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Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina – tactical analysis

Cagliari have been one of the most exciting teams to watch in Serie A this season. The coach Rolando Maran strengthened his team during the summer transfer window and built a team that is capable of battling out for the top positions in the league.

The most surprising arrival was the one of Radja Nainggolan, who fit the team in a perfect way and quickly became a key figure for their good performances. Another spot-on deal was the loan of Giovanni Simeone from Fiorentina, who is successfully fulfilling his attacking role.

Fiorentina on the other side are pretty inconsistent, starting off poorly but are improving step by step. The 2-5 defeat by Cagliari is proof of their inconsistency and inability to take advantage of their opportunities.

Cagliari were dominating in the first half and took the 3-0 lead, managing to stop Fiorentina from creating chances. La Viola’s coach Vincenzo Montella made a couple of changes with substitutions in the second half. This resulted in them switching the formation and immediately improving their build-up and attacking actions.

They found a way to expose Cagliari’s defence more often and scored twice, but the lack of strong decision-making and good finishing was crucial. Despite switching to a four-man defence, they couldn’t find the right formula to stop Cagliari’s versatile attacking actions.

In this tactical analysis, we will break down both team’s tactics and see why Fiorentina conceded five goals despite standing their ground in the second half.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Both team’s starting XI’s.

Cagliari’s counterattack ability

Cagliari caught Fiorentina on a counter on a few occasions, and La Viola had no proper reaction to them. Their 3-5-2 formation wasn’t helping much as they would leave the flanks uncovered during the defensive transition. Cagliari used their pace and connection to expose their opponent on the left, and they created five counterattacks with three of them ending up with a shot.

Fiorentina couldn’t find the right way to mark their opponents and their defensive structure was easily broken. Their poor timing when it came to tackling and diving into defensive duels was also a huge part of their inability to stop the outstanding Cagliari movement in attack.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Cagliari’s defensive structure. Flat four-man defence with one of the midfielders dropping as support if needed

Fiorentina would often suffer due to the lack of midfield awareness. The midfielders didn’t offer the needed support and were unable to bypass Cagliari’s press. This would result in either Cagliari stealing the ball in the opposition half and quickly creating a chance, or in them effortlessly passing through the midfield line and overloading the final third, causing chaos in Fiorentina’s defence.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
No press by the midfielders. They left too much space (the marked area) for the Cagliari players to operate in with only one player out there
Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Fiorentina’s lack of structure when caught on a counter. They allowed losing the possession and then Cagliari had 3 vs 2 numerical advantage reaching the final third

Cagliari’s attacking versatility

The Red-and-Blues managed to shoot 13 times with eight of them being on target. With their 4-2-3-1 formation, they were able to smoothly build up and use their pace to deliver the ball to the final third as quickly as possible.

They were rarely using the centre-back for retaining possession and build up. They were most frequently circulating the ball between the right full-back Cacciatore and the right central midfielder Nández, who would then send it centrally to Cigarini. The team would then attack through the middle.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Cagliari’s attackers would stay right in front of Fiorentina’s defensive line, whilst their midfielders would close out the space between the lines and limit their opponent’s movement. This allowed exposure on the flanks since Fiorentina would fail to mark everyone properly

Their attacking line was positioned pretty low due to Fiorentina’s highly positioned defensive line. They would either use through balls and expose the space behind the defence or would rely on Nainggolan’s shooting skills from distance. Five of their 13 shots were created from outside the box.

Cagliari’s back adventures and Fiorentina’s improvement

Cagliari were more confident when defending. They would dive into tackles (12) more often and would mark their opponents tightly and limit the space between the lines. This would force Fiorentina to shoot from distance, which appeared to be a bigger problem for Cagliari’s defence since they had to rely mostly on the keeper’s reflexes as La Viola created six shots from distance.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Fiorentina tried to use long balls behind the defence to expose them and deliver the ball to the final third

The four-man defence’s positioning was quite solid, and they rarely made errors, especially during the first half. They were good at stealing the ball from the opposition which helped them both defensively and offensively.

Fiorentina switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half, which noticeably improved their build-up, creativity and connection. They started applying a high-press which pinned back Cagliari, trying to force them into individual mistakes.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Fiorentina’s high press during the second half

They found a way to bypass the Cagliari press by using long balls and more lateral passes in order to hold on to the ball. This helped them deliver the ball to the final third and use crossing to finish off the attacks. They sent 19 crosses but only half of them were accurate enough to threaten the goal, although ten successful crosses is an impressive stat on its own.

Fiorentina improved their passing accuracy and this made it more difficult for their opponents to steal the ball, which helped in their build-up. This resulted in them finishing with more shots (15) than Cagliari (13).

Fiorentina’s defensive issues

Fiorentina partly struggled due to their 3-5-2 formation. The wing-backs were failing to split their responsibilities back and forth. The team were pinned back and were circulating the ball between the defenders involving the goalkeeper too. The wing-backs were constantly positioned midway with the centre-backs who were being highly positioned too. They kept a pretty compact shape which allowed Cagliari to exploit the flanks more often.

Even after switching to a four-man defence they stayed pretty centrally, trying to not let themselves being stretched out, but this allowed Cagliari to continue using the flanks in their attacks.

Serie A 2019/20: Cagliari vs Fiorentina - tactical analysis tactics
Fiorentina’s four-man defence. Despite switching the formation, they still kept their compact positioning and yet allowed to be exposed on the flanks again

Another weakness in their performance was their low success rate when it comes to aerial duels. They were often losing aerial balls in their own half that resulted in them being unable to retain possession.


Despite conceding twice Cagliari managed to keep the solid performance throughout the whole game. They have been improving with every game and it’s clear that Maran is working on their weaknesses and doing an in-depth analysis of their defensive performances. Fiorentina did a good job with the in-game changes, but they need to show more creativity when their build-up is troubled. They need to work on how they react to the opposition’s pace, and on keeping their structure throughout the defensive transitions.

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