Thursday, 22 December 2011

Wigan 0-0 Liverpool - Tactical analysis

A tactically interesting game ended with a not so interesting scoreline.

Basic Shapes

Liverpool started with a 4-2-3-1 system with Kuyt mainly on the right and Downing mainly on the left of the three with Maxi playing off Luis Suarez.

Wigan started in a 3-4-3 shape with Jones wide out on the left and Moses and Gomez tucked in, in the three supporting Sammon.


Liverpool started off the game well, pressing high up the pitch and playing quick combinations when they won it there. Their front four was generally quite flexible in positioning, especially Suarez who was often moving into wider positions and trying to link up with players.

With their 'wingers', Kuyt and Downing, fairly narrow and Maxi drifting into good positions from attacking midfield, it was left to the full backs to provide width. Much of the Liverpool play early on ended up down their left with Wigan giving the ball away a number of times on that side and allowing Jose Enrique to move forward high up the pitch. Jordan Henderson was also moving high and slightly to the right, allowing him to link up with the attacking phase and giving an extra option for Liverpool's passing combinations.

And for the first 17-18 minutes, Liverpool were on top, with Wigan giving a number of vertical passes away after being pressed high. Wigan's back three were spaced out in possession, allowing Liverpool's wide men to close down their wide centre backs and when this was done effectively, Liverpool often won the ball back.

However Wigan slowly started to get into the game. While the home side did get numbers behind the ball when Liverpool were on the attack, they did press high up on the centre backs and full backs and tried to win the ball in high areas. With Liverpool's passing quality, it was difficult for Wigan to do this effectively all game especially when Liverpool pressed high up but they did this when Liverpool's defence had the ball.

The difference in tactics between the two sides was becoming more apparent . Liverpool's attacks were based on narrow interplay between around 3 or 4 players at a time with quick combinations. Because of the amount of players getting forward, they were able to do this. The problem was that with Wigan getting a number of men behind the ball, it was quite hard to open them up. It was also quite hard for Liverpool to spread the play from one side to another and create gaps in the Wigan defence and when the play was switched, it was done too slowly because players were gathered too close together.

The amount of players forward also made it difficult for Liverpool to regain possession when Wigan did win it and worked it past their frontline. With both full backs often forward, with one given the license to move higher up, depending on where the play was, and the front four forward with Henderson also making himself available, the away side were left with little overall control on the midfield area with only Adam left holding a lot of the time and as such Liverpool often couldn't maintain pressure in their attacks after the first 20 minutes.

Wigan were very different in how their attacks worked. Their back three was fairly spread out in possession and so were Jones and Stam, which allowed Wigan to spread the play effectively and meant that it didn't become too tight when being pressed with intensity.

It also created gaps inside. With Henderson often forward, there was a lot of space around Adam on the counter attack and with Moses and Gomez tucked inside between Liverpool's wide men and holding players, Wigan had some advantages in attacks. Often, vertical passes were played to Gomez or Moses in those areas, where the ball was then played to the wide areas.

In fact between the 20-30 minute mark, Wigan had a number of shots from outside the area behind Henderson and Adam, where Liverpool were evidently having problems.

Victor Moses' fantastic run around 37 minutes also highlighted the space left by Liverpool during attacks with the front player running into space left by Adam and Henderson and notable space left either side of the centre backs, with both full backs high up.

A number of long balls were played to Moses or Sammon to challenge in the air with Adam, dragging the Scotsman further away from his back four.

Towards the end of the first half, the game was becoming more counter attack based, with space left by both teams who were pressing the opposing defence high up the field. Both were passing the ball around at the back and with the centre backs fairly wide, it meant that pressing was made slightly easier to start high up, though left space in between the lines. Liverpool often played passes into Kuyt with his back to goal, allowing Liverpool to build possession further forward and also allowing Maxi to drift into the hole behind Wigan's midfield with Kuyt inside.

Second half

The second half began as had the first, with Liverpool on the front foot. Liverpool initially lost the ball from the kick off out wide but with tight sectorial pressing from a Wigan throw, they won the ball and moved it quickly down the left with a number of players moving forward again leading to a couple of set piece opportunities.

Wigan were still finding space on the counter attack around Henderson and Adam and they did this with pace not long into the second half although Victor Moses' 25 yard shot was poor.

Not long after though, Adam found space in midfield and switched the play to Enrique on the left. His run pushed Wigan back and after a series of passes outside the penalty area on the right hand side after the ball had been squared, a lovely diagonal pass was played along the floor behind Wigan's right for Enrique to run onto again, and the ball was played across. From there Liverpool won their penalty which was saved by Al Habsi.

Liverpool's play for a couple of minutes after that was ok with the deeper midfielders attracting the attention of Wigan's centre midfield, allowing Maxi space to drift in behind when that happened and also when the ball was moved wide.

However, Wigan started to get more possession, with Liverpool's pressing not as aggressive high up, and Martinez's side were well spread out, allowing them to switch effectively and making it harder for Liverpool to press.

The tempo of the game was slower now with Wigan using slower transitions and working the gaps which they were creating with their wide shape. Stam and Jones were moving very high up in possession and creating good outballs for switches in play though Jones was increasingly moving inside from the left, interchanging with Moses.

Liverpool changed their formation around the 60 minute mark, with Maxi moving to the left, Downing on the right and Kuyt deeper in a central position in a 4-2-1-3 formation. Dalglish's side were beginning to play wider in attack and spread the play, though were still leaving space and were beginning to look tired with a lack of incision in the final third. With just less than 20 minutes left, Jonjo Shelvey replaced Kuyt and Bellamy replaced Maxi on the left.

Wigan then shifted to a 4-3-3 with tiredness affecting the game and the knowledge that Liverpool had brought on extra pace on the left with Bellamy and fresh legs helping to dominate the midfield area with Shelvey. Watson replaced Jones and Rodallega replaced Gomez.

Wigan's frontline became their biggest threat at this stage. With Rodallega on and Di Santo, an earlier substitution, also on, their directness and speed, especially with Moses, was a threat on the counter. Rodallega was used as the centre of their front three when they were attacking and a number of direct vertical balls were played forward to him with Di Santo making diagonal runs from the left for the flick on.

However when defending, it was Rodallega who moved to the left while Di Santo was left on his own up front. With this, it meant that Di Santo, with his extra pace, could attack quicker on the break and also, because he was better with the ball at his feet and could move across to the flanks quicker, he could create space for vertical runs from deep, in a similar way that Suarez did on the counter attack for Liverpool.

Generally at this point Liverpool's most lively and penetrative players were their full backs, with Moses and Rodallega struggling to track Enrique and Johnson with their pacy movement forward. Other than that Liverpool struggled to open them up with Wigan playing a low block and making it compact in the middle. This meant that Downing was running into a number of players when moving inside from the right, Bellamy couldn't use his pace and overall Liverpool were not creating space efficiently enough

Eventually a draw was probably the most balanced result from a game in which both teams created space in the hole but where neither had the incision to get a goal

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A couple of tactical points on El Clasico

A full game summary can be found here from Michael Cox at Zonal Marking

Here is a brief look at a couple of notable things from the game:

Real Madrid's pressing game

Before the game, much of the talk had been about whether Madrid would press high and stop Barcelona building up transitions from the back or sit deep and shut off space in the final third. They went for the former.

Though the goal came from a bad pass from Valdes and a marking mistake from Pique (should have been tight on Benzema), it did show one thing teams can do to give themselves a chance against the Catalonians.

It's common sense but from a kick off both teams are on equal levels; both in their own half with roughly the same lines in midfield and defence. What often happens from kick offs is that the ball gets passed back to midfield or defence and then gets knocked long. However with Barcelona's possession game, they often prefer to pass it around the back.

Because everyone is in their own half from kick off, it means that you can't push the defensive line up to give yourself more time and space in possession. Because of this, it is an idea to press Barcelona high and aggressively from the kick off.

Madrid did exactly that. Immediately as the ball went back, Benzema and Ozil moved forward quickly, Benzema making good pressing movements and following the ball, man on the ball and taking into account the next pass while Ozil followed in a deeper position behind.

As the ball goes back to Puyol, Benzema presses him while Ozil follows, pressing the player behind. Di Maria moves forward  ready for when the ball moves to the left.

As the ball is played across to Pique, Benzema goes to close him down with Di Maria doing the same from the right and Ozil stopping the ball going into midfield. This forces Pique to play it back to Valdes.

Of course the goal came seconds later from a misplaced pass from Valdes but just see the pressing shape high up when Valdes went to play the ball:

Benzema on the left, Ozil down the middle, Di Maria on the right.

Real Madrid's 4-2-3-1 shape was a factor in their high pressing. Before the game, the rumours were that Ozil wouldn't start and that a 4-3-3 would be played, particularly when assistant coach Karanka said in the press conference the day before that they would.

A 4-2-3-1 however allows your central attacking midfielder to fulfil a number of pressing roles. It all depends on where the ball is, where the nearest players are (both on the same team and opposition team) and where the current position of the player is. One of these roles is to press alongside the main striker. This is generally seen against a 4-4-2 when the ball is passed around at the back. Generally the wingers will also press in this situation when the ball goes towards the full back, thereby creating a 4-2-4 pressing shape. This is seen here:

Because of Barcelona's threat in midfield and link up play, you can see Di Maria and Ronaldo slightly deeper, creating a 4-4-2 shape. If the ball had gone to the full back, the winger would either have held position or would have pressed, and Ozil or Benzema would have pressed Pique, while the other dropped deep to stop the overload and ball going into midfield:

Diagram of if the ball goes to Puyol - Ronaldo will close him down, Ozil presses Pique while Diarra and Alonso deal with the two players in front of them. Benzema drops deep.

One of the other pressing roles is shown from the goal - just behind the striker. The idea here is that the winger and the striker press the full back and centre back while the attacking midfielder (Ozil) stops the ball going into midfield. Often this creates a 'pressing triangle':

Real Madrid did this very well early on, making it very difficult for Barcelona to work their transitions around in defence and forcing them back.

If a 4-3-3 had been played, arguably only the second of those pressing roles is possible. Having Ozil playing there also meant better transitions.

Barcelona between the lines

When a team is being pressed high up, the short, horizontal passes are the most risky. Of course in a possession based team like Barcelona, who do build transitions from the back, it is possible to halt the flow if you press high and aggressively. This is far easier said than done of course and it takes a very well organised team to do that. Real Madrid managed to do it in a lot of situations in the first half.

Barcelona's main transitions however often go from the defence into players between the lines like Messi and then back to the midfield to control from there. Villas Boas explains it very well in this interview in the telegraph from August:

Guardiola has talked about it: the centre backs provoke the opponent, invite them forward then, if the opponent applies quick pressure the ball goes to the other central defender, and this one makes a vertical pass.
Not to the midfielders, who have their back turned to the ball, but to those moving between lines, Andres Iniesta or Lionel Messi, or even directly to the striker.
Then they play the second ball with short lay-offs, either to the wingers who have cut inside or the midfielders, who now have the game in front of them.
In the first half this was certainly needed when in possession at the back. Because of the Barca midfield dropping deep, thereby enticing Real Madrid to press them, there was space in between the lines if the ball was moved there, often in between the full backs, wingers and defensive midfielders, as highlighted here:

The space between the full backs and wingers and the overload in the centre in Barca's favour.

With Iniesta the main player on the left for Barca and Messi and Alexis drifting around further forward, they were very important in getting the ball out of defence and actually creating spells of possession. Towards the end of the first half, Barcelona were increasingly keeping more of the ball thanks to their quick combinations in the centre and between the lines and this told the difference in the second half.

With hindsight the move from Guardiola to move Alves forward was inspired. The width that came from it and the option for the diagonal outball to him was important particularly as Iniesta was coming quite narrow to create overloads in the centre and possible interplay, often between him and Fabregas and so there was no one wide and high up on the left for Barcelona.

This meant play could also be spread there if needed to and also stretched Madrid to cause more space between the lines.

Busquets, who was moved to centre back when Alves went right wing, was also coming out of defence and Real Madrid were struggling to control the overload in the centre. Indeed Barcelona seemed to have more passing options when Madrid did press high up.

Because of the 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 shape described in Zonal Marking's match report, Messi was also allowed more space. Real Madrid in truth actually did a very good job on him thanks to some terrific tackling, most notably from Diarra. However he did play a part in two goals, finding space in front of Madrid's midfield for the first goal and slightly to the right for Barcelona's third.

There comes the problem when facing Barcelona. If you sit deep and compact, you allow them onto you from deep, allow them to push you back and have the risk of their pressing game suffocating you. If you press high up, then there's space between the lines for players like Iniesta and Messi and their quick combinations and interchanging will open you up. Coming up with a tactical plan is very difficult and ultimately, though Madrid looked dominant early on, Guardiola managed to get the better of Mourinho.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chelsea vs Valencia - Live tactical minute by minute report

A possible new feature to the blog. The Guardian, BBC and quite a few other football websites post minute by minute reports on games. Here on LG though there will be a tactical edge; live tactical analysis as the game progresses.

