Saturday, 29 October 2011

Brisbane 7-1 Adelaide: Match Analysis

Un-f**king-believable. Brisbane produced a virtousic performance with a display of football that was at turns scintillating, exhilarating and utterly crushing. Brisbane's raw speed of movement, passing and thought, their creative flair, their disciplined and determined pressing; this was the beautiful game at its most elegant and elemental, a full realisation of football as an ideal. Brisbane were almost mechanical in their precision, and provided a demonstration of the merits of subordinating the individual talent to the expression of the collective.

Because of the sheer disparity in quality, it's hard for PM to analyse this match from a tactical prism - Brisbane won because of their superior style of play. Yet there are points of interest concerning Coolen's tactics and Postecoglou's line-up, most pertinently the decision to break up the McKain/Susak central defensive axis and shift Susak to right fullback, as well as the decision to field Caravella out of position on the left with the return of Levchenko to the double pivot.

Adelaide System:
Coolen sent out the Reds in a 4-3-3/4-4-2 hybrid. Galekovic had a torrid night in goal, McKain remained to marshal central defence, with his erstwhile partner Susak shifted to right fullback. Mullen, another defender with experience at fullback partnered McKain, with Cassio advanced at left fullback. Levchenko returned to pair Dilevski in a double pivot. Van Dijk led the line, Vidosic was in attacking midfield, Slory was advanced at right wing with Carvaella slightly deeper and drifting central at left midfield.

Brisbane System:
Postecoglou deployed the Roar in a more clearly defined 3-4-3. Paartalu dropped in between Smith and Jurman as the sweeper in a three-man back-line. Stefanutto and Franjic were advanced at the half-way line at left and right wingback, with Murdocca and Nichols in central midfield. Broich and Henrique were nominally at left and right wing, but both ceded the wide areas to the wingbacks, coming central. Berisha led the line.

Caught between two strategies:
Adelaide weren't fully pressing, but neither were they sitting deep to restrict space. In effect, they were prey to the weaknesses of both strategies and reaped none of the benefits. The Reds half-hearted pressing consumed energy but did nothing to unsettle Brisbane's on the ball.  Adelaide's relatively high line necessitated by the press left space in behind the back line which was exploited by Brisbane's overmanning runners.

Wheareas Central Coast maintained a half press to retain their counter-attacking threat and their defensive shape, Sydney utilised a full press and tired early, and Gold Coast alternated between a broken and full press, Adelaide got the worst of all worlds.

The Reds were far too static. That's probably harsh to the visitors, it was just that the hosts were as fluid as quicksilver. The only interchange in Coolen's line-up was Cassio's overlap of Caravella drifting inside. By contrast, Postecoglous had five players who switched in and out of their nominal berths.

Caravella at left midfield:
After last week's restoration to central midfield, Caravella found himself shunted out at left midfield once again. Perhaps Rini Coolen been influenced by Matt McKay's displays drifting central from left for the Socceroos? The problem lies in the difference between the two players' styles; whereas McKay's game is based around rapid short passing, intelligent movement and positional interchange, Caravella is a much more conventional passing midfielder, preferring to distribute possession. He doesn't seem as dynamic on or off the ball.

Susak at right fullback/Mullen at centre back:
This was probably the most influential change in the Reds line-up. Coolen opted to break up the so far consistent central defensive partnership, shifting the former Brisbane man Susak to right back, and exchanging Mullen, a defensive player with more experience at fullback, into the centre pairing.

What was the reasoning behind Coolen's switch? Well actually, despite the obvious failure of the gambit (Berisha's hat-trick was all delivered courtesy of the left flank), there was rather sound logic behind Coolen's decision. Before and after the match, Coolen highlighted the attacking and creative threat of Thomas Broich, Brisbane's left-sided German maestro. Coolen probably reasoned that deploying a centre back, a more obviously solid defensive player would effectively neutralise Broich's ability to exploit the area close to the corner flag. In addition, Susak would be highly familiar with Broich, likely being able to anticipate Broich's movements in close quarters, being former club mates.

Further more, deploying Mullen, a defensive player familiar with fullback, would increased the central pairing's ability to track runners from deep, with fullbacks more used to advancing high to pre-emptively defend. This second switch was reminiscent of Wenger's decision to use Bacary Sagna, an aggresive but defensively adept right fullback in central defence to marshal Messi's dropping deep to vacate space.

