Saiguhan Elancheran writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Serie A match that ended Inter Milan 4-2 Fiorentina.
In a league in which defensive tactics is considered to be the most important factor in a game, fans in San Siro witnessed some direct play, swift passes and a lot of goals as the game on Monday night between Nerazzuris and La Viola proved to be an entertainer. Two managers who are in the extreme stages of their current jobs started the game which could easily be Sousa’s last game as Viola’s manager, as Pioli made his official home debut. After finishing in 4th and 5th positions last season respectively, Inter and Fiorentina lost their ways in tandem. Both the teams were badly in need of a result after a disastrous start to the campaign which currently sees them sit at 8th and 9th place.
Inter Milan: (4-2-3-1)
Handanovic // D’Ambrosio – Ranocchia – Miranda – Ansaldi // Brozivic – Kondogbia(Mario 46’) // Candreva(Eder 79’) – Banega(Melo 69’) – Perisic // Icardi
Tatarusanu // Salcedo – Rodriguez – Astori – Milic(Tomovic 46’)) // Badelj – Valero // Tello(Perez 75’) – Ilicic – Bernardeschi(Chiesa 65’) // Kalinic
Both the managers fielded a similar shaped team in the form of 4-2-3-1. Pioli brought back a fully-fit Ranocchia to the heart of the defense after leaving him out for the Milan derby. Meanwhile, after a shock decision to leave the inform Banega out in his first game, Pioli called him back to replace Joao Mario. On the other hand, Sousa made only one change by bringing in Salcedo for Tomovic to the team which hammered Empoli 4-0.
Dominating the weaker flank
From the word go, Inter started to dominate La Viola by running down the flanks with pace and intent. Perisic became the outlet in Inter’s attacks. He proved to be a great threat for Salcedo as he skipped past him with ease on most of the occasions. Combining with Ansaldi, Perisic increased Salcedo’s defensive duties. Salcedo had to stop vertical balls from Ansaldi as well as block Perisic from making his thwarting runs. In many instances he was involved in 2v1 and lost the battle in that flank, as the first two goals were created from that wing and half-space.
In this instance, we can see Inter overloading the left flank in a 5v4 and it is so surprising to see the options available for the ball carrier to pass. His passing lanes are not intercepted and his passing options are unmarked. Though Inter were brilliant at capitalising the chances provided to them, it was La Viola’s poor defending that wreaked havoc initially.
In this heat map of Ivan Perisic, we can find out that most number of his touches were in and around the edge of the penalty area creating a torturous time for Ansaldi.
The above picture via statszone shows the most number of successful passes for Inter were played in the left flank during the first 20-25 minutes.
During the breaks and counters, Inter’s midfield was consistently able to find Perisic and he capitalised on the defensive frailties to get behind the defenders. In this instance we can identify Perisic ahead of three players in the left half space. This situation here leads to the goal where the dangerous ball into the centre comes from left flank played in by Perisic.
In the left flank, Inter played diamond to dominate space in that area. Brozovic would move to the middle of the field to join Kondogbia, Perisic and Banega to form the shape.
Brozovic the key
Brozovic turned out to be the dictator of the game for Inter with his overall play involving defense and attack. His link up play was very essential for Inter and he had the most possession of the ball than his teammates (7.7% in Inter’s possession of 45% according to whoscored.com). He also made a game high 6 tackles proving to be an integral member in Inter’s defensive unit.
From this image of Brozovic’s touch map, we can identify his donkey work particularly in the middle of the field. Unsurprisingly, the made the most number of passes and took most number of touches in the game for Inter.
Inter’s counters though the middle
Inter were brilliant in their counter attacks especially when carrying the ball through Icardi and Perisic. Their quick breaks caused havoc for La Viola as their players lacked the legs to shut down spaces immediately after losing possession. Inter had nearly same weights on attack from left, centre and right but had nearly 72.7% of shots from the middle (according to whoscored.com).
Here, Inter found space in the centre which led Icardi on to goal. There was no connection between the three defenders and it was easy to play penetrating balls through them.
In the below image we can find another instance in which Inter has opened up Fiorentina right through the middle with passing options available unmarked for Brozovic in dangerous positions.
Fragile structure from both the sides
From defensive point of view, both the sides were very poor. Leaving space in the middle and flanks and allowing opposition to occupy the space was seen 7-8 times in the game. Defensive structure was not proper in the two teams as they failed to find the connection between their defensive players.
The first 25 minutes of the game was a devastating period for Fiorentina as they couldn’t hold themselves together. They showed great courage in the build-ups but failed to defend well when Inter attacked in breaks and counters.
In the second image, huge space is available for Inter in the right wing as Valero fails to see the run of Candreva and he is left unmarked. Candreva proved to be very effective from the right flank as he bagged a goal and an assist for his name.
Another important point to be put forth is that, even during the build-ups and attack both the teams lacked structural organisation. In the first image we can identify that Inter midfielders failed to occupy these pockets left by the Viola defenders.
And after getting hold of themselves into 30 minutes of play, Fiorentina started to find their feet. They found gaps in Inter defence and gave them a torrid time. Inter got carried away by their 3-0 lead, and it is evident from the second picture. We can identify the poor defending of Inter as three players were left unmarked. The two wingers were completely unmarked allowing them to make free runs. One long ball and they were straight at goal. This long ball was collected by Kalinic in the centre and he carried it on to goal who made it 3-1 as Fiorentina showed great courage to comeback.
And due to the lack of connection in positional structure, possession was lost in regular intervals in important places for both the teams.
From this image, we can identify the away side (blue-Fiorentina) lost most of the possession in important places especially in and around zone 14. Inter stole the ball from them in many occasions, capitalising on their lack of positional connectivity.
Just when things started ticking for Fiorentina, Rodriguez was given the marching orders at the end of first half. After the first half, in came Tomovic to replace the left back Milic. This meant that Fiorentina played with the same number of defenders – 3. Credit should be given to Sousa for bringing Tomovic in for Milic and not removing an attacking player. Fiorentina played with a back 3 which looked more stable and it paid dividends as they kept Inter at bay and scored another at the other end.
This instance from the 84th minute shows us the back 3 of La Viola. They played from the back, maintained possession and controlled the game from the centre. They had a possession of 55-45 at the end of the game.
Fiorentina’s front four
Fiorentina played a high block to retrieve possession at certain instances. The wingers would cut inside the half-space and Ilicic would join them upfront to press the Inter defense. This made Handanovic to play long balls high into the field rather than passing to the near defender which reduced Inter’s chances of keeping possession.
In a game in which was expected to be of tight affairs, as suggested by free bets, both the teams were very open and conceded goals as they defended poorly. Fiorentina deserved something out this game for the courage they showed. Credit must be given for Sousa for sending his team after half-time to attack and try to get back into the game but they fell short very closely, thanks to some good saves from Handanovic. Icardi proved to be at his lethal best in front of the goal by netting two for the night as he was adjudged man of the match. The result gave Pioli his first win as Inter manager and keeps his team 8 points within the top three.