Tag Archives for " Grieve "

Barcelona's Offside Trap

By Stevie Grieve

Luis Enrique took over at FC Barcelona in the summer and one of the first things he has done is make sure that the team are much more solid defensively than they have been in previous seasons. Part of this has been to introduce an aggressive offside trap with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano; two players who can hold a defensive line high and read when to leave the strikers in offside positions.

There have been various ‘trigger’s for the offside trap, and I will look at 3 of these triggers to play offside;

• When the opponent is forced back under pressure

• When the opponent is on the counter attack but pressure is place on the ball in midfield and a long pass is expected

• When a pass needs to be played first time and the strikers are running beyond the defence in expectation for a long pass

The key to a successful offside trap is that pressure is on the ball when it is used; often an offside line is held when there is no pressure on the ball, resulting in the player in possession having time to pick the correct pass which catches the defence in a position where they cannot recover.
In Barcelona’s case, they offside trap is successful when only 2 of the back 4 are in deep positions, generally with the deeper of the 2 centre backs controlling the line depth.

Against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona secured their first win against the current La Liga Champions in 7 games and the fact that Atletico’s direct approach was nullified by the offside trap went a long way towards the solid defensive display.

Barcelona offside trap trigger – 2v1 on the side


Here we can see the compactness of Barcelona from the

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Atletico’s Defensive Struggles this Season

By Stevie Grieve

Last season, Atletico Madrid won La Liga on the back of a strong defensive unit, good individual players and speed in transitions in both attack and defence. After losing GK Courtois, LB Felipe Luis and CF (and talisman) Diego Costa to Chelsea, they have struggled to recreate the attacking transitions that provided so many goals for Diego Costa, while being much less organised in defensive play, particularly in both horizontal and vertical compactness.

In the last 7 games against Atletico, Barcelona have struggled as Atletico’s game plan was simple – reduce space between units, stop Barcelona from being able to get players between the lines to receive and reduce the space on the side of the ball as much as possible. This did not happen.

Good Compactness in a situational 3-4-3


Here, Games is to press and play 1v1 against Messi who plays as a

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Liverpool Improving in Possession

By Stevie Grieve

Since the summer, Liverpool have struggled to get back to the fluid and penetrative style of last season. Losing Luis Suarez was a big blow, and replacing him with 2 immobile strikers instead of a more suitable mobile player or use the rapid and mobile Divock Origi (who stayed on loan at Lille) has caused no end of problems for the team in an attacking sense.

Recently, Brendan Rodgers has found a way to fit in his £25m signing Adam Lallana, talismanic figure Coutinho and potential World Class player Raheem Sterling, by using a system of 3-4-3-0, incorporating a back 3 with Emre Can able to stride into midfield and use his excellent ball playing abilities, with raiding full backs Moreno and Manquillo offering the width on the sides.

The often criticized Joe Allen has found a position similar to the one Busquets made his trademark by dropping between centre backs and operating in front of the oppositions midfield, looking for passes into midfield or attack from a deep position, with Henderson playing ahead of him in a position to press or offer short passes to and from Allen to keep play moving.

Liverpool 3430

Liverpools 3-4-3 is designed to place players between the lines and attack the

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Chelsea’s Centre Backs in Wide Positions

By Stevie Grieve

Jose Mourinho teams have been strong defensively since he took over in his 1st role at Benfica, through from Lieira, Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and again to Chelsea. The backbone of his success has been from a very effective style of play based on not conceding goals, being compact vertically and horizontally, with the 2 centre backs being able to play close together and in front of the goal. In this Chelsea team, although they are the best team in the Premier League and one of the best sides in the Champions League, the lack of pace in the centre of the team is a concern, particularly when Cesc and Oscar and caught high as they are not quick enough to get back and help Matic once the press is beaten.

Another weakness is when Cahill or Terry are drawn wide in possession or to defend 1v1 on the side, Nemanja Matic will cover between the centre backs or in the half space, often leaving a hole in front of the defence due to Cesc or Oscar being too far away to cover the space in front of the back 4.

Against Tottenham, Mauricio Pocchetino had a clear game plan – tempt Chelsea into allowing Terry or Cahill wide in possession then win the ball form high pressing traps in the 4-2-3-1, then attack diagonally towards the far

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Using the Channel to Draw the Defense Over

By Stevie Grieve

Traditionally in football, the field was separated into 3 clear areas – wide-centre-wide, meaning the specific positional play in possession was fairly static. With a field around 60m wide, this means that each zone is 20m wide, often resulting in large distances between players, particularly in a traditional 4-4-2 formation.