Why did the Susak/Mullen switch fail?
The key was Broich's positioning. Last year, Broich was more obviously operating as a wide player, hugging the touch line and penetrating towards the corner flag. This season has seen a pronounced change, not just in his positioning, but in the Brisbane team as a whole, from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3. The advancement of Stefanutto to wingback has meant that Thomas has most definitely come more central, interacting more with the central midfielders than the forward players during build-up play.

Had Broich tried to charge up the touchline, there's no doubt Susak would have proven an effective barrier. Postecoglou's solution was elegant and inspired by Sir Alex Ferguson's touch of genius against Ancelotti's Chelsea diamond. Simply put, Postecoglou instructed Broich to ignore Susak. Clever isn't it? Coolen places a defensive barrier in Brisbane's left flank, and Postecoglou tells his players to pay Susak no attention.

In 2009, Chelsea hosted Manchester United during a time when Ancelotti was trying to implement the midfield diamond. An injury to Bosingwa, an aggressive fullback meant that Ivanovic was shifted to right fullback. Sir Alex's strategy was exactly the same as Postecoglou's; he told Ryan Giggs at left wing to ignore him, and stay inside. Ivanovic, clearly a central defensive stopper, offered no attacking threat at all. Similarly, as Brisbane ignored Susak, he offered no defensive qualities, and as a central stopper, offered no attacking threat to pin back Broich.

Had Slory and Susak operated in tandem, perhaps Adelaide could have been more secure on their right. As it was, Slory's tracking back actually improved in this game over his defensive performance against Sydney. Stefanutto however, rampaged up and down the left flank all evening and overwhelmed Slory's ability to cope.

Further more, as practically all of Susak's playing experience is at centre back, his natural and involuntary inclination was to drift towards goal, which obfuscated Coolen's original intention; to wall off the left corner. Susak coming central allowed Stefanutto to exploit the space as an auxilliary winger. It also left Broich free as he dropped deep, with Susak unwilling to advance to close down space. Similar to Heart, Brisbane created a numerical superiority in midfield, which increased their already formidable capacity to dictate play.

Given Susak was a former Brisbane player, indeed he was a crucial contributor to Postecoglou's Double last season, it was strange for Coolen to base his defensive strategy around him. Postecoglou KNOWS his players, intimately. He and his staff are supremely aware of the abilities of his team, which is how he knew Broich could be converted to a central role, Paartalu could be used as a sweeper, and McKay could go from A-League regular to Socceroos star. Why did Coolen use Susak, a player his opponent was intimately familiar with, as THE cornerstone of his defensive strategy?

Half-time switch:
At the break Coolen heavily modified his team. Slory was withdrawn for Ramsey, Usucar was exchanged for Levchenko. The Reds shifted to a 4-4-2 defensive shape, looking to have two banks of four restricting space between the lines. The problem was the defensive plan was improperly carried out. Instead of sitting deep, the midfield four left space between the lines, as a discernible middle band of the formation. Strangely enough, Coolen's last change at 67' was Malik for Susak; correcting the largest omission in the starting line-up when the game was already decided - perhaps with the loss already evident, it was pride that prevented Coolen from making the substitution.

Why was Brisbane's 3-4-3 more pronounced?
Granted, the difference between Postecoglou's 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 is subtle and organic, but Postecoglou knows when to switch between the two. The 3-4-3 is used against sides that use a conventional striker partnership, or an attacking midfielder so advanced as to be a second striker in a 4-4-2. In this way, Brisbane retain a numerical advantage at the back (3v2), match the opposition in midfield (4v4) and have 3v4 in the front line.

How were Brisbane so lethal down the left?
3/5 of Brisbane's goals from open play, and Berisha's first half hat-trick were all delivered down the left flank, all with different players providing the direct assist. This would indicate a strategy that sought to exploit weaknesses on Adelaide's right. Slory is not a defensively aware player. Though he tracked back more often, he was unable to contain Stefanutto's surges. Coolen attempted to use Susak to stop Broich, but Broich ignored Susak. Susak's central drifting vacated space for Stefanutto to exploit.

As noted above, there wasn't an overt tactical reason for Brisbane's superiority - their style of football was simply better, in every facet. One of the merits of Brisbane's style is fluidity, but against Adelaide, the Oranje were fluid to the point of ridiculousness. PM has provided a tactical diagram, but its almost an exercise in futility, with Nichols, Murdocca, Broich, Henrique, Stefanutto and Franjic ceaselessly interchanging positions. Indeed, there were three players providing the direct assists for Berisha's goals from the left, Stefanutto, Nichols and Broich.

