Roma host Genoa this Sunday as the two sides begin their 2019-20 Serie A campaigns under new management. Both clubs were in need of tactical reshuffles after the somewhat concerning performances from the season before, which saw Roma drop into the Europa League and left Genoa fighting for survival.
New Genoa boss Aurelio Andreazzoli has connections to Roma, having spent a total of 10 years as an assistant between 2005-09 and 2011-17, including a brief 17-game spell in charge in 2013. That culminated in a Coppa Italia Final defeat to rivals Lazio.
Paulo Fonseca, meanwhile, is ready to make his Serie A debut, having spent time as head Coach of Pacos Ferreira, FC Porto and Braga in Portugal, as well as his most recent stint with Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine.
Tactically, Andreazzoli is expected to start things off with a 3-5-2 system at Genoa, a tactic he has employed thus far during pre-season. At Empoli, Andreazzoli utilised 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-1-2 formations before being forced to switch to a back three after a string of injuries and suspensions.
The Coach favours a hard press in the defensive phase, encouraging his defenders to push up and close down with haste. This forces the opposition into playing the ball quickly, which has a tendency to lead to errors, allowing the midfield three and back line to capitalise and turn over possession.
Offensively, Andreazzoli likes to commit plenty of players forward, which often leaves his side slacking at the back. With Empoli, the team had no problems scoring, but found themselves caught on the counter attack far too often, an issue that could quite easily influence his Genoa side unless he makes the required improvements. This could become especially prevalent against a side like Roma, with fast, agile forwards ready to break on the counter and catch the Genoa defenders napping.
Fonseca, meanwhile, favoured a 4-2-3-1 with Shakhtar, employing a tactical style he became notorious for both domestically and within continental competitions. The Portuguese Coach used it when the club famously defeated Manchester City in the Champions League. However, what makes Fonseca’s tactics unique is that his 4-2-3-1 evolves into both a 4-4-2 and 4-2-4 on the ball.
Fonseca’s style is not overly reliant on possession and his teams will often sacrifice losing possession temporarily in order to get back into their natural defensive shape, allowing the side to work on pressing hard for the ball once again. A strong defensive midfielder, Taras Stepanenko being his main choice in Ukraine, was vital to the tactic, helping push to win the ball back in midfield, as well as opening up space and dragging defenders towards him to give wide players space on the flanks.
Moving forward, Fonseca focuses on getting the ball out wide, playing it into space for the players on the wing to push forward and onto. This is where the formation shifts, with the attack slowly overloading with more players based on the spaces available. When the side occupies a 4-4-2 formation, the wingers sit back and help build up play in midfield. On the counter, meanwhile, the wide players push forward and can cause opposition defences plenty of problems. This will be especially effective with the players that Fonseca has at his disposal with the Giallorossi, with the pace required to fulfil the Portuguese Coach’s tactical wishes.
In all, the match on Sunday appears to favour Fonseca tactically. Andreazzoli’s typical openness at the back could cause him real problems against Fonseca’s fluid attacking system that favours a counter-attacking style. However, anything can happen in the first game of the season, and both Coaches will have to prepare for the surprises that the other has in store.