Football in Italy is never a matter of boredom. It is excitement, tension, and relief. All these feelings on the emotional spectrum were felt in the matchup of Atalanta vs. Fiorentina. As does every match, this match carried important significance for both teams. After the wild 3-3 draw in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal, both teams were ready to prove a point.
For Atalanta, it was about taking their resurgent form into the competition and getting a chance to win the trophy. For Fiorentina, who currently languish in11th place, it was a chance for them to use the talent in their squad to have a chance at winning the trophy. For a statistically mediocre team, it would be a great morale boost for La Viola to win and advance to something major.
As such, in our tactical analysis, we will show you the statistics and analysis behind the movements and trends of each team. Moreover, we will look at factors for why one team won and the other lost.
Vincenzo Montella made three changes to his Fiorentina team that lost 2-1 to Juventus. Cristiano Biraghi was brought in for Dávid Hancko meanwhile Bryan Dabo was replaced by Gerson. The last change involved Giovanni Simeone being replaced by Luis Fernando Muriel. Montella also changed the formation of Fiorentina, going from the 4-4-2 used against Juventus to a 5-3-2.
On the other hand, Gian Piero Gasperini made changes to the Atalanta side that had won against Napoli four days ago. Gasperini’s changes involved replacing Gianluca Mancini with José Luis Palomino. Moreover, Hans Hateboer and Mario Pašalić were replaced by Robin Gosens and Josip Iličić respectively. Gasperini made a slight change to the formation as the formation shifted from a 3-4-2-1 to a 3-4-1-2.
Atalanta’s ineffective possession and wing play
The game plan from Atalanta, in terms of attack, was to retain possession and directly attack the left-hand side of Fiorentina. Moreover, the team’s tactics were to target the space around the duo of Federico Ceccherini and Cristiano Biraghi.
One of the first ways to accomplish this was through their possession. Through possession, they could restrict Fiorentina from getting any time on the ball and could keep applying pressure. Atalanta applied a high press right after a ball loss, especially if the event would occur in the opponent’s half, to quickly regain possession.
Here we can see up to four Atalanta players pressing a single Fiorentina player. Here Atalanta can afford to devote four players as Fiorentina are threatening to score.
Moreover, by having a three at the back formation, Atalanta ensured that they could always pass it back to restart attacks. By having a three-man defence, it was ensured that the forwards of Fiorentina, who were only two, could not disrupt their attacking process. This situation created a 3v2 which gave numerical superiority in favour of Atlanta which allowed them to bypass any attempts at high pressing with ease.
Moreover, any attempts by the Gigliati to press collectively was eased by the presence of Remo Freuler who acted as the regista for the Orbici. His presence created a 4v3 in the middle of the pitch which allowed Atalanta to have pathways from which they could get out of pressure.
In all, the tactics from Atalanta to constrict Fiorentina, possession-wise, worked brilliantly as Atalanta recorded 60 per cent possession compared to Fiorentina’s 40 per cent.
After being content with the possession, the game plan included playing on the left-hand side of Fiorentina. Recognizing the fact that Fiorentina were content with sitting deep after the first wave of pressure subsided, Atalanta came barraging down that flank.
Some of the most common combinations involved passing to the right wing-back, Timothy Castagne, who would play 1-2s with the accompanying midfielder Marten De Roon. More often than not, the number 10, Alejandro Gómez, would drop deep. This allowed the wing-back to play “give-and-go’s” with the diminutive Argentinian. This allowed the creation of space on the wings which would be used to cross.
Another combination involved the reversal of positions of Iličić and Gómez. This allowed Iličić to claim the space in the central corridor. The triangle of Iličić, Gómez, and Castagne was one that repeatedly tore holes on the flank. This was by far the most common passage of play on the left-hand side of Fiorentina.
One example of the combinations in the triangle was the decoy runs of Gómez. Iličić would drop deeper than usual which attracted a left central midfielder of Fiorentina. Gómez would start a decoy run towards the centre which would drag the left centre back and also force left wingback to cover two angles at once. This would allow enough time for Castagne to start running and as such, receive the ball in acres of space.
At times, the normal triangle passage was broken with the usage of a rectangle. Andrea Masiello, the right centre-back, would join the triangle to allow for more traps and combinations. One sequence was to have the trio of Iličić, Gómez, and Castagne play in the left halfspace.