When a side score seven goals, you know you have seen a special team. When a player scores four of those seven, you know you have seen a special player. Besart Berisha recorded the fastest ever A-League hat-trick, with 3 goals in 6 minutes.

Besart's marauding performance last night immediately brought to mind Fernando Torres (in his Merseyside pomp of course). It wasn't hard to perceive the similarities in both players' style of play. Both hard running and clinical finishers, fatally under-rated physically, fearsome acceleration; strikers who convert through balls and and low crosses as opposed to being lumbering target men.

What was most remarkable about Berisha's double brace was how similar the goals themselves were. The first half hat-trick all originated from the left. The second was practically an action replay of the first; with the ball being weighted into the the box, Berisha accelerated from behind the closest centre back and got across his marker to finish on his first touch.

Another interesting feature of the game was how little Berisha featured in build-up play. Simple poachers are often dismissed as offering little more than a close range goal threat. In a side as focussed on retention of possession as Brisbane, Berisha only attempted 7 passes all night, and was only successful with 5 of them, 4 of which would have been his goals. This indicates how little Berisha offered in a creative sense. Contrast this to Alex Terra of Melbourne Heart, who operated as false nine and was heavily involved in constructing attacks.

That's not to say Besart is anything like a 'simple poacher' - that dubious title belongs to none other than Shane Smeltz, the A-League's own Michael Owen. Again using the Torres metaphor, Berisha's pace and aggression was used to push back the Adelaide centre backs to expand the space between the Reds midfield and defence.

Goal Analysis:
Vidosic 5' – This was actually a well worked goal by Adelaide, and it was produced by a clearly defined Coolen strategy; Van Dijk drifting left. Caravella held off Nichols, laid off to Cassio behind who lofted a ball toward Van Dijk near the left touch line. With Smith coming to close down, Van Dijk pulled off a stylish first touch flick, into the path of Vidosic. On second viewing, he was probably offside. Vidosic shrugged Jurman's challenge, jinked, wrong footed Theoklitos and finished sweetly.

Henrique penalty 20' – A moment of madness by McKain. Nichols allowed dummied a Franjic through ball into the box, turning to latch on. McKain mistimed his challenge, completely missing the ball. Henrique sent the penalty right, Galekovic guessed wrong.

Berisha 22' – Broich had come central, played a 1-2 with Henrique, then another 1-2 on the edge of the area with Nichols, which drew McKain out the backline. Stefanutto charged up the left with Slory in pursuit but falling behind. With McKain advanced, Susak  shuffled across central. Stefanutto made for the goal line, laid on a curling low cross to the near post. Berisha displayed remarkable pace and strength in getting across Mullen to finish.

Berisha 25' – Jurman to Stefanutto, then to Nichols making a run wide on the left. Nichols wrong footed Susak on the corner of the box, laid a through ball to the inside left channel. Berisha accelerated from a metre handicap, and again, got across Mullen to score.

Berisha 28' – Jurman to Stefanutto, but this time to Murdocca making a run wide on the left. Ball slipped to Broich left inside channel, Berisha checked his run allowing McKain and Mullen to go ahead of him. Berisha swept up Broich's centre. Murdocca overloaded the left, with Susak not able to mark Broich.

Henrique penalty 36' – Nichols through ball to Henrique on the right, Cassio lunges from behind. Henrique sends ball right.

Berisha 69' – Broich inside left, Paartalu bursts forward from defence into midfield, lays off to Issey, first time flick to Berisha making a run between McKain and Mullen, outmuscles McKain, who was probably reluctant to challenge as he was on a yellow. Berisha finishes across Galekovic.

Issey 80' – Broich central, to Smith out wide, Franjic, through ball outside channel, Danning latches on, cuts back to Nichols on the left in the box, across the box, Issey finishes.

Brisbane play a superior brand of football. Their speed of passing, movement and thought are in a completely different sphere to the rest of the A-League.

Coolen's gambit to obfuscate Brisbane's attacking threat on the left failed as Postecoglou outsmarted him. The psychological factor can't be discounted here. The Reds went from snatching an early lead against the defending champions, to conceding an equaliser from a penalty, to being on the receiving end of a 5-goal shellacking within the space of 30 minutes. Discipline disintegrated and tempers flared, with a number of Adelaide players receiving yellow cards for frustrated challenges. In truth, the game was over at after Berisha's initial brace.

