Saturday, 15 October 2011

Adelaide 1-0 Victory: Match Analysis

This was a taut, tense and heated affair between the two clubs with arguably the most vitriolic rivalry in the A-League; the Reds and the Navy Blues. South Australians scarcely need reminding of the utterly dominant record the Victorians hold over them, the highlights of which include Archie Thompson's 5-goal shellacking in the inaugural 2006-7 Grand Final, and a 5-year undefeated streak held against the Reds that Coolen was only able to break last year. For the Reds, this was a match to savour. Ultimately, the result was decided by a mistaken pass, Van Dijk's predatory instincts and confirmed by a questionable sending off of Leijer. While both managers employed 4-2-3-1 shapes, there were distinctive differences between the two; namely the roles of Harry Kewell, shifted from trequartista to centre forward, and Zenon Caravella, a passing midfielder who has found himself shunted out on the wing.

Victory System:
Durakovic sent the Victory out in a 4-2-3-1. The backline was identical to last weeks; from left to right, Fabio, Vargas, Leijer and Foschini. Celeski was out with injury, so Broxham partnered Brebner in a defensive double pivot. Thompson resumed his role as an inside forward on the left, with Marco Rojas wide at right wing. Harry Kewell was moved up into the No 9 role, with stalwart playmaker Carlos Hernandez returning in the No 10 role.

Tactical observers have often said that modern day tactics, because of the homogeniety of contemporary football, is just about deploying attacking players in different positions. In this case, swapping Kewell and Thompson would have brought the attacking four into their nominal berths. Just something to consider.  

Adelaide System:
Coolen deployed Adelaide in a 4-2-3-1. From left to right, Cassio, Susak, McKain and Malik formed a similar backline to last weeks. Levchenko and Dilevski were partnered in the double pivot. Vidosic made his league debut in the centre of the attacking trident, with Slory nominally on the right and Caravella nominally on the left. Van Dijk performed as the lone striker.

Levchenko holds the reputation of a superb passing midfielder. To date, both of Adelaide's games have been hectic, full blooded affairs, so we have yet to really see his ability on the ball.

Role of Kewell:
Last week, Harry Kewell outshone his Socceroo colleague Brett Emerton, performing as the playmaker behind Danny Allsopp. His passing and creative ability was given centre stage on which to flourish, helped by the space Allsopp created between the lines by occupying the Sydney centrebacks. He was the primary conduit of the Navy Blues attack, receiving the ball midfield, and directing passes for Rojas and Thompson.

Against Adelaide, Durakovic pushed Kewell forward into the lone striker role. He generally performed positively, but there is a case to be made that he was less effective, and less influential, in the central striking role than as the advanced playmaker. In advance of Carlos Hernandez, Kewell was tasked with holding the ball up and running the channels. Now it bears repeating that Kewell did not perform badly; it's just that his influence was relatively lessened against Adelaide compared to against Sydney. Victory fans would be justified in asking why this was so, given that Kewell excelled when deployed as the 'most advanced' forward by Osieck at the Asian Cup.

The answer lies with who occupied the attacking midfield/withdrawn striker berth alongside Kewell, and the type of role Kewell was asked to perform by Osieck and Durakovic respectively as that advanced forward.

During the Asian Cup, Kewell was 'partnered' by none other than Tim Cahill. Tim's style of play is markedly different than that of Carlos Hernandez. Cahill is a hard-runner; he likes to work the opposition centre backs, run the channels himself, and link-up in build-up play with short passes. Hernandez is an orthodox trequartista, always searching for space to receive the ball, looking to play the 'killer pass' to wide runners. If he is starved of possession, Hernandez drops deeper into midfield. This left Kewell isolated up front against Adelaide, reduced to chasing keeper-to-defence short passes.

At the Asian Cup, Osieck deployed Kewell as the most advanced forward, but he was given an amount of leeway with his positioning. He was generally able to drift left and link with Carney and McKay; and his drifting enabled him to contribute creatively. Additionally, Kewell and Cahill took it in turns to harass the opposition centre backs and drift; if Cahill stayed static, Kewell would drift left, and if Kewell stayed static, Cahill would drop deep.

Against Adelaide, Durakovic instructed Kewell to perform not as a creative forward, but as the attacking spearhead, tasked with holding the ball up for the attacking trident behind him. These were the primary reasons Kewell was less influential creatively as the centre forward compared to his role as the advanced playmaker.

In essence, Kewell was 'wasted' being asked to perform a physical job up front, when it is his creative ability that sets him apart (that's not to say he should be absolved of defensive responsibility). Why use Kewell as the 'battering ram' when you have hard running and physical strikers like Solorzano and Allsopp in the squad? Ostensibly, Kewell was probably pushed up to accommodate Hernandez.

Role of Vidosic:
It has been noted before by PM, in our season preview of Adelaide, that Coolen presided over a remarkable 13-games unbeaten streak at the start of last season. Coolen, as the manager, deserves a majority of the credit, but that team; Van Dijk, Dodd, Pantelis, Flores, Hughes, Reid, Fyfe, and Corthwaite was actually constructed by his predecessor, Aurelio Vidmar. Most importantly, that squad had bonded together during the disastrous previous campaign, as well as the incredible run to the Asian Champions League Final.

The star of that team, Marcos Flores has departed. Flores operated as an old-style South American trequartista; outstanding control in close quarters, able to jink past opposition with flair, most effective operating 'in the hole' and operated as a genuine playmaker; the whole attack revolved around him. Now at the highest level, conventional trequartistas have fallen out of fashion, replaced by creative players who can operate out wide and cut-in.

