Aurelio Andreazzoli's Roma has continued to delight spectators by producing attacking, exciting football. In this particular case, it came by revisiting Luciano Spalletti's success with the false-nine.
On Saturday afternoon the Giallorossi traveled to the Stadio Friuli to take on Udinese and experimented heavily with their formation, playing a three-man defence (again) and gave new roles to Francesco Totti, Alessandro Florenzi and Simone Perrotta.
The false-nine tactic was made famous by Spalletti back in 2006, playing Totti in a withdrawn forward role that would drop deep and deliver killer balls, while his midfielders would bomb on beyond and receive their talisman's accurate passes.
Andreazzoli tried a similar idea, with Totti dropping deep and turning, while Florenzi broke through the middle and Erik Lamela arrowed in off the right flank.
Perrotta formed a holding duo with Daniele De Rossi, while Marquinho provided a presence on the left from wing-back.
It was lopsided and unorthodox, but it was very, very interesting.
Lionel Messi plays the role for Barcelona and Cesc Fabregas does for Spain. It's a niche position, but who else could prosper? It all hinges on the forward. He needs creativity, awareness, good passing skills and the ability to draw his markers in. Totti has mastered it, but who else could?
How not to do it
Before we visit the "ifs", let's reflect on one manager who's tried it.
Harry Redknapp fell short of attacking options with Bobby Zamora, Loic Remy and co. injured, forcing him to play Adel Taarabt as a false-nine.
It didn't go that well, as the Moroccan is a pure No. 10 who likes to float between the lines and Queens Park Rangers' wingers weren't briefed to surge beyond him. The system looked clunky and stunted, while Taarabt's game wasn't suited to it.
Adel doesn't like to break as the furthest man forward, relying on others to pull markers away with clever runs. He's also, in short, not that fond of passing.
Vincenzo Montella uses a fluid system at Fiorentina that boasts serious attacking prowess.
The focal point is Stevan Jovetic—either as a prima punta or seconda punta—and he has the creative ability to bring others into dangerous positions.
With Adem Ljajic and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado bombing on either side and Alberto Aquilani and David Pizarro holding just behind, this is a direct form of play that could improve Viola's so-so away form.
Montella currently switches between a Ljajic-Jovetic partnership and a Luca Toni-Jovetic tandem. If he could add a third option to the repertoire, they'd be truly difficult to plan for.
The Sought-After One
One player who, after watching him glide in and out of the forward line, looks very able to pull off the false-nine is Iago Aspas.
Chelsea were reportedly after Aspas in January (via The Mirror), but he was never going to be the answer for them. Why? Because they needed a poacher, someone who simply finishes the chances "Mazacar" create.
Fernando Torres was heavy criticised for getting caught up in the buildup play and simply not being in the position to finish, so they were wise to pick up Demba Ba, and equally wise to avoid on Aspas.
The Spaniard is much more of a deep-lying forward who loves to create and drift, and placing him in a side who have positive, speedy players could result in a high-octane attack.
Aspas is influential, encouraging and close to hitting his prime.