MAN UTD v LFC MATCH ANALYSIS: How the defence overcame the attack

This highly anticipated Man Utd v Liverpool match proved to be an interesting affair well worth watching as both teams lose two points each on Sunday evening at Old Trafford. A very different game compared to the first match these teams played at Anfield. It is safe to say nobody will be happier than Antonio Conte after his arch rivals fail to secure a win.

CONTEXT

Before the match, United had a great string of six straight wins in the league and haven’t lost a game since end of October. With a win over their Merseyside rivals they could close the gap to two points and possibly even sneak into the top four. Playing at their home ground they clearly had to take the risk and go for it.

Sitting in second spot, five points behind Chelsea, Liverpool was in better position but had to maintain the pressure on The Blues while keeping the distance from Tottenham that was two points behind. Certainly a difficult task ahead of big rival match that was made even harder without the best goalscorer, Sadio Mane, who was away with Cameroon squad. Additionally, Liverpool still didn’t win this year drawing league games against Sunderland and the FA Cup game against Plymouth while they have lost against Southampton in the League Cup.

While both teams started quite cautiously, Liverpool looked particularly vulnerable. Man United was set out determined to impede their ability to transition from defence to the middle third. Whenever Mignolet had the ball Herrera was joining Ibrahimović in closing down passing options while the whole squad went high up the pitch to man mark Liverpool players.

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Great team pressing from Man Utd made it difficult for LFC to transition to attack

In case Liverpool was able to get into the middle third, a combination of man and zonal marking was employed to cut out the passing options. Above we see the situation where Klavan is able to get on the ball fairly high. However, positioning of Man United players meant he really had only two passing choices. A back pass to goalkeeper that would trigger high pressing or a long ball towards rather small forward line. As only Origi has the ability to tame high balls these usually ended up with Man United retaking the possession.

The key in above situations was the positioning of three central midfielders who man mark Liverpool players thus cutting off the possibility of a pass in the central area. Ibrahimović is keeping the horizontal pass to Lovren impossible while Valencia is marking Milner (both out of the picture). The role of the Mkhitaryan is crucial. He needs the ability to make the right decision while choosing between the following:

a) press the ball carrier forcing a rushed clearance or even snatching the ball off the defender
b) stay within formation and cover his man (Milner)

Obviously in this situation Mkhitaryan has chosen to close down on Klavan which produced a chain reaction as Milner had to be picked up by Valencia and whole defensive line needed to shift to cover for this move if the pressing was to be successful.

However, Man United pressing proved to be well synchronized throughout the match. Particularly in the opening half hour Liverpool had difficulties to get out of the defensive zone in an organized manner.

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Due to great pressing from Man Utd, majority of LFC’s forwards passes were taken from their defensive zone

Map shown above marks the forward passes from both teams up to 28th minute of the match. You can see both teams had similar numbers (47 successful out of 77 for Liverpool and 46 out of 74 for Man United). However, Liverpool had majority of those passes initiated in their own defensive zone. United, on the other hand, managed to get higher up the pitch before going for a forward pass during this period of game. It is safe to say a good team pressing Man United has shown directly contributed to this and made Liverpool virtually ineffective in the first 30 minutes of the game. Liverpool was able to threaten United only via set pieces and, luckily enough, they got a penalty after Pogba made a crucial mistake in 28th minute.

This, however, didn’t change the overall shape of the game. United has continued to attack predominantly down the left hand side as you can see in the above “forward passes” image. Whether it was a deliberate attempt to exploit young Alexander-Arnold in the right back spot remains unclear. In any case, United often tried to unsettle the visiting team by overloading that side as Mkhitaryan cut inside.

While Carrick was playing his standard holding midfielder role, he was making sure he stayed behind the ball together with two center backs. Herrera and Pogba were altering themselves in forward runs but United found it difficult to get into scoring positions during set attacks.

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Great defensive work by Liverpool left Man Utd offensive players isolated

Above you see a typical situation where United is attacking LFC’s set up defence. Herrera is painfully isolated in the center midfield while his team mates are far too advanced up the pitch. The screenshot also speaks to how defensive and cautious Liverpool was in this match especially after they got a lead. While Man United overloads the left side of the pitch, Valencia is the only outlet on the right. When Herrera managed to get into the offensive position, he was completely cut off as well as Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Martial. This was mainly due to hard defensive work from Liverpool which fell back into 4-5-1 formation when defending.

While Liverpool found it difficult to get on the ball and play their game, they relied on counter attacks but weren’t really successful doing so. Ironically, it was United that created more and better chances off the counter attacks during the first half. Pogba and Mkhitaryan had both good opportunities after Liverpool handed over the ball in the middle third but failed to convert.

