2016. január 18., hétfő

Liverpool Positional Play Analysis

The main aspect of this analysis is going to be Liverpool’s positional play. Basically we are talking about a 4-2-3-1 playing system, which is Klopp’s favourite one, he used this at Dortmund as well. Defensively it stays the same, though offensively it’s rather a 2-4-4-ish/4-2-4-ish formation, with the FBs stepping higher. Most of the time it’s the FBs, who are providing width on both sides, so the Ws are occupying the halfspaces (Coutinho/Firmino/Lallana etc.). The advantage of this that it forces the opponent’s Ws to defend deep, therefore they often defend with a 6-men defensive line. This opens up space in the halfspaces for the more creative players.

Although sometimes this is their main problem in the possession game: as the FBs are giving width, with using cover shadows it’s easy to close down the passing lanes towards the halfspaces, therefore the FBs have to turn back and pass backwards to the CBs, which leads to a sterile possession, without verticality and penetration.

To prevent this, the usage of false FBs may be a solution (creating a reversed pyramid shape). The biggest advantage of this positioning is that it’s the wingers, who provide width, and there they are able to exploit their abilities in 1v1 situations.

Another problem is that their positional play is often too fast, which creates big gaps between the lines, meaning that their positional structure falls apart mainly vertically. This is a huge problem, as without vertical compactness you can’t counterpress effectively (just think about Pep’s 15 pass rule in transitions).
As Klopp has already mentioned, Pool struggle to use to weak side of the pitch in possession. This is the lack of horizontal circulation, in order to open up vertical passing lanes (a basic element of an effective positional play). Though this may be corrected easily, with a better offensive shape and by more and more time on the practice field.

An important issue is the too much movement in their positional play. Under that I mean that the players often move too much instead of occupying a certain area of the pitch. Therefore it’s easier for the opponent to pressure them (with man-marking), plus without occupying certain areas it’s much harder to open up vertical passing lanes (as it would be the main goal of positional play).

What I really miss though, is the lack of aggression from the CBs in possession. They don’t drive forward with the ball at all, even when they have the possibility (they much rather wait for a CM to come back for the ball -> leading to a more sterile passing play). A huge advantage of this positional play element is that it forces the opponent to change the defensive shape, which often opens up vertical passing lanes. Although the lack of this movement comes from a different organizational structure, as the CMs are often far away from the CBs, who therefore can’t drive forward, because CMs can’t fill in the CBs position to provide defensive depth support (the positional structure must be ready for a possible transition every time).

Let’s see some pictures: 

Here we can see a basic case, against a 4-4-2 defending. RCM drifts wide, LW-CAM-RW occupying the centre and the halfspaces, though they should be higher between the lines, to be able to make aggressive runs behind the defensive line. By the way a nice example of the lack of penetration from the CBs, Lovren could easily drive forward to look for verticality. 

Bad positional structure, CMs are far away from each other, lack of connections between the players, plus no shift towards the ball in possession (overloading the strong side..). 

Build-up under pressure, LCB-LB connection is terrible, no chance to play through the pressure, organizational problem. 

FBs are providing width, Ws in the halfspaces, though with a better defensive shape (using cover shadows), this kind of offensive organization may be neutralized easily. As there is no other width ont he left side, the LB has to pass backwards.

Ball at Can (LCM), he has no vertical options at all, bad spatial distribution, too much players in one vertical line (shouldn’t be more than 3, as then they would block each other).

The problem with too much movements from the attackers, everyone is on their way but not where they are supposed to be, no one is able to get the ball, passive positional play. 

These problems may be solved in the future, though a big improvement needed from Liverpool in order to make their positional play less sterile, and more penetrative. 

2015. november 11., szerda

Tactical Theory: The False Full-Backs

The  role of a full-back is constantly changing. Earlier they only had defensive duties, later they became an essential part of the offensive movements. Sometimes they make overlap runs, sometimes they only make underlap runs, mostly they give width, although nowadays we often see them in the halfspaces, in a false full-back role. Therefore a modern full-back must be versatile in order to be effective in every different system (for example David Alaba, Philipp Lahm, Daniel Alves). 

