 2-0 defeat that sent them through on aggregate but it was a poor example of how to close out a tie. They were always going to defend deep with the 3-1 advantage from the first leg but they didn't offer the same threat they had on the break at the Emirates. Part of that was down to Arsenal's performance, part of it was down to Monaco's understandable desire to preserve what they had but the French side was also too sloppy. One of their main problems was that Jeremy Toulalan and Geoffrey Kondogbia were getting overrun in the middle of midfield as Monaco defended in banks of four. This forced Joao Moutinho to drop deep to help out in this zone from his center attacking midfield position in behind Dimitar Berbatov. With Moutinho dropping just outside Monaco's box, Berbatov was isolated up front and Monaco's only option for an outlet pass. Berbatov is a great player but isn't known for his tireless work rate, an important trait when you're solely responsible for relieving pressure on your side. Berbatov wasn't active enough in chasing Monaco's clearances and as a result Arsenal won the ball back easily and poured on wave after wave of attack. It wasn't until Berbatov was replaced in the 70th minute and second half substitute Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco moved into the striker role that Monaco were able to relieve some of the pressure. Ferreira-Carrasco chased long balls into the channels and used his strength to keep possession. Perhaps Berbatov should have been replaced earlier.