Follow along here for live analysis of Chelsea and Valencia's crucial Champions League clash, starting from 19:00.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Newcastle analysis

One of the Premier League's most surprising success stories so far this season, Alan Pardew's Newcastle side have had a terrific start to the season. Currently placed in the top four at the time of writing, the Geordies also have the joint best defensive record with only 12 goals conceded in 13 games having played Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham

When Chris Hughton was sacked to much opposition last December, few predicted any sort of rise in form. After all Hughton had guided a recently relegated Newcastle straight back into the Premier League and had achieved some good results in the first few months of the season with an in form Andy Carroll helping to fire Newcastle up the league. When Pardew took over, much initial pressure was placed on him from all angles. With steady form culminating in a 12th placed finish, steady progression was the main objective for the club at the start of the season.

Yet the superb form from the side has lead to much deserved praise for their results. Indeed the way they managed to keep United out last weekend just highlighted their remarkable run so far this season.

It will be difficult to keep up such a run with injuries, fitness and loss of form and well as teams finding new ideas to beat them all playing a part as the season goes on but they deserve a lot of credit for their start.


Newcastle have generally been focussed on a 4-4-2 formation so far this season. Their right side is generally higher up the pitch - Danny Simpson is often positioned high up on the right while Obertan on the right wing has a fairly free role when Newcastle have possession and often makes diagonal runs inside. Their left hand side is often deeper - both Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez are right footed and so don't cause as many overlaps on that side, instead playing more static roles, often turning with the ball inside and playing it down the line for the forwards or inside to retain possession. Their midfield has mainly been made up of the energetic Tiote and Cabaye and the back four has remained the same in all 13 games so far.

Notable features

Newcastle's attacking play is very dynamic and quick. It's been quite direct and like Levante, generally vertical. This is partly because of their counter attacking style but also because their attacking shape requires quick, positive passing rather than a slower, horizontal possession game.

The two forwards who have mainly been involved for Newcastle this season, Best and Ba are quite direct players and require an attacking route based around pace and strength. They are very good at threatening behind centre backs and in the air. Both are also aware of the added movement from midfield and will drop deep and wide depending on who and where the midfielders are penetrating.

Newcastle like getting the ball forward quickly, as mentioned with their mainly vertical play. The wingers, Gutierrez and Obertan have played quite different roles on the flanks. Gutierrez mainly positions himself fairly wide and deep on the left so he is able to cut inside onto his right foot
 and play vertical passes forward. Obertan's role is quite different. He generally plays higher up than Gutierrez and can get behind a full back with his pace or move further inside in a more 'free' role than Gutierrez, as he does quite often thanks to Danny Simpson's high positioning on the right.

by Guardian Chalkboards      Krul's distribution to the strikers Best and Ba

It would however be wrong to call Newcastle a long ball team. Looking at the average amount of long balls played per game Newcastle have the fourth least amount. They commit a number of players forward in attacking positions and a lot of their chances happen because of their movement.
Cabaye makes penetrating runs into attacking central areas making a diamond shape in midfield with Tiote holding his defensive midfield position. Sometimes Cabaye overlaps Ba when the striker is taking the ball deeper with his back to goal.

In fact the attacking shape is in a way similar to the traditional English attacking shape. One full back up while one covers, one centre midfielder making runs forward while the other holds, one winger higher up than the other with one of them cutting inside to make an overload and two pacy strong strikers with one able to drop deeper and one making runs behind, between the centre back and full back.

Newcastle have managed to do this but have added a fairly quick tempo and well timed overlaps which have helped them achieve these results.


The main thing they have been identified by this season is their deep compact shape in defence. That is the way they defended mainly against Man City, getting players behind the ball and confining space in front of their penalty area. However they are not limited to that and because of the amount of players they commit forward in attack, they have to press aggressively when they lose the ball high up the pitch

Newcastle's players high up so able to press

Gutierrez is a valuable asset defensively on the left, particularly with Ryan Taylor's inexperience at left backand his speed at getting back to double up on and get tight to an opponent is very good.

Because of the 4-4-2 system, they can get outnumbered in the centre of the field. When soaking up the pressure and getting players behind the ball, this isn't a problem because the objective is to allow the opposition possession but not allow them to open them up. When pressing higher up however there has to be a different system. When the opposition centre backs and full backs have the ball, Ba and Best have generally pressed the centre backs to try and stop the ball going straight to the midfielders to push them back. However when the ball goes into midfield Ba is comfortable dropping deeper and helping stop the overload there.


Space in midfield left by Cabaye and behind Simpson

Oddly enough the problems Newcastle have are defensively. One is the space left by their attacking shape. Their diamond shape in attack leaves quite a bit of space, particularly behind Cabaye. If the ball is moved quickly in that area then that space can be exploited.

Newcastle lose the ball high up. Cabaye in an advanced position goes to press, leaving space behind

Tottenham release it quickly to Parker who has to be closed down by Tiote. In this situation all of Newcastle's midfielders and strikers, bar Tiote are ahead of the ball.

Parker moves it first time to Bale who invited the pressure from Simpson. However there is now space between Newcastle's midfield and defence.
Parker has now turned to face the defence and can run at them or play it behind for Defoe. Quick play from Tottenham in midfield meant that Newcastle are now on the back foot.

With their only loss of the season, Man City, the league leaders dominated possession in the middle and then switched the ball late to the flanks to create, particularly to the right where Micah Richards played very high up and took advantage of a few mistakes on that side to seal the three points in a 3-1 victory.


It will be interesting to see any progression in Newcastle's tactics as the season progresses. With the return of Ben Arfa, a slightly higher, more precise approach may be needed to get the best out of the Frenchman. However their league form so far has been very good so far and that is credit to Alan Pardew's tactics.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A look at Levante's system

Until last Saturday, the team leading La Liga was not Barcelona nor Real Madrid. After winning seven league games on the trot, having drawn the first two, Juan Ignacio Martinez's Levante side sat at the top of Spain's top league with 23 points from nine games.Unfortunately for them and many of  the neutrals, who had become attached to this side who were halting the dominance of the big two, a 2-0 loss to Osasuna last Sunday, who won despite playing the last half an hour with ten men, broke the winning run and left Levante in third place after Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola's sides won on Saturday.

Whether they start to drop down the table remains to be seen. What is for sure, their run has certainly been enjoyed by the neutrals.

So how have they done it? Here's a look at their tactics and shape


Levante's main shape is based around a 4-2-3-1 formation. Without possession this can end up being a 4-4-1-1 shape as the wingers often drop deeper in line with Iborra and Torres, the holding midfielders. The shape does have subtle changes at points; Xavi Torres often goes out to close down on a more frequent basis than Iborra and thus often makes it a 4-1-3-1-1 or a 4-1-4-1 depending on the positioning of the attacking midfielder. In attack it is also often a 4-2-1-3 with both wingers moving high while the attacking midfielder helps to link play. More about these later.


