Tomislav Brezovic writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Serie A match that ended Fiorentina 5-4 Inter.
In gameweek 33 of the Serie A, Fiorentina hosted Inter at the Artemio Franchi stadium. Both clubs didn’t have the season which they expected and they are currently positioned next to one another on table, Inter on 7th and Fiorentina on 8th place. Having had such weak seasons, Fiorentina and Inter are both trying to save something from the season and at least qualify for Europa League. Fiorentina are even depending on other results through till the end of the season in order to achieve that goal. In the previous round both clubs experienced shocking moments. Fiorentina lost the Tuscan derby against Empoli, who are in a relegation battle, and Inter dropped 3 points in the Derby della Madonnina after conceding in the 97th minute. The match between Fiorentina and Inter had many exciting moments and nine goals were scored, making it a true football romance. Fiorentina was better but in the end they can be happy that they managed to win because in the 93rd minute, Brozović’s shot from edge of the box almost ended in Violas’s net but Astori cleared it off the goal line.
Fiorentina (3-4-2-1) – Tatarusanu, Tomović (Salcedo 54’), Sanchez, Astori, Badelj, Vecino, Tello (Cristoforo 82’), Milić, Bernardeschi (Ilčić 58’), Valero, Bubacar
Inter (4-2-3-1) – Handanovič, D’Ambrosio, Medel, Miranda, Nagatomo (Eder 73’), Gagliardini, Kondogbia (Brozović 76’), Jao Mario, Candreva, Icardi, Perišić
Goals: 23’, 64’ Vecino, 62’ Astori, 70’, 79’ Bubacar / 28’ Perišić, 34’, 88’, 91’ Icardi
Pioli lined up his team in his standard formation, 4-2-3-1, and his team selection was the same as in game against Milan. Fiorentina’s coach Paolo Sousa made some changes in regards to match against Empoli. Milić patrolled the left flank instead of Chiesa, Badelj came into the side instead of Saponara, and Bubacar replaced Kalinić who is suspended.
Fiorentina’s build up
In first phase of attack Fiorentina’s ball near wingback dropped deep to provide the passing option whilst the ball far wingback was in an advanced position so they were in asymmetric relation. The reason for that is if switching sides occurs, then the ball far wingback creates space for the side back to dribble the ball into that space. Also, with that positioning, the wingback is forcing the Inter fullback to stay deep, and because of that he can’t press high. When one of wingbacks received the ball, Valero or Bernardeschi acted as connecting agents to provide a pass option, depending on which wingback had the ball. Fiorentina started to organize their attack from the defensive third, they played to the flank and created an overload on that part of the field to attract Inter players and then they switched sides to the side back. The side back then advanced with the ball into open space.
This method of bypassing Inter’s pressing through the game was very efficient for Fiorentina. Fiorentina used one more way to bypass pressing and that is extracting Joao Mario from pressing and this was the task for one of the defensive midfielders, Badelj or Vecino. The result of that is to open space where Joao Mario acted and to fill that space with the other defensive midfielder so that he can get the ball between the lines of Inter’s pressing.
In the picture above Vecino is positioned higher so Joao Mario needed to mark him. But space is opened, and Badelj occupies it and provides a passing option to Milić.
Inter problems in pressing causing incompact shape
Inter, while pressing high, attacked Fiorentina’s build up with four players and with fullbacks who attacked Milić and Tello. When the ball was in the middle of the pitch, Fiorentina had an overload of 5v4 and with fast horizontal passing they managed to open gaps to play the ball behind Inter’s pressing.
Bernardeschi and Valero were positioned high up the pitch and they were marked by Gagliardini and Kondogbia. Icardi attacked the center back, and wingers Candreva and Perišić controlled the side backs (Astori and Tomović). When the ball was on the other side, the ball far winger drifted inside and marked Fiorentina’s defensive midfielder and this opened a lot of space for the side back if switching of sides occurred. Joao Mario also marked one defensive midfielder. Problems for Inter started in midfield pressing when Gagliardini or Kondogbia or even both started to press Fiorentina’s midfield pair. This caused a lot of instability in their defensive organization in terms of vertical compactness and led to the disorganization of Inter’s backline because centerbacks needed to push up to challenge Valero or Bernardeschi and the threat of Babacar became higher as he tried to exploit that.
