Monday, 4 April 2016

Barcelona vs Real madrid :Mid block,poor structure,space and half space occupation.

This game was a tight contest between two top sides although this wasn’t the most tactical intriguing El Classico it still was interesting to see were both teams match up especially concerning Real Madrid. Real Madrid played a 4-3-3 and looked to sit in a medium block allowing Barcelona to play out from the back and play their normal game.

Real madrids man orientations

Real Madrids shape was a 4-3-3 which at times when the wingers Cristiano and Bale dropped back became a 4-5-1:

When Real Madrid were without the ball the midfield especially was man orientated throughout the game Kroos against Messi and Modric tracking Iniesta with Casemiro covering the space or pressing up on Busquets when he rotated up field.

In this scenario Messi drops deep and Kroos presses up to stop the pass into Messi while Casimero and Modric stop the passes into Iniesta and Busquets.  In this screenshot you can see Rakitic free in between the lines in the half space if a pass goes into this area it will obviously be dangerous as Rakitic can turn and as he’s in the half space can open up space in other areas.  Casimero glances over his shoulder and realizes the danger and leaves his man (Busquets) in order to deal with the potential pass into Rakitic.

Mascherano plays a long ball out wide to Alves but the pass to Rakitic in between four players in still on but because Casimero anticipated it earlier he manages to get back and challenge Rakitic limiting the danger.

Example 2:

In this example Real Madrid are deep but use their man orientations as a way of pushing up. Iniesta drops deep to receive the ball from pique and is tracked by Modric, Kroos tracks Messi deep and Casimero pushes on Busquets who intelligently rotates inside  for Iniesta to receive the ball. All Rakitic has to do is sneak into the space behind him untracked and unmarked.

This is an easy pass in between the lines for Iniesta to make  but instead he checks back and passes sidewards  into Busquets who drops deep.You can see Casimero( the deepest of the 3 madrid midfielders) realize Rakitic is free and as you can see by his body language leaves his man to cut out the pass to Rakitic fortunately for his it went sidewards. In my opinion Barcelona didn’t get the ball into these areas often enough. In this game there are plenty of examples of the space the man orientations of Real Madrid left and how careless they were in leaving space in between the lines it left Casimero with decisions to make as to whether to press? Who to track? And how to position himself and I felt he did pretty well in this respect.

Barcelona playing through the half space

Barcelona has some of the best combination players when they play into the half spaces in between the lines it spell danger. Because of real Madrid’s man orientated style im surprised Barcelona didn’t use these areas more often as on plenty of occasions Messi and Rakitic where free in between 3 or 4 players which helps create space. On the occasions where they did play through these spaces they created the space they wanted.

As Kroos shifts over Messi spots a passing lane opening up in between three players.

As Messi drops he attracts Casimero and has close support of Busquets who can play a quick pass forward in to Suarez. In this situation Barcelona were unlucky and Suarez was caught just offside as the Madrid line pushed up.

In my opinion Barcelona did not get the ball into Messi in these spaces often enough or when they did they were often wasteful and had poor structure around the ball. Passes into these areas are useful as they can open up spaces for Neymar on the outside or Suarez centrally if the CB presses.

Real Madrid space creation for counter attacks Barcelona poor structure

As the game went on Real Madrid started to have more chances on goal through counter attacking due to Barcelona carelessness on the ball and lack of structure when pressing but Real Madrid did create come nice movements to open up the space. Here is an example of that:

As Real Madrid are building from the back all Barcelona players react accordingly and orientate themselves  man for man to ensure Real Madrid don’t have easy access. As the its moves on you start to see Kroos free as no Barca player is near him.

The ball carrier now has a free passing lane open as if Kroos receives he can turn as switch which will take 5 Barca players out of the game or delay to create more space which is what he did.

Arda turan reacts too late Kroos keeps the momentum sucks him in as Casimero rotates inside into the free space created.

HUGE amount of space opens up for Casimero to exploit this resulted in a counter attack in which Cristiano nearly scored.


This is just a basic look at some problems that occurred during El classico. In what was a very tight game this was Barcelona’s to lose they had the better chances to win the game and I believe if they were only slightly better structured both from an attacking point of view and a defensive point of view no doubt they would have won not taking anything away from Real Madrid though they defended well on the whole but were extremely lucky due to the space they left in midfield.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Manchester united vs Wolfsburg analysis

Poor pressing by united lead to toothless attack

There was a quote by Klopp saying "Counter pressing is the best playmaker" and in this game Manchester united did not take full advantage of the defensive transition when Wolfsburg were unorganised instead United gave up easy space for Wolfsburg which in turn helped with the Germans counter attacking turnovers. 

