Roma made a promising start to their time under new manager Paulo Fonseca, but inconsistent and poor form throughout the winter months in Serie A has left them in the Europa League positions, which on the balance of things is still a decent season for this team. Fiorentina on the other hand, have had a largely inconsistent season as a whole, finding themselves in mid-table obscurity as we head into the final games of the season.
Roma will look to use this game to strengthen their position in the Europa League places. Fiorentina would have hoped to upset the odds in this game and pick up some decent points in these final few games, to end this delayed season strongly.
In this tactical analysis, I will be observing the tactics of Paulo Fonseca and Giuseppe Iachini in their recent Serie A game, with Roma eventually coming out 2-1 winners thanks to two contentious penalty decisions. This analysis will look at both teams on and off the ball and what worked and did not work for both sides and how much of an impact this had on the result.
With Roma on a decent run of form of recent, Chris Smalling and Aleksandar Kolarov returned to the side to offer that defensive solidity. Davide Zappacosta was expected to start at wing-back, but Bruno Peres starts, leaving Zappacosta on the bench. Roma are in need of three points to solidify 6th place in the table.
With Gaetano Castrovilli suspended, Alfred Duncan makes a start for this game, with Marco Benassi being their only injury absentee. Pietro Terracciano continues in goal in the absence of Bartłomiej Drągowski. Fiorentina will look use the creative skill of former Bayern Munich player Franck Ribéry and Christian Kouamé upfront to find that finishing touch, with the skill of Federico Chiesa on the right-wing. Whilst Fiorentina don’t have much to fight for the rest of the season, they hoped to upset the odds and be clinical in their play to defeat an in-form Roma side.
Frequent long shots to find a breakthrough from both sides
Paulo Fonseca’s Roma have often been found this season attempting to overload in attack. They sit back more so than many high pressing teams, looking to win the ball back and then counter fast, attempting quick through balls often. They do finish their opportunities well but are often found trying their luck from distance if the opportunity is difficult to find, meaning they often take plenty of shots per game, but not clinical and clear-cut opportunities. It is often the case that the individual skill and ability of their starting XI means they are capable of finishing from range. However, these long shots are often partially due to selfishness or lack of awareness from their key creative players, such as Nicolò Zaniolo in the figures seen below.
In these screenshots, we see Zaniolo cut inside to find space on the counter, and there is clear attacking run being made by one of his teammates. Unfortunately, Zaniolo was too focused on getting a shot on goal, and rather than play his teammate through, at a slight risk of being offside, he takes a shot on goal. Whilst this is just one example, it is a clear example of the creative, skilful players in this side not using their skillset effectively to finish opportunities and dominate games.
Giuseppe Iachini’s Fiorentina, on the other hand, are less known for their attempts on goal from distance, but the difference for them is that the team unity isn’t quite there for this side, and they don’t play well enough together and communicate effectively to recognise when an opportunity is there. They have had an arguably tactically weak season, as they have often struggled to keep possession of the ball throughout the season, largely due to lack of confidence and individual errors within the squad. In the figures below, this is showcased very clearly.
Alfred Duncan makes a bursting run through the centre of the field, recognising a clear weakness in Roma’s high pressing, attacking play, as they have struggled to defend counter-attacks throughout the season. Whilst Duncan pushed forward at pace, his teammates struggled to provide him with opportunities to play the ball forward, and he instead decided on taking a shot on goal, with his options so limited. Whilst this was still a case of Duncan showcasing poor decision-making in deciding a shot on goal was his best option, it shows Fiorentina’s struggle, which has been the case throughout the season, to creative opportunities effectively and frequently.
Roma unusually struggle to defend a set-piece
Roma have become specialists in set-pieces tactics this season, taking opportunities from set-pieces frequently but also defending them very well too. One area of strength for Roma this season has been their aerial ability, and they have done well when defending set-pieces and winning the ball across the pitch in the air. Smalling and his fellow defenders have shown top form at times this season to defend the Roma goal. However, the goal conceded in this game was due to a lack of marking, strength, positioning and awareness from the Roma squad.
They were simply not well drilled in which player was marking who, they didn’t show the strength in response to a strong attacking run from Nikola Milenković and didn’t position themselves effectively to prevent the opportunity from occurring.
As shown in the figures above, Milenković makes a clear attacking run from the front of Roma’s defence line, but Roma did not react this effectively, and once Milenković had risen to get his head on the ball, they then did not react effectively and with the strength to prevent 6ft 5in Milenković from scoring. This is most certainly something that Roma will look to rectify in the final games of the season, particularly with their important Europa League games against Sevilla.
Game decided by contentious penalty decisions
Simply put, Roma won this game through two penalties which were heavily debated and argued by the opposing team, especially the second penalty decision, the more contentious of the two, with Rachid Ghezzal, the Leicester City loanee, picking up a yellow for his protests. With the first penalty, it has to be noted through replays a clear, heavy and clumsy contact from Pol Lirola on Peres as he made his run into the box to collect the ball, following a smart attacking lob over to him. In the moment it seems the player went down too easy, and it could be said this is the case, but within the rules of the game it seems this was a correct decision from the referee.
The second decision, however, is much more contentious, due to the debate about whether the foul was committed, particularly after the fact that the ball was on its way out of play and the opportunity to score was gone for former Manchester City forward Edin Džeko. Whilst it can be argued it was a foul, it seems the opportunity was not there to score, making this decision a difficult one for Fiorentina to take.
Fiorentina have struggled to finish the opportunities provided to them and are often found fouling players in dangerous areas, as showcased by Roma’s two penalties in this game. Whilst they are prone to through balls themselves, Fiorentina struggle to defend them, and they also struggle to defend against skilful players such as Zaniolo. It was lucky on this occasion that Roma didn’t clinically finish these opportunities, which they had plenty of in this game.
Whilst Fiorentina are usually weak aerially, they did finish an opportunity from a set-piece and will take that as a positive into their final games of the season. Roma managed to take away all three points but will hope for a much more clinical display going into their final games of the season and the resumption and final games of the Europa League this season, with a tough game against Sevilla to come.