Bottom half teams match up in match-day 29 in Serie A. Sassuolo travelled to an empty Stadio Artemio Franchi aimed to climb the Serie A table. Sassuolo will look to reach double-digit wins on the season. Fiorentina looked to solidify a nine-point cushion from relegation. Both teams were seeking their first win since project restart.
Fiorentina has earned one point their last two games, while Sassuolo, who sit four points behind AC Milan, has earned two points over their last three games. The tactics of Sassuolo showcased a pair of three-goal performances. However, their defence has allowed 10 goals over the last three games.
Fiorentina started in a 3-5-2. From back to front the line-up included: Bartłomiej Drągowski, Germán Pessella, Federico Ceccherini, Nikola Milenković, Gaetano Castrovilli, Rachid Ghezzal, Erick Pulgar, Dalbert, Pol Lirola, Franck Ribéry and Federico Chiesa.
Sassuolo started in a 1-4-2-3-1. From back to front the line-up included: Gianluca Pegolo, Gian Marco Ferrari, Vlad Chiricheș, Rogério, Mert Mulder, Filip Đuričić, Manuel Locatelli, Francesco Magnanelli, Grégoire Defrel, Jeremie Boga, Hamed Junior Traorè.
Defensive Tactics – Fiorentina
Fiorentina started in a 3-5-2 and aimed to force Sassuolo in wide areas. Center forwards Ribéry and Chiesa were in-charge of pressing Sassuolo’s ball-sided centre-back. Sassuolo’s game plan was to maintain possession during the build-up to advance the ball in the midfield. When Magnanelli or Locatelli would play between the CB’s, Fiorentina’s Pulgar would apply pressure immediately. The defensive tactic forced Sassuolo to play the ball wide or clear up the field. The image below shows the Fiorentina defence implementing this tactic in their attacking third. Sassuolo did not force play and instead opted to go long and regain possession higher up the pitch.
Defensive Tactics – Fiorentina
When Fiorentina dropped off in a middle block the defensive tactic was to keep a narrow shape. This forced Fiorentina to play in wide areas. As we can see from the picture below, Fiorentina shifted as a midfield three to deny entry ball through the middle. When the ball was played to the full-back, Fiorentina’s ball side attacking midfielder, Castrovilli or Ghezzai pressed. This created a chain reaction where each player shifted and squeezed the field in half to deny entry in the midfield. The lack of attacking options and width from Sassuolo’s full-backs isolated their partner winger. Subsequently, making the decision for Fiorentina’s wing-back on who to mark quite evident. Sassuolo choosing to play with inverted full-backs set Fiorentina up for success
Attacking Tactics – Sassuolo
Sassuolo showcased their principles in the build-up. The analysis showed the away side wanted to play through the thirds and attack by breaking Fiorentina’s lines centrally. That said, Sassuolo did not force play and was happy to play wide or over the top. When Sassuolo successfully found Drefrel checking into the midfield, he pulled one of the centre-backs with him. This caused a gap in-behind that Sassuolo attempted an up back and through. The two images below show Ceccherini stepping up and leaving his back three unit vulnerable.
Once Ceccherini pressed, it was important he won the ball or at least slowed down the attack. Space was left in-behind and the lack of cover from the ball-side wind-back allowed a through ball for Sassuolo to capitalize on.
Attacking Tactics – Sassuolo
A second-half adjustment helped Sassuolo play through the thirds easier. Boga started inverting into the midfield and Rogério stayed wide to provide a passing option for ball carrying centre back and occupy Fiorentina’s attacking midfield. This strategy overloaded the midfield and once Sassuolo’s centre-halves broke the first line of pressure a passing lane was open to play into an inverted winger. Fiorentina staying consistent with their strategy in shifting and squeezing the field in half defensively was exposed when Sassuolo could switch the point of attack. This pattern of play led to the third goal and ultimately sealed the game in the 60th minute for Sassuolo.
As we can see from the image above, Sassuolo broke the first line of the press by playing through to an inverted winger. The technical ability by Boga allowed him to scan multiple options going forward. As the ball travelled into Boga Fiorentina’s defence were attracted to the ball. This inside attraction from Sassuolo opened space in wide areas to exploit Fiorentina’s narrow defensive shape.
Defensive Tactics – Sassuolo
Sassuolo’s compact 4-2-3-1 mixed with Fiorentina’s lack of attacking threats nullified any opportunity for Fiorentina to get on the score sheet. Sassuolo mixed their defensive strategy and at times looked like a 4-4-2. The banks of four forced Fiorentina to play wide and that triggered the likes of Boga or Traorè to press. Djuricic and Drefrel role included one pressuring the ball caring centre-half while the other covered the midfield passing lane. At times, Sassuolo found themselves stretched which opened the half-spaces that a 3-5-2 look to exploit.
Attacking Tactics – Fiorentina
Fiorentina utilized the half-spaces well during the build-up. Attacking midfielders Castrovilli and Ghezzai positioned themselves behind Sassuolo’s midfielders. The two holding-midfielders, in theory, would match up with Fiorentina’s two attacking midfielders. With the likes of former Bayern Munich man Ribery and Chiesa checking off the shoulder of each midfielder opened gaps for Fiorentina’s centre-halves. Unfortunately, the lack of support from the wing-backs and poor quality in the attacking third, Fiorentina found little success in the final third. Fiorentina added a late goal in the second half but, ultimately, did not capitalize on their chances in front of goal.
The game was ultimately decided on two counter-attacking moments. Fiorentina pushed numbers up on corners and was exposed by Sassuolo’s speed in transition. In the 24th minute, Sassuolo was awarded a deserved penalty following a transition from defending a corner. Just over ten minutes later in the 35th minute, Sassuolo again exploited Fiorentina on the counter. Defrel earned his second goal of the evening and a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
Fiorentina vs Sassuolo showed both teams implementing defensive and attacking tactics. The adjustment Sassuolo made in the second half proved successful. The lack of attacking play going forward proved a weakness for Fiorentina. Fiorentina should walk away knowing their transition mistakes and not capitalizing on attacking chances is a reason they find themselves on the wrong end of 3-1 scoreline.