World news – What Fiorentina’s flirtation with a back 4 showed us


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For the first time in months (or years) we saw Fiorentina in a formation other than a 3-5-2. </ After about 64 minutes in the big win against Benevento, Fiorentina did something we haven't seen in months and maybe years: they switched to a 4-4-2. Lucas Martínez Quarta moved from the left of the back three to the right and Martín Cáceres moved from the right to the left full-back, with Lorenzo Venuti advancing from the left full-back to a left midfield role and Valentin Eysseric moving out from his central midfield position to a more conventional broad role.

As always, I’ll start with the qualifiers. This was a very specific situation: Fiorentina was already 3-1 against the second worst attack in Serie A and tried to get through the last half hour. That means that Prandelli may only have adjusted to certain circumstances rather than buying something he would like to try for the rest of the year. With all the absences (Gaetano Castrovilli, Sofyan Amrabat, Igor) this was possibly also a way to cover his lack of depth and consolidate his team without actually having to build submarines.

Still, it’s fascinating to be that he will try a new formation if he is trying to keep a lead instead of sticking to the one the team is believed to have spent most of their time training on. I’m going to point out some interesting wrinkles here, then extrapolate wildly about what this could mean for the viola in the future, both this season and beyond.

As I mentioned earlier, this was probably Prandelli who himself dealt with a particular situation. In this case, since the introduction of Roberto Insigne, Benevento had started to find a lot of space in the wide areas. The Stregoni didn’t really want to play through the middle and instead tried to flood the wings and then hit high crosses in the back. With Insigne and Gianluca Caprari joining up with Riccardo Improta from left-back and midfielders Perparim Hetemaj and Artur Ioniță, it was pretty obvious that Fiorentina was being overrun on the flanks.

By redistributing his protégés in two banks of four, Prandelli doubled the number of defenders he had in the vast areas. It made especially sense to double down with Cáceres and Venuti on the left as they were better able to contain the dangerous Improta. On the other hand, Federico Barba (more of a central defender) posed little threat to the defensive suspect Eysseric. While this would normally have resulted in Fiorentina being very bright in the center and providing Giacomo Bonaventura with more activity than effectiveness in screening the defense, Benevento didn’t want to use this area anyway.

The other consideration was Lucas Martínez Quarta. The Argentina international has broken out in the last few months and looks amazing. He is a bundle of energy and always tries to move forward with and without the ball to create chaos. While this is certainly a useful trait and made him an important part of the team, his lack of discipline has been Fiorentina’s biggest weakness. Indeed, he conceded the corner Benevento scored from by losing sight of Hetemaj and had missed a tackle against Caprari that resulted in a shot and another corner that led to the Cáceres handball incident. By moving him to the right where he’s not dragged around as often, Prandelli may have been trying to soften his urge to chase the ball like a madman.

The change also had a purpose. With two broad midfielders, Fiorentina now had a lot more width on the pitch, especially when making transitions. This in turn meant that there was generally an extra runner to assist Franck Ribery and Dušan Vlahović, as both Venuti and Eysseric had more freedom to gallop forward when the ball was flipped. Indeed, it was Venuti’s high pressure to win the ball and let Ribery lead it to Eysseric’s goal.

The short answer is, « Probably nothing. » Fiorentina has played a 3-5-2 all year, except for a few experiments with a 3-4-3 which were so obviously unsuccessful that they were immediately scrapped. With so few games left and safety likely but not guaranteed, Prandelli will likely focus his boys on staying disciplined and doing what they have been doing all season rather than trying something radical that will turn into blown up and leading to a late fall could down the table.

That said, this 4-4-2ish approach could be an excellent change of pace as opponents begin to figure out Fiorentina’s attack. The ability to completely change formations without switching a player is a very useful trick, especially since there are numerous defenders on the roster who can play multiple roles: LMQ and Igor can both play in central defense or outside; Cristiano Biraghi can play in fullback, wingback or even left midfield. and Venuti can play pretty much anywhere outside of the striker and central midfield.

It would probably take a bit more work in training to get really good on those shifts (see the moment at 65 ‘when Eysseric realized he was in the wrong place when Venuti stormed past him to to close), but a new formation poses an entirely different set of questions to opponents. For a team like Viola, which often looked predictable and clunky, this is a significant perk worth pursuing.

This is where things get a lot more interesting. A new manager who likes to use a back four (Maurizio Sarri, Luciano Spalletti, Fabio Conceição, etc.) will be very keen to see the current Fiorentina staff in this system. Again, Prandelli will likely only use it in seizures and starts, mostly because there aren’t many skilled attackers on the roster, but that might be enough for potential misters to come up with some plans this summer.

Even more interesting is, how this could change the roles of different players. Gaetano Castrovilli feels like a natural on the left side of a midfielder with a full-back overlapping behind. This would allow him to focus less on defense and more on finding space between the lines, especially when Ribéry is not operating in similar rooms. Tanino could also act as a straight swap for Ribéry as a withdrawn striker here, especially if he continues to improve his shooting. Alternatively, it would be a lot easier to keep him in midfield to switch back and forth between a 3-5-2 and a 4-4-1-1.

This would also provide a double pivot from Erick Pulgar and Sofyan Amrabat enable what is a dream pairing for any manager who wants an engine room that exerts furious pressure. Pulgar’s discipline and intelligence enable him to hold his place in front of the defense, while Amrabat’s incredible athleticism and endurance would allow him to chase the ball over the entire middle third and interrupt play. Bonaventura would be an excellent substitute or alternative option either to support Castrovilli or to play in central midfield when watching games.

Of course, this would require some big steps in the transfer market. A pacy, left-sided player who can fill in at fullback, wingback, or winger (Junior Firpo, anyone?) Would be a must as Biraghi’s lack of pace and defensive work would make him less useful in this scheme. Someone who can play right as a winger or full-back would also be key as neither José Callejón nor Eysseric seem like the right candidate there.

Look, I know these are a lot of things that come out of that have to stand out in the last half hour of a blowout win against a newly promoted team. It could very well be that this type of system switching only worked because Benevento is not very good and not because it was a tactical masterpiece. Against a more competent attacking team it could prove to be as disastrous as a lot of things that cl

There is obviously a lot of work on and off the field to enable Fiorentina to even play four part-time. Since Stefano Pioli left town, this club has been in the background against three. If we’re realistic, many of the options listed here are impractical for a variety of reasons.

That means you don’t have to blink too hard to see how this could work fantastically well next year. Fiorentina has many players whose skills allow them to play various roles very effectively. A creative and flexible manager should be able to take advantage of it, and even Prandelli, whose job it is to keep the tiller calm rather than innovative, may boil something off to help the viola get the season strong to end.

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