Technique and Tactics

Space and movement as key-factors to improve performance


Author: Francesco Farioli

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A Roma team fully in the running for second place that, under Spalletti’s direction, has rediscovered energy and organisation, so much that they have brought home eleven consecutive wins. The idea of football that the Tuscan coach has managed to convey is not based on numbers or formation, but on the idea of space and movement. Radja Nainggolan particularly benefited from this new approach, a player whose strong point lies in his all-around skills.

If we want to talk numbers, it would be hard to tell if Roma implements a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 because the mobility of the players makes the formation impossible to decipher.

This Roma is sometimes reminiscent of Spalletti’s first Roma squad. In that Roma, the “falso nueve” was Francesco Totti, in this one it is Diego Perotti.
In the first Roma, the player that was best able to interpret football according to Spalletti was Simone Perrotta, in this one it is Radja Nainggolan. Flexible players, skilled at reading the spaces, using the right timing and breaking up the match with decisive plays. Players that run and make sacrifices, but above all, intelligent and all-around players.
In Spalletti’s football it is precisely the characteristics of all-around play and tactical flexibility that are emphasised.


Nainggolan is the player who, along with Perotti, presses hight on the centre backs, continuously pressing and covering. Nainggolan’s skill lies in pressing at the right times, ensuring that the team supports his pressing manoeuvres to avoid creating spaces behind him.

On the other hand, when Perotti is the one that presses, Nainggolan closes off the internal trajectories on the pitch.

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Nainggolan has the ability to see himself as a “third man”, in other words, he reads the space based on himself and his teammates.

When he recovers the ball he skilfully finds an open player to pass to who will be able to make the easy play. If one of his teammates recovers the ball, he knows how to create space, moving away from the ball so that he can receive it and strike.

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As already mentioned, the characteristic of being able to see himself as a “third man” is what makes his every move based on that of a teammate. He has the ability to break up the space with a vertical run and to help his teammates find solutions.

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He supports the centre forward, always providing a back pass to take a shot or conversely, to play off the player that will spread out the play (in this case Florenzi).

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One of the characteristics that has always been Nainggolan’s most obvious is his great aggressiveness and his ability to ferociously attack the opposing ball carrier. He is also quite skilled at anticipating the situation and reading where the ball will end up.


His playing style and the way he occupies the space in the centre often allows him to be decisive with through-passes or shots from the edge of the area.


The Wyscout data and the images confirm how Nainggolan, from the centre, favours chances of a scoring play by seeking out the precision solution with the inside of his right foot in the goalkeeper’s left hand corner.

Important information to provide to our top dog in the match preparation phase.

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Francesco Farioli
Aspire Academy (Qatar Football Association), Senior Goalkeeper Coach, Video Match & Performance Analysis.