One of the most scrutinized team this season is Catania. A stint with AS Rome aside, where he had also the first step in coaching with the U-15 side, this is the first true job and the first one in a full-time mode for the Little Aeroplane Vincenzo Montella. At just 37-years old, Montella joined a new generation of tacticians including Luis Enrique, and Andrea Stramaccioni. The results were good. How Montella did it? Unlike other teams, which play just one system, Catania is similar to Juventus, playing different patterns. Team changed often its formation switching from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2. In general, Montella utilized 5-3-2 14 time and 4-3-3, 18 time.
But a key figure in their successful campaign has been the impact of set piece goals. First and foremost, Catania can count on a true set pieces kicker specialist in Francesco Lodi, maybe the best free kicks specialyst serie A has seen from the time of former Parma Fausto Pizzi. In defenders Nicola Legrottaglie, Giovanni Marchese and Nicolas Spolli, Montella has three headers able to score.
Catania has a lond and respected tradition on set piece goals, started with Walter Zenga. Montella’s assistant coaches Pino Irrera and Daniele Russo continues this trend keeping those scoring chances highly effective. Team scored an outstanding 38% of its goals in those situations. How those goals are born? The basic idea is simple: put your set-piece specialists in position to made the plays. Lodi is the man deputed to send free kicks and corner kicks inside the penalty box. Using his precise left-food, Lodi is able to put the ball in the air on the right spaces where his teammates occur. Catania split the opposite’s area in 4 zones and attack each zone with one man at least. The ball is often sent in the zone between the goal area and the penalty spot.
A feature of Catania’s set pieces on corner kicks is to run without pick and roll but with the headers operating in 1 vs 1…
Take a look to the goal scored by Legrottaglie vs Novara. The team moved one player away from the goalkeeper’s zone in the way to keep with him a marker and open the spaces for the players coming from behind. Every player is isolated in 1 vs 1 situation, in the way to maximize the header’s skills of Montella’s players.
The other 4 headers attack with a man in the first post zone, another in the second post zone and two in the central zone in front of the keeper:
The same tactics was employed once again against Fiorentina. Moving the players from behind help to take advantage against defenders, which have to see the ball and also to cover headers coming a full speed. As you can have noticed against Fiorentina and Parma, Catania’s players are highly focused. As former Parma’s head coach Nevio Scala pointed out, lack of concentration is one of the reason why many teams defend so poorly on set pieces. Catania’s headers remain focused until the end of the play, as goals scored on the so-named ‘second ball’ showed.
Against Lecce, with Legrottaglie, Alejandro Gomez, Giuseppe Bellusci, and Marco Motta as headers:
And against Lazio in a 1-0 win on 28th game day:
Catania’s roster and tactical ability of Irrera and Russ kept Catania competitive in those situations despite market’s turmoil and the trades of good headers such as Gennaro Delvecchio and Pablo Álvarez.
An important part of set pieces scheme are the coverage to prevent counter-attack. Here we can see as Catania lines up 3 men outside the box to gain the second ball: