Fiorentina vs Inter was without a doubt the highlight of gameday 25 in the Serie A. An insane match with a lot of action ended in a 3-3 draw, with Fiorentina scoring the equaliser in the 101st minute of the game. Due to numerous situations involving the Video-Assistant-Referee, there was an extra time of five minutes in the first half and more than eleven minutes in the second one. This analysis will break down the tactical aspects of this game and explain the reasons for such a wild and furious game.
Fiorentina Coach Stefano Pioli used a 4-3-1-2 system. Although some sites referred to it as a 4-3-3, it was clear that Chiesa would be a second striker next to Giovani Simeone, while Gerson would play behind these two. However, Chiesa occasionally occupied the right wing as well, as we will show later.
Inter Milan on the hand 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1. Luciano Spalletti once again played Lautaro Martinez as centre-forward, so the Icardi-Saga continues. The Argentinian goal-getter hasn’t played in four games. While his wife, who is also his agent, claims that he has a knee injury, rumours arise that there are other problems between the club and Icardi. Without their top-striker, Inter were successful in the previous games though.
Early goal serves as an appetiser
Already the first couple of seconds of the game provided an idea of what will follow over the course of the game. After only 16 seconds, Fiorentina had already scored the opening goal. Let’s have a look at the emergence of that goal.
After the kick-off, Fiorentina played the ball back to the centre-backs. Ceccherini receives the ball and decides to kick it long. Inter tried to aggressively put pressure on the ball, as the whole team was marching forward after the kick-off.
However, they underestimated the possibility of a long ball leading to such a dangerous situation. The back line was caught on the wrong foot, so Chiesa was through. Tactically, one may argue that the back line could have taken a deeper positioning, but obviously, the play was to put immediate pressure on the opponent. In this case, Goalkeeper Handanovic can be taken responsible. A modern goalkeeper has to cover the space behind the back line.
In the end, there is nothing that Inter can do. Chiesa plays the pass to Simeone, who then just has to score into the open goal.
Both teams with similar man-oriented defending
After that sudden shocking moment, Inter managed to quickly recover. In the sixth minute, they scored the equaliser after a corner-kick. The VAR-system was in use for the first time this evening, but in the end, the referee decided that it was a clean goal. After that initial wild phase, the tactical approaches became clearer. The statistics underline, that both teams preferred to play on their right wing.
The reason for that is that both teams had a similar approach and tried to push the opponent to the wing. There, the defending team would try to gain possession of the ball using the sideline to limit the opponent’s options.
This image provides an example of this. Here, Fiorentina is in possession of the ball. Right back Laurini with the ball has no passing option. Inter defend tight and man-oriented. Additionally, the two players near Laurini use their cover shadow to prevent a pass into the centre. Thus, Fiorentina has no possibility of moving the ball forward.
Fiorentina used a similar approach to defending. We can once again see a clear man-orientation. Skriniar has no clear passing option and has to play the long ball. In terms of differences, we see that Fiorentina doesn’t prevent the pass into the centre with such discipline as we have shown for Inter. For Fiorentina, the focus was a tight man-oriented mark. Highlighted with the red line, we see that midfielder Brozovic fell back and Gerson followed him. This is a clear sign that Coach Pioli wanted to defend man-to-man near the ball.
Fiorentina forwards push Inter to the wing
There were also slight differences in terms of how the teams tried to get the opponent to play to the wing. Fiorentina attacked early with their forwards and tried to force the centre-backs to play to the wing as early in the build-up as possible.
Here, we see the man-oriented approach once again, even though it’s not as extreme as in the previous example. What seems to be more interesting in this image is the positioning of Chiesa and Gerson on Inter’s left wing near the ball though. Brozovic has the ball and once again Gerson follows him closely, but notice how he maintains the inner line and prevents Brozovic from turning to the centre. Instead, he pushes him to the wing. If the ball was played back to Skriniar, Chiesa would do the same. The passing lane to left-back Dalbert is more or less open, but when he receives the ball, the Fiorentina player would attack him coming from the centre preventing a movement or pass into the centre.
The same approach shows here, as Simeone comes from the centre and pushes De Vrij out to the wing. The Fiorentina players once again hold the inner line, and once again the passing lane to the full-back is open.
Inter close centre with a massive midfield
Inter, on the other hand, chose a different approach. The Nerazzurri didn’t press in the attacking third but rather tried to close the centre with their massive midfield.
We can see five Inter players near the central midfielders of Fiorentina. Veretout receives the ball, but has to play it back immediately in order not to lose it. There was no way that the central midfielders could dominate the game. Fiorentina therefore often enough had to choose the way out to the wing.
Inter’s midfield would rather often defend aggressively near the ball. Here, four players prevent the pass to Gerson. As the back line decided to rather stay a bit deeper, possibly still shocked from the conceded goal in the first seconds, huge gaps between the lines would occur. Fortunately for Inter, Fiorentina wasn’t able to get the ball there, as they lack the individual class to overcome the immense pressure of that midfield of Inter.
Inter maintain numerical superiority defending on the wing
Another aspect that was obvious was Inter shifting towards the ball with compactness.
