lunedì 21 maggio 2012

Torino is back

After a waiting of three seasons, Torino is back in Serie A. The man behind this succes is manager Giampiero Ventura. Ventura's side have generally played with a 4-2-4 since he took over last summer. His plan B this season was to insert a third midfielder switching to a 4-3-3 formation. There’s been too much talk on this system latest seasons. It was linked to Antonio Conte and current Juventus' manager spoke about it. As you can read, the 4-2-4 is considered a non existing formation being a classic 4-4-2 lined up as a 4-2-4 in attack. That isn't totally true. The way to run this pattern makes the difference between an usual 4-4-2 and a 4-2-4. To know more about it you can turn the eyes to Conte's Siena and Bari formations. But is Ventura that should have the last word on this formation being the godfather of  4-2-4. Although Ventura isn't the creator of the 4-men up top formations, his stints with Pisa and Bari means he deserves a lot of credit employing it. This 4-2-4 is a 6-4 pattern with 6 men defending and moving the ball and 4 attackers up top. The main question mark about the system is how to face attacking midfielders lined up in 4-3-1-2/4-3-2-1/4-2-3-1 formations. This issue is usual solved through the use of  hard working midfielders. This is not the case. Torino employed gifted central midfielders such as Manuel Iori or Giuseppe Vives. So the key against attacking midfielders was the tactical attitude of those players on stay deep and close the spaces between defensive and midfield's lines. The battle of midfield in recent season has evolved in a battle for ball possession. So teams with a three men midfield took the edge in midfield. In this situation is often the deep-lying playmaker to be free. Torino avoid trobules against the deep-lying playmaker using both forwards in the way to cover passes to him. On the offensive phase, playing with two holding midfielders rather than three usually means to play a more direct football. That dont' happens with Ventura's 4-2-4. Torino played a ball possession game to draw ahead the rivals. It means a long, continued, game control. Ventura likes to use the goalkeeper to retain the ball control. When the rivals came forward, Torino starts the attack. Ventura's gameplan is based on 'have numerical superiority' and play to the unmarked man'. To do it, Ventura try to create 2 vs. 1 situation all over the pitch. As we said earlier, it isn’t unusual to see a 4-4-2 pattern switch into a 4-2-4 in attack. And here we have somethings from the 4-4-2. But Ventura's 4-2-4 principles are different. We have not overlapping fullbacks. We have rarely shots made by the central midfielders. We have a team that plays using width and depth both. The goal is to attack with the  4-men attacking line. One of the main offensive issues with 4-4-2 is that there are only two attackers playing upfront. Here you have four. For the forwards, playing the system is intriguing. There are a lot of offensive movements here. They exploit the spaces open between the own holding midfielders and the rivals' defensive line. The first one is a classic 4-4-2 movement with one striker dropping deep,  and the other running a slant route across the defence.
This play often started from a long ball by the defenders, taking advantage of  Mirko Antenucci and Rolando Bianchi's aerial abilities. Ventura remains focused upon the team as unit but every player is specialized in this system.

Another classic 4-4-2 movement is the cross between the two central forward. Utilized as weapon to beat man-to-man marking during the '80, this movement is still good against modern zonal marking systems, specially with the ball on the flanks.



But the true news are the combinations born following a fake movements made by the forwards. With the ball on the flank, forwards assumed a staggered position, with the first one coming toward the ball to play the withdrawn forward role. In this way, this man can play a 1-2 punch with the flanker or he can play a fake, a veil, leaving the ball sliding to the second strike. So, the second forward, now with the ball, can play a 1-2 with the first attacker or shoot directly.



Basing forwards' movements on those plays allowed Ventura to turn average strikers such as Nacho Castillo and Vitali Kutuzov into scoring machines during his stints in Pisa and Bari.
A lot of goals and scoring opportunities came from the flanks, where Torino tried to play 1 vs. 1 situations in isolation with its wingers. At the end, Torino showed enough to suggest why they won the promotion. As we pointed out, though 4-2-4 system is usually considered an attacking formation, the way Ventura ran this pattern worked defensively and Torino allowed just 14 goals. It will be funny to see if this 4-2-4 will work yet in serie A.

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