Levante play a very counter attacking style, reliant on a very compact low block in defence and quick transition and good movement from the front four. They generally get the ball forward quickly with very few horizontal passages of possession.

Because of this they very rarely have the most possession in a game. In their ten league games this season, only twice have they had the majority of the possession; once against Racing Santander where they had 51% of the possession and in their only loss of the campaign against Osasuna, where they faced 10 men for the last half hour and where Osasuna sat back very deep and invited Levante to come onto them. In fact they average just 40.9% possession in the league

An example of Levante's low block without possession (vs Real Madrid)
One of the strengths Levante have is they are very hard to open up. As you can see from the picture above they are often extremely compact, with not much gap between the centre forward and the centre backs. With the extra midfielder (Barkero in this instance) they are also able to form a five in midfield and make themselves even harder to break down as they did in their win over Real Madrid.

How Levante matched Real Madrid up in the middle as shown by the triangles.
Their back four is often extremely narrow and compact, which helps cut out diagonal balls between the centre backs and full backs.

This makes width against them very important. Real Madrid looked at their most dangerous against them when their wingers got the ball high up out wide against the full backs. This generally happened from a quick switch from one side to the other which Levante are open to because of their compact shape and the fact that they often double up on the wide players on the ball out wide.

Seven players pressing when Real Madrid have the ball out wide on the left.
The big hero of their campaign so far has been their 36 year old captain, Sergio Ballesteros. Officially the heaviest player in the league, it's easy to doubt his ability yet him and his defensive partner, Nano, have had terrific campaigns so far. Their anticipation and composure has been extremely useful so far in the campaign, especially considering the team's defensive style - balls over the top become more prominent so as to break down the midfield as does the importance of controlling the space between them and the holding midfielders.


As mentioned, Levante have been very good in transition from defence into attack. Their front four have very good movement with Arouna Kone at the centre of it. Kone is often the target man on the counter attack, either by the ball being played directly into him or diagonal balls behind the defence for him to chase into the channels, while the wingers move up. Kone is very good at bringing other players into play. Often he will dribble wide while the attacking midfield, be it Barkero or Ruben move into the centre forward position and one of the wingers moves inside, generally Valdo.

Similar movements and patterns also happen in possession when they're not counter attacking. As shown from the diagrams above and below, Nano is generally the player who plays long diagonal balls from the back, though goalkeeper, Munua's kicking is also very good. The wingers are generally very high in possession, often higher than the attacking midfielder often leading to a 4-2-1-3 formation in attack. Nano then plays a long diagonal ball to one of the wingers in the air. The aim is generally to get Kone running in behind the opposition defence with a headed flick on or to get Barkero on the ball to build attacks (shown below)

Long diagonal balls from Nano to wide area. Kone makes diagonal run to that area for the flick on by winger. Opposite winger and attacking midfielder move forward.

Because their attacks are mainly reliant on counter attacks, it is generally the front four who do the main attacking. Torres and Iborra generally hold their positions together though Torres tends to move up more and add a more positive reference point in attack.

The full backs are generally fairly disciplined and aren't particularly attacking though they will attack when given the opportunity - Javi Venta played a big role in Kone's winner against Real Madrid. Valdo is generally the highest of the wingers so he is able to use his pace to get behind the full back often from diagonal balls behind. Juanlu only really gets behind when Barkero links up with him out wide. Barkero himself is a very good passer and has very good movement in the trequartista role. He is often the deepest of the front four but he is often in space, either to recieve long balls or to link up with wingers, which he is very good at.

Barkero's heat map against Malaga
One weakness they do have is a possible lack of ability to break teams down when the opponent gets men behind the ball. Against Osasuna, they faced ten men for the last half an hour yet never particularly looked like scoring even with a majority of possession and a 3-2-1-4 formation

How Levante ended their game against Osasuna.
Overall though, Levante have been excellent so far - extremely efficient and very well organised and Martinez has got some excellent results from his side. It would be nice to see them go on another winning run but whether that happens or not, they have performed extremely well so far.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Valencia 1-1 Chelsea: Valencia respond after good Chelsea spell

An interesting game, even during the points where there weren't many chances.

Starting line ups

Valencia went with the same outfield line up as they played in their 2-2 draw with Barcelona last week with Diego Alves coming in as goalkeeper. Chelsea 'matched' them in midfield and played a 4-3-3 with Mata on the right and Malouda on the left of the attacking three.

First half

The main outlook for both teams was similar. For Chelsea, their 'wide' men, Malouda and Mata, generally cut inside from outside positions on the ball though Malouda tended to run at the full back a bit more and cut inside rather than Mata who often cut inside at an earlier point.

Valencia also did something similar, with Pablo Hernandez often very central and Mathieu also moving inside, creating space for the attacking full back Alba to overlap into. This often caused an overload with Mikel, the deepest in the Chelsea midfield, often outnumbered in this area.

The major differences in this were mainly down to formation. With Chelsea's team, their wide men, particularly Mata were trying to break into the hole between defence and midfield and Torres was generally fairly central acting as the focal point of the attack. Lampard and Ramires in the central midfield roles also got forward into that role generally when Mata or Malouda exchanged passes with them from deeper positions in midfield, meaning Lampard and Ramires had more space to run into.

With Valencia, Canales was sat in the attacking midfield role where Mikel was and so they always had someone taking up this position. Banega and particularly Albelda generally sat deep to keep the ball acting as a double pivot.
The biggest difference however was in the role of Soldado. Whereas Torres was often very central, Soldado tended to move out wide when the wingers were narrow and help create a triangle with the full backs high up the pitch. Generally this happened on the right when Hernandez was often very central.

After the first few minutes where Chelsea had a couple of openings, the game slowed down a little and there were few chances. Valencia were dominant in possession with their double pivot in midfield and generally started their play on the left, mainly because Banega, a better ball player than Albelda, was stationed on the left of their two. Hence why Hernandez's central positioning was generally more noticeable than Mathieu's; Mathieu was just as central when the ball was on the right but the ball tended to be on their left when they had possession so Hernandez came closer to the play.

Valencia's movement was generally more fluid than Chelsea's due to frequent overlaps from the full backs and the movement of Soldado up front but Chelsea were generally sat behind the ball and their main threat was through counter attack so it didn't particularly matter that they were more rigid.

Generally though chances came either from mistakes high up the pitch or from wide men narrowing the defensive side and then the full backs making overlaps.