Example 1

Here is an example of a great opportunity to counter press. United have just lost possession from an unsuccessful cross attempt Wolfsburg are now breaking from deep United have 3 v 1 against the man on the ball. Schneiderlin can block the passing lane into the man behind him leaving a 2v1 opportunity for Mata and Valencia to press the ball carrier. Smalling has stepped up (out of picture) making the man behind Schneiderlin even less dangerous. This opportunity did lead to Wolfsburgs goal however the goal itself had its own defensive issues.

Example 2 

Here United just lost another second ball but have the strength in numbers to counter press. If Depay adjusts his position a few yards to the left he can block the passing lane into the exit pass and trap the player on the ball in the touchline which increases their chances of winning possession even more as "the touchline is the best defender".

Depay reacts late to closing off the passing lane and the United players give the man on the ball too much time to turn and make a pass into acres of space towards his left. Rooney tries to react but he's too deep to affect the play.

Here the player has acres of space to play in and start the counter attack. If it was a team of higher quality the damage could have been much worse.

Lack of  movement 

We all know how Van gaal likes to play strong sense of possession , pressing and the rigid positioning of the front 3 to allow the spaces in between the lines to open up but this at times can create problems with lack of connectivity. In certain situations its down to the player to use his footballing intelligence to create triangles and offer passing options which will in turn create movement that will cause confusion amongst the opposition but at times this season we are not seeing that from united instead we a seeing a continuous recycle of possession side to side.

Lack of movement and pentration on the right 

Martial has moved from his centre forward position and drifting in to wide positions as he did all game this way he can utilise his dribbling skills to his full potential this also suits Mata who can sit inside in between the lines than rather  be stuck outside were he is ineffectual. In this situation Mata should move in the opposite direction to Martial or diagonally as highlighted to open up the space(this will drag the cb with him) and allow Martial a clear path. Valencia was far too deep on the right at times and unnecessarily so because of the sufficient cover he had behind him from Schneiderlin.

Now the space has closed off due to Mata's poor decision to drop off but the connectivity for Martial is shockingly bad. Mata has to get tighter  and If Valencia provides the width it gives the defender someone else to think about relieving the pressure on Martial on the inside.

This graphic shows how little Valencia got forward and i believe United should have taken more risk in this area which would have created more balance to the team open up the spaces in the middle allowing the more creative players in the middle more space and time on the ball.

In this image Rooney should offer connectivity  with Depay as indicated by the arrow (this will create more support and occupy the opposition defenders ).Martial is offering the vertical movements so Rooney should help create a passing option this may even drag a defender with him and  create space in front for martial or a cm to exploit.  Its all about movement and using possession as a tool.

Rooney was poor all game making poor decisions, poor passes and was the top joint dispossessed player on United with Depay but and atleast the Depay was affecting the game in other areas through dribbles ,movement and positioning.

Wolfsburg structure

Wolfsburg sat in a very organised mid block 4-4-2 very position orientated and made it very difficult for United to play through the middle this was a very disciplined performance especially by their two strikers who sacrificed attacking intent for the good of the team and sat really close to the midfield making the space compact and overloading the midfield area. This saw United play the ball mainly in their own half. The players with the most touches were the Blind , Schweinsteiger and Smalling. Schweinsteiger saw most of his touches in his own half(deep and wide around the block) as indicated by his touch map:

This further more shows the efficient job done by the block as a whole. Wolfsburg condensed the space in between the lines very well they made united go wide and force long pointless balls into the box in which they won both the first and second balls on numerous occasions creating dangerous countering situations which United struggled to defend.

Reaction as a unit ,overload for second balls and disrupt United possession rhythm.

United struggle to build through the centre so carry on with their usual "U" shape (possession side to side ) however when the ball reached the side united struggled to play out as the area is overloaded due to the very structured defending of Wolfsburg .

Wolfsburg overload the space around Martial United react rash and play a long diagnol disrupt the rhythm of the possession forces them long which give Wolfsburg time to reshape and re organise. 