In my opinion, the most important aspect of this tactical novelty is that it gives flexibility to the playing system. Full-backs may be deeper, may be higher in the halfspaces, they may occupy the flanks to provide wide options in order to stretch the opponent horizontally. It is recommended to pay attention to Alaba's movements in every game. Most of the time he occupies the left halfspace deeper, to maintain a great connection with the left-winger, although when the CM drops deeper, he moves higher between the lines in the halfspace, to provide attacking depth support etc. (remember that he scored against Arsenal from the centre, confirming his versatility). 

Basically, that's how the positional structure looks like against a horizontally compact 4-4-2 (Wolfsburg-Bayern games). The FBs are narrower, which means: 
  • more horizontal circulations at the back (to open up vertical passing lanes)
  • better connections with both the CBs and the Ws
  • increases the possibility of diagonality 
  • makes transition play easier, as FBs are already in position (defensive line may be narrower instantly, to cut the opportunity of through balls/buy time for the team to reorganize)
  • easier 1v1 situations for the Ws 

For me the last one is the most important advantage of this system. You circulate at the back, then rotate to the Winger, who can immediately beat his opponent in the 1v1 sitation. I often see that on the far-side it's the FB, who provides width, and after a team rotates to him, he immediately has to turn back and pass backwards (as most FBs don't have the quality to win 1v1s offensively).

A strategical advantage is that the FBs positioning in the halfspaces makes possible to circulate constantly between the halfspaces (stretching the opponent's defensive shape horizontally). With this the offensive shape is a 2-3-5, which have 2 different forms. One, where the 3 players are the LCM-DM-RCM (as CMs are basically better to dictate the tempo, and circulate), and one, where the 3 are the LB-DM-RB (mostly at Bayern Munich). 

Here are some examples from Bayern games: 

An important aspect of the offensive shape is to be able to counter-press in case of losing the ball. As the FBs are occupying the halfspaces, they are able to close down the most important channel, to prevent possible counter-attacks (as most counters go through the halfspaces or the centre). If the counter-press does not succeed, then they are easily able to move back and give stability in the defensive-line. 

Flexible FB movements: 

When the CM drops, the FB must move higher (to provide attacking depth/vertical or diagonal option), and he has 2 options: 
  • as the CM drops, the halfspace between the lines is open, the W moves into the halfspace, the FB moves to give width down the flanks
  • the FB moves between the lines (in the halfspace), the W gives width -> from here the LB has the option to make underlap runs as soon as the W gets the ball (usual combination between Thiago-Alaba-Coman)

I think this is a very intriguing aspect of the game, as full-backs became an essential part of an effective positional play through wide combinations. 

2015. augusztus 20., csütörtök

Tactical Theory: Defensive systems

It's been a long time since I last wrote an analysis, but as I was analyzing games from the last season, I noticed some interesting patterns, especially in defensive structure organization. As I develop my understanding of football, I tend to perceive that matches depend on keeping the balance in the positional structure (in the 4 different game moments: offensive organization, transition from defense to attack, transition from attack to defense, defensive organization). This article will focus on defensive organization, highlighting the defensive organization of Porto, Barcelona, Lyon, Swansea. 

I'm going divide the field as the Germans do, using the halfspaces.

I have analyzed Porto's games against Bayern Munich, BATE and Basel, Barcelona's CL games against Bayern Munich, Lyon's Super Cup match against PSG, and Swansea's PL match against Arsenal. 

I've noticed similar patterns in their defensive organizations: first of all they all use 4-5-1 as a basic defensive shape. The advantage of this system is that it gives you a 5-men midfield line, which helps a team to defend against verticality. It means that it's easier to force out horizontal passes, and that's exactly what you want if you are defending. Let's see a basic situation: 

Defensive (blue) team in a 4-5-1, closing down vertical passing lanes, therefore DM is forced to play
a horizontal ball towards the CBs. And here comes the interesting pattern: 

As RCB gets the ball, LCM steps out to close him and the right halfspace down (with his cover shadow). Important to note that LW is defending deeper (to close down the RB), and that LB is closing down the RW in the halfspace, behind the LCM. This system mainly focuses on closing down the vertical passing lanes, therefore we may say, that this is a passing lane-oriented defensive organization. As the LCM steps out, it creates a zig-zag shape on the midfield area, so in the future I will refer to this as the 'zig-zag'. Some may argue, that technically it's a 4-4-2, but it's not, as the starting shape is always a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 (or a 4-3-2-1, with DM and Wingers defending deep, CMs a little higher, and the central forward). 