Second half

There were no obvious changes at half time but soon after, Malouda swapped positions with Mata. The Spaniard became far more central with Cole often higher up the pitch, while out on the right Malouda generally ran at the full back a lot more.

This led to Chelsea's superb spell a few minutes after the restart because Mata had more license to move inside and Malouda's better wider play on the right meant Valencia were stretched. This was obvious for their goal, where Malouda ran at Alba while Torres and Mata were in the middle, creating space for Lampard on the left of the box who finished it off from Malouda's cross.

Chelsea probably should have been more incisive during this period because for the first time in the game, they had pushed Valencia back deep and because of this Valencia were struggling to move forward, meaning Chelsea could start to dominate.

Valencia though responded well. They slowly started to push Chelsea back in a similar way to the way they had done in the first half, with Chelsea generally playing on the counter attack. They regained control of possession and Emery made some good substitutions, with Piatti, Jonas and Fehgohli coming on during the second half. The shape generally didn't change though the full backs were becoming relied upon to provide the width with Valencia's attacking players very central.

Piatti had a couple of chances himself, one from a ball over the top behind the Chelsea defence, somewhere where they've looked vulnerable this season and another when Alba provided a cross from high up on the left, while he was fairly central in the box.

Villas Boas's substitutions were also very good. Raul Meireles made his way on for Ramires (both similar players), Anelka came on for Torres up front and Kalou came on for Lampard. The last one was the more questionable but with Valencia creating more overloads in the centre, it meant that Chelsea could play Meireles and Mikel as holding mids and have Kalou and Malouda out wide with Mata matching up to Albelda.

The teams after all the substitutions had been made

As Valencia pushed more men up in midfield and Albelda generally the only holding midfielder for the Spanish side, it meant Chelsea had more space to hit on the counter attack when Valencia lost the ball high up the pitch.

In the end though Kalou made a silly mistake with a handball and Soldado scored the penalty to mean that the game ended in a draw.

An interesting game tactically in which both managers used their systems and shape well. Chelsea will be disappointed they didn't finish off their chances but Valencia played well and deserved their point.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Classic Match - Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona (2005)

The first leg ended 2-1 to Barcelona at the Nou Camp in controversial circumstances which led to referee, Anders Frisk retiring after death threats were received. Didier Drogba had also been sent off and overall the first leg had been an intensely fought match. The second leg was always going to be the same

Chelsea lined up in something approaching a 4-4-1-1 though the formation was fairly adaptable as will be explained later. Barcelona lined up in their 4-3-3 system with World Player of The Year, Ronaldinho, in their line up.

From the kick off, Chelsea were bright and playing at a high tempo. They were pressing Barcelona back in their own half and when they won the ball, were attacking at a quick pace. These type of starts happen all the time and there is a reason for this - from a kick off, particularly when the opponent starts which in this case Barcelona did, the ball generally is passed back to the defence from the kick off and the other team can press high up the pitch.

Chelsea here won the ball not long after the kick off and were able to set their attacking stall clear - straight away, Kezman was drifting around on the flanks, making diagonal runs across the defence, allowing Gudjohnsen and Lampard to make runs from deep down the centre and the wingers, Duff and Cole were also making quick runs forward on the flanks. Less than two minutes in, and Chelsea had their first chance on goal. From a Lampard free kick an under pressure Valdes made a weak punch clear and John Terry, forward from centre back, hit it over the bar with the goal gaping in front of him.

Barcelona slowly started to ease into their possession game. Their full backs were fairly high, allowing Iniesta, generally a central player and Ronaldinho, a right footed player playing on the left, to move inside.
Their possession was relatively untroubled in deep positions. Attacking players like Samuel Eto'o weren't restricted in their positioning and would drift around, sometimes going deep, sometimes going wide. As such they could try and open Chelsea up.

Barcelona's problem was that each Chelsea player was zonally tracking them when it got to around 40 yards out from Petr Cech's goal. When Ronaldinho moved into the centre, Ferreira or the closest player would track him tightly, then the space he created on the left would be covered by another Chelsea player. Each player was working hard, covering the space and players and making it as hard as possible for Barcelona's ball players to be able to play their quick diagonal passes, especially in the centre.

Chelsea were mainly playing a 4-4-1-1 when they didn't have the ball, though they didn't stick tightly to this all the time because Barcelona interchanged a lot, so sometimes it required that Gudjohnsen dropped deep or Lampard had to go out wide etc. Thus it often became a 4-5-1 or a 4-1-4-1

They were extremely compact but their pressing was in general very good. When Barcelona got the ball into wide areas, Chelsea generally tried to crowd out the space in that area and often had 4 or 5 men around to try and win the ball

Chelsea trying to shut Barcelona's attacks down out wide by compacting the space.

Makelele generally sat slightly deeper than the rest of the Chelsea midfield covering the defensive midfield area and tracking anyone who entered his zone. Thus it was very difficult for Barcelona to play any short passes to Eto'o's feet. The space in that area was closed off and once Barcelona's midfield had the ball 40 yards out from goal, they were immediately harried and closed down.

It would be unfair to say Chelsea were solely concentrating on staying deep and compact because they did just what Barcelona forced them to do. They couldn't afford to push to high up when Barcelona had the ball in Chelsea's half because they would have been split open. Yet when Barcelona were passing it deep and Chelsea had players close then they would press them and push them back. Their defence would move higher and they'd look a more positive team. Yet it was all to do with denying Barcelona space in which to work. It just so happened that Barcelona often had the ball in Chelsea's half.

Generally though they were sat back deep and in particular covering the space in the middle very well. Barcelona's short, diagonal passes were therefore limited in that area because there was no space in which to work them. Plus, Barcelona weren't playing someone in a straight trequartista role so the space in that area was generally taken by Chelsea players. Chelsea's formation also, matched that of Barcelona's in midfield so Barcelona didn't have a free man.

Because of this Barcelona only really opened them up or looked like opening them up when they played it long from deep where they were relatively unmarked and not harried. Either that or they opened them up by turning and running at the Chelsea defence or midfield. Most of the time though the Barca players were tracked so well that they never got the space or time to run at Chelsea. On the rare occasions that Samuel Eto'o was played in by a short ball to the middle, it came from out wide and not from deep. On the first occasion it happened he forced a good save off Petr Cech.

Chelsea were mainly sat back deep waiting for loose passes to go astray and then counter attack Barcelona. Less than three minutes into the game, Chelsea won the ball in the centre outside their own area and Carvalho played it forward to Gudjohnsen, who was generally the out ball. Kezman who spent all night drifting across the defence peeled to the right and was played in by Gudjohnsen but was offside. This should have acted as a warning to Barcelona.