Wolfsburg force United deep late on 

With United 2-1 Wolfsburg had to go for it push for it late on in the game. The passes were blatantly more direct, the pressure intensified and the players psychology changed. Its of no surprise when you see that Wolfsburg had 58 % compared to united 42% in the last 20 minutes of the match.

Bendter came on for Dost who worked his socks off for Wolfsburg up front. It was obvious that Bendtner at 1.94m came on to attack high balls and was involved instantly in a aerial contest with Smalling in which the on form England defender came off on top. United reacted and brought Jones on to help defend the long balls but this change made united sag deeper and deeper putting them under more pressure and leaving space in the middle in front of the defence.

Acres of space for Wolfsburg to turn and run or cross into the box. United have 5 players in the box ready to defend the long ball they are very narrow and there is plenty of space for Wolfsburg to attack.. It was at this stage of the game were united struggled to get out as they were penned in and it became a very scrappy stop start game near the end with many fouls going both ways. United only had a pass succession percentage of 55% by this point as they were struggling to gain necessary connections.


United were not perfect in this game by any means they need to show improvements when counter-pressing. The Man orientated pressing they employ wasn't too bad they set there traps well but Wolfsburg gave United a good match up. If Wolfsburg were a team of more quality i think United could/would have been in trouble as the space they were allowing Wolfsburg both early in the game and especially late on in the dieing moments was suicidal. In addition to this the last 20 minutes was a real struggle in terms of ball retention.United went from dominating the game with 50 odd percent possession to barely scraping 40 in the last 15/20 minutes. Truly awful. 

Lastly i just want to address United using Possession as a tool or Possession as a philosophy? Van gaal although a great manager has an obsession with possession and bases his philosophy around moving the ball to move the opponent. This style has cost United games in the past as all you wind up with its constant cycle of possession. Possession with lack of movement and lack of connectivity is what i fear most about united. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Manchester united vs Liverpool: Possession vs counter attack

Manchester united and Liverpool came into this game with different intentions United came with their normal possession style with a heavy emphasis on horizontal ball circulation and Liverpool came to counter but would've been more than happy with a draw.

When the lineups for the game was announced i was shocked to see that Fellaini was playing upfront on his own as the lone striker. I and im sure most people anticipated that Liverpool was going to play the diamond with Ings and Benteke upfront and Firmino behind but instead they went with the 4-3-3 playing Ings and Firmino on the sides which is not their natural game.

Liverpools defensive shape

When United were building from the back in Liverpool's shape was somewhat 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 with either Can or Milner stepping up to help Benteke pressure the united back line but as united advanced with the ball Liverpool shape became 4-1-4-1 with Lucas protecting the space in between the lines.

Heres the defensive shape in full united found it difficult to play through the middle at times but was happy to circulate the ball around the sides of the Liverpool block.

This 4-1-4-1 shape did a good job of protecting the central areas in the first half although Ings was at times unsure whether to track the outside run of Darmian or cover the space inside and on a number of occasions he was caught out leaving Darmian or at times Mata free as he was slow to react but thats what you get if you play players out of position.

United Possession with no real conviction

No surprise when you see at the end of the game United had more possession, more touches and shots they controlled the game easily from start to finish. The key to United controlling was down Carrick and Schweinsteiger  the positions they were taking up was allowing united to control the game from side to side but with no real penetration . Also the disciplined performances of the wingers staying out wide to stretch the play and allow easier ball circulation. 

At times the movement and positioning  in central areas was non existent and you just feel if united  could have achieved this it would have provoked Liverpool to press opening up spaces to create better chances.The only players in central areas really trying to open up space were Schweinsteiger and Carrick who didn't look to stay in a line they moved both vertically and horizontally creating unpredictability which united lacked dramatically.

Emphasing Schweinsteigers control of the game:

74 Successful passes and 106 touches both more than anyone else on the pitch shows his true class a dominant midfield player that Man utd have needed for years even under Fergie.

Young on for Depay changed the game

For me the substitution of Young for Depay was key in Uniteds fortune changing. In the first half United lacked pace and directness all the side to side possession was not challenging Liverpool defensively as everything was infront and easy to defend. Depay struggled 1v1 against Clyne who did well to show him on his left on numerous Occassions with Depay only completing 1 out of 6 crosses. Young came on and made a instant impact winning a free kick which united scored from. 