This attracted Fiorentina to the halfspaces and as such left the wings open. When the left centre-back and wing-back had been sufficiently drawn in with short passes, either one of the three would release the running Masiello who would provide for low cutbacks or crosses.
These combinations, in general, on the left-hand side of Fiorentina would result in nine crosses, a successful number. The purpose of these combinations was to approach the 18-yard box. However, this goal was not to be successfully achieved.
Atalanta failed in creating tangible chances from wing-play. This fact is highlighted by the fact that Atalanta only created four shots on target from a total of 16 shots. For a team rooted in possession, these statistics relay a story of a failure in the final third.
This failure primarily came down to the fact that Atalanta would overplay in the spaces. Additionally, the general lack of creativity inside the box lead to a reduced number of shots on target.
The fact that the two goals were results of luck and mistakes is a testament to the fact. The first goal came to a penalty call from a mistake by a Fiorentina defender. Moreover, the second goal for Fiorentina can be credited to Gómez’s wonder strike and less due to their play inside the box.
Fiorentina’s counterattacks are ruined by poor-decision making
Inferrable from the formation, La Viola were looking at a counter-attacking approach. The duo of Luis Muriel and Federico Chiesa have enough pace and trickery to split up a three-man defence. The main approach from Fiorentina was to absorb pressure, while from moment to moment applying pressure, and start counterattacks.
Seeing as Atalanta had established their preferred pathway, Fiorentina sough to start the counterattacks on the left-hand side of Atalanta. This would cause the Orobici to focus their attention on the less-preferred flank which would allow the Gigliati some breathing space. Moreover, starting the counters on the right allowed them to catalyze their actions through their most creative player: Chiesa.
Chiesa’s ability to dribble with pace was the perfect way to unravel Atalanta’s defence. It allowed Fiorentina to catch Atalanta’s tactics mid-way and attack a vulnerable defence. By having Chiesa as the catalyst, Fiorentina were guaranteed to get past at least one of the three defenders.
Accompanying the fiery Chiesa was the clinical Muriel. Muriel was handed the role of making diagonal runs to and fro which attracted one of the Atlanta defenders and gave space for Chiesa. This diagonal running would fragment the Atlanta defence, giving Chiesa space to exploit a potential 1v1 situation.
Both Chiesa and Muriel complemented each other as Chiesa would often by the creator, giving through balls.
It was through this method that Fiorentina’s best chances were created. More often than not, Fiorentina were able to create 2v1s and 3v2s, in favour of them, that allowed them dangerous chances at goal. Moreover, this dangerous duo was often aided by one or more two midfielders.
An aid to Fiorentina’s approach was the chaotic Atalanta defending. This pattern of conceding very early and late goals has become a characteristic of the Orobici. In terms of a tactical perspective, a three-man defence can be exploited, on the wings, due to the high positioning of the wingbacks.
This was exploited by Fiorentina but the error-prone Atalanta defence helped. Often times, Atalanta defenders would go into the tackle early which would help bring more advantage to La Viola as it would allow Chiesa/Muriel to gain further space in central and half-space corridors. Misplaced passes and ill-judged interceptions allowed Fiorentina to find more gaps in the leaky defence.
Another attacking tactic for Fiorentina was through possession, however, this attacking tactic was not used as much due to Atalanta retaining the majority of the possession. The tactic was to place the duo of Chiesa and Muriel between the two defenders.
Then, using both of them as strikers who held the play, Fiorentina could use slick passing to advance further into the final third. However, a lack of communication and the hurried nature of this tactic allowed for dispossessions that handed Atalanta dangerous counterattacks. Due to this threat, Fiorentina were not too adamant to utilize this tactic and as such, retreated their shell and relied on their counterattacks.
Atalanta will progress through to the Coppa Italia finals and face Lazio. Gasperini and his men should be happy for making it this far however, they must be wary of their tactics as it might cost them the game against Lazio. We have seen how Atalanta were repeatedly carved open and how they almost lost the match. Conversely, for Montella and his men, they must have a careful analysis at their game. Not only did they give up a huge chance to a win silverware, they did it fully knowing they could have won the match. As again, this game was a learning experience for both teams and ultimately, tactics decided the whole game.
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