Despite the change in the half time (Rooney for Carrick and slight formation alteration from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1) when United went more attacking the things on the pitch changed very little. United was still able to threaten only when they managed to dispossess Liverpool and launch a counter attack. Ibrahimović was crucial in those counter attacks as once the ball was won in the middle, his team mates were looking for him to hold on it. United used well Milner’s offensive stance and Ibrahimović often changed the point of attack down the right flank for on rushing Valencia but they failed to score.

Significant changes came in the 60th minute. As Jurgen Klopp introduced Coutinho Liverpool was finally able to hold the ball in the central midfield area and get into counter attack. On the other side, United was losing patience relying more and more on the crosses. Mata didn’t provide the creative spark Mourinho was hoping for and in 75th minute he went all about crosses. Darmian left the field and was substituted with Marouane Fellaini. As a consequence, Mkhitaryan went to left full back, Rooney was moved from CAM position to left wing and Fellaini went up with Ibrahimović.

This only meant that in last 15 minutes of the game Liverpool had more control with Coutinho on the pitch while the hosts tried to lump the ball forward to two tall players from deep and from flanks. United failed to create anything substantial and the plan clearly didn’t work until it actually worked.

To conclude, for the major part of the match United managed to tame the visitors with great closing down and pressing. However, they weren’t able to break down their defence through the combination play. Liverpool rarely looked so ineffective on the offensive as in the first half of the game but as nerves started to play with United in the second half, they have managed to pick themselves up and will be disappointed to have lost two points so late in the match.

 

This analysis was first published at soccerspecific, a coaching education platform with the mission of creating and sharing the highest quality of coaching information in order to positively impact player development around the world.

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A detail that cost United the win against Arsenal, Man Utd v Arsenal match analysis

Before the match at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger met Mourinho 14 times and failed to get a single victory against his side. Everything he thought about for the Saturday game was useless and, in the end, he was saved by a bit of luck and good intuition. Two changes gave him an assist and a first goal against Mourinho in nine long years to claim a point in a match with Man Utd.
THE CONTEXT

Arsenal came to Old Trafford without defeat since Day 1 of the Premiership wit three wins and two draws in last five matches. Wenger’s team was a clear favourite against the hosts that didn’t connect two wins in a row since August. To make it worse, United had to face Arsenal without suspended Zlatan Ibrahimović and without both starting center backs, Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling. Nevertheless, Mourinho was encouraged by a win in League Cup against Guardiola’s City and two matches in Premiership without a loss. Thus, he ditched six men defence he employed to get some kind of result against Liverpool and Chelsea, and went for relatively open match against Arsenal. Well, to his standards at least.

Although he didn’t park the bus, Mourinho didn’t want to risk too much either. It was yet another difficult game for him since a defeat would settle him back after carefully nurturing his team shaky confidence level in recent games.

MANCHESTER UNITED – DEFENSIVE ORGANIZATION

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United didn’t rush mindlessly into pressing Arsenal and covered spaces in the middle

Above you can see how he, mostly successfully, closed the middle of the pitch forcing Arsenal to build up down the flanks. He was defending zonally oriented on a man while Arsenal was transitioning to the middle third.

He did press Arsenal on his half, however, he did it very selectively. There were two triggers for Man Utd to get out of their defensive shape and close down on opponent in their half.

First trigger were deliberate long balls from their own defensive line. United doesn’t dwell on the ball in their half if they can avoid it. Even less so when opposition is pressing high. Without Ibrahimović upfront, Mourinho instructed his defenders to clear the ball into specific areas. Mainly down the flanks and near the touchline. Reasoning behind this is that receiver of the pass will have less space to cleanly trap the ball. This was the trigger for whole squad to raise their defensive line. Rashford was first man to chase the ball ensuring the receiving full back/defender has also minimal possible time to turn towards United goal and pick his next pass. In meanwhile, midfielders ensured to man mark anyone who could receive that pass. Theoretically this would give Man United a chance to clear the ball on their own terms and react to it with a possibility to win the ball high up the pitch.

Another pressing trigger was largely a reaction to Arsenal actions as United players would defend from front to chase down any back pass to Peter Čeh. The point behind wasn’t really to win the ball high, but to force an opponent to hoof the ball in an uncontrolled manner and then regain the possession since Arsenal lack any strength or aerial ability in the advanced positions. Theoretically, that would allow United to win the ball deep/medium position while opening routes for a quick counter attack when they still had their attacking players in advanced positions against unbalanced defence.

ARSENAL COUNTERING UNITED ZONAL DEFENCE IN MEDIUM BLOCK

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While Arsenal managed to get into the middle third, if Sanchez couldn’t think of something to do with the ball, they were largely without an idea against quite deep and staggered UTD defence

Above you see one of solutions that Arsenal provided to avoid the marking in middle third. One of the weaknesses of man oriented zonal marking is that defender will follow the opponent in his zone. Arsenal is using this with clever off the ball movement from Mesut Ozil and Chilean Sanchez. While Ozil leaves his position in middle towards the right channel, Pogba follows him opening the space. This, in turn, is used by Chilean who drops deep from his central forward position. Depending on reaction of defence, he might have time and space to face goal side or, at least, pick a back/sideways pass.

