Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sydney 0-2 Brisbane: Match Analysis

Saturdays's match between the Sky Blues and the Roar was initially a close fought contest. Lavicka altered his tactics and his starting XI from last week's City Classico against the Victory, trying to implement a more energetic and positive style. Initially, it seemed to work, but the fast tempo necessitated by the high press tired Sydney, and Brisbane were able to seize the advantage later on.

Brisbane's System:
Postecoglou deployed the Roar in their customary 4-1-2-3. The side was unaltered from the XI that managed to beat a stubborn Central Coast. Theoklitos was between the sticks, with Jurman and Smith partnered in central defence. Franjic and Stefanutto was stationed at right and left fullback (lateral). Paartalu was the holder in midfield. Unlike against Central Coast, where he dropped deep and became a third centre back (in a 3-4-3) allowing the fullbacks to advance, Paaratalu spent most of the game in midfield. Nichols and Paartalu were stationed in attacking midfield. The attacking trio was led by Berisha, with Issey on the left and Meyer on the right, both cutting in. Brisbane pressed high up the pitch, using an offside trap.

Sydney's System:
Lavicka deployed Sydney in a 4-2-3-1, with some significant alterations. Reddy remained as custodian, Beauchamp and Booschart remained in central defence and Jamieson remained at right fullback, but Coyne was switched from defensive midfield to left fullback. McFlynn remained in defensive midfield, but was instead partnered by Karol Kisel, a player adept at passing and keeping possession. Carle remained as trequartista. Emerton was inverted and switched from the right flank to left, with Antonis opposite. Cazarine took the place of the suspended Bridge as the central striker.

There were several different considerations that influenced the alterations in Sydney's line-up.

Emerton inverted:
For the vast majority of his career, Brett Emerton has operated on the right flank, either as a wide midfielder, winger or occasionally, fullback. In this instance, Lavicka opted to invert Brett, and station him on the left. 

Theoretically speaking, a wide player is inverted when the manager wants him to cut-in centrally; the player's ability to move inside is enhanced on his preferred foot. This is prompted by the desire for the wide player to lend close support to the lone forward. PM has suggested that if Sydney wanted to make use of Emerton's superb crossing delivery, he would be better utilised at fullback, where he would have time and space. Inverting Emerton sends a clear signal that it is his technical quality in close quarters, attacking intent, and chemistry with Nick Carle that is being prioritised, which is a perfectly legitimate decision.

Secondly, Lavicka inverted Emerton to threaten the space behind Ivan Franjic. Franjic is one of the greatest attacking threats in the league; with the wide player cutting-in advanced of him, Franjic is tasked with providing the width along the right. He is also a significant goal threat; his late diagonal runs to the back post have been a productive route to goal for the Roar, as he scored 5 last campaign.

But attacking fullbacks have a weakness; the space behind them. Consider the examples of Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines. These are the two marquee English leftbacks in the Premier League, and are major sources of creativity and invention for their respective clubs. Last season, Cole provided 2 direct assists, and 76 crosses for Chelsea, while Baines provided 2 goals, 9 direct assists, and 150 crosses for Everton. Manchester United used the same tactic against both; Sir Alex stationed Antonio Valencia on the right, and instructed his players to play the ball to Valencia, into the space vacated by Baines and Cole.

That was probably what Lavicka intended; using his best wide player to threaten the space behind his opponent's best attacking fullback. Was it successful? Somewhat. Notice the similarity between Valencia and Emerton; both are primarily used on the right flank and are uncomfortable on the opposite side. Inverting Emerton was not conducive to threatening the left flank, as he is right footed. 

Thirdly, and this is related to restricting Franjic, Emerton is a very defensively aware player. He has spent times of his career deployed as a fullback, and is an asset in a pre-emptive sense; for the Socceroos, one of his greatest assets is his partnership with Luke Wilkshire, as both defend and attack in tandem down the right. Consider a second parallel from United; Emerton and Park Ji-Sung. Park is one of the new breed of defensive forwards, similar to the utilisation of Dirk Kuyt at Liverpool. These players are able attackers usually with large reserves of energy, but also defensively aware and physically robust, and are used to contain the surges of the opposition fullback. There was an example of this from the Premier League just this weekend, with Sir Alex's use of Park Ji Sung to contain the influence of Jose Enrique.