If we split the field into 5 clear channels, this distances of width of each zone becomes 15m and the 5m reduction of distances help layers cover more ground collectively and individually, so the ‘channel’ has become a key zone in terms of build-up play and in how to penetrate through defences.

Using the channel draws over players to press diagonally, and normally results in space being opened up either behind the inside central midfielder or the wide midfielder, and often a defensive midfielder will come higher up to cover the space, leaving the zone between the lines free to be exploited, often temporarily hurting the vertical compactness of the defensive block.

To me, there has been a debate among British coaches and European coaches around the term ‘halfspace’, which is derived from the word ‘haufbraum’ used in Germany from the 1930s to describe ‘the channel’ as it was the area usually occupied by a ‘halfback’, hence the term, ‘halfspace’

For me, there is a difference between the channel and the halfspace;

  • The channel is a set strip of field down the field, like the wing or the centre
  • The halfspace is a movable space between 2 specific opposition players – wide and centre.

If a player presses out of position to the channel, they press diagonally leaving a space which can be exploited, particularly if the player in possession has 3 clear lines of play ahead of him.


As the ball is switched from channel to channel, the defensive block would need to

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Bayern's Move from Fixed to Flexible

By Stevie Grieve

Pep Guardiola has evolved the Bayern Munich team over the 18 months he has been in charge so it is almost unrecognisable from the treble winning team and style Jupp Heynckes left behind. The system has changed so much that the fairly rigid positions of each player has been replaced with a solutions to problems based style, and one major change has been the implementation of ‘inverted full backs’ in the manner that they cover 4 positions from 1 zone, almost like an old fashioned ‘halfback’ from the 1930s.

The positioning of this player allows the team to be flexible in the centre and wide areas, in both attack and defence, and in transition phases where the ‘halfbacks’ can drop off to form a back 4, or press high to counter-press with the 2-1 triangle covering behind them (DM & CBs).

Position of the ‘inverted Full Backs / Halfbacks in a 4-3-3



As we can see, the ‘halfback’ is in the position between centre and wide (the channel) between midfield and

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Playing with Inverted Full Backs

By Stevie Grieve

Positioning in modern football is a massive part of the success of a team, particularly in the development of an attacking game but also in ball conservation to defend, while defensive positioning has always been an important factor in a successful defensive unit. With Pep Guardiola (of whom regular blog readers will know I analyse his teams on a regular basis), his tactical innovations are changing the way the game is played and coached across all levels.

Inverted Full Backs to overload the centre and cover several zones with one player


The full backs of Bayern – Alaba and Lahm – can both be played in central midfield and at full back in both attacking and defensive phases. This gives Guardiola so many more options but instead of being a traditional coach and using

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Bayern Munich's Positioning in Midfield

By Stevie Grieve

Bayern Positioning3

Bayern initial set up – 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 hybrid

With Alonso (yellow) screening infront of the defence and playing laterally, this allows Rode (yellow) and Hojbjerg (orange) to be free to drift between the lines and support if Robben or Ribery (Red) stay wide. If they stay wide, Bernat/Rafinha stay deeper and tuck inside as inverted FB’s and help overload centrally to look for forward passes through the defence.

Bayern Positioning 4

Bayern 4-3-3 with 1v1 zones on the side and inverted full backs

As Robben and Ribery are excellent 1v1 players, staying wide opens up a lot of space in

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Lack of Defensive Cover in the Midfield

By Stevie Grieve

In the last few seasons, Arsenal have tried to play a possession and pressing system, but often with massive instability, mainly through Mikel Arteta’s bad decision making at the bottom of the midfield triangle when deciding to press (and often foul) or drop off.

As he was always more of a controlling central midfielder than a deep playmaker in the #6 position, adjusting to this position in an attacking sense has been a lot easier than the defensive aspects needed for the role, such as pressing, covering, screening passes into strikers, tracking runners and offering protection to centre backs.

In the recent game against Manchester United, the lack of stability in the Arsenal midfield out of possession was again evident, particularly when pressing, and often with no stability around or behind the pressing zone.

Example; Rooney’s goal for 2-0 in the 86th minute



In this image, the ball is rebounded to the central midfielder. Above the dotted line, there is only 1 player able to confront the ball carrier and delay play, and not from a weak side position. This dictates that

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Creativity to Create Goalscoring Chance

By Stevie Grieve

One element in tactical development is the ability of players to do the unexpected to open up scoring chances. Tactics allow for the team to have a structured playing style which leads into a game process to find a way to win a game, but often a game is won by players in attacking areas making a chance to score from a piece of inspired play, often in tight situations.