The other form of the zig-zag is, when the CMs are deeper, and the DM+the Wingers are positioned higher (4-2-3-1ish shape): 

So then let's see some examples from these specific occasions. 

The DM has an important role, to always give defensive depth support for the CM, to cover vertical passing lanes diagonally (on the strong side). Another possible variation is, where the Winger is positioned narrower, to cover the passing lane in the halfspace, so the FB may close down the flank. 

A main advantage is that the midfield trio (LCM-DM-RCM) and the CF give a great cover in the central zones and the halfspaces. Though one may think that the CF does not have an important role, however I will show examples, where the lack of defending from the CF allows easy penetration for the opponent. A CF's main task is to cover both horizontal and vertical passing lanes. If the opponent plays with 3 at the back, then the CF must close down horizontal passing lanes, to prevent direct switches between the halfspaces. Vertically his main objective is to cover the space/passing lane in front of the DM and to close down diagonal passing lanes, when the ball is at the halfspaces. 

Here are some mistakes made by the CFs. Of course the lack of defending from the CFs are a big vulnerability in every defensive system, though here (as the DM is deeper) a better team may easily exploit that. As soon as an opponent gets the ball wide open behind the CF, vertical passing lanes become accessible mainly in the halfspaces (especially behind the higher positioned CMs). It's a little different in the Barca zig-zag, because there as the CMs are deeper, it may open up passing lanes towards the centre (behind the DM), or towards the flanks (behind the Wingers), where the opponent may create an easy 1v1s against the FBs. 

The zig-zag may function as some kind of a pressing trap, especially against teams, who are weaker in positional play. As I wrote earlier, the first step is to force out a horizontal pass (ideally between the 2 CBs), then the CM starts to press, therefore the CB has to try a long ball or to pass backward to the goalkeeper. 

Most of the time this system is pretty solid, hard to break (just look at Porto's defensive record in the League or CL, conceded goals and shots), though the 6-1 defeat against Bayern showed the system's disadvantages perfectly (and the genius of Pep). Pep decided to play with two wide-men (Rafi-Lahm on the right, Bernat-Götze on the left) to stretch Porto's midfield line horizontally. The most important was the FBs (Bernat-Rafi) deep positioning, which forced Porto's CMs to stay in position (Wingers had to stay deep too, look at the direct switch from Badstuber towards Lahm). Because if they had attacked Bayern's CBs, then after a short horizontal pass towards Bernat or Rafi, passing lanes would have opened up behind the CMs. So it may be said that using false FBs (or may be called as false CBs) is a weakness of this defensive organization. 

The other thing Pep did was to put Müller (right) and Thiago (left) to the halfspaces, therefore the opponent's FB was doubled (FB must have stayed in position, the halfspace was open). Because of that, Bayern's CBs looked to pass directly towards Lahm and Götze (if Porto defended narrowly), who could easily find Müller and Thiago between the lines. 

However Barca showed the solution against this offensive organization, with keeping the zig-zag. Solution: CB drifted to the flanks, therefore FB could close down the winger (though the halfspace on the far side looks vulnerable to me, plus as juego de posicion states, the key is to overload one side, then switch to the other side, but Bayern couldn't take advantage of this without Robbery's abilities on 1v1 situations. 

One other weakness is to double the CM, who steps out. As the winger is deeper, there is space for an other player (a false FB, who is more centrally than Rafi and Bernat were against Porto), and after a short pass, the space behind the CM may be exploited. 

The other variaton of the zig-zag is little different, the CMs are deeper, the DM (mostly because of Busquets intelligence in defending and pressing) and the Wingers are higher positioned. In this, there are more 1v1 situations, as this system does not close down as much vertical passing lanes as the Porto one, though it's main advantage is that after forcing the opponent towards the flanks, it's easier to perform a pressing trap, and to isolate the opponent. However it's main advantage is it's main disadvantage: the DM's high position, it opens up a lot of space available for the opponent in between the defensive line and the DM. The solution from Barca is: if a vertical pass finds an opponent between the lines, a CB has to step out and close him down (basically, to not let the opponent turn towards the goal). 

