Friday, 25 November 2011

6 points on Adelaide 0-0 Newcastle

Here is a 6 point tactical analysis on Adelaide's underwhelming nil-all draw with Newcastle. Don't forget to help spread the word about Pass and Move. 

1) Both sides set out in genuine 4-3-3 variants, with a trio of nominal central midfielders. The difference lay in how each side deployed their midfield trio. Newcastle had a deep holder in Wehrman behind Zadkovich and Wheelhouse whereas Adelaide had a double pivot of Dilevski the destroyer and Usucar the passer, with Caravella, another passer, nominally in the attacking midfield role, though he switched berths with Vidosic, nominally the right winger, throughout the match. 

2) Both sides used high lines, seeking to compress the field of play. Newcastle's high line became more vulnerable than Adelaide because of the pace of Ramsay, who was adept at latching onto simple balls over the top. 

3) With Cassio out with injury, Adelaide lacked a single nominal fullback in their backline. This would become a significant weakness. Cassio is a vital contributor to Adelaide's style of play, providing creativity and width on the left flank. Underlining his importance to the Red's cause, not only is he one of two left footers, he is also the only nominal attacking fullback in the entire Adelaide squad. Cassio is literally irreplaceable. 

4) Both sides also started the match pressing very energetically. With the midfield trios matched up, the ball possessor was very quickly closed down, which meant play was shoved out to the flanks. 
5) Adelaide's lack of genuine fullbacks, capable of supporting the attack and providing width, was the most decisive factor in this match. Fullbacks, as the only players with space in front of them, have become the most influential positions on the pitch. Jonathan Wilson is of the belief that matches are now decided mostly by which side wins the battle of the fullbacks. 

In this instance, with the midfields closing each other down, and the wide forwards eager to stay in advanced positions, the flanks were left entirely to both pairs of fullbacks; Susak, a nominal centre back and Watson, a versatile utility player for Adelaide, and Byun and Elrich, genuine fullbacks, for Newcastle. 

Adelaide's weakness was that their fullbacks were incapable of effectively advancing. Susak in particular is a physical stopper, not a technical distributor, and he offered very little. His situation was neatly summed up by his best contribution of the night; on the 23rd minute, Susak cut inside, advanced with the ball to the centre circle, and lofted the ball over the top for Ramsay to latch onto. This attack was one of the best chances Adelaide created all night, but it also displayed Susak's weakness on the left, in that he had to cut inside from fullback to use his preferred right foot. 

Watson's situation fulfilled the theory of legendary Italian manager Gianluca Zambrotta. Zambrotta was of the opinion that right fullbacks were always the worst players on any given team. According to Zambrotta, were he taller and better defensively, he would have been shifted to central defence, and if he were better on the ball, he would have been shifted to central midfield. Now obviously that theory has little weight at the elite level of contemporary football, but it holds true for Watson. He is a very versatile player, which is in no way a negative point, but he is something of a 'jack of all trades, master of none', and is not considered first choice for any position. 

Now, Elrich and Byun are hardly the finest fullbacks in the league (that accolade goes to Franjic, Marrone, Behich and Rose) but they were never really forced to defend against overlaps because of Susak's and Watson's ineffectiveness at advancing. This meant they both spent the majority of the match running at their counterparts, and Newcastle always had extra men in the attacking third, while Adelaide's fullbacks were always conservative. 

It is perhaps best, and easiest, to think of it like this; in every other aspect, Newcastle and Adelaide were equal; 3v3 central midfield, 3v4 in attack/defence, and the positions were all very static; there was minimal interchange. Newcastle held the advantage in fullbacks, and this was the decisive aspect. 
6) Newcastle failed to exploit their numerical advantage after Boogard received a red card at 64'. The theory for a team playing against ten men is simple; a) keep possession, b) widen the active playing area, and c) drag the defence out of shape with clever movement. Put simply, Newcastle were unable to accomplish A or C.

Player Rankings:
Adelaide | Newcastle
10) Boogard | Tiago
9) Susak | Topor-Stanley
8) McKain | Zadkovich
7) Usucar | Wheelhouse
6) Watson | Brockie
5) Dilevski | Elrich
4) Caravella | Byun
3) Vidosic | Jeffers
2) Djite | Wehrman
1) Ramsay | Griffiths


Bela Guttman said...

The other perplexing 'tactic' that Jon McKain implied at half-time was AU's plan to sit deep in the first half, not really play, and wait to capitalise on NUJ's expected mistakes playing out from defence. Planning to win the game with one half of football is poor tactics.

Pass and Move said...

Yeah I heard him say that, was he taking the piss? Adelaide were pushing up relatively high before that red card.

Cheers Bela

Unknown said...

I remember at the last world cup - Maradonna was quoted as saying something like "why would I want my fullbacks to go past the half way line? That's what my wingers are for?", and there was a bit of talk about the concept of a "broken team" - a defending 5 that stayed back and focuses on defence and an attacking 5 that is the focus of the attack.

Would be interesting on your thoughts on teams that don't integrate full backs in attack ...

Another thing of interest I'd like your thoughts on - reading Tim Vickery over the years, one of his themes has been how the brazillian use of attacking fullbacks has lead to increased risk aversion in the choice of player for the central midfield positions ... the ex - arsenal player gilberto silva was the prime example. When a coach gives a maicon or dani alves all that freedom, they end up using non passing destroyers as screeners in front of the centrebacks.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the full-backs issue. I am at a loss as to why Coolen did not attempt to find a natural RB when it was clear last year that this position was clearly lacking the Reds. Watson and Barbiero performed admirably there but the use of two full-backs whom are capable of attacking and defending is key. The majority of sides understand that Adelaide predominantly attack via the left and are quick to close down Cassio. A natural RB would boost our chances and give our attack another dimension which I believe we are lacking.