Just 7 minutes into the game, Xavi slipped on the ball in midfield and Lampard played a diagonal ball from midfield towards Kezman on the right. Kezman using his pace got behind the defence played a delightful ball across to Gudjohnsen breaking from midfield and he wrong footed Oleguer and fired it over Victor Valdes into the goal.

Chelsea's speed on the counter attack was lightning. They had Kezman who had good pace and was drifting across the defence causing all sorts of problems. Gudjohnsen and Lampard were breaking well from the centre taking advantage of the space that Kezman left in the middle and Joe Cole and Damien Duff were breaking at lightning pace from out wide though the former was mainly sat deeper to try and help stop Ronaldinho getting into the game.

On the counter attack, Chelsea switched from a 4-4-1-1 to an attacking 4-1-4-1 with Makelele holding and the other four midfielders getting forward at pace. With five players running at them at pace from deep, Barcelona struggled to deal with this throughout the game.

The second Chelsea goal arrived just 9 minutes later. Cole was fed by Ferreira on the right and after turning inside, took a left footed shot on goal that was deflected, wrong footing Valdes who managed to get a hand to it. Lampard, making a late run from deep, was first to the rebound and he tucked it in to the open net. 2-0 and Chelsea were now in front on aggregate.

Damien Duff's positioning was more central than Joe Cole's. While Cole was charged with the task of doubling up on Ronaldinho, Duff was mainly helping out in the middle when the Barcelona midfield had the ball. When Makelele or Lampard left space or a player free, Duff picked them up fairly well. However it was on the counter attack where his more central positioning was shown. On a number of occasions he made runs between Belletti and the centre backs and though not used for most of the counter attacks, his positioning would be key for the third Chelsea goal. Before the game had even reached the 20 minute mark, the ball went loose, Carvalho picked it up and played it forward to Kezman. With one touch he played it back to Lampard who played in Duff who was making a diagonal run into the centre and he played  it past Valdes for three.

Puyol (orange) comes over from the right sided centre back position towards Kezman, leaving space a big space between him and Belletti at right back

Duff makes a diagonal run between the space after being played in by Lampard after Kezman had laid it off to the English midfielder.

Duff hits it past Valdes. Notice the space between Belletti and Puyol.

Barcelona at this stage were in disarray. Chelsea were the only team creating chances and Barcelona, though controlling possession, were struggling to get through Chelsea's hard working, compact defence.

They didn't panic though. Both sides' systems stayed the same and it was through two high balls from the right that Barca got back into the game.

As mentioned already, because of Chelsea trying to keep it compact in the areas where Barcelona had the ball, there was often space elsewhere and this generally happened to be in deeper positions on the pitch. In this case Barcelona worked the ball to the edge of the Chelsea box pushing their midfield back. Eto'o then played it deep to the right hand side where Belletti was positioned. Because Chelsea had tried to fill the space where Barcelona previously had the ball (the edge of the area) Belletti found plenty of space to hit a deep cross in, in which Paulo Ferreira handled in the area. Ronaldinho stepped up to take the penalty and Barcelona had a goal back.

For the second Barcelona goal the tactic was shown again here but it worked for a different reason. Oleguer hit it long aiming just behind the Chelsea defence. Thus the back four moved back and Terry struggled to get his header away from danger. Instead the gap opened up between the midfield and defence and Iniesta and Ronaldinho took advantage of it - Iniesta picked up the knock down, played it to Ronaldinho hit it into the corner.

Oleguer takes hold of the ball and goes to play it long despite being under pressure.

Oleguer's long ball is aiming just behind the Chelsea defence hence they have to drop deeper to clear it away. However this creates a gap between the midfield and defence.

As John Terry goes to head it away, the gap is far too big and there are four Barcelona players in close company in that space.

Terry's weak header is picked up by one of those players in Iniesta who lays it off to Ronaldinho who swivels and sends a stunning, curling, toe poke into the corner.

Second Half

Suddenly Chelsea were going out on away goals. It was up to them to take the initiative and they had to do it against a Barcelona side that were very good at keeping the ball and full of flair.

Clearly, taking too many risks against Barcelona was not any good. The exact gaps that Chelsea had shut off for much of the first half would just open up and with players like Iniesta, Eto'o and Ronaldinho in those areas, Chelsea would just be killed off.

Instead, Chelsea played roughly the same way in the second half. They would find chances on the counter attack, they would find space. If Barcelona dropped deeper and didn't maintain the pressure then Chelsea could just push up and press them. It was well played by Chelsea. Barcelona couldn't play defensive or drop deeper. That would favour Chelsea. Instead they had to push up and take the risk of leaving gaps for a possible counter attack.

Sylvinho came on for Van Bronckhorst and five minutes into the second half, Glen Johnson came on for Paulo Ferreira at right back. Chelsea's wingers played slightly narrower in the second half on the counter attack, allowing space for the full backs to get forward if Barcelona got men back. For about 5 minutes Duff and Cole swapped positions and briefly played as inverted wingers for five minutes but other than that the first 15 minutes of the second half continued with not much change from the first half.

Chances were still being created. Belletti forced Cech to save down to his right when he found space 25 yards out from goal after Chelsea had tried to squeeze play out on the left hand side. Joe Cole forced a save when he cut in from the left and his shot was deflected forcing Valdes to save. They had other openings as well while Puyol forced a great save off Cech from a corner.

However from this period on, Barcelona slowly started to ease the pressure on Chelsea. Their midfield dropped back a bit. Chelsea pushed up a bit and it slowly started to change. It was still fairly even and you couldn't predict which team would be on top next but Chelsea were slowly starting to look more dangerous. Lampard had a free kick that curled wide. Gudjohnsen had a shot blocked from 8 yards out. The shapes hadn't changed but Barcelona, seemingly trying to make the defence more solid, made it more vulnerable to Chelsea's compact pressing and quick attacks.

Joe Cole and Damien Duff started to push up more, making it more into a 4-3-3 formation in attack. The defence moved higher and though they appeared more vulnerable to balls played in behind and runs at the defence (one in which resulted in Iniesta hit the post), their overall play was more dangerous for Barcelona.

Then 15 minutes before the end of the game, John Terry poked up from a corner, controversially heading it past Valdes who felt he had been obstructed by Carvalho.

Now it was Barcelona who were chasing a goal. Tiago came on for Gudjohnsen a couple of minutes after the goal and he, being a more natural centre midfielder, made the centre of midfield a more solid three so there attacking formation was a definite 4-3-3 instead of an attacking 4-1-4-1 or a 4-2-3-1. In defence it was a 4-1-4-1.

