From Strength to Strength:  The Number 17
                     
 by:Ayan Bhattacharjee

Note:  This article was written prior to the Lazio game.  Hence, goal number 18 is not included and the stats are as of after the Palermo and prior to the Lazio games.  Only Serie A games have been taken into account.
PROLOGUE

Juventus not only has the best defense in the league with 35% less goals conceded (17 in total) than the second-best defense in Serie A (Milan), but it boasts THE best defense in Europe i terms of least goals conceded with only 0.55 goal conceded per game.  In the top-five leagues, Bayern Munich comes at a rather distant second with 0.66 goal/game (19 in 29 games), 16% behind our beloved Juve.  17 is one of my favorite numbers.  It is the number Trezeguet wore.  Consequently, Trezeguet is exactly the kind of player we need to finish off our chances as that is the primary weakness in our team.  (In case you haven’t heard, we lead the league both in terms of shots taken and shots on target.)
But still, the saying goes that a team is built from the back.  Coaches, certainly, still ingrain that into young players despite the Barca influence in this current Barca-loving world.  It is also true that one should always strive for continuous improvement.  I don’t take no stock in the old sayin’, “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.”
Then, distinctions between individuals, team, and coaching need to be made.  Del Neri’s defense conceded 47 goals, 11th worst in the league.  Only one addition was made in this past summer to that group of defenders:  Lichtsteiner.  Following his January arrival, Caceres has only started five games this season.  Needless to say, a defense is not only composed of individual players.  It is only but one variable of many.  A defense is also a sum of its parts; in fact, sum of the entire team including the strikers.  The latter is even truer in Conte’s philosophy and tactical execution as with the amount of pressuring our strikers do, they have their work cut out for them.  (It has been said by Conte, Marotta, and players alike that this is part of the reason why our strikers struggle to finish chances than normal as they play with heavier legs than normal.)  We win roughly 75% of 50-50s on the ground (This is purely based on observations and approximation.  I have not researched or calculated statistics on this.)  Our defenders and Buffon had mentioned that the strikers and midfielders do such a good job in the defensive phase that balls come “filtered through” them and cause low-velocity (velocity = speed + direction) passes, which are easier to handle or steal by our defenders.  Our pressing is some of the finest in Europe.  In my opinion, on this regard, we are in top-two with Barca.  Pressing like that for 90 minutes is no child’s play, and we have our fitness to thank for it.  Juve is the fittest team in Italy.  Just recently, Quagliarella stated that in his professional career he has never been cramped on Tuesdays and Wednesdays like he is often now.  Unsurprisingly, having fresher legs than our opponents, we’ve scored 69% of our goals in the second halves.  Fitness has also been a huge aid and contributed to our team’s defense.  Add to that our high tempo and grinta, which go hand in hand with fitness, and you’ve got a recipe for a mean D.  Having 60.8% of the possession on average obviously doesn’t hurt either.  Furthermore, Conte’s zonal positioning is some of the best I have seen.
Even so, individual errors are part of the game.  The success of a team defense is of course positively correlated with individual defending.  But, is there any room for improvements?  See below.
ANALYSIS OF GOALS CONCEDED AND INDIVIDUAL ERRORS LEADING TO THEM
The following is an analysis of the goals Juventus conceded, broken up into individual goals and player by player.  It is conducted to assess each goal conceded, to identify any weaknesses in our team’s defense on an individual basis, and to evaluate each player in respect to others who were adjudged for errors or shortcomings that lead to these goals. 
It must be remembered, however, that this is a team sport, and all errors reflect on the team first and foremost.  Furthermore, these are direct causes for goals.  Indirect causes have not been accounted for.  For example, Pirlo had poor games in Rounds 13 and 15, where he often lost the ball in his own third of the field.  Those errors did not directly lead to goals but offered our opponents momentum by allowing possession and chances for quick counters in our half of the field and by putting pressure on our defense.
Also, note that a few of the following in “Number of Goals Responsible For” may be subjective.  For instance, some may think Pirlo shares the blame for the third goal against Napoli in Round 13.  Others may consider Lichtsteiner’s shortcoming in the offside trap (Round 26) to be marginal and not worthy of the same value as some of the bigger mistakes.  I tried to be as objective as possible.  Plus, there are enough data points (17) where a little “subjectivity”/inaccuracy would not damage the general picture, results, and conclusion of the final analysis.
Below are all the goals Juventus conceded this season thus far, descriptions of them, and persons responsible for them when applicable:
Round
Home
Score
Away
No. of Goals Responsible For
Description
 2*
Juve
4-1
Parma
De Ceglie 1.0
De Ceglie conceded the penalty from which Giovinco scored.
4
Juve
1-1
Bologna
De Ceglie 0.5,
Chiellini 0.5
De Ceglie’s mistake that almost resulted in a goal lead to corner.  Chiellini beaten by Portanova from corner. Chiellini did not commit to play (didn’t jump or show aggression) and offered Portanova a free header.
5
Catania
1-1
Juve
Grosso 0.5,
Chiellini 0.5
Grosso was beaten by the opponent right-winger from time and again this game. On this instant, his positioning and space offering were a little off, and he was beaten by acceleration before the low cross.  Then, slack marking and poor challenge from Chiellini lead to Bergessio’s goal.
8
Juve
2-2
Genoa
Chiellini 1.5,
Bonucci 0.5
Poor marking by Chiellini lead to Rossi’s goal. Chiellini did not challenge Kucka in the air. Kucka, then, assisted Caracciolo, who was not challenged by Bonucci.
9
Juve
2-1
Fiorentina
Bonucci 1.0
Lichsteiner slipped while marking Vargas. Bonucci did not mark Jovetic, who scored, and assumed the wrong position.
10
Inter
1-2
Juve
N/A
No errors.  Brilliant shot by Maicon that beat Buffon at near post.
13
Napoli
3-3
Juve
Bonucci 2.5,
Chiellini 0.5
Bonucci at fault for first two goals.  Bonucci and Chiellini share the responsibility for the second.
15
Roma
1-1
Juve
Vidal 1.0
Miss-kick by Vidal, missing the ball completely on an easy clearance.
18
Juve
1-1
Cagliari
Bonucci 1.0
First, very poor challenge on Ibarbo by Bonucci that allowed Cagliari to continue their counterattack. Then, he “assisted” Cossu.
20
Juve
2-1
Udinese
Vidal 0.5,
Barzagli 0.5
Vidal’s poor pass was intercepted and lead to the counterattack. Barzagli offered too much space to Floro Flores.
23
Juve
3-1
Catania
N/A
Marchisio imprecise header and Padoin’s inaccurate pass lead to their counterattack. -Pirlo got beat on the turn and Buffon with a well-placed long shot. No individual errors or shortcomings grand enough to get a point allocated.
24
Milan
1-1
Juve
Bonucci 1.0
Bonucci with a terrible pass to Robinho who assisted Nocerino.
25
Juve
1-1
Chievo
Bonucci 1.0
He basically put the ball in his own net. Not far from an own goal.
26
Bologna
1-1
Juve
Lichtsteiner 1.0
Di Viao beat the offside trap. Licht was the last man, slightly off the line, and was slow to react.












































