Arsenal used reverse movement as well to the same effect. At times it was Theo Walcott who would make horizontal movement from right wing position into the centre of the pitch. This would either pull away his marker Darmian or make an overload in the middle. If Darmian followed, a space would open for right back Jenkins to exploit.

MANCHESTER UNITED – OFFENSIVE ORGANIZATION

Due to high value of points in this game (more for the confidence of the team than table position), United was quite reluctant to commit too many men to offensive. This was surely influenced by presence of Theo Walcott who can exploit the space if given. Thus, Darmian largely stayed back together with Michael Carrick to cover for counter attacks. This meant Mourinho had only two central midfielders and Juan Mata to connect their midfield and attack. Despite this, the work rate and off ball ability of Mata/Herrera proved quality more important than quantity.

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While Arsenal was quite solid on defence, the quality of Mata and Herrera provided numerous troubles for them. Above animation is an example of typical movement those two made. Herrera was able to find space and use the ability of Martial’s one trick (cut inside) to receive the pass and unbalance the defence. After Herrera got attention from defence pulling out of the line one of the centre backs there was space behind that was open for Mata to exploit.

This cooperation in the end resulted with seemingly easy finish from Mata from inside the box. However, while it looked pretty straight forward clear chance, it took great deal of composure and technique to connect with such a fast ball. You will notice it was gain a third man’s run that concluded Man United move.

Unlike Mourinho, Wenger was trying to unsettle United defence with number of players in the offensive third. While Sanchez was very effective in a deep lying striker role coming deep to pick a pass, he had no support Mata provided to his team mates. Whenever Sanchez went deep Ozil and Walcott went infield often joined by Ramsey. Unlike United, that failed to give an advantage to Arsenal as their runs were predictable and United defence always had an answer due to deeper stance.

To conclude, United did very well to both, limit Arsenal and create in front of their goal. Visitors were saved by a bit of luck and hunch from Wenger who, midway through the second half, introduced Olivier Giroud and changed the fruitless approach. In the end, Mourinho might be held accountable on the fact he left Rashford on the left flank when Oxlade-Chamberlain was introduced. It was young forward who was supposed to mark Arsenal winger in right back position when fatal cross to Giroud was swung in. Either way, Murinho didn’t get what he wanted despite a solid performance and his team is still looking for confidence although this game seemed a step in right direction. Arsenal on other hand, had a poor performance, especially in the second half and lost the opportunity to challenge the very top of the table. Yet, it is a long season.

Mistakes Mourinho made against Conte, Chelsea v Man Utd analysis

A lacklustre performance from Man United helped Chelsea to a high scoring win while Jose Mourinho made one key mistake even before the game. Although the way United played would sooner or later provide opportunities for hosts, rather strange goal opened the match steering it into one direction.
Encouraged by the win in Europa League and very sound performance against Liverpool, Mourinho went to Stamford Bridge ready for yet another defensive minded match. He essentially tried to emulate the defensive performance from last week. However, while 6-3-1 worked very well against Scousers, it was doomed when it faced Conte’s team.

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Encouraged by a sound performance in defence, Mourinho tried the same plan against Chelsea

Above you see United (blue shirts) in their defensive shape against Liverpool. Main reason this worked so well is due to nature of Klopp’s team. Full backs Clyne and Milner are designated to provide width while Mane, Firmino and Sturridge are all staggered in central areas. That is not so different to Chelsea front three, although Hazard has more liberty in his movement than Firmino as the latter usually doesn’t interfere in Mane’s space.

Compared to Liverpool, Chelsea players are occupying better positions to deal with Mourinho’s defensive block. While wing backs, Moses and Alonso, are in same positions as Clyne and Milner, it is the midfield that is making the difference.

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The key to Chelsea’s success against United is their patience and flat spaceing in midfield (source: @11tegen11)

Above is the passing and positional map of Liverpool and Chelsea playing against Man United. Liverpool was whole match trying to pass the ball quickly to Firmino who would then get caught in the traffic (lost 21 balls, double than any other player in the match). Both advanced midfielders, Can and Coutinho, were very high up the pitch and struggled to get control of the game. The third man, Henderson, remained behind them in holding position.

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While Liverpool tried to attack with midfield triangle (Henderson-Coutinho-Can), flat and deep trio of Chelsea created numerous 3v2 situations allowing them what Liverpool couldn’t master. A control and threat in build up

Chelsea, on the other hand, did things differently. Azpilicueta and (occasionally) Cahill were joining Kante and Matić in the middle from defensive line. This move created numerical parity in the centre of the pitch. Crucial thing happened when the ball switched to left or right. Deep and flat position of three men in midfield (unlike Can-Henderson-Coutinho triangle) created pockets of 3v2 situations in half spaces. While Manchester United might have been rather unlucky to concede after few seconds and then from corner, those 3v2 situations really killed them off.

