Saturday, 5 November 2011

Victory 2-2 Brisbane: Match Analysis

Melbourne Victory turned in a heroic defensive performance after going down to ten, and then nine men, within the space of half an hour. The manner of the goals tells the story of this match, with Brisbane scoring from two set pieces, and Archie Thompson displaying his clinical edge, bagging a brace.

This match might very well be the turning point for the seasons of both Brisbane and Victory. After that blunt performance, the reigning champions are now faced with the prospect of playing teams that sit all eleven men behind the ball, while Durakovic might finally realise that in the short term, the Navy Blues will be better served playing the way Merrick intended his squad to.

Line-ups after Covic's dismissal
Brisbane System:
Postecoglou deployed the Roar in a 4-3-3 that became a 3-4-3 in possession, with no personnel changes from the side that disposed of Adelaide 7-1. Theoklitos was between the sticks, Jurman and Smith paired in central defence, with Stefanutto and Franjic advanced at left and right fullback. Paartalu was in the 'Busquets' role, referred to as the modern centre half by Zonal Marking, with Murdocca and Nichols paired and advanced in central midfield. Berisha led the line, with Broich and Henrique wide at left and right wing.

Victory System:
It is impossible to determine exactly how Durakovic intended to set out his side, given Covic was dismissed with barely a minute gone on the clock, for a late schything of Berisha, who had dispossessed Leijer on the edge of the box. In any case, after Covic's sending off, Pondeljak was exchanged for back up keeper Lawrence Thomas.

Durakovic switched to a 4-4-1 formation; Kewell and Hernandez were shifted to left and right midfield, with Broxham and Ferreira in the most conservative of double pivots, camped just in front of the box. The backline was unchanged, with Leijer and Vargas in the central pairing, and Fabio and Foschini withdrawn at left and right fullback.

Forced tactical rethink:
PM has written at length on the Victory's woes this season, which can be explained by Durakovic's new managerial philosophy. The Navy Blues have traditionally prospered through a direct, rapid and physical counter-attacking style, but under Durakovic, are undergoing a tranformation to a more possession oriented, pro-active approach. The current squad are ill-equipped for the change, lacking a player capable of dictating play or maintaining possession in midfield, yet having a surfeit of pacy, aggresive dribblers, and solid and physically robust defenders.

Doubtless many Victory fans will beg to differ, but the two red cards dolled out to Covic and Ferreira were the best possible thing to happen to the Navy Blues. This was because it forced Durakovic to reconsider his approach. Durakovic immediately instructed his players to do, essentially, what they do best; sit deep, absorb pressure, hit back with pace and aggression on the counter.

Sitting deep, in a compact formation, left no space for Brisbane to exploit behind the backline. The Oranje were reduced to pot shots from range, and lobbed balls from the flanks, a strategy that disadvantaged Berisha. Brisbane probed from flank to flank, but Victory refused to budge.

The defensive brief benefitted dyed-in-the-wool midfield destroyers like Broxham and Ferreira, much more than the ill-fitting possession style Durakovic has been trying to implement. Ferreira in particular was astute in defusing danger, similar to his role for the Olyroos.

This game has the potential to completely change the trajecory of Victory's season. If Durakovic chooses to persist in a counter-attacking style, perhaps the Navy Blues can finally launch a concerted title challenge, fully confident that they were able to hold Brisbane to a draw, by scoring twice, down two players. What would have happened had Durakovic begun with a counter-attacking plan, with all eleven on the pitch?

The Siege of Etihad:
The match at times resembled a siege, with Brisbane dominant yet frustrated at every turn, unable to find a way through the Victory. So far this season, Brisbane have faced and defeated four sides who have tried a variety of pressing strategies to unsettle the Roar on the ball. Central Coast, undoubtedly the most defensive of the losing quartet, were the most threatening on the counter, but found themselves undermanned on the flanks. Now that Victory have had success in employing an extremely defensive/reactive strategy, other managers in the league will have taken note. Brisbane are going to have to find a way to break down sides who pack all eleven behind the ball, similar to what Barcelona encounter in La Liga on a weekly basis.  