Inverting Emerton to provide close support for the lone striker might have worked better with Bridge than with Cazarine as the No 9. Bridge is a much more versatile, more mobile forward; arguably he is more proficient in attacking midfield or out wide. If Bridge had been available, his vacating space and interchanging positions with Emerton would have led to a much more natural and more fluid attack. Cazarine on the other hand seems to be a more traditional target man (who might have profitted from precise Emerton crosses, possibly from fullback, which we are actually yet to see).

Jamieson at leftback:
In the City Classico, Lavicka fielded two very aggressive fullbacks, with Jamieson on the left and Cole at the right; both of these players are also able to play as wingers, and were quite eager to provide support. With a defensive minded double pivot shielding the back four, it was very clear that against Victory, Lavicka wanted his fullbacks to motor forward to provide width to the attack.

Against Brisbane, Lavicka replaced Cole, acknowledging that in removing a sturdy defensive player in midfield, his fullbacks wouldn't be able to attack so cavalierly. Broadly speaking, he retained the numerical balance of defensive/attacking players; against Melbourne it was two centre backs plus two defensive midfielders, but against Brisbane it was two centre backs, one defensive midfielder plus one defensive fullback.

Emerton's inversion was also a consideration in retaining Jamieson; with Emerton cutting-in, Jamieson was expected to provide width on the overlap.

Coyne at rightback:
Stationing Coyne, a solid, physical and largely defensively inclined player at rightback, was ostensibly a concession to using Kisel in midfield. As noted above, it retains Lavicka's numerical balance of attacking and defending players, but it also allows the backline to compensate for Jamieon's runs asymmetrically. With Jamieson advancing, and Coyne comfortable in central defence, the remaining 3 players of the nominal back-four could shuffle to the left to cover the vacated space.

Kisel in midfield:
Kisel is back, and the Cove should be relieved. Finally a midfielder who can control possession. Why did the Sky Blues ever let him leave? Kisel in midfield actually benefits Carle more than anyone else, allowing Sydney to get the best out of their trequartista.

Again, consider the contrast between Sydney v Brisbane and Sydney v Victory. In the latter game, Lavicka opted for a defensive minded double pivot of McFlynn and Coyne. Both are solid and robust players but are somewhat short of creativity and invention; they looked to play simple passes to the advanced players.

Kisel on the other hand, is much more proficient on the ball. He assumed the role of midfield distributor, and his ability to play the ball to Carle, when the attacking trio were in advanced positions and under pressure, allowed a greater fluency to the Sydney attack. The attacking trio were also able to play in greater proximity to the opposition goal. In effect, Carle did not have to drop so deep to receive possession; Kisel was able to deliver it straight to him, where Carle could then turn, jink past Paartalu, lay the ball off, make a run, rinse and repeat.

Playing short:
Lavicka also instructed Sydney to play the ball short. Reddy initiated attacks, passing to Bosschart or Beauchamp, who would lay off to Jamieson or Kisel.

If you don't have a clear aerial advantage, hitting the ball long can become the fastest and most efficient way to concede possession. In this case Reddy, and Sydney in general, were instructed to build-up play in defence and patiently construct attacks in close quarters. Occassionally Reddy gave in to his impulse to thump the ball up the pitch, but nearly every time Sydney did that, they lost the ball and were forced to fend off a Brisbane attack.

Carle was the main playmker, and his exchanging passes with Emerton, Antonis and Cazarine was delightful to watch, as Lavicka emphasised movement, speed and positional interchange in the attack. Unfortunately Sydney just weren't as proficient as Brisbane in their short passing, and their attacks more often than not bogged down in the opposition box. The level of assuredness that Brisbane display in close quarters takes time, familiarity and trust to attain, but Sydney did rather well.

High press:
Lavicka instructed Sydney to press Brisbane, particularly in the Roar's defensive third. This is in contrast to Arnold's approach, where he utilised a 'half press', generally standing off until the ball reached the Coast side of the centre circle.

The high press was effective in halting Brisbane's rhythm and preventing their build-up play initially. But too many commentators portray the high press as a silver bullet against the Roar; almost like a 44 Magnum to Brisbane's rampaging lion. But a Magnum, for all its stopping power, has a drawback; the recoil. And in this instance, the recoil was that Sydney got very tired, very fast; the Sky Blues were jogging and walking to harass their opponents by the early parts of the second half. To successfully utilise the high press against Brisbane requires superior concentration, motivation, intelligence and physical fitness; unfortunately for Sydney, Brisbane were simply fitter than they were.

