Back in 2017, Juventus signed Douglas Costa from Bayern Munich in the hopes of strengthening their front line. At the time Massimiliano Allegri made great use of Costa’s abilities which allowed him to quickly become a key player for Juventus.
However, with the arrival of new signings such as Federico Bernardeschi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the start of the 2018/19 Serie A season, Costa’s role within Juventus dwindled. As a result, by the time Maurizio Sarri arrived in Turin, Costa was immediately viewed as the third-choice option and sometimes the fourth choice with Juan Cuadrado also being a viable pick. Even so, with Sarri’s offensive style of play, along with Costa’s attacking capabilities, the Brazilian has still been able to make a positive influence on Juventus’ season.
Under Sarri, Costa has been deployed under his preferred position as a right-winger on the majority of occasions. However, from time to time he can be seen on the left wing where he has interchanged with the other winger during a match, as part of the tactics employed by Sarri. Finally, he has also featured as a central attacking midfielder on the rare occasion in which Sarri deploys a 4-1-2-1-2 formation.
As the heatmap indicates, Costa is a player who enjoys staying out wide where he can take on defenders in a one v one situation where crossing opportunities can be created. Similarly, he also relishes the opportunity to cut inside on his stronger left foot where he can either have a shot on goal or carry the ball towards the box with a direct run.
With his explosive pace and exceptional dribbling qualities, Costa is able to excel within his offensive duels with a success rate of 42.39% making him the fifth-most effective player within this field in Serie A. In the image below we can see Costa’s tenancy to stay out wide next to the touchline. In this position when receiving the ball, he will have the option to drive towards Ashely Young where his natural ability and attacking talent will get the better of the full-back as we will analyse later on in this tactical analysis.
Quality on the ball
Costa’s ability to accelerate quickly and navigate the ball through crowded spaces to dribble past opponents is what makes him such an effective player for Juventus; combined with his quick feet and attacking flexibility, it is clear that he boasts a number of key attacking attributes. The figure below helps to show how impactful his dribbling has been in games, with six of them leading to goals, while the rest have helped to progress attacks, exemplifying the attacking returns from Costa’s work on the ball.
We can see an example of Costa dribbling in action below where he is able to use his pace and unpredictability to get the better of the defender. By doing this, he was able to progress into the box quite easily where he was then able to create a cut-back opportunity. Following on from this, he was able to show great awareness to find a pass to an unmarked teammate who was then able to slot the ball into the net.
In the image below we can see exactly how his quick feet and clever movements gifted him with the necessary space after the cut-back to find the pass towards Ronaldo who was then able to score the first goal of the game.
From Costa’s right wing position, he is able to show good passing abilities, with the majority of his passes going laterally, where a switch of play or a passing combination with a central midfielder has been executed. However, when in and around the box, his passing accuracy decreases significantly as we can see through the amount of red and orange bars in the diagram within the final third. This indicates to us that Costa struggles to find the composure to execute an accurate pass in the areas where it really matters and where his skillset as a winger is most important.
Nonetheless, when Costa passes towards the centre of the pitch, he is able to create space for his team by drawing players in. In the example below, two players from Parma are drawn into his position, and to counter this Costa passes to Miralem Pjanić who is now in plenty of space to progress play.
After Costa makes the pass, he moves further down the line towards a position where he can receive the ball in a crossing position. We can see this clearly in the example below, with him moving towards a position between the lines where he can potentially receive a pass from Sami Khedira. Even so, if this passing option is not used, Costa’s off-ball movement has helped to stretch the opponent’s defence. This will help Juventus create overloads in the left channels or in central positions where numerical superiority can be achieved.
When Costa is able to get into a crossing position, he is able to make good use of his attacking instincts to read the movement of his teammates in the box so that he can adapt appropriately to the situation at hand. In the example below, Costa tracks back on himself to delay the cross. This gives time for both Blaise Matuidi and Ronaldo to get into a good position where they can attack the cross. After this, Costa will attempt to cross the ball in the area between the Napoli goalkeeper and the defenders as this area favours the run of Ronaldo.
Costa’s natural ability to find space on the ball allows him to create opportunities for shots to be taken. With an average of 1.58 shots per 90, Costa was able to produce a shot or more in every game he played. Yet with an xG of only 0.06, it is clear that Costa needs to become more clinical if he wishes to improve on his one goal so far this season.
In the picture above we can see that Costa has created his own space, which has provided him with enough room and time to execute a shot. During this, he takes a slightly bigger touch so that he has enough space between himself and the ball to generate enough power through his foot. After which, he will then strike the ball with his laces, aiming to produce enough swerve to catch the keeper out.
Later on in the same game, Costa is able to find himself in space again where another shot can be taken. Notice that because he is left-footed, the option for cutting back from the right wing onto his preferred left foot is always a good choice for Costa to take in these situations.
Counter-pressing and awareness
Because Costa is only 172 cm tall, he prefers to get involved in ground duels when working to win the ball back. The most common ways he does this is either through counter-pressing or intercepting the ball, as we can see in the diagram below.
When counter-pressing, Costa works with his teammate to press the opponent and close down any space available for potential passes to be made. This is also combined with a numerical superiority that helps to apply even more pressure on the opponent which makes the task of winning the ball back all the more easier.
Here we can see Costa working closely with full-back Danilo to close down the ball carrier while simultaneously closing the passing option towards Fabián Ruiz. Also, because Costa has the ability to accelerate quickly, he is a valuable asset to Juventus when pressing as oftentimes this season he has been able to catch opponents off guard, as we can see below.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, it is clear that Costa does offer some value towards the tactics used by Sarri. With great positioning and attacking capabilities, he plays a big role in the final third where his skill set as an attacker can be put to good use, especially when playing against teams who like to use a low block.
However, there are still areas of Costa’s game that need to improve such as his crossing and shooting accuracy. If these areas were to be refined, then I believe that Costa would be able to reach the next level of performance, where he can show greater consistency and composure in front of goal. Only then will Sarri consider him as a regular starter within this Juventus team.