This midweek clash saw a Roma side in free-fall take on an out-of-form Fiorentina team trapped in mid-table obscurity. In this match analysis, we look at the tactics deployed by both sides who started the game desperate to ignite some end of season form.
Since Ranieri’s arrival, Roma’s fortunes have far from turned around. One scratchy home victory against Empoli back in March is all they have to celebrate since the Italian took over. As a result, this match came with the undertones of a must-win for I Giallorossi. Their fans were desperate for positives after a torrid few weeks which has seen them lose a manager, exit the Champions League and drop out of the top 6 in Serie A.
The game didn’t go to plan for Roma as Fiorentina battled to a well-deserved 2-2 draw in the nation’s capital. Viola took an early lead through Pezzella, which did nothing to settle the disgruntled fans. Two minutes later, youngster Justin Kluivert – bought in to freshen up an ageing side – added a touch of class to proceedings. His trickery followed by a dinked cross met the head of Zaniolo who levelled the game.
The second half ebbed and flowed, lacking real quality. A fine strike from Gerson saw Fiorentina reinstate their lead shortly after the restart. Roma stood firm and responded 6 minutes later, with the stand-out strike from Diego Perotti taking his goal tally to 4 for the season.
In the article below we will look at how Fiorentina frustrated Roma at the Stadio Olimpico and the statistics behind their performance.
After their 4-1 humbling to Napoli last week, Roma reverted to their favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Their xG per 90 minutes in this shape is an impressive 1.93. Antonio Mirante replaced the out of form Robin Olsen in a bid to stop shipping goals. The back four lined up as expected, with Marcano replacing the suspended Manolas. N’Zonzi and Cristante paired in central midfield, behind a younger attacking three comprising of Perotti, Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert. Target man, Edin Džeko spearheaded the attack.
Fiorentina didn’t deviate from their preferred shape of 4-3-3. They’ve played over 1800 minutes in this shape and have an xGD of 7.31 using it. Suspended Pezzella returned to the back four, moving Milenković to right back. Fan favourite Dabo, Veretout and Benassi made up the midfield three. Muriel and Simeone paired up front with Gerson sat slightly deeper, making Viola’s shape a fluid 4-3-3/4-4-2 diamond. Talisman Chiesa returned to the bench after a spell out injured.
A shaky structure
Roma have conceded a lot of goals this season, 45 in total. This is more than any other side in the top 10. Their ageing side is magnified by their lack of structure in the midfield. Fiorentina were able to exploit this constantly, being able to fluidly pass through the lines to build attacks.
In possession, Fiorentina frequently played the ball short to their full-backs. In doing so they were able to exploit the frailties within Roma’s shape. As you can see above, the fluid 4-3-3 has an extra man in midfield who is not picked up by Roma central midfielders who are scared to be drawn that far forward. The easy pass is then played into the spare man – Veretout in this case – who is allowed time and space to pick a pass.
As the play continues, we can see how in this phase of possession Fiorentina penetrate Roma’s shape. Benassi has pulled out to the touchline, exploiting the space in behind the Roma left attacking midfielder. This movement out wide drags Kolarov forward in an attempt to mark his man. However, in doing so Kolarov leaves space in behind which Veretout is able to play a pass into. Roma now have 6 players out of the game and their defensive unit is exposed and vulnerable.
Fiorentina were able to break through Roma’s structure and dominate the ball in the first half, leading to a Ranieiri change. Roma resorted to a 4-4-2 out of possession in a bid to stop their defence continually becoming exposed. The 4-4-2 offered Roma rigidity in their midfield and prevented any overloads on the wings. They used narrow positioning to stifle Fiorentina’s build-up play, preventing passes through the lines.
Once Ranieiri plugged the gap, stopping Fiorentina’s fluid passes through the phases, the away side made a change of their own. Now in possession, rather than play short passes out to the full-backs, Fiorentina now utilised the centre midfielder earlier in their build up. Acting as the pivot in midfield, the centre midfielder received the pass from the goalkeeper or the centre-backs who could easily play through a lethargic press lead by Edin Džeko.
As Roma had adjusted their shape to a 4-4-2, this meant Fiorentina’s pivot in midfield – Veretout in the case above – could turn and run with the ball. The full-backs both pushed up on either side to provide a passing lane wide if necessary. The other two central midfielders stayed narrow, overloading Roma’s narrow midfield. In conjunction with their narrow position, the central attacking midfielder also dropped deeper to pull Roma’s shape further apart. In desperate attempts to cover all the passing lanes, Roma’s midfield becomes ragged, leaving plenty of gaps for the ball-player to pass through.
We have seen that in the two defensive shapes Roma are easily penetrable. A combination of an ageing midfield and lack of energy upfront is leaving them vulnerable out of possession. Ranieri will need to address quickly if want any chance of making the top 6 this season. Despite being disappointed with a point, on reflection, they were second best for much of the game. Their two goals came from flashes of quality as opposed to a tactical gameplan. Improvements are needed and fast.
Fiorentina, on the other hand, played a solid tactical game of football. They have a clear philosophy and look comfortable on the ball. Their lack of quality in key areas has prevented a challenge for Europe this season. With Chiesa returning from injury they will likely improve in their final 8 games. However, with 15 draws already this year, more than any other side in Serie A, this season is destined for mediocrity and they’ll be keen to press on next season.
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