Serie A 2021/22: How Fiorentina could reshape after Vlahovic’s Juventus departure – tactical analysis
Fiorentina have been moving around the European competitions’ spots in Serie A in the first half of the season and a huge part of the reason for that was Dušan Vlahović who scored 17 goals in 21 games. The forward’s outstanding form since the start of the 2021/22 campaign affected their performance and led to most of their successful displays. It also earned him the interest of Arsenal and Juventus who immediately tried to sign him in the winter transfer window.
The Bianconeri won that battle, which means that Fiorentina won’t only play without their best player, but he joins one of their direct rivals for the European spots this year, making things even worse for them. The manager Vincenzo Italiano would have to change his strategy and adjust his tactics so the team can fill in the gap left by the Serbian.
Vlahović’s departure doesn’t mean that the team are left without attacking players, though. They immediately brought in a couple of central forwards in hopes to make the transition easier. The player who is expected to get more playing minutes is Arthur Cabral, who arrives from Basel after scoring 27 goals in 31 games and assisting eight more. The second player is Krzysztof Piatek who joined on loan from Hertha BSC where he couldn’t win a regular starting spot.
What are their options now?
As mentioned, Cabral arrives to Florence after a very strong start of the season with Basel. The 23-year-old’s versatility and set of skills could be very beneficial for the team if he quickly adjusts to the new league and develops a good relationship with his teammates.
There is plenty to be excited for, despite losing Vlahović, as their new addition’s killer instinct and understanding of the game make him a huge threat not only in front of the goal but also in ball progression.
His physicality is beneficial in many aspects from having a strong aerial presence to supporting the team’s attacking actions with his hold-up-play abilities. What adds to Cabral’s success is his judgement and spatial awareness. His strong positioning results in link-up-play supporting ball progression and one-touch combinations in the final third and also allows him to manoeuvre in and around the box and get at the end of crosses and passes, being a direct threat.
His aerial abilities are among his most valuable qualities. He averages 6.86 aerial duels per 90 with 50% of them being won. That often makes him unpredictable and has resulted in scoring many of his goals with his head. That could be perfect for Fiorentina as they highly rely on crossing (18.23 crosses p90) and he could be the one to convert their chances into goals.
He could also easily replace the Serbian on the penalty spot too as he has experience from his former club. Additionally, his control and composure could help the team increase their efficiency on a counter as he could carry the ball to the advanced areas or receive it in the advanced positions to threaten the goal equally well. He often drops deeper to pick up the ball and combines with his teammates in efforts to advance it most efficiently, which is why he proves to be beneficial on a counter.
Finally, come his finishing abilities. He averaged 3.93 shots per game with Basel with 50.8% accuracy compared to Vlahović’s 47.1% with lower frequency. He doesn’t hesitate to shoot from distance, although he is certainly more successful from close range.
Their second signing has some experience in Serie A where he spent a couple of seasons with Genoa and then Milan. His 19 goals in 21 games in the 2018/19 season with Genoa, earned him the interest of the Rossoneri, where he couldn’t repeat the success, leading to joining Hertha BSC. The 26-year-old was their first choice striker since his arrival but was dropped in the current campaign after an unsatisfying 2020/21 season with seven goals in 33 games.
Piątek’s biggest strength is his ability to play with both feet. This has been part of the reason for his success in front of the goal as he can shoot equally well with both feet which makes him very reliable. His debut for Fiorentina proved it as he scored with his left foot in the extra time of the game against Napoli in Coppa Italia.
He likes to do lay-offs which could be beneficial for the team in the final third and could increase their efficiency as it will increase the team’s creativity in front of the goal and provide more time for himself and the others to occupy the advanced areas. His runs to the box are also key in his performance as he could easily move to the defenders’ blindside and provide a direct threat.
Their third option in the striker position doesn’t have as much experience in the top five leagues as his teammates. He arrived last season from the Russian Premier Liga where he couldn’t earn a spot in Spartak Moscow and Zenit prior to that. He is yet to score a goal for Fiorentina, having played in 10 games but not receiving many playing minutes, being difficult for him to find his form.
Despite being used more frequently as an attacking-midfielder or left-winger in Russia, I Viola brought him in due to his high shot accuracy and dribbling skills, which they saw fitting to their style of play. With the arrival of the new manager Italiano, Kokorin’s future doesn’t look bright as he rarely relies on him.
What their set-up might be?
As shown, Fiorentina are short on options in the centre-forward position, and it might be difficult for them to adjust to the changing circumstances. It is expected that they will heavily rely on both of their new signings and try to fit them into the team’s playing style.
Their future attacking ventures need to be a collective effort as the responsibility doesn’t fall only on the strikers to convert the chances into goals but also on their teammates to create enough opportunities for them.
Cabral’s qualities make him the perfect target-man, meaning that his teammates would need to constantly supply him with quality balls and set him up into goalscoring positions. Looking at Fiorentina’s numbers in attack the reliability on Vlahović was high. The positive thing is though, that the wingers and the midfielders were constantly involved in the actions and trying to be active in the advanced areas. The negative thing is that they will continue to overcommit their attacking actions on the left where Joseph Alfred Duncan and Nicolás González are. That doesn’t sound like a problem at first glance but having in mind that on the right José Callejón and Giacomo Bonaventura are already 34 and 32 years old respectively, it might turn into a future problem as their presence and efficiency there will drop significantly. This would eventually affect their performance in front of the goal.
Currently, Bonaventura has assisted seven goals and scored three more in all competitions, making him a key figure in Fiorentina’s attacking actions. His passing abilities will continue to be crucial as crossing and through balls will be perfect for finding Cabral or Piątek who have strong positional sense in the box.
With Vlahović, Italiano was mainly opting for the 4-3-3 formation, but it is possible that he experiments between formations with his new additions until he finds the most efficient one. This could mean setting the team up in a 4-4-2 scheme with either both Cabral and Piątek upfront or with Bonaventura being given a more advanced role next to one of the strikers.
The team could also benefit from the two forwards defensively as they are both often involved in pressing and contribute with recovering the ball.
Fiorentina lost a great force in the face of Vlahović but as our analysis showed, things might not look as bad with the arrival of the new additions. Despite not having much playing time at Hertha, Piątek has proven his qualities in Serie A previously, which is a great advantage. When it comes to Cabral, who is the leading goalscorer in the Swiss Super League, he could be one of Fiorentina’s best performers should he adjust to the new environment.