Empoli hosted Frosinone at Stadio Carlo Castellani on Sunday afternoon in a vital Serie A match. The victors would claim a crucial three points to help gather a foothold on the quest to play in Serie A next season. Both teams have been struggling with their form of late and find themselves lurking near the bottom of the table. Empoli, after recently sacking manager Beppe Iachini, re-employed Aurelio Andreazzoli who began the season with the Lazio based team.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Empoli took all three points.
It was expected that Empoli would revert back to Andreazzoli’s favoured 4-3-1-2 which he used at the beginning of the season. Surprisingly, the team rolled out into a 3-5-2 which they have employed at home fixtures of late. The last away game against Roma saw them in a 5-3-2 and lose 2-1.
In defence for Empoli, Dell’Orco, Silvestre, Maletta, Di Lorenzo remained while Pajac replaced Pasqual. Only one change in midfield saw Traore in for Acquah with Caputo and Farlas remaining up front.
Frosinone adopted a 3-4-1-2 knowing they would have to fight for all three points to give them any chance of remaining in Serie A. Frosinone made two changes to the starting line up. Ciano coming in for Pinamonti up front and Cassata took Gori’s place in midfield.
Frosinone’s high press
Despite conceding an unnecessary penalty in the 20th minute, Frosinone’s thirst to take something from this game was ever present. Out of possession, the team kept in great shape as you can see below with a defender joining the press to the right.
Regardless of this high pressing, Empoli managed to manoeuvre around the opposition fairly easily by laterally passing before picking a defining line breaking pass. Once the high midfield line was broken with the pass, Frosinone got numbers behind the ball to hamper Empolis transition from defence to attack.
However, with such a high press being employed by the attacking players, Frosinone struggled to link up play within the middle. This forced the three-man defence to hit ‘hail mary’ long balls to the attacking line.
As you can see below the red zone is void of any players. Five attacking players are further up the pitch trying to put pressure on Empoli’s back line. But, the home side easily countered this with some attentive man marking, frustrating ‘The Canaries’. Additionally, chances were also wasted frequently with long crosses going aimlessly into the box. Only 23/41 long balls managed to find their target and 5/22 crosses. Frosinone seemed to want to stick to tactics that were proving unsuccessful.
Frosinone’s compact defence
Once Empoli had possession of the ball in the opposition’s half they struggled to break down the organised defence. This was due to Frosinone’s well-drilled defensive compactness. Below we can see in the red area and how close the two lines of defence are squeezing Empoli out of the game. It seemed Frosinone anticipated attacks down each flank but seemed to be more vulnerable when Empoli went through the middle.
Empoli give Frosinone a counter-attacking masterclass
With being 1-0 down and having a decent amount of possession, Frosinone kept trying to find that last ‘key pass’ to punish Empoli.
Below we can see how the midfield is caught out of position circled in red. The player in possession has two great opportunities to progress the attack either centrally or by the overload that has been created on the left flank. Yet, the ball is crossed just outside of the area to the forward being marked by three players.
You would have thought that losing possession in this scenario would not have been the end of the world. Frosinone look pretty well positioned and prepared to repel a quick counter.
The ball is controlled by the defender then passed quickly to the recovering midfielder. A quick ‘give and go’ movement with the right wing back and two lines of Frosinone’s defence are completely broken. Meanwhile, the wing backs race to support the attackers and once the ball is passed to the midfield the defensive transition has been started and completed within two passes.
Another ‘pass and go’ is created within the middle of the pitch aided by a spot of luck. Again, two lines of defence are completely broken. Note how both wingbacks are now the furthest men forward. The ball is passed to the right wing-back who holds the ball up, eventually passing to the other wing back that scores. From defence to attack to goal in less than 20 seconds. Empoli somehow found themselves 2-0 up and on track for taking all three points.
In the 70th minute, Frosinone managed to grab a goal which brought them back into contention. Ever more determined to get something from the game ‘The Canaries’ pushed on with great pressure.
Andreazzoli responded to the pressure by moving the wingbacks into permanent full-back roles making the team formation into a 5-3-2. This, in turn, freed up space in the middle but somehow Empoli managed to start baiting Frosinone from the wings to a more central position. This was probably due to a massive number of unsuccessful crosses. Frosinone lacked creativity and imagination in the middle. Passes in the final third were either intercepted or wasted.
Below we can see how Empoli are man marking Frosinone’s attacking line. The left centre back is stepping out of the defensive line to deny the attacking midfielder freedom of movement. The player in possession has just received the ball from the right and with Empoli pressing has no progressive options. Note how Empoli have superior numbers with the black lined area. This forced Frosinone to pass back to their three-man defence to reevaluate an attack. A time costly procedure in the 78th minute.
Not utilising width
In the dying moments of the game, Frosinone had completely abandoned utilising the wing. Below we can see how there is no width to the team as the winger takes the ball in centrally. However, no real plan was in place to penetrate Empoli’s bolstered and organised defence.
With the attack momentum chart, we can see how the game was fairly turbulent in the first half with Empoli building up most of the pressure, albeit slightly. The second half saw Frosinone gradually build pressure in search of two goals. It would be poor key decisions that would let them down in the end.
Statistically, this was a close game also. Frosinone’s poor shooting, crossing and passing would really make them second best in this fixture. Empoli had more big chances, this was due to a more effective transition and better ball distribution decision wise. Both teams only managed around 80% of accurate passing which, for top-flight football is below average.
Frosinone will hurt from this defeat after having slightly more possession and applying more pressure to Empoli. They really did have the potential to get something from this game but poor key decisions when in possession would let them down. They now find themselves further into the relegation battle with a bigger hole to dig out of.
Empoli will be glad of the three points and on the whole their performance. They managed to thwart their opposition despite being under constant pressure. A much-welcomed return for Andreazzoli.
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Level 2 scout for PFSA, qualified level 1 FA coach, level 1 Futsal, level 1 Goalkeeping and Manager coach of Exeter Central F.C U8's