Serie A 2020/21: Parma vs Fiorentina – tactical analysis
Both sides sat in the bottom half of the table with the hosts having won just one of their opening six league games, while Giuseppe Iachini’s Fiorentina had done marginally better by winning two in their opening six.
The resulting 0-0 draw at the Stadio Ennio Tardini perhaps came as little surprise as neither side could gain a foothold in the game despite La Viola enjoying the majority of the chances and the possession.
This tactical analysis will dissect the clash between Parma and Fiorentina and highlight key tactics deployed by both sides. Analysis will also be used to explain how those tactics made an impact on the match’s result.
For the visit of Fiorentina, Fabio Liverani lined his side up in a 5-3-2 starting formation which had a very similar look to it as their opponent’s lineup. The formation was unchanged from the home side’s previous outing, the 2-2 draw with Inter. However, the two games are the only Serie A clashes this season which they have lined up in that shape. For their other five fixtures, I Gialloblu have used a 4-3-1-2 starting formation.
In the away dugout, Iachini deployed his side in a 3-5-2 starting formation. As mentioned, the two lineups were incredibly similar in structure and both had the same out-of-possession shape which was a 5-3-2. However, Fiorentina’s wing-backs were much more attacking than the home side’s – which will be discussed later in the piece. In all seven of their Serie A matches this season, Iachini team has used the 3-5-2 starting formation.
The defensive back-five shapes
As just mentioned, while the hosts lined up in what was their out of possession shape, the away side transitioned from their 3-5-2 starting formation into the same shape as Parma when they were out of possession.
However, Fiorentina controlled the majority of the game at the Stadio Ennio Tardini as they enjoyed a whopping 64% of the possession over the duration of the match. As such, their wide players were slightly more attacking than the home side, which showed in their defensive shape.
As can be seen in this annotation early in the first half, Parma’s back five was a flat line and relatively compact – although Yordan Osorio has pressed slightly out of the backline to close down a potential passing option.
In front of the back five, there was the line of three midfielders – Juraj Kucka, Hernani and Jasmin Kurtić. This trio also remained relatively compact and this was a tactic designed to make it difficult for Fiorentina to play through them.
This annotation is taken from the second half, but it can still be seen that La Viola transitioned into a 5-3-2 shape when out of possession. However, there is a key difference between this and Parma’s shape, which is that this is not a flat backline.
On the right-hand side, Pol Lirola, who was a second-half substitute, is slightly tucked in but he is still somewhat advanced from the three central defenders. Meanwhile, on the left-hand side, Cristiano Biraghi is not compact with the rest of the defence and is also slightly further up the pitch.
This is likely in expectation of a transition into an attacking shape as Fiorentina’s wing-backs were key in providing width to their play – particularly in the second half.
Biraghi is likely expecting this transition as Patrick Cutrone, also a second-half substitute, has tracked back and won possession with a sliding tackle – as can be seen in the red circle.
While Iachini’s side looked slightly more attacking in their defensive shape than Parma did, both were undeniably in 5-3-2 out-of-possession structures and this, in part, led to each side frustrating one another as they found the opposition’s lines difficult to play through.
Both Parma and Fiorentina posted a respectable number of interceptions as the home side finished with 37 and the away with marginally more on 39 and this was at least partly down to their solid defensive formations.
Parma sitting deep
While Fiorentina enjoyed a huge 64% of the possession, in some instances they were allowed to control their ball by Parma as the home side deployed a low press and tightly marked passing options, forcing the ball carrier to hold onto the possession for longer.
This was likely in an effort to soak up pressure from the away side before launching a counterattack, although they very rarely came and the home side showed little by way of attacking prowess as they managed just five shots all game, all of which were off target.
Furthermore, they had an xG of just 0.01, however, the away side did not do all that much better as they had an xG of 0.64 and this was, again in part, due to Parma sitting deep and being difficult to play through.
As can be seen in this annotation, which is taken from early in the first half, Parma allowed Fiorentina to play the ball across their back three, rarely applying pressure to the ball carrier.
Instead, the three midfielders and one of the attacking players tightly mark Fiorentina’s midfielders and the third central defender which has moved in an advanced position of the defensive line.
This forced the away aside to hold onto the ball but reduced their number of forward passing options.
Here, in the second half, Parma are using a similar pattern of play. The ball carrier is allowed to hold possession fairly unimpeded, however, Parma players remained tight to his passing options and also cut his passing lanes to Fiorentina players who were in advanced positions.
This helped to stifle Iachini’s side’s attacking threat and also increased the difficulty in being able to play through Parma’s lines. Despite enjoying lots of possession, Fiorentina had just six shots at Luigi Sepe’s goal, four of which were on target.
Getting wide to no avail
Throughout the match, Fiorentina’s wing-backs – Biraghi and Lorenzo Venuti before he was replaced by Pol Lirola – provided the away side with plenty of height and width to their attacking play as they looked to stretch Parma’s back five.
During the first half, this was not utilised perhaps as much as it could have been, but in the second half Fiorentina increasingly began to look wide to make their breakthrough; although it never came.
As can be seen here, while Fiorentina have possession of the ball on the left-centre of the pitch, both the left wing-back and right wing-back are hugging the touchline on either side of the pitch.
As stated this was to help stretch the play, as well as Parma’s defensive line, and provide the away side with as much width as possible as they were the only two wide players in La Viola’s formation.
As can be seen in Fiorentina’s crossing map from the first half, the away side was perhaps not getting wide as much as possible and delivering crosses into Parma’s box.
With the home side’s compact tactics having become clear by the break, it seems likely that Iachini opted for his side to try and play around the hosts where possible rather than to try and play through them as they were proving too compact.
This led to the visitors playing far more crosses in the second half, however, they were not any more successful than them playing through the lines, as only one cross was successful in both the first half and the second half.
This annotation shows how the home side retained their defensive rigidity despite Fiorentina looking to get into wide areas and cross the ball.
As can be seen in the annotation, in the second half the back five sat even more compact and deeper than they were in the first and the line of three midfielders was also more longitudinally compact, nearer their defensive line.
This led to I Gialloblu boasting 13 clearances during the match, which is comfortably better than the eight clearances which Fiorentina achieved.
From the two sides’ tactics during the match, it was clear that the away side was playing with much more attacking intent than the hosts having begun the game with wing-backs which were more attacking and having made a positive change at half-time in an attempt to win the game.
While Parma were the more defensive of the two, though, it was a testament to their discipline and rigidity that they were able to stand firm against Fiorentina and limit them to just six shots over the duration of the match despite the gulf in possession.
Having said that, while praise can be given for being defensively solid, it was certainly not one for the ages.