Another aspect to think about is the differences between the 2 system in transitional play. In my opinion the Barca system is more suitable for that, as there are 4 players higher, who are available for a vertical pass in a possible counter attack (probably that's why Lucho uses this system, so after winning the ball Neymar and Messi are already in a high position, from there they are more dangerous). 

What I like in this system is that it's a great way to decrease the amount space between the lines (with creating more lines defensively). As the zig-zag highly depends on the opponent's offensive structure and organization, I think a team should know both versions in order to make the opponent's positional play ineffective (closing down vertical passing lanes with the intelligent use of cover shadows, forcing out horizontal passes to use pressing traps, or to force the opponent to play long balls). 

2014. május 18., vasárnap

The Simeone system in the circularity of football

Time is a dimension, what is used to measure the change. The passage of time is the 4. dimension, what means a temporal extension. We process time linearly. The big question of science is examining space and time. We can't split the two continuum, because as Einstein's theory of relativity says: spacetime. Time depends on the observer's spatial correlation (twin paradox). But do space and time exist independently of consciousness, or we just created these continuums to describe the world around us? It worths to think about. As I heard in a series: "Time is a flat circle." So what happened once, will happen again, and again. But what's the difference? The consciousness, that defines the cognitive interpretation of the given situation. The process of learning helps this, in what we deduct conclusions from our experiences, so the personality develops, the behaviour changes. Of course It can only be observed, when the person actually learns from the experiences. That's why a lot of people fall into the trap of time, because they can't learn from the past. 

We used to say about football, that it's circular. Here comes the analogy with the previous idea. What happened once, will happen again. Once the defensive football, then the attacking football dominates. This moves the football forward. Somebody invents something, then an other person re-counters, so the evolution is continuous. Of course a lot of coaches fall into the trap, while others can evolve, adapt. It was Tata Martino's biggest mistake. In 6 matches agains Atletico Madrid, he couldn't evolve. Of course on the other side there was Cholo Simeone, who made an amazing system. 
Atleti's biggest focus is on defending, and then fast transition to attack. Their defending contains 2 components:
  • deep, compact defendind on own half (we will analyse this)
  • counterpressing on the opponent's half
Atleti defends narrow, they want to reduce the opponent's space of the action in this way. This is the main principle : force the opponent's attack to one direction, which means the wide areas. 

The width of defending is about 20-25 metres, while in depth it's 20 metres, they are very close to each other. They want to keep the opponent far from the goal. Team's big problem is (now Barca) that there are only one player inside the Atleti-phalanx.

But when there are more player between the lines, Atleti use man-marking on the player, so they force him backwards/backward pass. If the opponent pass the ball between the lines, the defender comes to mark him, but there are occassions, when the midfielders marks the player, they reduce the space. The most important is, to not let the opponents turn around, so he could face the goal. 

When the ball is in wide areas, they try to make decisive dominance around the ball (they shift to the ball's zone). This means in the 4-4-2 system, that the winger, the fullback, and the closer central midfielder (plus occasionally the closer centre back). They have player advantage, so the attack can't go forward, only option is backward pass. We can see on the pictures, that there are space in the defending, but they can't exploit it, because of the advantage in the middle (maybe with running in from deep positions, but they still have more player, so if the pass is successfull, there are more defending player). Barca yesterday used the only option: crosses. But in the middle Atleti had number and physical advantage, so the crosses didn't work (although only Alves had 15). 

There is one more thing: the players' head orientation. When the ball is in wide areas, they turn towards the ball, and they don't let the ball inside. That's why they can force the ball to wide areas, because after a backward pass the opponent is forced to wide areas again. Barca's solution for this was bringing Messi back to deep positions, he undertaked the skills, and 1 on 1 situations, but Atleti could stop him after 1-2 successful skills (with tackling or with fouls). 

Yesterday there were some counterpressing, too. Especially in the end of the first half, and in the beginning of the second half, Barca barely went out from their half. They press not very often (except from throw-ins, goalkicks). In this way they try to disrupt the opponent's build-up, the ball can't go the safe place, there is no direct goal-threat. 