Foschini red:
The young defensive midfielder was dismissed for a late challenge on Broich, a marginal call at best. Kewell was on the receiving end of a similar tackle by Franjic, which wasn't given. 

Durakovic was forced into a 4-3-1 formation, with the midfield three shuttling along from flank to flank, forced deep. The Navy Blues stood tall, and defended heroically for the remainder of the game.

Unfortunately there isn't too much to analyse tactically. Durakovic did well to organise his team into a compact formation. The Blues were defiant, there is no other word for it. They were desperate and stubborn, and ultimately that is what saw them through. The defensive leadership of Leijer, Vargas and Broxham was truly something to behold. Credit to the fans and the Blue and White Brigade; undoubtedly Brisbane were partially affected by the intimidating atmosphere, as they never seemed able to settle down.

Persisting in Berisha might not have been the best approach, and this match shows that Brisbane might need a Plan B, perhaps a physical target man. Spain for example, are the international masters of tiki taka, but when necessary, Del Bosque is not above throwing on Fernando Llorente, and asking him to win high balls.
4-3-1 after Foschini's red card
Goal Analysis:
Henrique penalty 1':
Berisha robbed Leijer near the box, made for goal. Covic charged off his line, clipping Berisha. Straight red. Thomas for Pondeljak, Henrique had to take it twice.

Given the need for the team to work hard defensively to make up for the numerical disadvantage, why did Durakovic remove Pondeljak, a hard working midfielder, instead of Hernandez, a rather lazy playmaker? Durakovic probably left the trequartista on, in the hope he would be able to conjure up a goal. On recent form, perhaps not the best choice, and the Victory could have definitely put Pondeljak to better use.

Thompson 9':
Lobbed ball into box, cleared by Smith, who had been driven back by Thompson's run. The ball falls to Paartalu, who is dispossessed by Ferreira. Ball flicked over head, Thompson pulls off a bit of magic, first time shot with the outside of his boot.

Thompson 20':
This goal showcased exactly why Victory are best on the counter. Kewell tackled Franjic, sees Thompson's run, launches a delightful through ball that Smith fails to cut out. Thompson is caught for pace by Jurman, but manages to jink back and forth to wrong foot both the young defender and Theoklitos, before finishing with aplomb.

Thompson might have lost his fearsome acceleration, but he clearly has not lost his shooting boots. Both goals weren't vintage for the Navy Blue No 10, in that they didn't involve him burning his marker for pace, but were instinctive and clinical

Using Kewell's vision to lay on through balls on the counter is probably the best way to use the Socceroos No 10, given the players at Durakovic's disposal. As PM has noted before, his creative talents are stiffled as a lone forward, he doesn't have the pace anymore to burn his marker on the wing, and there isn't a creative presence in midfield to fashion passing angles for him to latch onto.

On a related note, the amount of criticism Harry has received from some sections of the press is ludicrous. Quite apart from the fact that some of the greatest institutions of football have seen fit to employ him; Leeds, Livepool and Galatasaray, this is a player, who in January of THIS YEAR, produced performances worthy of the title of Player of the Tournament at the Asian Cup. To question his ability, or even his physical fitness, is just not justifiable.

Broich free kick 27':
Leijer brings down Broich on the edge of the box. Broich sends a curling kick, under the wall, tucked into the corner. Very intelligent by Broich, anticipating the jump.

As a contest, this match was finished in the first minute. Arguably, the Victory performed better after these two red cards than they had in their previous four matches, mainly due to the change back to a counter-attacking strategy.

Will Durakovic learn from this game and reinstate Victory's traditional playing style? It is highly likely. Not many teams are able to hold out after two red cards, much less score two goals against a side that dominate possession as thoroughly as Brisbane. As PM have noted, a counter attacking style better suits the players in Durakovic's squad; robust defensive players and aggressive dribblers.

The referee did not have the best of games, with his inconsistent decision making blighting the match.

Other managers will doubtlessly have taken note, and Brisbane might have to become accustommed to facing 11 men behind the ball. Will it work for other managers as well as it did for Durakovic, who was also hindered by two red cards? Probably not for all, with Victory and Central Coast the best sides in the competition at the counter attack, the former due to the characteristics in the squad, the latter due to Graham Arnold's deliberate management.