Gagliardini is pressing Vecino, and Fiorentina has a numerical advantage, 2v1 between Inter lines, while Babacar keeps Inter’s centerbacks occupied. There are several reasons as to why this problem appeared in Inter’s pressing. First, when Fiorentina reached the middle of the pitch, Icardi stopped participating in the defensive phase and Inter had one player less in pressing, so Fiorentina’s center backs and midfielders had more time on the ball and this attracted Inter players to pressure. Furthermore, Gagliardini and Kondogbia made some bad decisions and lacked awareness about the situation, so they started to press when they didn’t have proper horizontal compactness. As a result, Valero and Bernardeschi, and later Ilčić weren’t left in a cover shadow.
In the image above two players were left between the lines. Borja Valero in particular, received the ball between lines throughout the game, and was very dangerous for Inter.
The image above shows how many passes Valero made in the attacking third and he played more passes in the attacking third than any of his teammates.
Fiorentina attempts to exploit space behind fullbacks
One of Viola’s ways to penetrate Inter’s defense was to attack the space behind their fullbacks.
When one of the wingbacks, Milić or Tello received the ball, they were pressed by Inter’s fullbacks. In that moment Bernardeschi or Valero attacked the open space. Inter’s centerbacks couldn’t react immediately because of the threat of Bubacar so they waited to see if their defensive midfielders get back in time to challenge the Fiorentina player. This form of attack was frequent on the right side through Bernardeschi.
Inter’s lack of central occupation
Nerazzuri’s strategy was to endanger Fiorentina’s goal through wing orientation, especially on the left wing, where Perišić played.
As seen on the pass map, Joao Mario often drifted to the left flank to provide a passing option to Perišić and provoke combinations. The same was seen on the right flank but rarely in a manner similar to the left flank. Often the balls to the flanks came from long balls so it was difficult for Inter to keep possession and control. Inter aimed to put Perišić in 1v1 situations to allow him to use his great dribbling abilities. Due to this wing orientation, Inter had many crosses but Fiorentina defended these crosses very well.
Inter’s structure in possession was such that only wing-play was possible. Because of a lack of central occupation of the pitch, they struggled to progress through the middle, and this structure caused the most problems in Inter’s build up. Fullbacks Nagatomo and D’Ambrosio were positioned very deep in build up to provide connection to the centerbacks and midfielders. Gagliardini and Kondogbia also played very deep and in horizontal relation. Wingers Perišić and Candreva played very wide and Icardi rarely came deeper to get the ball. Joao Mario often drifted to the flanks or he was only player in the center so Inter’s build up was often shut down.
When Eder was brought into the game in place of Nagatomo, Inter switched to a 3-2-4-1 formation. The back three were D’Ambrosio, Medel and Miranda. Candreva and Perišić became wingbacks and Eder played in the 10 position alongside Joao Mario. Eder also knew how to act as a second striker. When Pioli switched to that formation, the Nerazzuri had a bigger presence in center so it was easier for his side to progress and keep the ball on opponent half.
Inter had a black hole in the game and in less than 20 minutes, Fiorentina scored four goals, although altogether Inter didn’t have a good match. The second, third and fourth goals came after transitions. The second goal came from a corner but Fiorentina got the corner through a transition. Then Inter scored two goals at the end of the game because of Fiorentina’s technical mistakes and bad decisions. Towards the end of the game, Fiorentina pretty much gifted the ball to Inter and the Nerazzuri almost succeeded in equalling the score, but that was probably down to fatigue. All in all Fiorentina was the better side and fairly won in one of the most exciting matches this season.
Inter continued their bad run of form. They have won only two points in their last five matches, whilst Fiorentina’s hopes for a Europa League spot next season remain achievable.
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