In the second half Mourinho switched to 4-4-2 as Fellaini was dropped for Juan Mata. This didn’t really influence their approach in attack. As in the first half, United was often found overloading left side and then shifting the ball to Valencia on the right wing for a cross. Although he provided few good crosses targeting rather short Azpilicueta, nothing came of it. Their defensive plan failed to cope with three deep central midfielders as well. In fact, it was these situations that created last two goals Conte’s team scored.

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Hazard-Kante-Matić-Hazard, three players use numerical advantage to take out two Liverpool midfielders and score

Above we see the 62nd minute and nice 3v2 overload on the left side. Mata and Herrera naively follow first pass from Hazard to Kante and then for Matić. This creates space to exploit for Hazard* and Chelsea was three nil up effectively sealing the game off.

 

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Same thing in the right half space. This time is Kante-Azpilicueta-Hazard-Kante sequence that takes out Blind and Pogba and allow central midfielder to enter the box and score with most obvious fake shot in history of Premier League

Ten minutes haven’t passed and same situation occurs in the right half space. Three quick passes from Kante to Azpilicueta and Pedro (not Hazard as the frame wrongly says)** pull out of shape Pogba and Blind while last pass from Pedro back to Kante creates space for Kante to exploit. Yet another 3v2 that unlocked unprepared United defence. It is rare occasion to see basic stuff from training pitch that works so well and consistently during a competitive match.

To conclude, encouraged by good defensive performance against Liverpool, Mourinho went to Stamford Bridge hoping to repeat the result. However, he failed to adapt his defence to Chelsea’s offensive style and paid dearly. Even if Chelsea didn’t score that early goal and corner, lack of attention to Conte’s midfield would catch him sooner or later. Inability to adapt the defence to that midfield three was crucial to the result. It will be interesting to see how Mourinho reacts to this heavy defeat in two days when he plays the derby against Guardiola. Chelsea will, on the other hand, find new belief in their manager and his ideas after such a comfortable win. A crucial thing in a long journey of creating a bond and trust between the players and the manager.

*and ** – thanks to Sarcasmatican from reddit football tactics community for rectifying these two mistakes!

EPL: Liverpool v Man Utd analysis; A masterpiece from Mourinho

Jose Mourinho got the stick and stone from media and fans as his Manchester United drew against Liverpool at Anfield in, what was labelled, the worst derby of the decade. Fans just can’t accept defensive stance he took at Anfield after spending huge money in the summer on transfer. However, having good players doesn’t really equal good team and that is only one of the things that comes into the equation.

Before the match Liverpool was the favourite to win the game. They haven’t been so efficient in decades while United is still in search for best 11. They had big trouble overcoming Ukrainian side Zorya in Europa League and managed only a draw in their last match with Stoke. It is safe to say the mood in the dressing room is far from perfect. To make it worst, after big match against Liverpool, Man Utd has to play Fenerbahce, Chelsea and Guardiola’s Man City in next ten days.

 
All that together made it a very difficult game for Mourinho who had to make some important decisions. Above all, Mourinho didn’t want to lose the game since that would drop the morale even further as he approaches difficult ten days. He did everything to avoid that and with style, taking care of most threats his opposition posed. Last time he faced a team that plays the ball from back was against Man City. Mourinho opted for quite deep defence and very passive approach with zero pressing. Man City completely dominated United in that match and punished the choice. So, against Liverpool, Mourinho chose to obstruct opposition high up the pitch in order to stop their transition into the middle third. This way he made home side suffer numerous possession turnovers and, what is perhaps more important, Liverpool lost confidence in build up and smooth approach to rival’s goal.

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Clearances aren’t most ellegant way to play but they are surely better than getting caught in gegenpressing. Especially if your forwards can win most of the headers

He also sent his team on the pitch with clear idea not to succumb to gegenpressing. “Heavy metal” football that Klopp employs is a trade mark of his team. To avoid that trap Mourinho didn’t want too much fiddling with the ball in own third. De Gea’s ball distribution shows he didn’t make single short pass during the match and if you look at the above diagram of clearances made, you can se United punted the ball on numerous occasions. Being pragmatic is what Mourinho does best and if clearing the ball means not being caught in gegenpressing, then United will and did punt the ball almost every two minutes during the game.

Often disputed Marouane Fellaini found his way into the starting line up as, together with Ibrahimović and Pogba, he is extremely useful in those situations. Statistics show that those punted balls weren’t really so hopeless as United managed to win aerial duels three times more than their opponents. It isn’t a coincidence as almost ten per cent of passes United made were chipped balls for tall and strong Ibrahimović, Pogba and Fellaini. While it is very dubious offensive plan since most of second balls off the headers get scooped by defence anyway, it is still a plan and United played to their strengths. In the end, the best chance they had came in 53rd minute when Ibrahimović headed the ball unusually poor.

