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Know The Enemy: A Closer Look At Milan's Next Opponent Fiorentina

You must know your enemy if you want to defeat him.

Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Serie A is back and there's no better way to start the new season than playing against one of the most intriguing teams in the league. Just like Milan, Fiorentina has changed a lot during the summer: they hired a new manager, Paulo Sousa, sold key players like Mario Gómez and Stefan Savić and acquired interesting assets like Davide Astori and Mario Suárez. For that reason, let's see what kind of Fiorentina Milan are going to meet on August 23 at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.


"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

SUN TZU, The Art Of War

The transition from Montella's system to Paulo Sousa's has been quite challenging. In the last three years, Fiorentina were built in order to play with a 3-5-2 formation where the two wing backs had to help the team in both phases, but now they're switching to a completely different tactical disposition and type of play. In effect, La Viola showed an unusual 4-2-3-1 during the preseason, and it's likely that they're going to do the same on Sunday against Milan trying to take advantage of their width and flexibility.

Despite all the changes, Fiorentina will continue to base their play on ball possession like they did in the past years but they're just going to do it a bit differently. Their new tactical disposition will guarantee more coverage than the old 3-5-2, but will force the two midfielders to do some extra work when the opponents try to put some pressure over them since they will be in numerical inferiority against most of the Serie A teams.

"If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat."

SUN TZU, The Art Of War

Roster and roles

Here's Fiorentina's current roster:

Goalkeepers: Anton Ciprian Tatarusanu, Luigi Sepe, Luca Lezzerini

Defenders: Davide Astori, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Nenad Tomovic, Manuel Pasqual, José Maria Basanta, Moraes Junior Gilberto, Facundo Roncaglia, Marcos Alonso, Ahmed Hegazy, Ricardo Bagadur

Midfielders: Milan Badelj, Borja Valero, Mati Fernandez, Josip Ilicic, Joaquin, Matias Vecino, Mario Suarez, Octàvio,

Forwards: Khouma Babacar, Federico Bernardeschi, Giuseppe Rossi, Ante Rebic, Nikola Kalinic.

The roster looks quite solid despite the loss of key players like Mario Gòmez and Stefan Savić, but Paulo Sousa made some player work in new positions all summer long in order to adapt them to the new formation. For example, Giuseppe Rossi continued his recovery from the injury by playing as trequartista and he's likely to spend most of his time in that position, just like Josip Ilicic who will play almost anywhere behind the striker. Also, Borja Valero will have a slight different role due to the change of formation: he won't be able to be as offensive as he was in the last two season but he'll surely be the real playmaker of the team, helped by the new signing Mario Suarez.

"If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

SUN TZU, The Art Of War


Fiorentina weakest position is clearly their defense. The starting duo of Gonzalo Rodriguez and Davide Astori is physically ready to compete with the strongest strikers in the league, but they could struggle against quicker forwards or extremely organized teams. On the other hand, they're great defenders when they have to play the ball and begin the offensive maneuver. Similarly, the two fullbacks look a bit inadequate for the average level of Serie A wingers: Nenad Tomovic is slow, technically mediocre and lacks in concentration so he's going to have a lot of troubles during the season; Manuel Pasqual is simply not a real defensive fullback -- that's what the 4-2-3-1 formation needs -- but he's an attacking one.

Another crucial point for them will be the tactical balance. Playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation is not easy since the team could tend to be too offensive and exposed to counterattacks, especially coming from the flanks -- if they push too high trying to score, they'll be vulnerable.

Tactical example 4-2-3-1

If they don't pay attention, they're vulnerable.

Another weakness related to the team balance is the distance between defenders and midfielders. When the attacking midfield band plays too close to the striker, the two central midfielders are forced to follow them, creating a lot of space between the lines. If Milan can find and exploit that gap, they can find a lot of success in this match.