Can Brisbane be beaten? It's a legitimate question. We are four rounds into Season 7, 31-games into the Roar's undefeated streak, and no other team seems to have sufficiently advanced as to present a significant threat to the Roar. The four clubs Brisbane have beaten so far have all used widely different strategies to counter the Champions. Melbourne Heart are the only other side attempting to implement a possession based style, but their level of fluency is yet to match that of Postecoglou's side. If Brisbane are indeed beaten this season, it's probably going to be away from home, involving injuries and Thomas Broich out of form.

Favourite snippet of the night was Bleiburg: "The Massacre of Suncorp", classic Miron.

Player Rankings:
Brisbane | Adelaide
10) | Susak
9) Smith | Dilevski, Levchenko
8) Jurman, Adnan | McKain, Mullen
7) Paartalu, Danning | Cassio
6) Henrique | Caravella, Slory
5) Franjic, Issey | Vidosic
4) Murdocca |
3) Nichols, Broich
2) Stefanutto | Van Dijk
1) Berisha |


Anonymous said...

Quality, in-depth analysis. You're always up the with the best, P&M. Thanks.

Pass and Move said...

Thanks for the compliment, its very much appreciated. Can I ask how you found this site?

BM said...

I am enjoying your analysis and learning heaps in the process :-) I found your site a few weeks ago after someone posted a link on a comment on the world game site, I think on an article about the socceroos. BM from Brisbane

Hamish Alcorn said...

Really good blog mate. There's definitely a need for deeper tactical analysis. You are linked from my blog and I'll be following you throughout the season. Cheers.

Pass and Move said...

Cheers Hamish, thanks for the support. Tried finding your blog, but your profile is locked. Can you link it?


Hamish Alcorn said...

Football Down Under and Beyond.

Pass and Move said...

You've got good stuff, matchday experience and club centric. I've linked it on the sidebar.

Hamish Alcorn said...

I'm flattered. I'm no football analyst - for which I rely on folk like Tony Tannous and yourself. And I admit I have learned an enormous amount from Foz, even though he is quite clearly a nutjob (in the nicest possible way).

But I think I 'get it'. And I love it. :)

Pass and Move said...

A while back I was asking if there were any readers who wanted to write 'match day experience' centric articles, describing the visceral events of the match day. Would you be interested in writing that for Brisbane? I'd love to post it here as well

Hamish Alcorn said...

Yes. First one will be vs Wellington, November 13th. You've motivated me. :)

Pass and Move said...

I look forward to it Hamish. Get in touch with me over comments if theres any issues.

Becks said...

Dear P.A.Move,

Your impressively underrated tactical analysis softens the agony of the hours engulfed in my cubicle. Religious daily visitations of your site (and your linked sites, such as Zonal Marking) are now part of my everyday life. Supplementary, I have a firm football fraternity that I not only recommend your site too but advocate. Violently.

The A league needs this data known to all Australian Football Supporters.

I currently plan to leverage your knowledge base with the TAB. Should I be successful to an “Abromovich” level, I hereby promise to buy a one hour free to air SBS nightly timeslot to showcase your column. Hopefully Llubo Milisevic will be available for hosting.

warm regards,

Pass and Move said...

Becks that is one of the highest compliments any PM reader has ever paid to me. Thank you.

To further numb the drudgery, I recommend theChive and If you don't know already, Hump Day, Mind the Gap, and FLBP will help you to live.

Apart from ZM and the Question, which are obviously the two best sources, there are several sites for the other euro leagues on the sidebar, such as the bundesliga and eredivisie which I'd recommend.

Thankyou so much for helping to spread the word to your mates, hopefully they'll get on board.

Don't go overboard on the TAB, PM isn't infallible. But Brisbane to win the Premiership is damn near a lock, maybe $50 will do it.

Can I ask how you found this site?

Thanks Becks, happy reading, don't be hesitant to comment

Becks said...

Heard of cracked, not the Chive! all over it now - top stuff!

Luckily the TAB didnt allow access to my online account quick enough to get on my two locks Chelsea +1.5@$2 and Brisbane @$2 to beat Melbourne. so that worked out well for me! So dont worry, still a chace at the SBS hour slot.

Your Brisbane ($2.20) bet has no value right now, I think there is real Value in the Jets ($7.5) . GVE is a born winner, first to play the beautiful game in the A league. Might go and see how many Avo's I can dig up now to get on it.


ps - I have no idea how I found this site. I think I was googling the socceroos 433 system, and came across it. Glad it did!