Fiorentina 0-1 Roma – the classic smash and grab away win

February 8, 2010

How do Roma do it? This was their third consecutive victory, and all three have featured late, late goals that grabbed points the Giallorossi probably didn’t deserve on the balance of play. After a Riise goal won the game at Juventus and an Okaka goal grabbed them three points against Siena, Mirko Vucinic popped up on 82 minutes here to slam the ball in off the crossbar, and Roma had a win they scarcely deserved.

Roma lined up in their fairly ‘classic’ shape when they choose not to field a targetman (Luca Toni was injured) – a lopsided 4-2-3-1 that sees Totti dropping deep, and Vucinic operating in an advanced left-sided role. Right-wing width comes from the deeper Rodrigo Taddei, whilst Perrotta and ocassionally de Rossi break from midfield.

Fiorentina too played a modified 4-2-3-1 - Bolatti was in the holding role, Montolivo provided the driving runs. Jovetic drops off Gilardino, and Vargas and Marchionni look to get to the byline to swing in crosses. They had the majority of possession, and should have won easily – di Silvestri and Gilardino missed sitters.

Roma defended reasonably narrow, encouraging Fiorentina to go wide, and were confident that Mexes and Juan would win the majority of aerial battles, which they did.

On the other hand, Roma were always going to dominate the centre of midfield, with an effective 3 v 2 advantage and Totti dropping deep, so this creates a difficult situation for the opposition. If you try and go through the middle, the Roma midfield makes things congested. If you go wide and get crosses in, their two centre-backs are dominant.

So what’s the best bet against this Roma side? Targeting the full-backs is probably an effective tactic, but the key is the final ball. Fiorentina found it difficult to find Gilardino today, which is somewhat surprising as his movement is usually excellent. Part of the reason was that Vargas and Marchionni often crossed optimistically from very wide positions – they did better when Pasqual and di Silvestri supported, an overlap was created, and the crossing position became more central. The longer the ball is in the air, the more the Roma defenders will win the ball. They looked more vulnerable against late midfield runs, or when Fiorentina crossed the ball to the back post, to the opposite winger – Vargas and Marchionni’s deep crosses for each other often caught out the full-backs, although Motta and Riise are both comfortable defensively.

The deep starting positions of Totti and Vucinic can be a problem, and their movement is often excellent. Both are prone to bouts of lethargy, however, and a decent opposition defence can work the ball easily to the full-backs who generally get a lot of room.

Roma were so outclassed and Fiorentina were so wasteful that it would be a fruitless exercise to even attempt to make out that it was primarily tactics that won this game, but Claudio Ranieri does appear to have stumbled back upon the strikerless shape that Roma do so well. The question is, what will he do when Toni returns?

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