Player Rankings:
Victory | Brisbane
10) Pondeljak | Berisha
9) Hernandez | Smith
8) Foschini | Jurman
7) Leijer | Paartalu
6) Fabio | Stefanutto
5) Vargas | Franjic
4) Ferreira | Nichols
3) Broxham | Murdocca
2) Kewell | Henrique
1) Thompson | Broich


Phillip said...

Great write up!

Very much a David vs Goliath battle, and the atmosphere at Etihad was insane.

Great stuff by the Melbourne boys, lets hope it's the turning point of the season.

Pass and Move said...

Thanks Phillip, appreciate your support. I'm actually really disappointed by the red cards, it would have been more interesting to see how Durakovic intended to take on Brisbane.

The Blues did very, very well to hold out.

Hamish Alcorn said...

The only thought I have had regarding what Ange might have tried, specifically to answer the need for a target man, is to have replaced Matt Smith (who I'm not entirely convinced by anyway) with fellow 'defender' Sayed Mohammad Adnan, and pop the latter in the middle of the box.

Apparently he has been called up front for previous clubs, and scored a goal every few games, in exactly this manner.

It makes Adnan a great 'dfensive' option on the bench, as he has another use at a pinch.

Michael said...

Great analysis mate, it really was like watching a siege. The roar at the final whistle made it feel like we'd just won the championship.

The referee killed the game completely, and his calls were so over the place you never knew what was going to be called a foul and what wasn't.

Think you've been a tad harsh on Hernandez though, I thought he did pretty well in a very unfamiliar role.

Pass and Move said...

Cheers Hamish,

That's an interesting idea, but I reckon Ange is too much of a purist to go down that route.

Pass and Move said...

Cheers Michael,

It really was an impressive atmosphere. The attendance was apparently down, but the noise level was twice as loud.

I thought Hernandez was terrible. He didn't defend properly, nor did he close down. He didn't even produce anything in an attacking sense, the only justification for leaving him on.

Bela Guttman said...

Perhaps Carlos was left on in case MV earned a free kick with a goal scoring opportunity? Perhaps it was also because for once not being able to run up and down the field wasn't going to be a disadvantage.

Pass and Move said...

Possible, but given MVC were down a man, the ability to run up and down a pitch becomes fairly valuable.

Cheers Bela

Chuckie said...

I think that Ange got his subs wrong.
INF for Henrique was like for like but offered very little, though did on occasion draw multiple MV defenders, but did not capitalise on the overloads in other areas.

Brattan replacing Nicholls (Brisbane's 2nd best creative option) and not Murdocca, when the game situation required vision and inspiration rather than energy and workrate to unlock the Victory defence made no sense to me at all. (unless there was an injury or Ange is planning for the Olyroos period)

Also in such a situation having 3 holding (various styles, but Brattan, Murdocca and Paartalu play in the same area) midfielders led to Brisbane playing in front of the Melbourne defence.

Switching Murdocca and Paartalu and getting Paartalu to offer another target in the box would have added another goal threat and may also have forced the MV defenders to close down the delivery from wide areas.

Anonymous said...

Am surprised you have avoided mentioning Ange Postecoglou. To not be able to penetrate 9 men was very, very poor tactically from Ange. He lacked a plan B & maybe it could be argued the signs of a tactical weakness have been exposed.
It is not enough to simply say "once the bus is parked its very hard to get through". Barcelona at least did it once with Inter Milan who had 11 men. Brisbane couldn't do it once against 9.

Pass and Move said...

Cheers for the comment Chuckie.

Hamish said something similar, and I would agree, except that Ange has shown time and time again he refuses to deviate from this style. That may be a weakness but its admirable in a way.

Pass and Move said...

Hey Anon,

I did refer to Berisha not offering much offensively.

Anonymous said...

This is the third time in a row Melbourne has exposed severe frailties of Brisbane on the counter attack.
If Merrick was still coach, I would be 80% confident of beating Brisbane MORE OFTEN THAN NOT with this squad.