Barcelona responded with a couple of substitutions of there own bringing on Ludovic Giuly and Maxi Lopez to reinforce the front line. Meanwhile Robert Huth came on for Chelsea at the back.

After 4 substitutions in 6 minutes, the shapes were going to be fairly different. The only conclusion at the end was that Mourinho had got his substitutions right.

First of all with the Tiago substitution, he was clearly going to be better defensively than Gudjohnsen in midfield. He sat deeper and Chelsea were able to tighten up that area because of it. Bringing on Robert Huth for Duff meant Chelsea switched to a back five and also meant they had an extra aerial presence for Barcelona's long balls forward that they played in desperation.

With Barcelona's substitutions, Giuly and Maxi Lopez, while positive able to give a fresh attacking approach led to a feeling of last chance tactics. Barcelona for the last few minutes had 4 or 5 men on the edge of the box waiting for the long ball forward. With Chelsea's aerial dominance and considering they were sat deep, they were the obvious winners of that area. Then add to that fact that Barcelona now had a gap between midfield and attack at that point meaning Chelsea generally won the second ball. It's something teams looking for a goal in the last few minutes often fall into the trap of. Throwing plenty of men forward against the edge of the box but leaving hardly any presence in midfield. This meant that Barca were forced to knock it long and when they didn't win it up front, Chelsea had the advantage in the midfield area. When Barcelona did look to get players in the midfield area, Chelsea had it covered with their three centre midfielders and they still looked comfortable.

As such Barcelona created virtually nothing of note in the last 15 minutes which was in a way, a disappointment. They had some of the best attacking flair in Europe at the time, but Chelsea were just tactically spot on for the last quarter of the game and held on comfortably to secure a memorable win.

Overall highlights


Classic Match Series:

2005 Champions League Final - Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan

1999 Champions League Final - Man United 2-1 Bayern Munich

1994 Champions League Final - AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Classic Match Series - AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona (1994)

Johan Cruyff's Dream Team against Fabio Capello's personal version of the tactical ideas laid out by Arrigo Sacchi.

In the build up to the match Barcelona were seen as the favourites. In some ways they were seen as heavy favourites. Milan were without their defenders, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta as well as being without Marco Van Basten and their young attacking threat Gianluigi Lentini.

Added to this was the fact that because of UEFA rules at the time, they were forced to leave out Florin Răducioiu, Jean-Pierre Papin and Brian Laudrup.

They therefore started in a rough 4-4-2 formation without many of their first choice players.

Barcelona could field a very strong line up with renowned players such as Koeman, Guardiola, Bergiristain, Stoichkov and Romario. They set out in a 4-3-3 formation, similar to the system that the current Barcelona have.

Now with the fact that Barcelona had a strong line up, their system was fairly similar to what they usually held. Their possession game was good, they opened up and shaped wide when they had the ball, they passed it around at the back. Guardiola drifted around making himself constantly available for the short option in defensive midfield. Bergiristain and Stoichkov stayed fairly wide though did come inside when the ball was on the opposite flank and Romario was the head of the line. When the full backs moved forward, the centre backs moved wider and they kept the ball fairly well up to the middle third.

From the middle third to the front third was where their main problem lay. Mostly, this was because of Milan's defensive shape, which had the midfield four fairly compact and one of the strikers dropping deep. It was very hard for Barcelona to pass through this defensive shape because it was so compact. Stoichkov and Bergiristain were being tracked very tightly by Panucci and Tassotti on the ball and because of the narrow Milan midfield, it was very difficult to play it straight through to Romario.

Milan's midfield four very compact in front of defence and Barcelona finding it hard to break through.

Romario himself was struggling to find space. The Milan back four were generally sat deep when Barca had possession so he struggled to go behind, nor could he drop deep because there was little gap between the defence and midfield. When a straight ball was played to him when he did drop deep, Galli marked him very tightly with Maldini the spare man, whilst Albertini and Desailly were in close company.

Romario marked very tightly by Galli in the green. Meanwhile Maldini acts as the spare man at centre back

Barcelona perhaps could have done with moving Stoichkov and Bergiristain further infield whilst allowing the full backs to make more overlaps. Ferrer and Sergi did move up the field but not high enough to unbalance Milan nor making many quick overlaps when Stoichkov or Bergiristain got the ball with their backs to goal. This was part of the reason why Stoichkov and Bergisitain had fairly quiet games. They were tracked so tightly by Tassotti and Panucci that when they received the a short ball from deep, they generally had their backs to goal and were unable to turn their respective full back.
Therefore Barcelona's attacking threat was very limited. They couldn't pass through the Milan midfield (the only time they did was when the Milan midfield had pressed them naively and left space between the defence and the midfield, resulting in pretty much the first opening for Barcelona). They weren't that dynamic on the flanks because the full backs weren't overlapping and the wingers weren't allowed to turn, and so they were generally passing it about in non-threatening positions.

They created very little overall. As said they had one opening when they'd created an overload between  Milan's midfield and defence and they had one shot on goal when Stoichkov was on the ball, cut inside and had a shot from 25 yards out. Other than that their only other openings occurred when they played diagonal, long balls from deep, behind Panucci for Stoichkov to run onto.

In fact they possibly could have done by taking more risks with their passing. Because of their lack of ability to break through Milan's midfield, they possibly should have played it longer more often because even if it had been cut out by Milan's defence, it would have meant they would have been able to press Milan from the front instead of midfield or defence where they were having to do a lot of their pressing.
Milan with their formation, had one less man in the middle of the field. Guardiola was generally the spare man for Barcelona in a deep, playmaking role so Milan had to deal with that. They dealt with it in a couple of different ways.

The first way was by simply dropping one of the strikers deeper when Barcelona had possession, thereby creating a narrow 4-4-1-1 formation. This meant that Guardiola could be pressed and meant that Barcelona couldn't take advantage of any extra man in midfield, simply because they didn't have one.

Milan's 4-4-1-1 shape in possession

The second way was something that seemed to occur after a few minutes. The fact that Barcelona's full backs weren't going very high up the pitch (in the way Dani Alves does now) meant that this was easily possible. What Milan did was to get Albertini to occupy Guardiola. Then Desailly would occupy one of the centre midfielders, while either Donadoni or Boban would occupy the other centre midfielder.

Albertini, Desailly and Donadoni track Barca's 3 in midfield while Boban is up against his direct opponent Sergi. This leaves Ferrer free on the right but means that Barca are covered in the middle.

This would generally occur when Barcelona had the ball on one side meaning the full back on the opposite side was generally left free. Then when Barcelona spread the ball to the opposite side, the system would swap sides, leaving the other full back free. (Video below)

Milan could use either of these options depending on whichever suited their positions when they lost the ball.