*The 2011-2012 season started with Round 2 as Round 1 was postponed due to the Italian Players’  Association’s (AIC) strike.
                 Scores in red represent loss in points.

As shown above, Juventus conceded in 14 of 31 games.  64% of those games resulted in a loss in points.  Seven of them ended in 1-1 draws.  Pre-Calciopoli, we often grinded out 1-0 results against the smaller teams.  Such has not been the case this season with only three 1-0 wins, compared to the seven 1-1 draws.  In 2006, at this point of the season after 31 fixtures, in comparison, Juventus collected six 1-0 victories and drew 1-1 four times.
In the following table, the number of goal-conceding errors is summed per individual (A), and the average number of errors leading to goals per game is calculated per player (C).  In Column D, “Goal-Conceding Errors per Game” is divided by the total, 0.889, for each player to obtain the percentage of the total goal-conceding errors the player committed compared to others.  Lastly, “Points Cost” (E) calculates the total number of points each player contributed to the loss in points this season.  For example, for Chiellini:  1 point for each of Rounds 4 and 5, 1.5 from Round 8, and 0.33 (1/6*2) from Round 13, adding up to 3.83.
Category:
A
B
C
D
E
Player
No. of Errors Leading to Goals
Games Started*
Goal-Conceding Errors per Game
% of Total Goal-Conceding Errors Committed Relative to Others
Points Cost
Bonucci
7.0
21
0.333
37.5%
8.17
Chiellini
3.0
27
0.111
12.5%
3.83
De Ceglie
1.5
17
0.088
9.9%
1.00
Vidal
1.5
27
0.056
6.2%
2.00
Lichtsteiner
1.0
30
0.033
3.7%
2.00
Grosso
0.5
2
0.250
28.1%
1.00
Barzagli
0.5
28
0.018
2.0%
0.00
Total
15.0
0.889
100.0%
18.00
*In all instances of errors, the respective player started the game.

