domenica 6 gennaio 2013

Defensive effort paid against Fiorentina

With Gonzalo Rodriguez out, Vincenzo Montella put Nenad Tomovic at centre-back with Nenad Savic and Facundo Roncaglia going to right and left centre-back. David Pizarro came back at his deep-lying playmaker position while Fiorentina’s coach paired Luca Toni and Stevan Jovetic up top in the usual 3-5-2 system. Cristiano Bergodi opted to go with a 4-3-1-2 formation, with both Mervan Celik and Vladimir Weiss supporting centre-forward Jonathas.

First half

The trademark of the match was clear, with Pescara not pressing high up the pitch and defending low in their own half and Fiorentina dictating the tempo, turning it into a slow, ball retention game. In possession, Pescara had no chance to counter-attack, due to Fiorentina immediate pressure when the ball was lost. A great work was made by Jonathas: the Brazilian striker showed defensive capacities collapsing back and tracking Fiorentina’s playmaker Pizarro. Fiorentina was too much slow moving the ball ending simply to hold the ball for long periods but creating less scoring chances than supposed after a such high game control. The best opportunities came from set pieces and Pescara was into a solid defensive shape in those situations. Very impressive was the display of Pescara’ netminder, Mattia Perin, which made some big saves and showed control and confidence all over the match. With Pescara so tight, Fiorentina tried to find open spaces on the flanks, specially on the right where Cuadrado create troubles to Pescara left-back Francesco Modesto in the first half. In the defensive phase, Pescara switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Celik or Weiss dropped into midfield as left wingers. This move allowed Bergodi’s team to have two players on the flanks against Cuadrado and Manuel Pasqual. While the team was moving the ball around, Fiorentina lacked a midfielder with cutting inside, coming from behind ability to push forward, helping Toni and Jovetic up top. Also, team passing lacked of the needing crosses you have to utilize in the way to open a close box as Pescara defense were. On the left, Borja Valero stayed in his usual position and gave offensive support but he wasn’t trenchant as usual. Very good was Pescara midfielder Birkir Bjarnason: while in the first half he lacked to give true support on the wing to Modesto, he was poised and accurate with the ball on his feet.

Second half

As the second half started, the gameplan was the same, with Pescara defensive effort frustrating Fiorentina once more. Montella’s players was not able to open the box through quick passing. After Jonathas goal, with Pescara even more closed around its penalty area and Fiorentina passing play clearly not working, Montella made two questionable calls when Adem Ljajic replaced Toni while Harsi Seferovic replaced Pasqual few minutes later. The first sub was clearly a mistake: while playing with the ball on the ground wasn’t effective, Montella had to stay with his pivot in the middle of the box, while the flankers had to provide him nice balls through the air. Instead, Montella stayed strict to his brend of football, inserting Mati Fernandez in the way to create spaces on the ground with quick moves and short passes. After 15 minutes from Ljajic’s ingress, Montella changed his mind, inserting a tall forward as Seferovic. Both those changes and the idea to take off Pasqual, the best crosser in the team, made Montella’s thoughts hard to understand. Pescara too made some risky movements when they decided to don’t insert a left midfielder to close Fiorentina’s right side and don’t move Celik or Weiss up top in the way to exploit counter-attack options, taking pressure off from the block of defense and midfield. When Bergodi made this decision, Pescara managed to net his second goal -- also thanks to a Roncaglia big mistake.

It was a match between an active team against a passive one. Pescara try to stay balanced during the whole match, closing the spaces and playing a defensive football through positioning over pressing. This plan worked due to Fiorentina inability to move quickly the ball and to provide nice balls to both Toni and Jovetic. Another question to rise up is the compatibilty between Toni and Jovetic in some games as both are strikers, i.e. forwards searching the net that need of ball support from the midfielders. Neither had significant impact on the game.  Fiorentina missed some decent opportunities -- give credit to Perin, Pescara’s goalkeeper – but they didn’t enough with the ball on their feet and Montella’s poor decision also raised some questions.