One of the things we like about Fiorentina Femmenile boss Antonio Cincotta is that his tactical approach is very consistent, giving his teams an identity at all times. He plays a 4-4-2 with the double pivot sitting deep, the wingers staying wide before occasionally cutting in, and a striking partnership that focuses on linking up together. While he’s very good at making adjustments to counter specific opponents, he’s been consistent throughout his Viola career with his system.
Two weeks out from the start of Serie A, though, it’s fair to wonder if he’s planning a change to a 3-5-2. He was pretty vague in his latest video with the club website, but the recent signings and current construction of the squad make his 4-4-2 look much more difficult to replicate. Here are the 4 reasons that a 3-5-2 makes really good sense for this team.
1. There are three really good central defenders.
The addition of Louise Quinn means that the Viola now have her, Janni Arnth, and Alice Tortelli are competing for two spots. Quinn is one of the biggest additions of the offseason and will start. Given that she and Arnth played at Arsenal together, it might make sense to continue that pairing. However, Tortelli just signed an extension and is one of Italy’s best young defenders. While she can fill in at rightback, as she did in the Champions League while Alia Guagni was injured, she seems to be a better fit in the middle. The club won’t want to freeze out any of these three, so to get the best from them, adopting a back three may make the most sense, especially since it will protect Quinn’s lack of pace.
2. Fiorentina looks very light at fullback.
The haven’t added a replacement for departed captain/star/superhero Guagni at rightback; while you can’t replace quite possibly the best player in the league, the failure to bring in another option seems rife with meaning. Leftback Davina Philtjens has also moved to Sassuolo. While new signing Martina Zanoli is a good prospect with more experience than a teenager should have in the top flight, she’s just 19 and may need a year or two before she’s ready for the full defensive responsibilities.
One good solution could be adding another centerback and pushing the fullbacks forward into wingbacks. Zanoli’s played that role for the U19s and has the pace and technique to do the job. On the right, Janelle Cordia’s experience as a rightback and box-to-box midfielder, as well as her solid crossing ability and fitness, make her a great candidate for a wingback. Wingers Valery Vigilucci, Greta Adami, and Alice Parisi are also used to dropping deep into a bank of four to defend and have the fitness to adapt to a wingback role as well if Cincotta wanted additional attacking drive from those spots.
3. The midfield is loaded.
The Viola have long had a midfield full of hard-working, disciplined players who are more functional than creative. Last year’s pivot of Cordia and Stephanie Breitner exemplify this: they’re both good at winning the ball and they’re both absurdly fit, but they aren’t great carrying the ball through traffic in the middle and tend to keep their distribution tidy rather than looking for the killer ball.
The recent additions of Tessel Middag and Claudia Neto, though, completely upend that. Middag is a box-to-box runner who’s also quite good at switching the play. Neto is a schemer who excels at squirming through tight spaces with the ball. To allow both of them full creativity, it could make sense to deploy a destroyer just behind them. A Middag-Breitner-Neto setup would be nearly impossible for opponents to play through while also stuffing the middle with more creativity than we’ve ever seen. That mix of solidity and technique is tantalizing, especially since Neto can drop into the holding role and allow another attacker like Parisi or even Tatiana Bonetti to slot in if the situation requires a more forward-thinking approach.
4. This team is still built around a front two.
If there’s one thing Fiorentina needs to keep intact, it’s the striking pair. Tatianna Bonetti is a lethal finisher who was second in Serie A in goals this year, while Lana Clelland is a former capocannoniere who should be at full fitness this year. With new additions Daniela Sabatino (another former top scorer in the league) and Italy international Martina Piemonte, there’s no shortage of quality up top.
While Bonetti can and has worked as a winger in the past, it’s not her best position. Clelland is a pure number nine and Sabatino is a mostly a poacher, so shoehorning one of them into a wide role wouldn’t bring out their best. Allowing any pairing of the four strikers to work together would add fascinating tactical wrinkles, especially since Piemonte adds good pace, while Clelland and Sabatino are probably the only ones who can lead the line alone.