Milan's attacking play had a number of different patterns to it. The overall strength of it though was how fluid it was. A lot of teams who have lots of specific tactical plans are quite rigid in the execution of these. In fact Barcelona were meant to be the exciting, fluid team and Milan were meant to be the rigid, defensive team. Yet in a way it was the opposite in terms of attacking play. Barcelona were too rigid in their 4-3-3 and Milan had lots of interchanging and little tactical ideas moving smoothly from one to another.
It did help Milan that because of their excellent defensive shape that they generally won the ball in the centre of the pitch. If they had won it in the defensive third of the field, as spoken about already, Barca's pressing could have overwhelmed them at that point. Yet they generally won it in midfield so could move quickly from there.

The main damage took place on the counter attack. With quick one twos and interchanging with midfielders coming from deep, they generally took over between the lines on the counter. The strikers, Savicevic and Massaro, worked together well positionally. One generally went deep, the other went long, they both stretched the centre backs with Savicevic generally playing to the right in between Nadal and Sergi and Massaro generally played on Koeman or between Koeman and Ferrer.

Savicevic and Massaro's general positions. Savicevic in the space between Sergi and Nadal

Milan's midfield going forward were excellent. The 'wide' men weren't generally on the flanks, especially Boban,so they could interchange well in those positions. Often the strikers would interchange with the wide men, particularly Boban and Savicevic, so the striker went wide while the wide player cut inside.

In terms of general positioning in midfield, Milan mainly committed three of the four midfielders forward and leaving one, usually Desailly, to hold. Desailly actually found himself lots of space from deep and had a good game with regards to passing so his distribution from deep was good.

Desailly in the lone holding role in midfield.

Another example

Milan's compact four in midfield.

Boban and Albertini press two of Barcelona's midfielders. Meanwhile, Desailly covers.

The ball drops to Desailly in space and he has time to pick one of the options in front of him.

Albertini had license to move forward from centre midfield and was generally the highest of the midfielders, often resulting in a diamond formation in midfield.

Milan's diamond on the ball

With such narrow positions though from the midfield though, they needed to be able to spread the play when Barcelona actually got men back. This is where Tassotti and Panucci came into the attacking phase of play. Though Milan got forward quickly and smoothly on the counter attack when there was space, there had to be a good shape when they Barca dropped deep. As the first half went on, Tassotti and particularly Panucci moved very high and wide up the pitch, able to stretch the play well and cause several chances for Milan.

In terms of actual attacking play, it varied for Milan. Savicevic was often used as a target man when Milan one the ball back and with his positioning generally on the right, it gave the chance for the diagonal ball. Massaro often did the same on the left hand side though he was usually more central than Savicevic when Barcelona had the ball.

Milan made good use of triangles and one twos because with two strikers and three midfielders forward as well as the full backs, they could afford to interchange. If one player moved forward, the other would cover. They executed this excellently and because everyone was aware of each zone that needed filled and were aware of different players positioning, it flowed superbly and Barcelona struggled to deal with it.

As Desailly charges forward, Boban acts as the holding player.

Savicevic picks up the ball and drops deep while Albertini and Desailly make runs.
Tassotti gets forward from full back, providing width. Albertini (blue) breifly sits in the holding role while Desailly runs back and Boban, out of your picture, makes the overlap on the right.
Tassotti moves forward with the ball while Boban (blue) makes a run on the right. Up front, Massaro stays on the defender while Savicevic comes deeper. Meanwhile Desailly on the left trots back to hold in midfield. It was this kind of play that made Milan dangerous. Everyone was aware of the space that needed to be filled and they stretched Barcelona where ever they could yet still maintaining one player in the holding role.

The use of the strikers as target men on occasions also meant that they would hold the ball up in the centre while midfielders rushed forward with momentum. Thus they managed to split open Barcelona and create space to work with.

When Barcelona got men behind the ball, Milan tended to concentrate down the flanks and Boban and especially Donadoni moved slightly wider than previously to create numerical superiority on the flanks. Ferrer had trouble with this and it was no coincidence that the second goal of the game came through this - Donadoni got past him on the left and ran into the area before pulling it back for Massaro to knock in his second.
Nadal at centre back for Barcelona was directly responsible for two of the goals, the first goal when he messed up his heading from the back and was then too easily beaten by Savicevic and the third goal straight after half time when he again dallied around the ball allowing Savicevic to close him down, the ball off him and lob the keeper. Despite the individual mistakes, Barcelona as a whole defended poorly.

When they got hit on the counter attack they generally had numerical inferiority around Guardiola. When they had men back, their central midfielders were too deep. Hence when they cleared the ball it often came straight back at them.

An example of Milan's 4-1-3-2 on the counter attack with four defenders, Desailly holding, the other three midfielders going forward and the two strikers, one dropping short, the other going long.

The systems at the start of the second half didn't change really. Milan were concentrating more on the counter attack than in the first half and Guardiola was getting more time and space on the ball but the overall outcome was the same. Milan's 3rd goal came quickly after the break and at that point Barcelona seemed to know that they weren't coming back. Milan's play in the attacking phase was still as quick and smooth as before and Barcelona were becoming increasingly frustrated, picking up three yellow cards in succession.

One player who became more influential in the second half was Marcel Desailly. In the first half, his role meant he was seen as fairly quiet. Barcelona weren't really threatening in attack and he was mainly playing the holding role when Milan had possession so he wasn't really seen in that area. In the second half, Barcelona had even more possession than they did in the first half (they had 56% of possession in the first half) so Milan's defence was becoming more important. Matched with the fact that Albertini was playing a more restricted role than he did in the first half, Desailly was able at points to charge forward or to close down quicker because, unlike in the first half, he had a covering man. He scored Milan's fourth goal of the night after winning a challenge in midfield and exchanging passes with Albertini before getting behind the defence and slotting it past Zubizaretta into the right hand corner.

From there on, the game was effectively dead. Milan's full backs stayed back and very rarely made forays forward. Desailly and Albertini sat deep in midfield so Milan generally had a 4-2-2-2 in attack. Barcelona made a couple of substitutions and slight changes of system but still struggled with the same problems they'd had in the first half.
Milan started closing down and compacting within 30 or 40 yards of goal so Barcelona still struggled to break through Milan's defence. In the end the only team who looked like scoring again were Milan and they got behind Milan's full backs on a couple of occasions, one in which the ball was pulled back to Savicevic who should've scored.

At which point the game ended and Milan after one of the most amazing performances ever in a European Cup Final took the trophy home leaving Barcelona's Dream Team in tatters.
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