However, remember that main idea behind the game plan was not to concede the goal by not getting caught in gegenpressing. The offensive plan was just a side effect of main goal.
However, Mourinho had to think how to stop Liverpool on the ball once they do break the pressing. LFC plays a particular brand of football where full backs provide width while attacking trio is relatively free to roam and switch positions hoping to exploit the width created by wide and offensive full backs.

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Bus being parked might be ugly sight to see, but if it means you will cover half spaces and deny time and space for three central forwards… Who cares? Mourinho doesnt

Above you can see Liverpool in offensive shape with Clyne and Milner very wide while offensive players plus two attacking minded midfielders (Can and Coutinho) look to break through the defensive block. However, Mourinho nullified the space they need by having two energetic wingers who marked full backs. You can tell how well prepared and thought out was Mourinho as he Ashley Young got his first starting spot since January. His ability to repeatedly run up and down the pitch was crucial for Mourinho. Ability Lingard lacks.

Using wingers to mark opposition full backs tightly liberated defensive fore from direct threat and made the half spaces occupied and unapproachable by Firmino, Mane, Sturridge and Coutinho. Mourinho simply nullified the space they need to operate. With Fellaini, Herrera and Pogba in center midfield United completely closed down space and time Liverpool would need to develop their flair and direct runs to the goal. This approach, coupled with quick direct forward passing, insured Liverpool had no chance to catch them in possession to spur counter attack and no space to play direct towards the goal nor ability to create overloads.
Despite having 65 per cent of possession, Liverpool managed only three shots on goal and only one was really dangerous. An incident from 58th minute when Liverpool was able to find Emre Can who managed a shot from inside penalty area. While United had even fewer opportunities, they really didn’t care. They came to seal off one of the most potent teams in Premiership and they did it almost perfectly. While that meant only few players in offensive positions and anger from fans, Mourinho really won’t care. He had a task, studied it well, and his players executed it even better.

Despite the outrage on the social networks, real loser was Juergen Klopp. He failed to adapt and only once he put Adam Lallana on the pitch his team was more dangerous. However, by that time, visitors were already even more decisive to keep bodies behind the ball. In the end, both managers will be happy. Liverpool was favourite but still didn’t lose and they have few “easier” games ahead while United bought some time before difficult weak ahead while keeping the clean sheet against one of the best attacks in the league.

EURO FINALS: Apprentice Deschamps and master Santos, France v Portugal analysis

Second extra time decided the winner of EURO 2016 when Eder struck a long shot into the bottom corner to clinch it for Portugal against hosts France after a long fought battle that was tactically won by Portugal. While France made no changes going into the final they were favourites to win, Portugal was lucky to have Pépé back who recovered from injury and replaced Bruno Alves that played semi final game. William Carvalho came back from suspension and replaced Danilo Pereira in defensive midfielder role.
Despite being labelled as favourites, France changed little compared to semi final match they won against Germany. Didier Deschamps set his team to defend their own half and showed no desire to risk defensive compactness by pressing high up the pitch. Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo who are both pacey and skilled on the ball were also in favour of this decision as high pressing means high defensive line which could leave a lot of space for Portugal front two to exploit.

Going forward, France again didn’t change their approach. They were largely relying on individual skill of Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann ability to combine and create something for themselves or their team mates. Either Giroud and Sissoko, who was often coming inside, or Evra overlapping Payet. Matuidi and Pogba were very conservative and kept back most of the time making an odd forward run.

Initially Portugal was under a lot of pressure. More due to importance of the game than French involvement. They were misplacing passes and making unforced errors while Blaise Matuidi and Sissoko were reading the game really well taking the misplaced passes. Below you can see how high France was able to intercept the ball or win the tackle in the first half, and most of those turnovers Portugal made during initial 15 minutes of the match.

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Impressed Portugal lost ball high in first half, as the game progressed you can see they didn’t make similar mistakes later on

 

Portugal were obviously impressed and lacked their defensive cohesion as well. Below you see France attacking and Payet free on the ball. Despite Cristiano Ronaldo failed to track back and Portugal defence is pulled out of shape, Payet is lacking passing options due to France being reluctant to push Matuidi or Pogba forward.

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Despite having time and space on the ball, Payet has no passing options since France is too afraid to advance with numbers

This passive approach meant that despite numerous mistakes by Portugal players, France wasn’t able to make their domination count in the opening stage. Once Portugal managed to find the rhythm to their defensive positioning everything looked even worse for France as you see on the image below.

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Once behind the ball, Portugal closes all approaches to advanced positions

As Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo dropped behind the ball there was no passing lanes left open for France since they were often with at least four or five players minding possible counter attack more than attacking themselves. This was broken only when Sissoko or Matuidi drove forward with the ball at feet. However, Portugal always had a spare man to tackle or put attackers off balance.