We haven't seen enough of Dario Vidosic to make an informed and considered judgement, but it is plain to see that, even though he wears the No 10, Vidosic is not the type of player that would traditionally have occupied that shirt. Vidosic is a more modern attacking midfield type. His passing skills aren't his greatest asset (they aren't bad by any measure), and he appears 'busier' off the ball.

Role of Caravella:
Caravella's role this season is of interest. He made his name at Gold Coast, as an intelligent passing midfielder. With Jason Culina occupying the advanced playmaker role, Zenon was tasked with distributing the ball from midfield. PM expected he would occupy a similar role at Adelaide, paired alongside a physical presence. But in Adelaide's two games this season, Caravella has been shunted out wide on the wing.

He clearly looks uncomfortable with chalk on his boots. He doesn't take on his fullback, and is not particularly adept at cutting-in to support Van Dijk. He has flourished however, in the few passages of play where he has drifted in close proximity to Levchenko and Dilevski, where he is able to pass the ball short and keep possession. Quite why Coolen persists in deploying Caravella out wide is a mystery. The better option, using the starting XI against the Victory, would be Dilevki, Levchenko and Caravella in central midfield, with Vidosic and Slory cutting-in from the flanks; both are speedy attacking players, and should be given space to accelerate.

Too direct:
Adelaide have been disappointing this season. Their attack has been too direct. Favouring a direct approach, in and of itself, is a legitimate tactical decision. But with Adelaide, there doesn't seem to be any thought to the approach; it's just a case of hit it long and hope for the knockdown. Van Dijk's goal is another prime example. Adelaide fans would probably cite the goal as evidence that direct play yields results, but that goal was a product of Van Dijk profitting from a Victory mistake. McKain won a free kick, hoofed the ball up the pitch. Vargas contested against Van Dijk, won the header and cushioned it down to Fabio. Fabio, under no pressure, mis-hit the ball to Broxham, who was wrong-footed. Van Dijk was simply the fastest to react to the loose ball; he swept it up and finished sweetly.

Red card:
Leijer received a second yellow for a rash challenge. The tackles themselves weren't particularly out of the ordinary, but Leijer has to improve his discipline; Victory need their captain and best central defender. As PM noted in Victory's season preview, there does seem to a be a relative paucity of talent in central midfield and defence compared to the forward line, and Leijer's suspension will either support or refute that argument.

Adelaide after the red:
Only after they gained a numerical advantage did we begin to see Adelaide pass the ball well. But with Victory content to absorb pressure and hit on the break, you would be worried if Adelaide were sloppy in possession. The Reds should count themselves lucky; Hernandez nearly stole a draw with a fantastic shot that ricocheted off the wood.

All in all, a fairly even contest. Kewell can be used as a creative forward effectively, but in this case, he was asked to fulfull a different role up front. Caravella's deployment is mystifying. The more that is seen of Adelaide, the less convincing is their title challenge.

Player Rankings:
Adelaide | Victory
10) Susak | Vargas
9) McKain | Broxham
8) Levchenko | Foschini
7) Malik | Fabio
6) Dilevski | Leijer
5) Caravella | Brebner
4) Cassio | Rojas
3) Slory | Thompson
2) Van Dijk | Kewell
1) Vidosic | Hernandez


cptFantasy said...

The inaugural A-League Grand Final was between Sydney and the perennial bridesmaids the Mariners.

Pass and Move said...

Point taken, thanks for the comment. Can I ask how you found this site?

Ricky said...

Hey guys, found the site off Twitter. I can't remember who it was but they tweeted a link to the site and recommended it. It's already in my bookmarks, so you've got an extra regular reader now. Love the work being done.

Come On You Reds said...

Interesting that you considered McKain one of our worst on the night, he was awarded the Kosmina-Muscat medal after the game.

Pass and Move said...

Didn't know that. Those rankings are also there to convey influence on the game. McKain made some vital blocks and tackles, but he played the ball long and more often than not lost possession.

Thanks for the comment, can I ask how you found this site?

Come On You Reds said...

No worries, great to see a Zonal Marking kind of site for the A-League.

Someone linked this from the FourFourTwo forums.

Pass and Move said...

Yeah ZM was my inspiration. Actually got in touch with Michael Cox and he was very supportive.

Thanks again, appreciate your support

Pass and Move said...

Thanks for the support Ricky, sorry for the late reply.

We've got about 70 articles posted, dating back from Australia v Thailand, so there's a lot to read.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

I would say after the Red that there was a total breakdown from Melbourne. Questionable decision to place Broxham inbetween Foschini and Leijer, who clearly looked out of place at CB.

Vargas did well to hold any resemblance of a defense together.

Pass and Move said...

Foschini might have been a better choice to take over, but Broxham has more experience.

Adelaide seemed quite happy to play out the 1-0

Anonymous said...

hey lads new to this but looks a very good read!
but surely hernandez wasn't melbourne's best player (if i'm reading it right!)his passing was always off.. and i thought vargas played one of his best games for a long long time! Also, is there a reason for leaving out the keepers? cheers :)

Pass and Move said...

Thanks appreciate your support. Yeah looking back on it, Hernandez probably doesn't deserve such a high ranking. It's the last thing done, so there's an element of rushing about it. only reason for leaving the keepers out is forgetfulness

Anonymous said...

haha ok :P no worries at all keep it up :)