Key thoughts: 
  • narrow defending -> force opponent to wide areas -> decisive dominance in the ball's zone (shifting) -> force backwards/steal ball
  • head orientation, normal defending position, so the opponent can't go to middle positions/spaces
  • counterpressing -> reduce the opponent's space/time
  • pressing -> disrupt the build-up -> ball can't go to safe position -> no goal-threat-

2013. június 20., csütörtök

Tiki-taka analysis

We can call the Spain's and specially the Barcelona's style as: tempo attack. This is an attacking conception based on possession.

Definition of tempo attack: 
-Finding and taking advantage of opponent's impotent moment.

Purpose of tempo attack: 
-Raid on the vulnerable point.

 Tempo attack has an important element: "surprise effect". When can we do it? 
-Opponent's bad rhythm reaction
-Speed difference benefit of the attacking player
-Disruption of the oppontent's structure

Attacking organization tasks: 
1. Picking up the basic formation
2. Keeping/"frozing" the ball
    a., looking for the tempo
        -evolving gaps
    b., catching the tempo, hitting the inertia moment, starting the attack
3. Raid. Taking over the attack. Invasion to the defensive wall or breaking through the defensive line. 

This is just the theoretical basis of tiki-taka, more analyses with a lot of examples will come later. 

2013. április 21., vasárnap

The art of Pressing

Firstly make a difference between pressing and counter pressing. Counter pressing starts at the moment of losing the ball, while pressing is an organised interception starting for a given sign, when the opponent have the ball. 

So let's define the attacking organization tasks: (we just need the first two tasks, so I don't write the others)

1. Allocate the ball into a safe place after interception
2. Bring out the ball
    a., Incease the game space in width and in depth

Counter pressing is about to prevent the first task, pressing is about to prevent the second task.

The mental purpose of the defending is to reduce the space and the time, which need for accomplishing the activity with the ball. It has two methods: zonal marking for reducing the space, and man marking for reducing the time. In a match both of them appears, but sometimes one of them is more dominant.

The purpose of zonal marking is to delay the attack, and to force the opponent into a mistake.

The purpose of man marking is to cut down the time for the attacking player to recept the ball, and to tighten the space, which needs for transmitting or holding the ball. In a part man maring is zonal marking.

Pressing's and counter pressing's shape element is diamond. Why? Because this is the best formation to control the space. The second point of attacking organization tasks says, that the attacking team have to increase the space in width and in depth, and you can prevent this with a diamond formation, because the two players, who are located at the two sides of the diamond can deny the space increasing in width, and the bottom member of the diamond can counteract the space increasing in depth. We will see this perfectly in the examples. These examples are from Barcelona, Bayern Münich, and Athletic Bilbao matches.


As I wrote before pressing is an organised interception starting for a given sign, when the opponent have the ball. Of course we can see here the diamond formation.

So here is the diamond, the defender one (who is the nearest to the ball at pressing, now Messi) attacks the player, who has the ball, the defender twos (the two side of the diamond, now Iniesta and Pedro) protect the wings (if the next acitvity is a side pass they will be the defender ones, who have to attack the ball), and the defender three (the bottom member of the diamond, now Xavi) is about to deny the depth pass.

Other example of pressing from this match:

Barcelona's pressing is zonal marking and man marking at the same time, but sometimes one of them is more dominant. The defender one and defender three use man marking dominantly, while defender twos use zonal marking dominantly.

Some examples from Bayern Münich.

Bayern Münich's system is like Barca's system, the only difference is, that Barca uses a more agressive type of pressing.

But Athletic uses an other type of pressing. They use man marking not only at the area of pressing, but at the other parts of the pitch. Bielsa organises a man marking, so everybody have their own man, except of a central defender, who is called "spare-man".

In this picture we can see the man marking, the two player signed with a blue point are the defender threes, so that's why there are two diamonds. The "spare-man" is framed. On the next picture we can see the same (2 diamonds, 2 defender three, man marking).

Counter Pressing    

Counter pressing starts at the moment of losing the ball. Examples from Bayern and Barca.
When we saw, that in pressing the defender two use zonal marking and man marking too, but in counter pressing they use man marking dominantly. The defender one and defender three have the same role.


After losing the ball, the defender one (Inista) immediately attacking the player with the ball, the two defender two is the two full-backs, who are placed in the middle of the pitch (to tighten the space), the defender three follows the player, who comes back, the result is interception.

This is a perfect example of counter pressing, and by the way there are more Man Utd players in the pictures, but because of the well organised counter pressing, that doesn't matter.