French plan to create something was mainly down to movement. Payet and Sissoko often moved centrally while Evra, and less so Sagna, overlapped le Griezmann went deeper. However, Portugal stood firmly and their players didn’t let opponents drag them out of position.

As France failed to score in opening minutes when Portugal looked unable to cope with pressure, a major incident happened as Cristiano Ronaldo had to leave the field due to knee injury. This was turning point in the match as, instead of crumbling without their leader, Portugal rallied themselves in spite the trouble and kept plugging.

Once Cristiano Ronaldo was substituted with Quaresma Fernando Santos made an important change. Renato Sanches went into center of midfield letting Quaresma on right wing while Nano was left up front alone. This meant Portugal changed to 4-1-4-1 while defending meaning Joao Mario on left and Quaresma on right would track back following French full backs and letting Cèdric to man mark Payet and following him into center midfield where he was taken over by extra man Portugal had in center of the pitch.

This meant France had even tougher time getting into decent position to threaten Rui Patricio. In meanwhile, Portugal got foothold on the match and was mainly oriented to quick direct passes forward. Whenever Rui Patricio got his hand on the ball he was looking for an option of quick pass to catch France out of position. While this didn’t really allow Portugal to get into threatening position, it did put a pressure on France and made them unwilling to commit more players forward.

By the time first half ended, Portugal was more convinced they might come out with a win and all possession and chances France created from individual efforts dwindled down into a stalemate.

While Portugal didn’t change anything, France came back from dressing room looking to press higher and finally score. However, their pressing was largely uncoordinated as they were still sitting deep. You can see below how lonely are Griezmann and Giroud as midfield doesn’t have time to arrive and press the man since their starting position is too deep for high pressing to be effective.

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While in second half France went pressing, their defence was too deep and midfield had to cover too much ground to make a coordinated effort with two strikers

Apart for (ineffective) high pressing, Didier Deschamps changed little in his approach to attack on the ball. In meanwhile, Portugal was tiring France forwards who were chasing the ball whenever it was in vicinity. Rarely in their grasp, though. Bellow you can see Portugal frustrating their opponents as creative Payet was tracked into half space by Cedric who effectively cancelled him out of the game.

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One way to stop France is to block their Playmakers. Cedric drifted centrally to prevent Payet from receiving the ball however, poor defending from Quaresma gave opportunity to France. However, Deschamps didn’t use it

However, Quaresma isn’t paying attention and Evra gets behind his back to pick a long pass from Matuidi. This forces Cedric to abandon Payet as he tracks Evra’s run and Portuguese defence collapses. This was only thing that worked really well for France and one has to ask himself if Deschamps should have exploited Quaresma’s defensive awareness more and focus attacks down right.

However, Deschamps did substitute Payet for Coman who proved to be most dangerous man in French line up during the rest of the game and Griezmann failed to convert his ideally served cross. Other opportunities he created were largely due to individual effort instead of systematic exploit of Quaresma’s defensive weakness.

Slowly through second half game changed and final move from Fernando Santos was to introduce Eder in place of Renato Sanches. He changed his shape once more and shifted to 4-3-3, although, without the ball it was old same 4-1-4-1. Also, this meant Quaresma went to left wing and Coman had to deal with Nani who’s work rate is much higher compared to Quaresma’s.

More importantly, once on the pitch, Eder was able to cope with strong and tall French midfielders Matuidi and Pogba. This gave Portugal a focal point, target man, up front who was able to hold the ball allowing his team mates to join the attack.

Once Portugal was able to get on the ball more consistently, French defensive weakness showed again. Just as Germany was able to pass through French lines, Portugal could do the same once they had ability to hold the ball.

As the match was getting ever deeper into the extra time France seemed like they stopped believing they could win and just hoped, while Portugal went the opposite way until Eder got on the ball in 109th minute to strike it into the bottom of Lloris’ net. Although he was close, Sissoko didn’t even come near to close him down and help his defenders. He was rather hoping Eder will miss instead of believing he could stop him.

To conclude, Portugal played as they did whole knock out phase. They covered the back with discipline, energy and a bit of luck while they tried to score on quick counter attack. It was really France who should have thought the plan to break them. However, beside individual efforts, that served them well together with luck, they showed little team effort to overcome determined Portugal. Deschamps had no real plan how to break them and even reacted poorly as he failed to exploit poor defending from Quaresma. On the other hand Fernando Santos seemed to pick all the right cards. He marked closely Payet and had Carvalho always near Griezmann. Once France got under the pressure he added to it even more introducing a strong striker who relieved his defence and in the end managed to score.

 

Better to be born without penis than luck, GERvFRA analysis

After hosts France beat Germany in second EURO semi final we are slowly coming to conlusion of what once was the toughest football tournament in the world. Prior to the game France had quite clear startng line up while Joachim Loew had to make som e hard decisions due to suspensions and injuries.

