In a high stakes match between two potential relegation candidates in Genoa and Brescia, new Genoa head coach Thiago Motta managed to change the complexion of the game with his tactical changes.

Both sides came into this match after concerning recent results, after recently sacking manager Aurelio Andreazzoli after a very poor early run of results, Genoa had gone 6 games without a win in the league, with their last victory coming against Fiorentina in early September on matchday 2. This left them in the relegation zone but a win in this match would take them above Brescia and out of the drop zone.

Brescia did not manage to pick up a win since beating Udinese, but their form since then had been more promising than their opponents. They lost two in a row against Juventus and Napoli, before picking up a draw against Fiorentina after beating Serbian top-flight side Vojvodina in a friendly during the recent international break.

In this tactical analysis, I’ll take a look at the Serie A match played between Genoa and Brescia, and, using analysis, examine why Thiago Motta’s tactical changes were so effective.

LineupsSerie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics

A lot was made of Thiago Motta’s 2-7-2 formation that he mentioned in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last year, but that notion is quite misleading. What Motta means is the shape looks like a 2-7-2 when looked at horizontally. The winger and fullback on each side count as the “2” the goalkeeper, two centre backs, three central midfielders and striker make up the “7”. So while Motta does include his goalkeeper in the central area of players, we most likely won’t be seeing his goalkeeper stepping into midfield or alongside the central defenders too often.

Serie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics
Motta’s “2-7-2” which is more akin to a 4-3-3.

However, Motta didn’t initially start with this shape, he favoured a 3-4-1-2. Ionut Radu started in goal, protected by a back three of Cristián Zapata, Cristian Romero and converted midfielder Ivan Radovanović. Peter Ankersen and Paolo Ghiglione played as wingbacks. Lasse Schöne and Francesco Cassata played just behind Lukas Lerager, who supported Andrea Pinamonti and Sinan Gümüs up top.

Brescia lined up in a 4-3-1-2 shape. Jesse Joronen started between the sticks behind a back four consisting of Stefano Sabelli and Aleš Matějů who flanked central defenders Jhon Chancellor and Andrea Cistana. Young defensive midfielder Sandro Tonali started at the base of the midfield flanked by Rômulu and Dimitri Bisoli who strayed wide. Nikolas Špalek played as a number ten behind Mario Balotelli and Florian Ayé.

Genoa’s pressing

When pressing, Genoa shift their defensive shape to the side where Brescia had the ball, looking to ensure that no passing options are available. As shown in the image below, Brescia have no options besides playing all the way back to Joronen in goal. The Brescia player highlighted in white has space due to Genoa’s shape moving to the side where Brescia had the ball. Genoa’s primary goal was to force Brescia to play wide or to play backwards for the sake of keeping possession.

Serie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics This approach worked very well, Brescia struggled to complete many progressive passes, and were forced to go around Genoa, as the central passing options were almost always limited by Genoa’s efficient defensive structure. As shown by the pass map below for Brescia show how they were forced to play wide the majority of the time.Serie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tacticsAs you can see from the passmap above, Brescia struggled to progress then ball centrally and played wide most of the of the time.

Brescia’s defensive shape

When defending, Brescia fell into a very narrow 4-2-3-1 mid block, this extremely narrow shape allowed Genoa to circulate the ball to and from their wingbacks and centre backs in an attempt to stretch the Brescia defence and open up space for the Genoa players within the Brescia block. As seen in the below image, Brescia are in their 4-2-3-1 narrow mid block, leaving space for Genoa’s wide men, who hugged their respective touchline.

Serie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics

As shown by the below passmap for Genoa, they had very strong links between their central defenders and wingbacks (especially on the left side), this is a reflection of the above game plan in actionSerie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics

Motta’s tactical changes win the game for Genoa

At half time, Motta took off Radovanović to give Kevin Agudelo his debut, while switching to a 4-3-3. The wingbacks Ankersen and Ghiglione became the fullbacks, while Zapata and Romero remained central creating the back four. These changes can be seen by contrasting Genoa’s shapes at the kickoff at the beginning of the first vs the beginning of the second half.

Serie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics
First half

As shown, Genoa started the game in a 3-4-1-2.

Serie A 2019/20: Genoa vs Brescia - tactical analysis tactics
Second half

Genoa’s personnel changes were not limited to Agudelo’s introduction, out of the three substitutes, these are their major influences for the goals Genoa scored in the match:

Kevin Agudelo on for Radovanović at half time: 1 goal                                        Goran Pandev on for Lerager in the 58th minute: 1 goal
Christian Kouamé on for Gümüs in the 65th minute. 1 goal, 1 assist for Pandev’s goal. 

Conclusion

Thiago Motta made a very impressive start on his senior managerial debut. One could argue both ways when it comes to the debate whether or not Genoa were “lucky” or not. On one hand, the goal Genoa conceded only had an xG value of 0.03, but Brescia slightly edged the xG battle with a total xG value of 1.17 in comparison to Genoa’s 1.12. However, no plaudits should be taken away from Motta, who’s tactical changes completely changed the complexion of the match, allowing Genoa to come away from the match with all three points. Genoa also looked like a very well drilled and well-oiled side, which is impressive considering Motta had only been in the job for a matter of days. This brought Genoa above Brescia and out of the relegation zone. Genoa face a very tough match next time out as they face Juventus away from home.

Brescia will start to worry about their league position, they now languish in the relegation zone. Like Genoa, Bresica also face tough opposition in their next league match, as they host Antonio Conte’s Inter.


If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the October issue for just ₤4.99 here