Here, we see once again the five players are near the ball closing the wing and also passing options into the centre. The central zone in front of the box isn’t occupied by Fiorentina. Therefore, Inter can concentrate on defending aggressively on the wing.
A much more extreme example is the situation in this image. All midfield players of Inter are on the left defensive wing or at least in the half space. Neither the centre nor the blind side is occupied by a defender, apart from the right-back. In such a case, Fiorentina needs a switch of wings, as it seems impossible to come through at the right wing. Changing the wing looks much more promising with a possible 4vs1 situation.
Fiorentina have more difficulties defending on the wing
Fiorentina, on the other hand, weren’t able to defend on the wing with the same quality as Inter. The team from the Toskana-region couldn’t create a numerical superiority on the wing defending.
Here, we see Inter receiving the ball on the wing in a rather bad position. Politano’s sight is towards his own post and he is under pressure near the sideline. Once again we can see the tight man-oriented defence of Fiorentina, but all in all, it is a 4v4 situation at the wing. It happens to be much easier for Inter to get along with that pressure than it was the other way around for Fiorentina.
The second goal for Inter resulted from a situation where Politano receives the ball on the wing and cuts inside in an Arjen-Robbenesque fashion. Fiorentina aren’t able to stop him and fail to put him under pressure. Rather easily Politano shoots with his left foot and the ball is in the back of the net.
Fiorentina overall not defending properly
Apart from the wing defence, Fiorentina showed some more defensive weaknesses. Often, the defensive structure was rather weak and it was easy for Inter to overplay the midfield line.
Here, there isn’t any pressure on the ball. Three Fiorentina players are near the ball, but all of them are rather useless in terms of defence. Besides the fact that they don’t pressure the opponent, they also don’t close passing lanes either. Therefore, the pass to the circled players, but also into the centre, is easily possible.
Also, when pressing higher, Fiorentina were often out of the defensive shape. Three players are out of play, while the midfielders are on one line and aren’t staggered at all. When Nainggolan receives the ball, seven Fiorentina players are out of play.
Inter weren’t able to exploit weaknesses
Although Fiorentina didn’t defend all that great, Inter could not make use of it like they should have done. Surely, they scored three goals, but one of them was a corner kick and one of them a penalty. With a more structured and improved offensive plan, Inter could have done much more.
Inter’s positional play was just terrible. The centre-backs aren’t pressured at all, Fiorentina Forward Simeone is in no-man’s land in the left half space. Chiesa and Gerson are in the centre near the central midfielders. Instead of pinning them by moving between those two or also into the gap between Gerson and Veretout, central midfielders Brozovic and Vecino stay closely near their defenders.
As if this isn’t bad enough, they also occupy the horizontal line with their full-backs. So four Inter players are positioned on the same horizontal line, making it much easier for Fiorentina to defend. If Vecino received the ball, Gerson would easily press him as he is very close. Vecino then may play the ball back without achieving anything. Other than that, he may play to the wing. But D’Ambrosio is on the same horizontal line, meaning that Inter doesn’t gain any space. Veretout just needs to attack D’Ambrosio and the attack is over.
Similarly, the front three are also occupying the same horizontal line. The positioning of those players is even worse because they don’t even use the whole width of the field. Instead, the distances between the three of them are roughly 15 meters, which makes it very easy to defend, as Fiorentina doesn’t have to move a lot.
At the end of this sequence, we see that Goalkeeper Handanovic has the ball. 18 seconds have passed and instead of making progress, Inter was pushed back until the goalkeeper finally had to play a long ball. In this image, we see a 5vs4 situation if we count Handanovic as an offensive player as well. Inter failed to secure a safe build-up with providing enough players in the first line. Even though there wasn’t any pressure by Fiorentina initially, they chased down Inter aggressively and provoked a long ball.
Fiorentina were no better in terms of positioning
Fiorentina’s positional play also showed weaknesses. Most of the time, they failed to provide connections from the first build-up phase into the second third.
One such example is this image. While Inter once again closes the centre with their massive midfield, Fiorentina do not have any passing options. In the central area of the second third, Fiorentina is massively inferior numerically, as we see a 5vs1 situation. Thus, there only remains the possibility of playing the ball long-line, but as we have shown previously Inter were able to defend this properly.
On top of that, similar problems to those Inter showed occurred also for Fiorentina. Three players are on the same horizontal line without any staggering. They don’t use the width of the field either. Also, they are closely marked by the defenders, so that there is no actual possibility of receiving the ball. Instead, they should have positioned themselves between the defenders in order to pin them and also to be able to turn and get behind the line. None of the players here can actually turn after receiving the ball and with their body positioning being towards the own post a continuation of play would become rather difficult. Most likely the centre-back would receive the ball back. Knowing that, he decides to play it long anyway.
So what remains from this match? Tactically, both teams had a similar approach. Both wanted the opponent to attack from the wings instead of the centre. While Inter overall defended better, both teams showed tactical weaknesses. Offensively, these weaknesses were even greater. For the spectator, this wild and intense game was extremely entertaining though. A long-shot from Muriel and a late penalty in the 101st minute secured a point for Fiorentina and created a game that many fans won’t easily forget. From a tactical standpoint, the game wasn’t at the highest level though. But maybe this led to such an entertaining clash.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com– a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the February issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.