After a bad start of the league, with just five points in eight matches, Torino hosted Sampdoria in one of the two Monday night’s matches of Serie A. In a match between two very particular teams tactically speaking, the perfect final result was a draw. A very spectacular 2-2, which doesn’t help Torino to get out of the relegation zone, and let Sampdoria strengthen their place in the middle of the standings.
After a season start where Giampaolo tried to use his traditional 4-3-1-2 formation, from the game against Inter, Torino returned to the 3-5-2 formation used in the last years. Salvatore Sirigu as a goalkeeper, a back-three composed of Bremer, Lyanco, and Ricardo Rodríguez, Wilfried Singo and Christian Ansaldi on the flanks, while Soualiho Meïté, Tomás Rincón, and Karol Linetty played in midfield. And Simone Zaza and the captain Andrea Belotti were the offensive duo.
For Claudio Ranieri, who is suspended due to the last game’s red card, the traditional Sampdoria‘s 4-4-1-1 formation was used. Emil Audero was the goalkeeper, Bartosz Bereszyński, Alex Ferrari, Maya Yoshida and Tommaso Augello formed the defensive line. The Midfield was composed of Antonio Candreva, Morten Thorsby, Albin Ekdal and Jakub Jankto. And Valerio Verre supported the lone striker Fabio Quagliarella.
Torino’s build-up phase
In the build-up phase, Torino opted for a very direct style of play. The three centre-backs were the starters of every action, with two main strategies: long vertical passes or playing to the full-backs on the flanks. As we can see from this image, the three midfielders were not involved in any way in the build-up phase.
Meïté, Rincón and Linetty never even tried to help from the back by dropping to get the ball. Their main task in possession was to give support to the strikers and the full-backs for the balls coming from the back.
In some circumstances, to give unpredictability to the offensive manoeuver and try to break the excellent man-marking work of Sampdoria’s defence, one of the two Torino’s strikers dropped between the lines, working as an advanced midfielder. In these situations it was one of the midfielders, usually Linetty, to maintain the offensive presence. And as we can see from the image above, it was exactly from one of these movements that the first Torino goal was born, even if it got canceled by the VAR for an offside position.
Sampdoria’s centre-backs were always forced to make 2v2 duels. But their pace was not the same as Torino’s strikers, and the penetrative passes for a player like Belotti were a real deal for them throughout all the match.
Torino’s pressing and Sampdoria in possession
When in non-possession, Torino’s pressing was not really intense. Their main objective was to cut the passing lines in the centre of the pitch, maintaining a really tight midfield. As we can see from the image above, they didn’t really man-mark Sampdoria’s midfielders, but this compactness never let them participate in the build-up phase.
Against this kind of pressing Sampdoria did not have many options. The most utilized (and obvious) one was playing from the flanks. Playing against a 3-5-2 formation with a 4-4-1-1 means you will have most of time a numerical advantage on the flanks. But Torino’s midfielders’ ability to help the full-backs in the wider areas was crucial for the entire first half.
As we can see from this image, when the ball came to the full-backs one of the midfielders went to hard press him, while Torino’s full-backs could stay more defensive, man-marking the wingers.
A key player in the first half for these kinds of situations was for sure Valerio Verre. Not having a really fixed position in the pitch, he was the designated player to create the numerical advantage in wider areas, giving an additional option to his teammates.
As we can see from this image below, his work was to support the actions on the flank. By playing between the lines he gave an alternative to the crosses in the box, where Quagliarella would have struggled against Torino’s defenders.
Despite the importance of his role, Verre was not able to make the difference for his team in the first half. And this led to the revolution of the second-half for Ranieri’s tactics.
Sampdoria’s second-half tactical revolution
From the beginning of the second-half, Ranieri proved how unsatisfying his team’s performance was until that moment. Four substitutions and the tactical shape was totally revolutionized. No more players between the lines, with the addition of a striker to create an offensive duo, they became more efficient against a back-three. As we can see from this image, even the wingers’ centre of gravity moved forward a lot, creating a kind of Four-man attacking line.
And the tactical solution that really changed the game for Sampdoria was exactly the wingers’ position. Not only higher in the pitch, but even more central.
As we previously mentioned in this analysis, Torino were really good in countering the opponent’s actions on the flanks, even if in theory Sampdoria should have had a numerical advantage. Realising this, Ranieri centralised his wingers, creating a 4v3 in the central areas which Torino struggled to defend in the first minutes of the second half. And, as we can see from this image, that’s exactly how the second Sampdoria’s goal was born.
Torino was tactically perfect for the first 50 minutes of the match, but this little change in Sampdoria’s tactics destroyed all their work in just ten minutes.
Torino have shown many improvements in this game and proved another time the tactical ability of their coach Giampaolo. But the team still have to work a lot on reading the opponents and being able to react to something not really prepared before the match. Torino’s position didn’t change, the team is still in the relegation zone, and next week will be the match of the matches for Torino’s fans: the derby against Juventus.
Ranieri proved his great experience again and took a point for the standings in a tough match. Sampdoria’s season started very well, and if they will be able to keep these performances, they might be involved even in the fight for a place in the UEFA Europa League.