The partnership between Young and Shaw is a much stronger one than Shaw and Depay which im sure will only strengthen with time. The understanding of when to occupy the half space leaving the space for Shaw, when to support Shaw both offensively and defensively was much better with Young and that's the reason Shaw got forward more in the second half. This movement of positions was what united needed some unpredictability instead of the backwards and side-wards passing which is extremely predictable and frustrating to watch.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Arsenal vs Aston Villa F.A Cup final

Arsenal have to be one of the most effective teams at playing in between the lines with their intelligent tricky players like Ozil and Sanchez yet Villa allowed space in these areas which created a lot of there problems defensively. Arsenal thoroughly deserved the win as they exploited these areas perfectly.

Villa's aim to stop Arsenal playing in midfield

When arsenal had the ball in defence ready to build from the back into midfield they struggled to get the ball into midfield due to the way how villa were set up. Villa set up to mark the potential passing options and either force Arsenal long or play to the wings. Below is an example of how villa tried to do this:

Here you can see Villa are covering all Arsenals passing options in midfield to stop arsenal playing into midfield but as you can see villa have all 5 midfielders pushed up leaving space in behind for Sanchez which is very dangerous considering his individual abilities.

You could throw a blanked over those 5 villa midfielders because of how high and close together they are. The game plan so far in the match show early signs of it not working and they wouldve been a lot better off keeping these areas compact as the last thing you want is Sanchez, Cozorla and Ozil in between your lines.

Arsenals first goal actually came from a identical situation to this where Villa gave to much space in between the lines to Walcott who swapped with sanchez on the left. Villa failed to see this as a danger and carried on employing the same tactic of cutting the passing options higher up rather than closing down the space where arsenal are dangerous.

Villa not playing to their strengths. Lack of directness

Here is a great chance for villa to start an attack. Look at all the options circled red. The option in front is available due to Coquelin pressing up. The 2 wide left are screaming for Delph to pass the ball but instead he tries to dribble his way out . Out of picture benteke is also a longer options with close support of Nzogbia on the right.

Another example of villa not being direct enough

Here Delph in space again but he decides to play a short ball into cleverly when he could use Villas counter attacking qualities and take advantage of arsenal being out of position with a longer pass to the flanks.

Arsenal reorganize with ease and cover the spaces which villa could and should have taken advantage off making it too easy for the arsenal defense.

It happened time and time again they kept playing short horizontal balls which does not suit the players and at times they lost control of the ball giving away cheap possession. When they did get the ball quickly into benteke you could see it was causing  Koscienly and Metersacker problems with dealing with benteke's physicality. The lack of balls played behind the defense was also disappointing from villa. 

Nzogbia poor defensive work rate

Nzogbia and grealish stayed relatively close to benteke and narrow in midfield. When the ball was lost Grealish got back into his defensive position taking on his defensive responsibilities however Nzogbia was reluctant to track back. This left huge gaps on the right side for sanchez to exploit it also meant that cleverly (the right sided centre midfielder) had to come across to fulfil the duties left by Nzogbia.

Nzogbia is the furthest Aston Villa player forward as he is trying to get the flick-on from benteke. Grealish is joining the attack late due to him tracking back to help his defence.

Due to Nzogbia being so high up the pitch not providing passing options in central midfield it meant cleverly was forced to leave his position in the midfield and drift out wide to create a passing option. This forced errors in midfield due the lack of passing options available at times but cleverly did well on his own with hutton sitting relatively deep through out the match.

Here Nzogbia is extremely late to track back and shows the importance of wide players doing their defensive duties in the modern game . This leads to a great chance for Arsenal which they should've scored. Had Nzogba helped track his runner then doubled up with Hutton, Cleverly would have been in a position were he could have pressed Ozil stopping the pass inside.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Manchester United vs Arsenal

This game was a game where nothing was really to play for apart from the obvious pride and bragging rights. Manchester united strength is there left side featuring the likes of Young ,and Fellaini. They proved to be a handful in this game aswell. Arsenal however like to play through the middle using there creative skills but this game was uncharacteristic of arsenal they played longballs, sat reasonably deep and look to hit man utd on the counter when the ball was won deep in transition.

 Man united pressing

In this section i just wanted to highlight uniteds pressing. They were consciously leaving their positions to ensure Arsenal weren't getting any time on the ball in the middle were they are very dangerous were they can get the best out of their nippy technical creative players. Here you can see Blind has faith in the high line man united are holding and is more concerned with the man on the ball the same goes for Rojo who left his Lb position to press up.

