Welcome to the bi-weekly tactical breakdown, where we take a deep dive into recent in game tactics deployed by Juventus. These will be based on individual players or the team in general. As always, we encourage the Bianconeri community to chime in and create discussion.
This week we will analyze what Aaron Ramsey provides as an advanced midfielder for Juventus. His attacking and defensive contributions will be examined. We will also divulge why he is the consensus starter, when available, game in and game out, for Manager Andrea Pirlo.
Figure 1: We see Ramsey in his position in the possession phase.
Figure 2: Ramsey filling in where needed in the defensive phase.
Ever since Pirlo took charge, he has demanded a high team press when the opponent has the ball in their own half. To me, this is the one of the main reasons why Ramsey starts over the likes of Dejan Kulusevski and Paulo Dybala in the advanced midfield role. Aaron can cover a lot of ground and he has the tactical awareness to do the job Pirlo wants. After Juve’s two strikers cut the easy ball out, Ramsey is tasked with pressing the next obvious pass as a zonal marker. He does this quite well. An example would be in the 4-1 win against Udinese. Juve press high up the pitch, Rambo snatches the ball and sends Cristiano Ronaldo on his way for Ronaldo’s first goal.
Another graphic example of Ramsey executing Pirlo’s high team press can be seen below. The Defender‘s back is turned and Rambo is on it.
Figure 3: Juventus v Sampdoria (Photo courtesy of totalfootballanalysis.com) Ramsey is responsible with defending from the front and his experience and tactical awareness enable him to be quite successful in this role. According to Fbref.com, Ramsey is at a career high in terms of pressure percentage at 39.1%. This stat measures the success of players pressing ability and creating turnovers. This is a testament to the style of defending Andrea Pirlo has instilled. He wants the advanced midfielder to be a zonal marker and Ramsey’s commitment to this system has paid off. He is a player that ranks at the top of Serie A in terms of recovering the ball in the final third. This allows the team to get the ball in more favourable positions on the pitch and better areas to score.
Of course, as a midfielder, you are expected to contribute in attack as well. When Juventus dominate possession and are trying to break teams down, the number 8 seems to be disconnected with his teammates at times. He tries to link up play, however the end product is rarely met. Ramsey is a player who always tries to operate in areas between the lines. He demands the ball and tries to combine with the strikers. For whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to hit his offensive stride. His 3 assists in 15 matches isn’t what you expect from an attacking player and his expected goals and assists are below average as well. With regular minutes, he’s bound to contribute more. He’s a quality, offensively gifted footballer.
If Ramsey can stay fit and get regular minutes under his belt, his link up play will gradually be more effective. He is a player that tries to play in between the lines of opposing defenders. He looks for the ball and loves to enter the box as a midfielder. Couple this with his ability to defend from the front and the former Arsenal midfielder could be a real difference maker in this team.
Something we can take away so far this season is that Pirlo seems to rely on Ramsey, when healthy, in the advanced midfield role. The main reason why he starts over the likes of Kulusevski, Dybala and McKennie in this position comes down to his understanding and awareness of what Pirlo wants defensively. And to be completely fair, he does do a good job of it. In the 11 games where Ramsey has started and played at least 50+ minutes, Juventus have 8 wins 3 draws and 0 losses.