Since Mario Gomez was injured he had no striker and decided to leave on bench Goetze while Thomas Mueller took most advanced spot in 4-2-3-1 formation. Khedira was out as well and Loew opted for Emre Can instead of Weigel while Hoewedes took the place of Hummels. The biggest problem for Loew was no proper striker in the squad and Khedira’s replacement. However, with Mueller up front Loew was confident he could create chances for others or himself. Style of play was changed since Gomez is less mobile but bigger threat in the air while Can took the role of coming from deep and adding to aerial power in absence of tall striker.

As the game started France came out as if they are going to tear apart Germany but five minutes were enough for Loew’s team to take controll on the pitch. They didn’t differ from their overall approach during the tournament. Plan was to get high, compress the opposition and then to create overload either by passing and movement or to switch the point of attack. Once France didn’t bother to press high, Die Mannschaft had little trouble bringing football forward and compressing France into their own half.

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Loew tried to break deep French defence by sending his center backs forward to create numerical advantage

Above you see a prototype of modern center back as Boateng is entering his midfield line to create a spare man. Advancing full backs are always creating an option on the wing, but what Loew preferes is overload in midfield which is allowed once Boateng enters the zone unopposed. He has number of options infront and Schweinsteiger with Kroos on his sides who can support him if he gets closed down. However, that isn’t preferred option. Actual plan is for Mueller to drag away Coscielny who leaves a gap for Draxler to get in and receive the ball.

France had great trouble stipping these passes through the middle and were only lucky not to get punished. You can see below how french failed to cope with their opponents roaming through their zones of responsability. Oezil is free on the ball and has an easy pass to Mueller who is coming to receive the pass. Before the move is over Die Mannschaft has created an overload on Payet and Mueller passes quick ball to flank for Kimmich who can go one on one with Patrice Evra and look for cut back, cross or recycle the possession with Oezil again.

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Despite France allowed numerous passes between lines, Germany didn’t have a man to convert chances created

Emre Can had an important role here as, while Oezil looked to drop deeper, Can was taking his position ready for run into the box replacing Gomez as an aerial threat in case his team mates chose to cross the ball. Despite numerous passes through French defensive lines, Germany failed to get anything out of their domination in the first half. One individual mistake from experienced Schweinsteiger gave Griezmann opportunity to score and he took it happily.

Germany had to be very disappointed going into the dressing room as they controlled the match and, while they didn’t create any extraordinary chances, France wasn’t any better. Start of second half was the same as the first with France pushing early on and then getting compressed in their half again.

While without the ball, Germany was, unlike France, trying to press high and disturb French transition into the middle third. It worked reasonably well but apart occasional break, French were always ready to get back and cover. Germany didn’t change their approach as they must have been fairly confident they will score with all the possession. However, another individual mistake, this time from Kimmich who carelessly lost the ball in his own area, essentially ended the game.

French kept to their feeble defending that Germany wasn’t able to break mainly due to lack of any inspiration from Mueller or Oezil and some great defending from new Barcelona star Samuel Umtiti.
As time went on Germany was ever more desperate since nothing they did went in, and France was happy to override its own midfield and ping direct long balls to Griezmann who was kind of player Germany missed to make this trully classic match.

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French were happy to send long direct balls for in form Griezmann bypassing their midfield while Mueller disappointed not being able to get on the ball. If that was Gomez, it would be fine, but player as Mueller should have participated more  (diagram source: @11tegen11)

If you look above you can see Fraance mainly attacked down left without trying to involve Pogba or Matuidi in the center. Deschamps put all his faith in Griezmann – Giroud partnership and got it right. Germany will be heavily disappointed with Mueller who was completely lost between French center backs.

To conclude, what Germany was lacking was an inspired player that France had in Griezmann for whole tournament. Their defending was apalling at times but theere was no one there who was able to punish it. In the end, they were collectively punished by elimination. Was Loew able to do something to overturn result? Not really, Germany had sound plan and executed it reasonably, just as French did. They didn’t have any luck though, and as they say were I come from, it is better to be born without a dick than without luck.

EURO Quarter finals; FRAvICE analysis: A Deceiving victory

The last of quarter finals at EURO brought us a true underdog Iceland against France which, in the end, showed England how it is done. A comfortable win for home nation, however, might be a tad bit deceiving. Unlike England, everything French did seem to work. They had three shots in first 20 minutes and scored twice. Summed up, It was a very harsh game for brave Iceland that kept plugging when most teams would have just waited for a million of grasshoppers to have invaded the pitch and eat all the grass so the match is abandoned.
Front page of L’equipe, famous French football magazine, published a title “Can we be as stupid as English?” before the match as a reminder to their team. They were under pressure but hadtadd bit more confidencee than their rivals over The Channel. Iceland, on the other hand, came on the pitch ready for another surprise.

