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Prior to Sunday evening’s 2-1 victory over Cagliari, Torino had been on the verge of entering complete crisis mode.
Having picked up a mere two points from their previous five matches, it was absolutely fundamental that they found a way to dispatch Gli Isolani. Since suffering a heavy 4-0 defeat to Juventus in late September, the heart and soul that is synonymous with the I Granata appeared to desert Siniša Mihajlović’s men.
It is easy to forget, with all the trials and tribulations of the last few weeks, that Il Toro did in fact start the season very impressively by going unbeaten in the first five matches, picking up three wins and two draws.
There is no doubting that the poor form which followed was caused by post-derby psychological distress. Indeed, this is arguably the most talented squad of players Torino have had in many years.
However, it would be very remiss of onlookers to ignore the impact of coach Mihajlović’s tactics in all of this.
His determination to alter the team’s formation from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 this term is also to blame for Toro’s inconsistency, as certain players have clearly struggled to adapt to the changes. By reverting back to a 4-3-3 against I Sardi, the Serbian coach gave his players a much better platform from which to build their attacking moves.
As talented as M’Baye Niang is, he is nowhere near determined enough to help out his teammates in defence. This is ultimately why he was sacrificed by Mihajlović who opted for a more disciplined midfield trio in Afriyie Acquah, Mirko Valdifiori and Daniele Baselli.
In Adem Ljajić, the Turin side are already carrying one luxury player and, with results as poor as they have been in recent weeks, the coach is well aware they can ill-afford another.
Rethink a concession
Mihajlović’s rethink is a clear admission that he tried to do too much too soon, albeit with what is unquestionably a super-talented group of players.
It is likely he will revisit his preferred 4-2-3-1 again in the future, once he has given his players a more solid foundation.
The ex-Milan tactician’s soft spot for Niang is common knowledge after all, and it would be foolish to think his temporary change in tact spells the end of this experiment.
With two trips to San Siro on the horizon in November, picking up three points was crucial in order to restore his players’ confidence.
Mihajlović deserves credit for implementing the necessary tactical tweaks and arresting the dip in form just in time to see Torino join Fiorentina and Milan on 16 points and ensure they remain in the race to secure European football next season.
Written by Jordan Russell
Follow Jordan on Twitter @JordRuss96
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