Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tactical Talks - Part I

Routine Training Session

Credit to Midhun Mohandas for handing me the idea of writing this long and boring piece

APTW takes a break from the usual satirical stuff and gets down to talking some real footie stuff once in a while. And since Real Madrid haven't been playing much "Football" lately, It's better to indulge in some retrospection, introspection and into the ether to divulge the future; the future of the team. Like the title suggests, APTW will try to discuss different aspects in this article in sets of three. However, I'll like to warn you that at times in this article you'll feel like you're watching Memento because it'll reference some parts that have already been discussed, so you may find yourself scrolling back to the top and reading those parts just for things to make sense.

So let’s move on to the first one...

Team Dynamics

After 6 match days, three things are quite clear about the team..
  1. We have an unholy number of shots at goal, but closer inspection reveals that very few chances have been realistic chances (Re: Matches against Auxerre, Levante, Sociedad, Osasuna, Mallorca)
  2. We've struggled to break down resolute defences, primarily because we're defensively oriented ourselves (Wait a second, we have the highest number of shots on goal!..Re: point 1 above)
  3. The mavericks have failed to adjust to the team dynamics which Mourinho is trying to get into place (Re: Ronaldo, Di Maria -goal notwithstanding, Higuain, Benzema)
 Opposition Dynamics

The second aspect worth concentrating on is the opposition. After 6 match days (and some liberal predictions), three things are clear about what our opposition will set out to do...
  1. Either park the bus, i.e. 2 lines of 4 defenders each, with a spare man to pick up any of our overlapping attackers and 1 physically strong forward at the half line to hold on to the ball and orchestrate a quick counter 
  2. Quick Pressing to stifle us, to not allow us time on the ball, force us into wayward passes and hoof the ball to forwards 
  3. Match us man to man and turn it into a possession struggle in the center of the park.
I expect chances of that happening are.. 70% for Point 1, 20% for Point 2, 10% for Point 3. The essential thing is to predict how teams will play against us and then devise a strategy to counter that. For example, against teams like Levante and Auxerre, it was totally obvious right from the outset what they'd do, and yet we persisted with questionable strategies that made us make a match out of a walk over (okay, that's exaggeration for you). It's quite obvious (even without possessing the tactical nous of a Nostradamus and Mourinho combined) that teams like Atletico Madrid, United and Villareal would play us like mentioned in point 2, and teams like Barcelona, Bayern would play us like in point 3.

Based on these premises, I'll propose three different broad level strategies that the team can adopt.

Countering Point 1 of Opposition Dynamics

Since this is going to be a persistent problem we're going to face as the season ages, it is essential that we have some strategies to counter this effective and efficient move by the opposition. So, Broadly speaking...
  1. We should do away with the defensive double pivot. Amongst Alonso / Khedira / Lass / Mahamadou, except Alonso, we do not have any other ball playing defensively minded midfielder who can link up the defence to attack exceedingly and consistently well; i.e. carry the ball out from defence to attack. Lass, when he plays, tries to do so much that he complicates a simple passing move by over running or by breaking the paradigms of zonal marking; chasing the person with the ball to the ends of the Earth. Khedira poses much more talent and positional sense than Lass and Diarra and should logically start above them, but he looks out of ideas in the final third. Still, he is a workable solution against parked buses only when we shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3. Against organized defences, it is only logical that we should put in as many attackers (in their proper respective places) as we can, so that we stand more chances of trying to break the wall. A 4-3-3 formation enables a minimum of 6 passing triangles amidst a defensive wall of 8. Add to that the horizontal passing lanes coupled with the fullbacks' overlapping runs, and the possibilities are endless. In a 4-2-3-1, it often happens that the two defensive midfielders sit away from the action (which means we hog possession) and it leaves a line of 3 midfielders which the opposition's first line of 4 cancels out, and to add to the misery, the box poacher is totally lost
  2. The 4-3-3 looks simple but is difficult to master, and as such requires players of a typical style, i.e. those trained in off-the-ball movements (currently a serious issue that needs to be addressed), and playing in their natural habitat and side of the pitch. What Mourinho did against Auxerre was absolutely shocking; playing 3 defensive midfielders in a 4-3-3 against a side which was expected to defend, thereby rendering the formation useless. What he should've done (yes APTW is more qualified than him) is play Oezil in the lopsided advanced left center midfielder role (his natural habitat for Germany and Werder) and Granero in the deep lying right center midfielder role (his natural habitat for Getafe) with Alonso in his deep lying center role (his natural habitat for Spain and Liverpool). The forward line was correct with Benzema and Ronaldo changing flanks giving the center-backs no chance to guess whom to mark and Higuain trading passes with them, but there was a distinct absence of passing triangles (re: Point 2 of Team Dynamics) and as such little of note was created. The good thing was when Mesut Oezil replaced Lass and Di Maria replaced Benzema and the goal, when it came in came from players in their preferred positions (Ramos on right to Oezil behind the striker to Di Maria on the left), and one of the few team worked goals of this season
  3. The second alternative, or Plan B if I may, would be to use a 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-2 with natural wide players after doing away with the inverted wingers. Needless to say, the wide players should be Di Maria and Pedro Leon in their natural habitat with overlapping fullbacks, who in addition to the 2 strikers in the box (beefing up the presence in the box), stretch play and increase our presence in the final third

To be continued..


Raulette said...

That's some meat for Mou to think about. I completely agree with your formation for yesterday's game -- although I haven't watched it. It just makes more sense to complicate less. Why am I not getting this updated in my RSS Feed. So strange. I should try subscribing to it as a blog. Yesterday, 1-0 was lucky, with the angel flying down and whatnot. But for a team with the desperation to finish first in the group...
And how can Mou even say "...if we beat Milan" so casually! it's effing Milan! And more importantly, it's us! We have the uncanny ability to fuck things up and boost the opposition's morale in a game we are dominating.

Ashay K. said...

Good Words Dhenuka. Milan, at their worst (last season) did the double over us, hell even their legends team always manages to beat our legends team.

I'd approach it very very cautiously, though I have to say beating them should be our objective; simple reason being that it would show us where we stand in Europe.

As for the subscribing part, on the right side, there's a link for subscribe to RSS; do that. That will enable this blog to pop up in your RSS feed.

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