The seventh date of Serie A had a very interesting duel for tactical analysis. Roma and Cagliari met in a match that left very attractive elements from the tactics and strategy of both coaches. Roma were unable to take advantage and have yet to consolidate their footballing idea. Cagliari, for their part, worked the match to get a good result and achieved it. The match offered several important points not to overlook.

This is why the following tactical analysis will show us how and why Roma wasn’t able to beat Cagliari. Roma’s tactics couldn’t surpass Cagliari’s tactics, despite being very similar. The analysis left interesting things to deepen the tie between Roma and Cagliari. In addition, the tactical analysis will be based on the tactics of both teams and what the coaches’ proposals were. For now, both teams are still trying to consolidate an idea through matches.


Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Taken from Wyscout.

Paulo Fonseca has established a clear scheme this season: 4-2-3-1. The same or different players can play, but the tactics in that sense are not going to change. In fact, for this match, Fonseca implemented several changes. This is because Roma played a midweek Europa League match, so Fonseca had to rotate his players. The tactical analysis, therefore, showed that Fonseca has a clear game system for Roma.

For example, Leonardo Spinazzola replaced Alessandro Florenzi as a full-back by the right sector. Bryan Cristante replaced Jordan Veretout in the first line of midfielders, so Veretout was placed a few metres ahead. In other words, Veretout was placed where Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was a substitute, usually plays. Finally, Nicolò Zaniolo replaced Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Cagliari, for their part, has implemented a system in recent matches that have brought them good results. The 3-5-2 system used in the first matches was changed to a 4-3-1-2. This has made the team look much more solid in their tactics. In a previous tactical analysis, it had become evident the change of scheme that Rolando Marran had to make. Well, Maran has managed to build a very tidy team that looks better and better.

For this match, the only change Maran made was the return of Radja Nainggolan to the starting team in replacement of Lucas Castro. The change is completely understandable, as Nainggolan has other characteristics different from Castro. The Belgian player is much more aggressive when defending and gives more direction to Cagliari without possession of the ball. In addition, Nainggolan is a much more dynamic player than Castro, who performs the functions of attacking rather than defending.

Roma’s tactical distribution

The initial idea of Roma was not bad. Cristante and Amadou Diawara played in a front row of midfielders under a 4-2-3-1 system. In that system, both players are of vital importance, as they are in charge of fulfilling the role of the axis in the middle of the pitch. That is to say, they are the connection between lines and the connection between defence and attack.

Roma’s real problem was the distance between these lines. That is the giant distance between centre-backs and midfielders. Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini looked very far away from Cristante and Dawara, which affected the fluidity of the Roma game. This disconnection affected Fonseca’s tactical idea and facilitated Cagliari’s tactics.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Roma’s recurrent error: Diawara and Cristante very far apart from the centre-backs couple. Neither of the two midfielders went back a few metres to try to receive the ball. That made the space between the lines very big.

Roma also resorted to pressure to block Cagliari’s clean exit from behind. In this tactical aspect, Roma was effective. Many times Cagliari had to shoot long balls to avoid making a mistake near the box and was harassed by that good pressure from Roma.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Roma put a lot of pressure on Cagliari for most of the match. Fonseca’s idea is to drown the clean start of the rival team. This forced Cagliari to shoot a long pass to jump lines. Or just to get the ball off their back.

On the other hand, Spinazzola did not deploy to the attack, which made him play much closer to the pair of centre-backs. The movement generated a triangle between Smalling, Mancini, and Spinazzola, which added another passing line. This made Veretout retreat a few metres and position on that right side so that the team did not lose amplitude. In that sense, Aleksandar Kolarov always played closer to the midfielders, but far from the centre-backs.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Roma looked unbalanced at times due to the disposition of full-backs. The tactical analysis showed that Fonseca’s order was to retain one of the two full-backs, in this case, Spinazzola. In other words, Kolarov was several metres ahead and Spinazzola was close to the centre-backs. This generated amplitude only by the left sector of the pitch, while Veretout tried to position himself in the right sector.

The tactical analysis revealed Fonseca’s tactical disposition and distribution of the Roma players. The idea of generating amplitude and depth by using the width and length of the pitch is very interesting but still lacks tactical moves. Especially when a team like Cagliari stands in front, with two lines of four players that make it very difficult for a team to penetrate.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Distribution of the Roma players: the pair of centre-backs in line and Spinazzola near them. Kolarov and Kluivert were very advanced and close to the sideline. Zaniolo as the second striker near Dzeko. Cristante, Dawara, and Veretout positioned in the middle of the pitch.