Here Valencia the RB steps up to put pressure on his winger he followed into Arsenals half. Falcoa reacts to help him press. They win the ball from this situation and it creates a chances through Falcoa.
This is just to highlight how man united were so set on making sure arsenals midfield/attackers had no time and space on the ball.

Great organisation by United everyone knows there roles in and out of possession. Fellaini presses so his midfield organise themselves in a way were there is no space for Arsenal to play in. Behind Mata is Daley Blind who is there to mark the space in the lines and collect and lose balls or player that come into that zone. If need be he will press and the defense will re-organise sounds so simple but its very difficult to coach as a collective unit.

United find space in between the lines of Arsenal 

This happened to many times to put all the examples in so ive just highlighted a few to show how poor Arsenal are defensively at times.

Chance 1

Time and time again united kept finding space in between the lines of Arsenal. As Arsenal main objective in this match was to keep it tight and counter they couldnt do either effectively.

Here is Mata in space how can Arsenal allow a player of his quality in that much space??? They're marking well in the box and there is pressure on the ball but no-one picks him up in between the lines. 

Here is the next sequence in the move and now mata has the ball in the space i highlight previously. Not only is a dangerous player in between their lines they dont have enough horizontal compactness. The space between the cb and lb is huge . Mata has the space to play the ball dissecting the lines. To add to this drama Koscienly has not seen the run of falcoa. Luckily this chance didn't result in a goal but it should have.

Chance 2

Herrera and mata are in space Arsenal are deep and conceding space in front. Fellaini vs Coquelin is a mismatch and Fellaini easily out muscles him. Fellaini has options here and chooses Herrera in space.

Arsenal are narrow and are now conceding space out wide. The ball gets played to Mata who sees Young in space trying to stretch arsenal and entice them to press to disjoint them.

Here Young cuts in and Again united should score from this sort of oppurtunity. In addition ive also added that the man on the far post is free and unmarked which is a common theme of Arsenal and were they leak a lot of there goals. For me this is due to the positioning of the wide men they are higher up pressing and lack that defensive workrate/instinct to cover these spaces which leak so many goals.

Manchester united defensive organisation

Man united were really impressive  from the defensive point of view they were solid and compact knowing when to press and when to drop. Unlike Arsenal when they dropped deeper the wide men covered the spaces easing the pressure of the fullback.

When united were deep

This is how Arsenal should have been set up all the spaces covered pressure on the ball and a threat in transition with fellaini. 

Forcing arsenal long

Metersacker has no option here other than to hit a long ball or pass it back to the goalkeeper which he did who then played a long pass just what united wanted (stop arsenal having the ball in the central areas). United did this time and time again cutting out the options arsenal have in midfield forcing them out wide where they are less comfortable. It also allows Arsenal to become disjointed.

Arsenal pressing from the front 

Arsenal pressed from the front with Ozil and Giroud in central areas pressing heavily and ramsey and Sanchez out wide cutting out options. United werent really affected by this as blind dropped deep to create 3v2. Jones made a few errors but they werent to do with Arsenal pressing they were just unprovoked individual errors.

Here United deal with Arsenals press easily as the goalkeeper helps creates a 4v2. If the Arsenal players stand on the to cb's then blind can dribble through the centre or pass to the gk. If they press him he then has 3 options.

United goal analysis

Young had a great game. Here on the left extremely wide he cause all sorts of problems dribbling at pace the Fb didnt know whether he would go right foot or left foot. Herrera is going to travel all this distance and not be marked at all infact not even one arsenal player looks at him thats how bad Arsenal are in the defensive phase.

Young delivers a left foot cross to the far post where Herrera is unmarked. This is a common theme with Arsenal leaving a man free at the back post is very dangerous. There wide players are more focused on pressing and attacking than helping out deeper in their own half which has its huge negatives in the modern game. Just outside the box Sanchez tries to get back but he's way too late to recover and Herrera finishes it in the bottom corner.


Manchester united overall deserved the win and Arsenal should count themselves lucky they got a point which came via a deflection. I could have gave more examples of Arsenals poor display but in truth we've seen it time after time. Arsenal came to play long even when it wasnt necessary.They  didnt fill the spaces well enough for a team looking to sit deep and counter. The backpost issue with Arsenal is a simple one which needs adressing should they want to win a title again.Manchester united just didnt captalize on their chances which is an issue for Van gaal and money is surely to be spent in the summer in this area as Falcoa and Van persie just look way past it.