Tactical Report: Sassuolo: A Revolution in Serie A

By Daniel Muñoz

04-November-2020 on Analysis

10 minute read

Daniel Muñoz, tactical analyst at Real Betis for several seasons, collaborates with Nacsport to analyse some of the best football teams in Europe.


Note: This article was translated from Spanish and pics are captioned in Spanish. We have provided a translation for captions in italics beneath each picture.

This week, we turn our gaze to Italy where AS Sassuolo have been a revelation so far this season. Managed by the great De Zerbi, Sassuolo have made a spectacular start to the league campaign with 14 points and 18 goals in the first six games, an average of 3 goals per game.


Here are the latest results:


Match 3. Sassuolo 4 - 1 Crotone


Match 4. Bologna 3 - 4 Sassuolo


Match 5. Sassuolo 3 - 3 Torino


Match 6. Naples 0 - 2 Sassuolo


Tactical Report Sassuolo - 1


De Zerbi’s team, with their strong identity, personality and constantly evolving game have aroused great interest, so let’s see if we can get to the bottom of what makes them tick. 




Sassoulo’s line-up is versatile and fluid. Their players take up different positions depending on the phases of the game. On the offense, they usually line up in a 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3-1, and in defense from a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2. 


sassuolo vs napoli


sassuolo vs bolgna


Their game is orderly but with a lot of mobility, continually generating passing lanes from the positioning of players and a rich play style which deserves the full attention of an opponent if they want to press high.


Their playstyle involves a lot of quality work on the training ground as it requires a great understanding of what’s happening on the pitch on the part of the players.


The Offensive Phase of Serie A’s Top Scoring Team


Sassuolo have a great wealth and variety in attack. The clear objective of their game is to take and keep possession of the ball in order to control the game.


De Zerbi’s men have several starting formations but all have the same idea: attract the rival with slow pacing to open up space between their opponents lines and keep moving forward.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 2


A variety of systems. 3-4-3


Tactical Report Sassuolo 3


A variety of systems. 4-2-3-1


When it comes to building an attack, the concept of finding the free man stands out. In this sense, both the team’s starting position and the goalkeeper’s role are key. Consigli’s presence is the basis for Sassuolo’s superiority and any team that wants to press high needs to push players forward towards him.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 4


Keeper as a 3rd central defender and centre back behind the line of pressure


Tactical Report Sassuolo 5


Dropping back and finding the free man


If this situation occurs and the opposition does push forward, Sassuolo have no qualms taking advantage of this and playing the long ball. 


Tactical Report Sassuolo 6


Pulling opposition to create space in their half


The positioning of their midfield is also key. Either the centre midfielders or, if playing a 4-2-3-1, position themselves behind the opposition midfield line. The objective here is to cause confusion in the opposition defense and, consequently, they tend to create great danger when receiving in those areas.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 7


Positioning of midfielders between the lines of the opposition


Tactical Report Sassuolo 8


Players always between the lines


Once they break through the midfield lines with the ball, the mobility of the strikers appears. The wingers cut inside to the central lane (accumulating players on the inside from a 4-2-3-1). This pulls the opposition defence inside, allowing space on the wings which can then be utilised to get a cross into the packed penalty area.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 9


Players accumulate in the middle bolstered by the wing men


From the 3-4-3 formation, one of the keys to the game is the depth they play, allowing for the creation of space. Their positioning, between the midfield and defensive lines of their opposition, draws the opponent, allowing their midfield to break for the space on the wings. 


Tactical Report Sassuolo 10


Rupturing the centre of defense with a wide run


In offensive transitions, their attacking players - Boga, Traore, Djuricic, Caputo, Berardi and Maxime López - are confident in one-on-one situations and have no hesitation in attacking space or shooting if the opportunity arises.  


When scoring opportunities come, the strikers are bolstered by the midfielders on the wing, another resource to add their attack.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 11


Pulling the game wide and diagonal runs to area


A Varied Defense


This is a team that adapts to an opponent well. They are able to defend in different ways and in a variety of positions and this is a brave team who try to press high and recover the ball in their opponents half.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 12


Forward covering central defender and midfielder covering passing lanes


Starting from a 4-1-4-1 in defense with the striker covering one of the centre backs and a roving midfielder, Maxime López, covering the passing lines. As a variant, they can also man mark throughout the field if the need or opponent requires it.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 13


Ability to man mark


Tactical Report Sassuolo 14


Brave enough to take up 1v1 battles


If an opponent overcomes their high pressure, they perform an ordered withdrawal and accumulate as many players as possible around the goal area.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 15


Retreating to 4-1-4-1


In defensive transitions, how they activate after losing the ball stands out. They are intense and change roles quickly with the aim of recovering the ball as quickly as possible.


Tactical Report Sassuolo 16


Good activation to tighten up after losing the ball


Keys to Evolution


• The richness of your positional game.

• Mastery of several systems, but playing towards the same base objective.

• Audacity and versatility to outplay higher-level teams great preparation and analysis of opponents.

• The work and ability of their players to overcome stressful situations as their game involves great concentration and commitment.

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