This lack of tactical movement was evident in several passages of the match. Some players were absent from the ideas and didn’t get along well with the rest of the team. This made Roma forget the internal lanes of the pitch, partly because of Cagliari’s good work. Diawara, Cristante, and Veretout, who were the players in charge of generating spaces and movements in attack internally, looked disconnected. It is for this reason that Roma had numerical inferiority in the internal sectors of the pitch because, in addition, they abused the attacks by the wings.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
The distribution of Roma failed during many passages of the match. Fonseca’s idea was to generate amplitude by using the width of the pitch, but tactical analysis showed that this did not work. Roma forgot to use the internal rails and that is evidenced in Cagliari’s tremendous numerical superiority in that sector. Five Cagliari players by none from Roma.

Cagliari’s tactical idea: order

The tactical analysis showed that Cagliari has evolved a lot in the sense of tactics. Maran has managed to establish a team with a very clear tactical idea and when it comes to making an analysis that is the most noticeable. To begin with, Cagliari bases their tactical idea on pressing the players in charge of connecting lines, in this case, Cristante and Diawara.

Luca Cigarini’s and Nainggolan’s work must be highlighted in that sense and in order to comply with those tactics. Each one of the two players had a clear task: to mark Cristante and to mark Diawara. This meant that both Roma players always had a Cagliari player on their backs and exerting pressure.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Cigarini and Nainggolan’s task in marking Cristante and Dawara was perfect. Roma was never fluent in the game. This was due to the great physical and tactical display of Cagliari’s players when it came to pressing.

Cagliari has excelled in tactical order and this match was no exception. The players are interpenetrated with each other and with mechanized movements, which makes it easier to make a tactical move. In this case, when Cagliari does not have possession of the ball they go from a 4-3-1-2 formation to a 4-4-2 formation. Nainggolan steps back a few metres to position himself in the middle of Cigarini and Marko Rog to form a line of four midfielders.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Cagliari doing a 4-4-2 system without the ball. Nainggolan went back a few metres and was positioned between Cigarini and Rog. In this way, a line of four midfielders was formed.

Cagliari’s mechanized movements demonstrated another element in tactical analysis: a compact team with short line spacing. Maran’s idea was for the team to look short and with all the players positioned close by. This meant that at times Rome released Kolarov and Cagliari took risks by leaving that sector of the pitch completely free. Fortunately for Cagliari, the Roma players didn’t take advantage of that space.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
An important point of tactical analysis: the risks taken by Cagliari. At times Cagliari played a lot towards the left side, ie right side of Roma. This made Kolarov free for many passages of the game.

As for having possession of the ball, Cagliari has the idea of making triangulations and successions of short passes to reach the rival box. The full-backs Fabrizio Cacciatore and Luca Pellegrini were open to generate amplitude. Cigarini was placed as an axis to receive the ball and be the link between lines. While Nahitan Nández and Rog were positioned as interior midfielders to generate a triangle with Cigarini.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Distribution of the Cagliari players to start the game: the full-backs, Cacciatore and Pellegrini, very open close to the sideline. Cigarini being the axis to receive the pass from the centre-backs. Nández and Rog as internal midfielders.

In addition, Cagliari without possession of the ball focused on enclosing the Rome players in charge of receiving the first pass from the centre-backs. Playing in a compact way and with a short distance between the lines facilitated this work. This is why Cagliari always generated numerical superiority in the middle of the court. That cut Rome’s flow and Cagliari’s players were able to win the duels in that area thanks to the support of their teammates.

Serie A 2019/20: Roma vs Cagliari – tactical analysis tactics
Commitment and tactical order on the part of Cagliari. Roma lacked ideas thanks to Cagliari’s good pressing on Roma’s midfielders. This caused Cagliari to be seen with numerical superiority and the players of Roma to feel boxed in at times.


Roma and Cagliari will fight hand in hand for European positions. While Roma continues to adapt to Paulo Fonseca’s process and tactics, Cagliari is more established and clear in that sense under Rolando Maran. The tactical analysis showed the strengths and weaknesses so far from each of the two teams. In addition, what they can improve and what they must correct. For now, Roma beat Cagliari by just one point in the standings, but Cagliari looks increasingly solid and compact in terms of tactics.

Roma will face Sampdoria, a team in a crisis of results, in the next round, so it’s a good opportunity to improve and correct. For their part, Cagliari will face SPAL, one of the weakest teams in Serie A, so a win can put them in European positions. Another pair of tactical analyses will be needed to analyse the tactical dispositions of both coaches and teams.

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