Fiorentina – West Ham United: Bowen Delivers A Hammerblow As Fiorentina Suffer Double Heartbreak (1-2)

The most exciting and entertaining continental competition drew to a close for the 2022/23 season with the Europa Conference League final in Prague, where Fiorentina and West Ham United battled it out to win a rare trophy. The English side emerged victorious at the end of an interesting ninety minutes thanks to a late winner, which Fiorentina might feel hard done by.

Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.

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Fiorentina were creating history by simply participating in this game, as they became the first team ever to qualify for the finals of four different UEFA competitions. Beyond the chance of lifting their first major trophy since 2001, this match also offered them their final ticket to Europe next season as they failed to qualify via the league or domestic cup, where they lost the final.

If Fiorentina were slightly disappointed with how their domestic season panned out, West Ham must have been alarmed. Panic probably was the right emotion when they found themselves in the midst of a serious relegation battle, but they managed to pull themselves together and avoided getting caught up in any drama towards the end of the season. Of course, their season was still a relative disappointment to this point, but one match had the potential to change everything.

Fiorentina lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Pietro Terracciano between the sticks behind a back line of Dodô, Nikola Milenković, Luca Ranieri and Cristiano Biraghi. Sofyan Amrabat had Giacomo Bonaventura and Rolando Mandragora on either side of him in midfield, whilst Nicolás González and Christian Kouamé flanked Luka Jović up front. To the surprise of many, Arthur Cabral and Jonathan Ikoné were left on the bench.

West Ham named their lineup in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Cup goalkeeper Alphonse Areola started in goal behind Vladimír Coufal, Kurt Zouma, Nayef Aguerd and Emerson. Tomáš Souček partnered Declan Rice in defensive midfield behind Lucas Paquetá, whilst Jarrod Bowen and Saïd Benrahma were the wingers and Michail Antonio led the line.

Fiorentina’s fluidity poses problems to West Ham’s block

Given the fact that they had the second-highest possession average in Serie A whilst West Ham had the third-lowest in the Premier League, Fiorentina were expected to see a lot more of the ball in this game. They ended up keeping over two-thirds of possession, ending up with a figure of 68%.

Teams can often keep a lot of the ball but look quite unthreatening, but that cannot be said of Fiorentina on this night. They used their typically fluid and aggressive structure in possession to cause real problems to West Ham’s defensive block, consistently entering the attacking third.

That structure involved the center-backs splitting very wide and Amrabat operating quite close to or even in between them. This effectively created a very wide back three against West Ham’s front two, who naturally could not stop them from progressing the ball.

6th minute: West Ham’s 4-4-2 block against Fiorentina’s fluid system in possession.

Among the fullbacks, Dodô inverted into midfield more as usual whilst Biraghi pushed further up, allowing Mandragora to drop back a bit more than Bonaventura. None of these rotations were set in stone, though, so Fiorentina were able to dynamically occupy West Ham’s defensive line with different combinations of players.

Whilst they could not really stop Fiorentina from entering their half and indeed third, West Ham deserve credit for how they defended in and around their box. The contributions of their wingers were crucial as they diligently tracked back throughout the ninety minutes to maintain a very compact back eight, as is evident in the above stills. This ensured that West Ham always had greater numbers at the back, which proved useful in preventing Fiorentina from creating too many good chances.

Amrabat runs the show as Fiorentina click in the second half but Bowen breaks their hearts

There were no goals at the end of the first half, as West Ham were able to keep Fiorentina quiet in their own third whilst posing very little threat themselves. The Italians certainly looked much likelier to find the opener (and almost did on the stroke of half-time if not for a close offside call), but that is not how things turned out.

Around the hour mark, West Ham were awarded a penalty after a VAR review which found the ball to have been redirected by Biraghi’s fingers after Coufal flung the ball into the box towards Bowen. Benrahma stepped up to take it, and scored with his side’s first shot on target from inside the box.

Fiorentina were forced to chase the game thereafter, and one man took matters into his own hands. Amrabat had already been a standout performer as he was a key progressor of the ball through both carrying and passing, but he started to get more direct as his side were under greater pressure to score. Indeed, he was the one who created the equaliser with a wonderful pre-assist that found González in the box from close to the center circle.

The Moroccan international’s passing statistics from the match highlight his integral performance. His 70 completed passes were not even surpassed by anyone’s total tally of attempts, whilst no one got near his figure of 13 passes into the final third. 9/11 long balls completed show how accurate he remained even as he went more direct.

Despite his best efforts, though, it was West Ham who grabbed a late winner. After an aerial duel from a Terracciano long ball, Souček did well to protect the second ball and left it for Paquetá, who timed his through ball perfectly. Bowen ran onto it from an onside position, and just about held off the defender’s challenge to finish past the goalkeeper.


On a memorable night in Prague, West Ham won their first continental trophy since 1965. They showcased all the qualities that helped them get so far in the Europa Conference League knockouts in this match – defensive solidity and contributions from everyone in the team, the ability to withstand waves of pressure, and crucially, their habit of scoring against the run of play.

Fiorentina, meanwhile, will be bitterly disappointed having lost two major finals in a couple of weeks. They were made to rue their missed chances in the Coppa Italia, but here, the problem was that they conceded a couple of very soft goals. On the whole, though, they will feel they were the better side in this match and should have gotten more out of it, but once again, it was not to be.

Having seen the celebrations from the West Ham players, coaching staff (especially David Moyes – who finally has a major trophy to his name in his managerial career) and fans, the last word must go to the competition itself. If there is one thing to take away from this match – and indeed season – it is that the Europa Conference League is quite possibly the best thing UEFA has done.

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