In Category A, there is a significant amount of difference between rank 1 (Bonucci) and 2 (Chiellini) and between rank 2 and the rest.  In Category C, there is a vast difference between rank 1 (Bonucci) and the rest, the closest (Chiellini) having 200% less errors per game.  In Category D, like Category A, there is a vast amount of difference between the two highest percentages (Bonucci and Grosso respectively) and the rest.  Likewise in Category E, there is a sizeable difference between ranks 1 and 2 and between 2 and the rest.
Bonucci holds the number one position in all four categories calculated –  A, C, D, and E – with a large gap between he and the second highest in all four categories.  Chiellini came second in three of the four:  A, C, and E, with A and E being of significant difference compared to the rest of the players.  Bonucci and Chiellini, hypothetically, cost the team around eight and four points, respectively.  The rest did not contribute to a significant amount of points loss, averaging only 1.2 in “Points Cost” between them.
Grosso has only played two games, meaning there isn’t enough data to derive a conclusion.  With more games, Categories C and D could have spiked more, remained in the vicinity, or could have been considerably less.  Statistically speaking, there is not enough data to judge his overall performance.  (Otherwise, of course, given his chaotic history in our colors and age, it was unquestionably the right decision by Conte to drop him and provide him with no further role in the squad.)
TREND ANALYSIS
No analysis is complete without a trend analysis.  While these players committed mistakes in the past, many of them have been mistake-free recently.  Most notably, ever since De Ceglie had been inducted back into the first team three-and-a-half months ago after his two-game cameo in the beginning of the season, he has played well and has not directly aided in the concession of any goals.
Chiellini also, after his innocuous period in the beginning of the season, have played well.  Like De Ceglie, in his first few games (as a CB) he was error-prone.  When switched to LB, he had improved steadily as his mistakes became more and more infrequent.  He has not contributed to a goal leak since December and has been performing like a world-class center-back since January.
Barzagli, Lichtsteiner, and Grosso took part in one goal each.  Barzagli and Lichtsteiner are the two lowest in categories C and D.  They have performed spectacularly well throughout the season, especially Barzagli, who has been the best center-back in the league this season.  There are no current or past trends concerning them, just “one-offs.”  Their errors are statistically insignificant.  On the other hand, Grosso ranks high in Categories C and D.  However, he had only featured in two games and has not played since Round 5.
There are two erroneous occurrences with Vidal, hypothetically costing the team two points and ranked third lowest in Category D.  They occurred in December and January.  Vidal has been mistake-proof since then and performed exceptionally well more recently.
Bonucci has by far been our worst defender and, hypothetically, cost the team eight points.  However, his last error took place in Round 27, on March 3.  Since then, he had played four games.  In fact, Bonucci played very well in the last two games against Napoli and Palermo, the latter being his best game of theseason, earning him the man of the match award.  Hopefully, he will continue along this path for the remainder of the season and become as reliable as De Ceglie has become.
CONCLUSION
The defense, collectively, has performed magnificently well.  The prize of having the best defense in Europe comes after a lot of hard work, tactical intelligence, mental vigor, and team-play.  However, when broken up into pieces, one finds opportunities for improvements.
No goals were conceded in the last five games, earning us four wins.  Prior to that, the team conceded in a series of four games with only one victory to boot.  This shows that the team has collectively improved as has been improving throughout the season.  For example, in the first ten games of the season we conceded seven goals, while in the last ten games of the season, the team conceded just four.  Bonucci’s late performances, Chiellini’s and De Ceglie’s showings in 2012 also demonstrate individual improvements.  Unsurprisingly, there is a positive correlation between the two:  individual performance and team performance.
Bonucci has been the main culprit in goals against for us.  Chiellini had also played his part in the beginning of the season.  The rest involved did not cost the team many points.  Grosso’s errors-to-games ratio stands out because of his low number of games played, which is statistically insignificant as is his present and future position in the team.
With only a period of four games where he didn’t commit any goal-conceding errors, the latter two games being well-played, the jury is still out on Bonucci.  He will have to play well for the rest of the season to cement a place as a reliable defender like De Ceglie has.  Chiellini needs to consistently play well throughout the entire season in the future as he was doing during the Ranieri days.
Tune in for the remainder of the season for statistical analyses on team defense, midfield, and attack.