Fiorentina 3-2 Bayern – Viola deal well with the wide threat, but leave themselves exposed in the centre

March 10, 2010

Fiorentina are out of the competition despite Cesare Prandelli getting his tactics spot on both home and away. Bayern progress thanks to some highly questionable refereeing decisions in the first leg, and two excellent strikes in the second leg – their first defeat in 18 games.

Bayern lined up in a fairly standard 4-4-2, albeit with advanced wingers, and Thomas Muller looking to drop off into space, so it sometimes becomes a 4-2-3-1. Fiorentina’s formation is generally considered a 4-2-3-1 but is really more like a 4-4-1-1 – Stevan Jovetic plays close to Alberto Gilardino, whilst Juan Vargas on the left looks to cover his full-back.

The main threat from Bayern is obvious – they possess two of the finest wingers in the World, in Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery. Fiorentina dealt with this in the traditional manner, by getting their deeper midfielders to double up against them when they got the ball. Against Robben on the right, Felipe was assisted by the left-winger Vargas (a former left-back himself), whilst on the right, the cover tended to come from the central midfielder, Ricardo Montolivo, as Marco Marchionni played higher up the pitch, to put pressure on the debutant, David Alaba.

And this worked pretty well. Ribery was relatively anonymous in both games – Robben was in better form, but didn’t create a great deal over the course of the tie.

The problem with this approach, however, was that it left Fiorentina exposed in the centre of the park. With Vargas drawn left, Montolivo drawn right and Marchionni and Jovetic staying relatively high up the pitch, it essentially left Bayern’s two central midfielders up against one Fiorentina midfielder, in Cristiano Zanetti. And therefore it was no surprise how Bayern scored their first goal. Ribery got the ball on the left, four Fiorentina players were drawn to him – and he squared it for Mark van Bommel who was left in oceans of space to thump it into the net. Pause the video at 00:02 to see four players drawn to Ribery, leaving no-one on van Bommel.

There’s a slight case for saying this effect contributed to Arjen Robben’s “winner” too – Fiorentina were so concerned with him not beating the full-back, that they essentially showed him inside onto his stronger left foot, where he unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

But Fiorentina essentially played this one spot on. Had they not had such awful luck in the first leg, they would have deservedly gone through to the next round of the competition.

How do you defeat Bayern? Gang up against their wingers, and get at their defence – Alaba and Badstuber are young and inexperienced, van Buyten is positionally very poor, and Lahm doesn’t seem the player he was four years ago. Bayern will need a favourable draw to get any further in this competition, because they won’t be able to rely on referees and wonderstrikes in every game.

Here is Fiorentina’s problem represented graphically:

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