Didier Deschamps was aware of quick counters down wings that Iceland loves, not as much for the possibility of cross (although, they would take that) but as an opportunity for Aron Gunnarsson’s throw ins. France wasn’t pressing high and both full backs, Patrice Evra and Bakary Sagna, were particularly careful during the opening minutes not to surge forward too much.

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First rule from Deschamps to prevent an upset; don’t overcommit your fullbacks and leave flanks open

You can see above that Sagna had a tad bit more attacking role on the right in first half but generally both fullbacks, despite their attacking ability, played quite a conservative game. Their role, when France had the ball, was to widen the pitch and spread Iceland defence so offensive players Payet, Griezmann and Sissoko had more space. Only occasionally Sagna would cross from advanced positions (twice) while Evra was more concerned about passing the ball to advanced wide play maker Dmitri Payet or Blaise Matuidi.

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Second rule of Deschamps to prevent upset; keep your defence clean and tidy. Don’t press high allowing them easy counters

Apart not overcommitting fullbacks when on the ball, France was obviously defending without it. Above you see they employed fairly high line at about 10 meters behind the half line. However, they didn’t press relentlessly at all even if Icelandic defenders aren’t exactly comfortable on the ball. Pressing the ball carrier would allow them to get the ball much higher but at risk of giving Iceland opportunity to slingshot long balls for their tall strikers up front and fast transition they are good at.

Instead, Deschamps opted much more patient and controlled approach, as with his full backs when on the ball, letting Iceland find their way through his defensive lines. You can see effect of that bellow. Not having particularly creative players in midfield Iceland had tough time arriving in the middle third and even tougher getting into attacking third. They were left with long balls onto set up French defence that marked their forwards.

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The result of Deschamps’ rules; long balls towards marked forwards

Neutralizing counter attacks with conservative full backs and zonal defending without the ball to prevent confusion in defence were main aims for Deschamps ensuring Iceland is kept at bay. Going forward, however, France had to offer a lot. Basically they did what Belgium wanted to do whole tournament but were unable.

Deschamps played with two defensive midfielders, although Pogba was very keen to go forward, and Payet as a wide play maker on left. While Griezmann was allowed to move freely and Giroud often backtracked to make room for him and Sissoko cutting inside from right. These movements were often confusing for Iceland and created quite a few opportunities. Mainly due to Iceland defending.

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Arrigho Sacchi wouldn’t approve: If you play high defensive line, make sure ball carrier is not able to ping long direct balls to forwards. Or practice off side trap!

Above you can see how high is the Iceland defensive line. They are tight and compact and that is all well and good. However, Arrigho Sacchi wouldn’t approve the behaviour of Forwards Bodvarsson and Sigthorsson. If you are playing high line as Iceland, even if it is as nice and compact as theirs, you leave a lot of space behind the defence, around 40 meters in this particular case. To make this effective your strikers can not simply look at the player with the ball, especially if it is Paul Pogba who has really good and precise long pass.

These passes repeated through the first half and created a goal and a few chances. Combined with cut ins from Payet and intelligent off ball movement from Griezmann and Giroud, these was the offensive plan from Deschamp to supply his strikers. It worked so well it was unfair to Iceland who failed to adapt their pressing game to disrupt it. However, goals came so fast and in quick succession that game was virtually taken away from the opposition team. Not for Iceland, mind you.

They had to be frustrated at half time and wanted to prove it was not what they are capable of. Laagerbaek Substituted Arnasson who had a torrid game with Ingasson and more mobile Finnbogasson came in for fairly static Bodvarsson. They also changed the formation when on the ball. Captain Gunnarsson dropped between two center backs while full backs went higher and Bjarnasson together with Gudmundsson went central to form 3-5-2 which often transformed into 3-4-3 as Bjarnasson and Gudmundsson surged forward in possession.

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Iceland changed their approach in second half and transformed into 3-4-3/3-5-2 while attacking. Good choice, too bad France was merciless in front of goal

More offensive stance from the beginning of second half paid off after 10 minutes but French efficiency was really ruthless and Giroud scores yet again from another set piece. This didn’t dishearten Iceland as they continued with their approach looking for crosses and set pieces and they managed to score six minutes before the end.

France was largely content to preserve energy for semi final with Germany throughout the second half and wrapped the game looking for counter attacks. As Iceland was wide open at times they could have scored more.

To conclude, France had sound plan with direct balls for offensive players as well as quick combination play mainly down left where Dmitri Payet operated. Iceland helped them with inadequate closing down of ball carrier allowing time and space for French to pick their passes into attacking third. France got luck on their side as well since they scored two goals from their first three shots and then added another two goals from next three tries.

Strange game that didn’t give moment of breath to Iceland and might be quite deceiving for France going into the match with Germany.