Paulo Sousa’s Fiorentina; Back four to back three

Embedded image permalinkFiorentina’s expansive football style caught the eye during the Montella era where the club combined free flowing football with positive results. After parting ways with the former AS Roma player, Fiorentina appointed Paulo Sousa as his successor; a man whose philosophy is in line with Fiorentina’s proactive style. So far, Fiorentina are first in Serie A and playing some of the best football in Europe. Football so good, Fiorentina’s director said: “It is a joy to watch this team at work. It plays total football and in all my years of working in the sport I’d never seen anything like it.”

Sousa in his own words describes his philosophy;

“The foremost consideration for any coach or manager in professional football is to win matches – but we must entertain and play attractive, passing football, with a high tempo, pressing the opposition back and forcing mistakes. This is the approach I adopted as a player and is the approach I will continue to use during my time in the game.

I create teams with the balance between flair and aggression and I want my teams to reflect my own personality – honest, hard-working and with the desire to win.”avg

Fiorentina’s football is based on quick circulation of the ball into attacking areas and relentless off-the-ball pressing. Their average possession so far this season is the highest in Serie A since the 05-06 season, stressing their reliance to monopolize the ball. Sousa often plays with the 3-4-2-1 starting formation and did so against Frosinone with a back three system which had a lot of very interesting dynamics and orientations over the 90 minutes. Fiorentina are very flexible in their shape and one of the most interesting thing about them is their ability to switch to a different shape depending on the game phase and position of the ball. They started in a 3-4-2-1 shape in possession with Gonzalo, Roncaglia and Tomovic in the back three. Tomovic had an interesting role as the right half back, moving wider and creating a back four with Pasquale dropping deep in the wider left wing back role when Frosinone entered their defensive third.

The midfield consisting of Badelj who is one of the best players in terms of recycling possession in Italy, and Mario Suarez played very deep and often in the same line when Fiorentina had the ball in the deeper phases of build up to offer a direct vertical pass option to the defenders. Their positioning gave the centerbacks great vertical coverage and allowed them to move the ball at a quicker speed. Pasquale and Rebic played as the wide midfielders/wingbacks with Rebic taking up a very offensive attacking position. Both wide players were positioned very wide to stretch their opponents and create space in the middle for Fiorentina’s 3-2 block. Matias and Borja had very interesting roles as offensive midfielders playing behind Babacar.

Frisonone were very passive in their shape and allowed Fiorentina a lot of time and space on the ball in their own half. When they pressed, they pressed with two forwards in a 4-4-2 shape but Fiorentina’s three man line gave them the numerical edge in deeper build up.fio
The halfbacks were very proactive and would often carry the ball into the midfield zone. Fiorentina’s positional play gives many passing options over the field with quickens their passing and allows for effective circulation of the ball. Understanding and intelligence in positioning allows them to form many triangles and as a result keep possession at the expense of their opponents.

Matias Fernandez and Borja the offensive midfielders had very interesting movements and positioning in offense. The two playmakers would drop deep into the halfspaces to allow a vertical or diagonal passing option for the centerbacks when Frosinone pushed up a bit(very rare), but on the whole the two playmakers were generally positioned in the halfspaces and in between the opposition midfield and defensive line majority of the time. btn linesThe two offensive midfielders moved intelligently in the space between fullback and centerback throughout the game and in between the lines in positions which were difficult for the opposition to track. Babacar played very intelligently often running in behind and distracting the defenders to create space ahead of them. Sousa’ men overloaded the halfspaces very well whenever they attacked, particularly on the right and had very nice moments of getting in behind through their overloading of the halfspace.ovld hsWithout the ball, Fiorentina’s shape will switch to a 4-3-2-1/4-4-1-1. Pasquale will drop to make a back four with Tomovic moving wider. Matias who played as a 10 in between the lines in possession dropped deeper into midfield to create a midfield three with Rebic on the wide right moving into Matias role as the pressed Frosinone in their deep build up phase. El4RINFiorentina look to press very high, they maintain a compact shape and control the center forcing their opponents to play out from the wider positions. They then switch quickly to press them there where the space is restricted.


Fiorentina find themselves among the top and are among the most attractive teams to watch in Europe this seasons, the question now is, can they go all the way under Sousa?


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