A potentially more productive option might entail a two-tiered approach to the game. It is a common cliche to speak of football matches as a 'game of two halves', but in this case opposition managers could entertain the notion of alternating strategies; aggressive pressing and all-out attacking in one half, while sitting deep and restricting space in the second, using substitutes to inject a modicum of speed so balls over the top aren't aimless and can relieve pressure. Until another side produces football superior to the Roar, they are going to dominate matches, so the onus will be on opposition managers to obfuscate the threat.

Berisha's goal:
Jurman was on the ball in midfield, Carle and Kisel went to close him down. Jurman managed to slip the ball into Paartalu's path, leaving Carle and Kisel behind and Sydney undermanned. Paartalu laid the ball off to Issey, but the pass was intercepted by Coyne; this left Stefanutto free on the left. Paartalu regained the loose ball, passed to the free Stefanutto, who cut it back to Paartalu making a run for goal. Erik thumped it toward Reddy who parried the shot, but Berisha pounced on the rebound.

Broich's goal:
Another example of dynamic short passing, and a real thunderbolt from Broich. By this time Sydney were exhausted and Brisbane just passed around them.  

Comments on Brisbane:
This was another phenomenal performance by the Roar, against a side who, initially and relatively successfully, refused to allow them to dictate play. Postecoglou used identical players and tactics, but there wasn't an obvious transition to 3-4-3 when in possession, probably due to the need for Paartalu to mark Carle. Sadly, there was no appearance of Broich's false nine, but be patient. It took Guardiola a whole season to use Messi as a false nine. It was Brisbane's superior passing ability and fitness that ultimately won the day.

Comments on Sydney:
Carle ran himself into the ground. Seriously, give that man a standing ovation. He ran a marathon last night, while occassionally finding time to play football. Lavicka will probably continue experimenting with Emerton's position.

Harper and Hill made a few comments regarding Lavicka's lack of investment in youth (notwithstanding Antonis and Petratos). Danning and Jurman are illustrative of the young talent available in NSW, and their performances were assured and mature. It's just a shame that Lavicka was not able to retain their services.

Heart v Brisbane is shaping up to be the most delicious match of the season - the two club sides in Australia most proficient at possession football. It's going to be epic.

Way too many Mad Men inspired comb overs in the A-League. You do realise that even Jon Hamm doesn't slick his hair over when he's done filming right - he gets a regular haircut.

Player Rankings:
Sydney | Brisbane
10) Coyne | Meyer
9) Bosschart | Issey
8) Beauchamp | Smith
7) Antonis | Stefanutto
6) McFlynn | Jurman
5) Jamieson | Franjic
4) Cazarine | Berisha, Danning
3) Kisel, Reddy | Paartalu
2) Emerton |Nichols
1) Carle | Broich


Anonymous said...

Great analysis, the part where you talk about the pressing of Sydney being the supposed silver bullet was spot on.

I first saw your articles on the right hand column in The Roar. However none of them as i glanced involved my team (The Victory), so didn't bother. Wasn't until someone linked the post Adelaide-Victory analysis that I realised how good this site is, and it takes a more logical approach than the sensationalist articles :) . Will be looking more closely on the Roar for any future articles posted. And on this website of course.

Pass and Move said...

Thanks for the comment mate, appreciate your support.

There's a few other Victory articles by PM, try checking the tags or the post archive on the sidebar.

Yes well I guess they gotta find some way to sell papers right.

Thanks again, best bet is to check PM directly, there's a time delay involved for The Roar.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I know, when you discover 1 good article, you look for the rest :) , will be checking here after matches that I've been interested in, to try gain some knowledge and insight. Brisbane Roar are superb! Hopefully the Victory can figure something out soon. Will also be recommending this site to a few friends.


Anonymous said...

geat article...being at game it was exhausting watching CARLE...some in the crowd were giving him a rough time but the guy ran his guts out...Emerton ,to me, still appears somewhat apprehensive and unsure of himself..he did some nice touches but the chemistry is yet to jell with his teammates...for me there were to many long balls from Sydney and Brisbane were just patient and methodical in their approach.

Pass and Move said...

Hey Greg, thanks for the comment

Yeah I noticed the sledging, that's why I wanted to say something

Yeah lack of gelling is probably half Emerton's problem, the rest is positional.

Sydney did give in to the long ball sometimes, its a hard habit to break. They tried to play short, they just got tired