Saturday, 3 December 2011

6 points on Adelaide 0-4 Central Coast

Here are 6 tactical points on the Mariners ruthless four-goal shellacking of a hapless Adelaide. 

Before the start of the season, the Reds were tipped by many, including PM, to mount a serious title tilt, despite the departures of a host of key players. Coolen supervised a complete rebuild of the playing squad, presumably at great expense. Among his prized recruits were Vidosic, McKain, Levchenko and Slory. And although none of the new arrivals have particularly distinguished themselves, perhaps the most disappointing performance has been produced by the manager himself, who has consistently committed severe tactical mistakes. 
1) Central Coast System:
Arnold deployed the Mariners in their customary 4-3-1-2. Ryan returned as custodian, Wilkinson and Zwaanswijk were paired in central defence, Rose and Bojic were advanced at left and right fullback. Griffiths, McGlinchey and Hutchinson formed a conservative trio in midfield, Amini was trequartista, and Simon and Ibini formed a strike partnership. 

2) Adelaide System:
Coolen however made major modifications to his team, in a manner reminiscent of Durakovic's 'tilting' midfield against Gold Coast. Galekovic was between the sticks, McKain and Susak were paired in central defence, Usucar and Watson completed a flat back-four, the latter having never operated anywhere in the defence previously. Djite was the lone striker. 

The midfield zone was where the most significant alterations occurred. In effect, Coolen 'tilted' his double pivot and attacking trident, in order to mirror the Mariners. Ramsay, the nominal left winger, was shifted forwards and to the centre, providing close support to Djite almost as a seconda punta. Caravella, the nominal right winger, tucked inside to mark Hutchinson. Da Silva, as the central attacking midfielder, was in proximity with the deepest Mariner holder, Griffiths. Barbiero, the nominal left pivot, advanced to mark McGlinchey, while Malik stayed goalside of Amini. All of these alterations made Coolen's usual 4-2-3-1 seem like a 4-4-2 diamond, with Caravella as the right carillero and Ramsay as the second striker. 

3) Midfield congestion:
The cumulative effect of these changes was to congest central midfield. With four clear 1v1 battles closing each other down, play was shifted out to the flanks. 

4) Fullbacks gain wings:
With neither side deploying nominal wingers, the offensive responsibility out wide was left solely to the fullbacks. Rose, Bojic, Usucar and Watson were left with acres of space on the flanks, as none faced direct opponents. 

It isn't a surprise which team would have relished this situation more. Rose is probably the most effective leftback in the league, while Bojic, while perhaps lacking in technical quality relative to the likes of Franjic and Marrone, provides an energetic offensive presence. But it is surprising that Coolen opted for a tactical plan that not only handicapped himself, but also actively benefited the opposition. 
5) Best laid plans:
The Reds lack of support or attacking thrust from the fullback areas was fatal. So the question must be posed; why did Coolen opt to mirror the Mariners midfield? The weakness of Arnold's preferred 4-3-1-2 is the lack of natural width. The point of the 4-3-1-2 is to exchanged wingers for extra central midfielders, with the fullbacks becoming the major source of width. It is this lack of width that causes problems for Italian sides in the Champions League time and again. The A-League even saw an example of this in Round 1, when Brisbane used Stefanutto and Issey to double up on Bojic, and Franjic and Meyer to double up on Rose, accepting a numerical inferiority in central midfield. 

This is something broadly true of all 4-3-1-2 systems; the best way to attack it is to target the space behind the fullbacks and to mark the trequartista. It must be said the only reason for Coolen to tilt his midfield to resemble a 4-4-2 diamond was to occupy the Mariners midfield trio of Griffiths, Hutchinson and McGlinchey. But why? It is no slight to claim that the Mariners midfield trio lacks in incisiveness and creativity. In fact their roles are directly analogous to the roles of Manchester City's FA Cup winning midfield trio, of De Jong, Barry and Toure; to monopolise possession, and failing that, to provide a muscular defensive shield in midfield, allowing the fullbacks to motor forward. There was no point in matching Central Coast man-for-man in midfield, as their job is to provide a defensive platform and service to Rose, Bojic and Amini. 

The lack of creativity deep in midfield, or a regista, is something Napoli took advantage of in their recent group stage victory over Manchester City. Napoli's broad plan was to sit deep and counter-attack. But it only worked because Mancini fielded a conservative double pivot of Barry and De Jong. Neither are deep-lying registas; hence there was no imperative for Napoli to come high to close them down. 

6) Sack race?
This is the third time Coolen has been significantly out-thought from the dug-out. The fullback issue nearly caused defeat for Adelaide against Newcastle, van't Schip's unusual 3-3-1-3 system caused significant problems for the Reds, and Coolen's personnel changes contributed to Adelaide's seven-nil shellacking at the hands of Brisbane

The comparison with his fellow Dutchmen is particularly telling. When the Heart manager found himself a goal-down against Arnold's Coast, he threw on a striker, a forward and a wingback. At half time against Central Coast, starring at a three goal deficit, Coolen exchanged attacking midfielder Da Silva for defender Mullen. 


Michael said...

Grossly underrated blog - no comments?! Great work

Pass and Move said...

Well i've got one more!

Thanks Michel