A lot of individuals nonetheless have this bizarre concept that Serie A is gradual, defensive and boring. That hasn’t been true for a very long time, and this yr’s version of the competitors appears notably more likely to buck that stereotype. The one high staff presently taking part in in a means that one would possibly contemplate “typically Italian” is Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan, and even it’s averaging greater than two targets per recreation. Serie A kicks ass.
My favourite Italian staff to look at in the intervening time is Fiorentina, who’s notable for enjoying a zero-striker formation. Different groups have performed with out-of-position playmakers or false nines up high, however the Viola actually do play zero strikers. I discover this particularly amusing provided that their supervisor, Vincenzo Montella, was a high class striker who scored greater than 100 targets in Serie A. (Maybe nobody on the squad is as much as his lofty requirements.)
Taking on the de facto putting roles in Montella’s 3-5-2-Zero formation is a pair of entertaining huge forwards at completely different factors of their profession. You’ll be able to watch them mix within the highlights from Fiorentina’s win over AC Milan. It completely guidelines.
Franck Ribery, who has spent the final 5 years as a rotation participant at Bayern Munich after accidents slowed him down, appears reinvigorated at 36. He’s doing a wonderful job choosing the ball up in deep positions and dribbling previous defenders, and he’s solely taking very high-percentage pictures.
His companion, Federico Chiesa, is on the opposite finish of his profession. The 21-year-old is transitioning from being a pure proper winger to a extra dynamic function that requires him to get into the field and take extra pictures. He solely has one Serie A purpose to his title this season, however his numbers recommend extra are on their means. Fiorentina don’t need to lose Chiesa anytime quickly, and have rejected bids in extra of €50 million for him up to now, but when he retains this up they’re going to have a tricky time retaining his companies.
Fiorentina has created a excessive quantity of pictures and 11 targets in six video games with no actual striker by profitable the ball aggressively within the middle of the pitch and counter-attacking shortly, typically dribbling into the field as a substitute of going for by balls. The Viola are final in Serie A in passes into the field.
The central midfielders, Erick Pulgar and Gaetano Castrovilli, are excellent suits for the system. Pulgar is an brisk ball-winner and an excellent shooter from distance, whereas Castrovilli, a 22-year-old in his first season as a Viola common, makes loads of runs past Ribery, forcing defenders into troublesome selections.
Fiorentina presses excessive, as you’ll be able to see right here. The pink areas are the place Fiorentina takes extra defensive actions than the common Serie A staff. (The darker the pink, the extra actions; likewise, the darker grey, the less actions.) The Viola actually wish to get after it within the opposition penalty space.
Nonetheless, as you may need guessed, Fiorentina isn’t notably profitable at truly profitable the ball excessive up the pitch with Ribery. Right here’s the identical defensive heatmap, however with pressures taken away, so solely all different defensive actions are taken under consideration — tackles, interceptions, fouls and blocks. The areas you’d count on Ribery to be chargeable for stick out like a frostbitten thumb.
However hey, I’m not right here to disrespect a 36-year-old playmaking genius for not being Diego Costa. The remainder of the staff makes up for the one deficiency in Ribery’s recreation fairly properly.
Fiorentina is third in Serie A in pressures and fourth in aggressive actions (outlined as defensive actions made inside two seconds of an opponent receiving the ball), however under league common in opponent passes per defensive motion and the common distance from purpose that they take defensive actions. Mainly, it lets defenders play with the ball a bit, however actually ramps up the stress and wins the ball again at a excessive price in the course of the sector.
What outcomes is a very unorthodox and pleasant counter-attacking staff that opponents don’t know the best way to defend in opposition to but. Fiorentina would possibly get found out and find yourself having to purchase a standard striker in January. However Chiesa additionally hasn’t discovered high type but, and may begin scoring extra quickly. Fiorentina has additionally allowed three extra targets than Anticipated Targets, suggesting its protection has been unfortunate and may enhance. If Ribery can keep match (the world’s greatest if), the Viola must be a blast to look at all yr.