Roma 3-2 Bayern: Ranieri’s half-time switch from 4-3-1-2 to 4-3-3 prompts superb comeback

November 24, 2010

The starting line-ups

Claudio Ranieri tinkered at half-time, and the change meant Roma went from 2-0 down at the break, to 3-2 up by full time.

From the start, Ranieri chose the 4-3-1-2 formation he’s favoured in recent weeks, with Jeremy Menez as the trequartista. Francesco Totti was on the bench with Mirko Vucinic and Marco Borriello upfront, and Matteo Brighi started in midfield alongside Leandro Greco.

Bayern kept their 4-2-3-1 formation but made changes from the weekend draw with Leverkusen – Franck Ribery and Martin Demichelis returned, whilst Thomas Kraft made his Champions League debut in goal.

Roma were disjointed in the first half, particularly in the way they played when they didn’t have the ball. They were canny enough to press Bayern at goal-kicks, and the inexperienced Kraft played the ball out to his centre-backs a couple of times when they were clearly in no position to receive it, almost resulting in a calamitous Roma goal.

Roma make it easy for Bayern

Further back, however, they simply let Bayern play. Menez didn’t look to do any defensive work whatsoever – in stark contrast to the equivalent Leverkusen player at the weekend, Renato Augusto, who spent the game tirelessly closing down Bayern’s two holding midfielders.

As a result, Anatoliy Tymoschuk and Andreas Ottl had plenty of time on the ball, and Roma’s 4-3-1-2 system also meant that the Bayern full-backs were completely unoccupied, and were always outlets in wide zones, stretching the play and allowing the Bayern wingers to move inside. Roma were forced to try and close the full-backs down by their midfield three shifting across the pitch from flank to flank, but Bayern simply knocked the ball across the pitch and constantly forced Roma’s midfield to change position.

Bayern patient

This season when Bayern are playing well, there is much more emphasis than last season upon retaining possession of the ball. This was evident in the opening day win over Wolfsburg when the opposition barely touched the ball in the first half, and has also been notable in their goals this week. At the weekend Gomez finished off a brilliant patient passing move in the 34th minute – here he did so in the 33rd, pouncing on Ribery’s reverse pass and finishing well. The second goal was less beautiful but no less ruthless – Thomas Mueller pounced on a loose ball and slipped Gomez in – and he finished well into the far corner.

Half-time changes

After half-time, Roma changed to 4-3-3

Ranieri’s first change was to replace Greco, who had made three ‘cynical’ tackles to break up Bayern counter-attacks, and was therefore very lucky not to have been dismissed. On came Fabio Simplicio in his place.

The most dramatic change, however, was to switch Roma’s system from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-3-3. Vucinic went to the left, Menez came over to the right, and Roma now had width when they had the ball.

Perhaps more importantly, however, they were occupying the Bayern full-backs. Whereas Philip Lahm and Danijel Pranjic had all the time in the world in the first half, suddenly they were immediately faced with an opponent. Bayern couldn’t use them as a passing option and they couldn’t get their full-backs high up the pitch, and their easy passing pattern in the first half was no longer viable. Roma were still 3 v 3 in the centre of the pitch, and therefore they were not overrun in that zone.

Another key was that Roma’s full-backs pushed on more. There’s no explicit reason why this would be easier playing in a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-3-1-2 – in both formations they have space in front of them and in both halves they had a direct opponent – they were simply braver and played higher up the pitch.

Menez the dangerman

Granted, like Tottenham’s similar comeback over Arsenal at the weekend, Bayern’s slackness played a part in the turnaround. However, Menez being pushed over to the right was clearly a fantastic move from Ranieri – Roma started hitting direct passes out to him to take on Pranjic (a 70-yard ball from John Arne Riise was a highlight) and Menez was a constant danger.

Menez created the first goal back when he beat Tymoschuk and Demichelis and then crossed for Borriello to convert, and he should have had a second assist from a similar move, where Simplicio somehow managed to miss an open goal.

UEFA's average position diagram shows the change in shape (Vucinic is 9, Menez is 94). Copyright UEFA.

Vucinic, quiet in the first half, was also now having an excellent game on the left. His clever ball down the line for Riise on the overlap created the second goal, converted by De Rossi. It was poor tracking of Riise by Pranjic, who by this time had been moved out to the right wing.

Francesco Totti had come off the bench in place of Brighi – shifting Roma’s formation slightly to 4-2-1-3. He had an impact on the game at 2-2 – he found a pocket of space in midfield to send a ball over the top for Borriello, who was brought down by Kraft, and Totti scored the penalty to complete the comeback.


Ranieri has a reputation for crazy changes, but sometimes he gets them very, very right. In a situation reminiscent of this year’s first Rome derby when he switched from a 4-3-1-2 to a 4-2-3-1 at half-time, Roma took the game to the opposition and were superb in the second period.

Could Louis van Gaal have done more to stop Roma in the second half? Menez was the clear dangerman, and it was very surprising that van Gaal didn’t attempt to make Bayern more secure down that side of the pitch. He even brought on an extra left-back, Diego Contento, but rather than fielding him and Pranjic down the same side of the pitch to double up against Menez, he moved Pranjic over to the right, where he was eventually partly responsible for Roma’s second goal. As a whole, Bayern played high up the pitch in the second half, which helped Roma get the ball to their wingers with space to run into.

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