Fiorentina opened this game with a 3-4-2-1. Salcedo got his Serie A debut. Milan started with the usual 4-3-3. With their constant pressing and positional play, Fiorentina exploited Milan’s lack of athleticism, especially in the midfield. However, they were lacking firepower up front. The game ended with 0:0.
Fiorentina’s constant pressure on Milan’s ball handlers
Fiorentina maintained a very high press on Milan throughout the game. The goal of any such press is to disrupt build-up. As we have discussed before (see the analysis of Milan@Napoli), Milan likes to use long ball to deliver to their 3 strikers and both full backs. Three Milan’s players are critical for Milan’s build-up: Montolivo, Bonaventura and Romagnoli. All of them have very good passing ranges. Montolivo often stays with the central defenders to help build-up and to circulate the ball. Bonaventura operates in a much wider area. He is particularly dangerous because he is also fast and can dribble very well. He is important for the linkup between defenders and attackers.
Fiorentina used high presses to eliminate the passing lanes towards Montolivo and Bonaventura when they stayed central. They used a man-marking system and pressed Milan players whenever they tried to build up from their own half.
Fiorentina’s players were not just trying to retrieve the balls in a dangerous position. They always ran towards Milan players with an angle that prevented quick one-two between passer and receiver. By doing so, it forced Milan’s players to pass to an opposite direction.
Once they ball reached the flanks, the pressure of the press would suddenly increase. These presses had two goals: 1., to prevent Montolivo and Bonaventura from helping build-up. 2, to force Milan passing parallel to the sidelines. Passes like that are more difficult for the receiver to initiate attacks, because he has to turn 180 degree to advance forward. During the opening 25 minutes, Fiorentina pressed relentlessly. Milan almost could not pass through the central area at all.
After their missed penalty, Fiorentina seemed to be having a mental shock (or fatigue) and did not carry out its press efficiently. Milan could then pass the ball really well (passes success rate increased from 75% to 93%). They could also pass to more advanced and central areas.
It also helped Bonaventura to receive the balls in more dangerous positions.
Bonaventura’s passes received before the penalty:
Bonaventura’s passes received after the penalty:
Fiorentina’s positional plays
Fiorentina is fascinating to watch because of their positional plays. They often maintain various forms of triangle between three players to maximize passing lanes.
Here is one example. Black arrow is the movement. Blue arrow is the pass. Dotted line outlines the triangle.
Salcedo passed the ball to Badelj and he immediately moved to a new position where he could receive a pass. Once Badelj received the ball, he passed to Rodriguez and immediately moved slightly backward. His defender followed him and it opened a passing lane for Rodriguez to Salcedo.
Here is another example:
Borja Valero passed the ball to Milic and immediately surged forward while Kalinic moved backwards. Borja Valero’s movement opened up a passing lane to Kalinic.
The different combinations of passes and movements between three player in a triangle shape facilitates passing between these players. The movement of a player does not necessarily allow him to receive a pass. But it opens up a passing lane between the other two players because the defender is suddenly confused and has to make a decision on whether to follow a player in a split second.
Fiorentina’s lack of fire-power
Three sets of data summarize Fiorentina’s impotent offense:
Fiorentina’s shot attempts:
They failed to generate genuine scoring opportunities during the game. Most of the shots came from the edges of the box.
Almost none of their crosses reached their players.
The most telling data is the passes received by Kalinic.
While Kalinic did a very good job in facilitating passes in the final third area, he only received one pass inside the box. As the only striker for for his team in this game, Fiorentina failed to generate any genuine opportunities for him. Fiorentina’s offensive performance in this game is a reflection of their season so far, where they only score 6 goals. Playing so much further from the box is detrimental to their offense. Kalinic does not have the skill or pace to create space for himself or for his teammates. Without him in the box Fiorentina also does not have a target to pass to:
Without a target and other players running into the box, Fiorentina could only threaten Milan by shooting outside / the edge of the box.
Milan’s struggle in offense
Being relentlessly pressed by Fiorentina for most of the game, Milan had a hard time initiating their offense through build-up. It particularly affected Montolivo’s performance.
Montolivo’s passes in this game:
Without any success through build-up, they relied on counter-attacks. However, Milan were very passive in the first half during the defensive phase. They often stayed in front of the ball handlers in order to prevent Fiorentina’s penetration in the central area. Because they did not pressure Fiorentina’s players, they could not retrieve the ball in areas advanced enough for counter-attacks. They changed their strategy in the second half and were a lot more aggressive in attacking Fiorentina’s ball handlers.
Milan’s tackles in the first half:
Milan’s tackles in the second half:
Coupled with more interceptions, Milan generated more passes to the dangerous areas and were a lot more threatening in the second half.
Milan’s passes in the attacking third in the first half:
Milan’s passes in the attacking third in the second half:
However, just like Fiorentina, they did not generate many genuine scoring chances. Niang was particularly disappointing. There were a few instances he faced Tomovic 1 vs 1 close to the box area. But he just could not get pass him. Bacca was also very quiet. Although he has very good finishing ability, he does not have enough pace and skill (just like Kalinic) to generate space and opportunity during counter-attacks.
A match with entertaining speed, but not a lot of scoring opportunities. For Fiorentina, they seem to be looking for a balance between defense and offense. For Milan, they play with very strict instructions during the offensive phase. When it clicks it works wonderfully. But when it doesn’t they don’t seem to have any other alternative options. It may take a lot of work (or reinforcements) to generate a potent offense to challenge for the UCL spots.
My man-of-the-match is Carlos Sanchez.
All of data are from www.fourfourtwo.com statzone
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