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Adam DigbyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2017

For a club closing in on its 120-year anniversary and a record sixth-consecutive Serie A title, it is three other numbers that have come to represent Juventus over the past few seasons: 3-5-2.

Shortly after Antonio Conte took charge in the summer of 2011, he turned to that formation as a way of getting as many of the squad’s better players into the side and also to mask their weakness at full-back.

Over time, it became vital to their success. The “BBC” back line of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini was the rock upon which the team was built, while the “M-V-P” midfield of Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo swept all before them.

Subsequently, however, the arrivals of Patrice Evra, Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez pushed Conte’s successor Massimiliano Allegri to revert to a four-man defence, while the continued emergence of Alex Sandro has ensured that remained a much more viable alternative this term.

The Brazilian has been a devastating force on the left flank in 2016/17, his rise to prominence coinciding with the 3-5-2 formation becoming more of a hindrance than a help. It is perhaps no coincidence that the framework was used in each loss suffered by the Bianconeri this term.

Inter Milan, Genoa, AC Milan and Fiorentina have each exploited weaknesses within it, attacking with pace in wide areas and punishing Juve’s lacklustre mindset in order to take all three points.

“If you are very aggressive and run at them, you’ve got a chance,” Genoa’s Ivan Juric told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia) after his side registered a stunning 3-1 triumph in November, but it would be the January defeat to Fiorentina that eventually forced a drastic shift in Turin.

The Viola dominated the reigning Serie A champions, and Allegri had seen enough. For their next outing—against a previously impressive and high-flying Lazio—the coach ditched the 3-5-2 and went all-out attack with a new 4-2-3-1 formation.

After a comfortable 2-0 win, Allegri said to Sky Italia (h/t FourFourTwo):

I am not much of a theorist, but every now and then I come up with a mad idea and try it on the pitch.

During the week I had not even thought about it, but after a training session the next morning I thought, “I have to change something”.

I had said in the press conference on Saturday that it was an option, but nobody expected me to actually do it!

Juve’s new 4-2-3-1 formation.

Juve’s new 4-2-3-1 formation.Adam Digby (via

It worked well enough in that match, Juve conceding few chances to the Rome-based side, which in turn prompted Allegri to deploy it again in fixtures against AC Milan and Sassuolo, recording 2-1 and 2-0 wins respectively.

All three matches have seen the Bianconeri make bright starts, hitting each opponent hard and early with their six goals all coming before the 25th minute of each encounter. The second half has seen the Old Lady fade somewhat, yet she has still registered two clean sheets and opened up a four-point gap atop the Serie A standings.

The formation has some obvious advantages, with the presence of so many quality attacking players chief among them. Fielding Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzukic behind Gonzalo Higuain has seen the Argentina international net in both league games, and he is clearly enjoying the improved service.

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