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Shifting the midfield could fix some of Fiorentina’s problems

If the staleness persists, Italiano could try tilting the triangle to get more from his engine room.

Juventus v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Combining these guys is hard.
Photo by Filippo Alfero - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

It’s just one game, but Fiorentina looked awfully stale in the loss at Venezia last week. That’s surely got Vincenzo Italiano thinking about how to get some more out of is charges. While the wingers, particularly José Callejón, have come in for a lot of criticism (and rightly so), the midfield was every bit as bad and needs a long look.

The trio of Sofyan Amrabat, Giacomo Bonaventura, and Alfred Duncan dominated possession against the Lagunari, but that’s about the only nice thing you can say about them. The passing was steady but not incisive. What really stood out to me, though, was that none of them ever tried to get into the box to support the equally disappointing Dušan Vlahović, who was, in fairness, left completely isolated for the entire game.

If the wingers aren’t offering anything—and, aside from González, the wingers aren’t going to offer anything—that attacking dimension needs to come from midfield. While Amrabat and Duncan have never been the types of players to run beyond the striker, one of Jack’s best attributes is his knack for popping up in the box. Against Venezia, he really didn’t do that; he had all of 2 touches inside the area, and both were right on the edge.

It’s hard to know if that’s on Italiano’s instructions. Maybe he wants to make sure his midfielders are constantly in position to pick up backpasses and keep moves flowing rather than leaving space when they try to get forward. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Viola need more bodies in the box. That means taking some risks and giving at least one midfielder permission to bomb on.

What I see as the simplest solution here is to move to a double pivot, with the third midfielder given more of a free role. Duncan, Amrabat, Erick Pulgar, and Lucas Torreira all have the attributes and experience for a midfield two, and using them slightly deeper would help offset their clunkiness going forward.

Keeping two midfielders deeper would also provide more cover for the defense, especially since the width seems increasingly predicated on the fullbacks bombing forward to support the wingers; making sure there’s an extra man to cover Cristiano Biraghi and Álvaro Odriozola when they push on could help solidify a worryingly leaky defense as well.

The key here is the attacking midfielder. On paper, Bonaventura and Gaetano Castrovilli look like perfect fits for this role, although they’d like interpret it very differently. Jack could alternately stay high up as a second striker, looking to pick up knockdowns or dart in behind, then drop deep at times to allow the fullbacks forward and the wingers inside to support the attack. While he’s capable of the odd moment of genius, he’d be the more functional solution to this problem.

Castrovilli, on the other hand, is a very different player. As someone who’s primarily a dribbler, the idea would be for him to drift around, finding space between the lines, and then turn and run at the defense before slipping in an attacker. His lack of scoring prowess means he wouldn’t be the same goal threat that Jack is, but his habit of drifting wide to overload opposing fullbacks could help unlock González and the other wingers. In a perfect world, he’d add the sort of chaos that a defense has a lot of trouble planning for.

Let’s be clear: this is all overreaction to a single loss, and Italiano knows exponentially more about any of this stuff than I do. This season and this team are far from lost and, with a good performance against Cagliari, could put this kind of debate to bed. However, there does seem to be a growing concern that Fiorentina are pretty one-dimensional this year. Finding another couple of questions to ask opponents could be the solution, and a subtle shift to the midfield is a simple one.