Origi creates a chance for Chadli


De Bruyne dribbles inside to look for a diagonal pass into the feet of a player between the lines or into the

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Arsenal's Terrible Defending v Anderlecht

By Stevie Grieve

Arsenal have been notoriously bad defensively for several years, but this looked to be changing in the past 18 months, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker becoming a solid partnership at the back as both players strengths complement each other’s weaknesses. In this game v Anderlecht, recognised 2nd choice left full back Nacho Monreal played at Centre Back with Per Mertesacker, in what was always destined to be a horror pairing, and so it turned out to be.

From the 1st whistle, neither player looked comfortable with the pairing, and in the 1st half, Anderlecht could’ve easily scored 3 goals, while Arsenal tore into a 2-0 HT lead.

In the 2nd half, Arsenal made it 3 through some

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Bayern Pressing and Direct Attacking

By Stevie Grieve

Bayern Munich under Guardiola have changed significantly since the treble winning team under Jupp Heynckes, but one thing which has returned this season is the direct passes over the top of a defence in attacking transition. This was an aspect missing last season but with Xabi Alonso, David Alaba, Xherdan Shaquiri able to play accurate passes over 40m, and players able to run behind a defence in Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and Mario Goetze, they have the ability to do so.

Pressing results in regain and instant forward pass resulting in a goal


As Bayern press from the front, Bayern like to make play predictable. Here they leave the pass to the full back available but as the CB is under pressure, both CM’s turn and move away to recover the expected loose ball. Instead, the CB recognises the offered pass, but makes a bad decision to pass short into the Bayern press.

Shaquiri is in position to treble up with any of Robben and Lahm or Lahm and Alonso for any

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Scotland Game Plan vs Germany

By Stevie Grieve

Scotland went into the game against newly crowned World Champions, Germany on the back of a 6 game unbeaten run. New coach Gordon Strachan has assembled a team with a solid work ethic who can follow out his tactical instructions against stronger opposition and win, as shown by home and away victories over Croatia. The set up of the Scotland team has changed drastically over the past 18 months, with the re-introduction of high pressing, a more offensive game plan and the use of Steven Naismith as a CF, who likes to drop off and roam, leaving space for more movement across the front line from midfielders and wingers.

In this match v Germany, we saw another side to the ‘new Scotland’; a clear coherent game plan designed to use Germany’s ideals against them. Scotland wanted to direct the game to Germany’s left and Scotland’s right, trying to keep the ‘space invader’ Thomas Muller from being able to have an impact from the right, while trying to win the ball on the right and leaving a 2v1 on the far side in Scotland’s favour if it was switched, to release the rapid Ikecha Anya down the left in transition while maintaining defensive balance with Whittaker covering behind at left back.

Scotland using Germany’s pressing against them


When the ball was won, Scotland would often try to play 2 or 3 quick passes before going forward. Traditionally, Scotland would regain the ball and

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Bayern Munich Pressing

By Stevie Grieve

Bayern Munich seem to have changed to a new 3-4-2-1 type of formation this season, possibly to combat teams playing a low 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1, overloading midfield with 6 players while having 3 players in deep positions to circulate possession from a deep position with penetration to 2 central players behind the opposition midfield, who can both drift wide in Muller and Robben.

In the game against Wolfsburg, Bayern pressed relatively well, directing play to one side and forcing Wolfsburg into predictable longer passes as the short range passing lanes were covered, while dealing with longer passes before they happen.

Blocking passing lanes with the immediate pressure


As the ball is transferred wide from kick off, Bayern immediately

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Holes in the 3-1-4-2 System of Manchester United

By Stevie Grieve

New Manchester United Manager Louis Van Gaal has taken over a struggling side from last season, but despite the criticism that David Moyes endured, Louis Van Gaal's premier league start had delivered 1 point from 2 winnable games. This was followed up by a 4-0 humiliation from MK Dons. Despite fielding largely a reserve side, it did contain experienced first team and internationalists in Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Jonny Evans and David De Gea.
In the 3-1-4-2 attacking system, there are space to exploit in transition, or when the midfield press high. When the ball is played wide into the full backs, this may entice the already high positioned wing-backs to press high and

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How Bayern Uses the Overload Tactic to Success

By Stevie Grieve

Bayern Munich opened the new Bundesliga season as Champions but without a fully fit squad and missing several key central midfielders, including Toni Kroos who was sold to Real Madrid. In central midfield, they had unknown teenager Gianluca Gaudino and David Alaba, not an ideal pairing on paper if you don’t realise that David Alaba is one of the best footballers in the world in several positions.

In attack, they had a potent from 3 in Robben, Mueller and new signing Robert Lewandowski, players who will always create and score chances.

The game plan for Bayern Munich was to nullify the threat of Kevin de Bruyne and Ricardo Rodriguez down the left side by limiting their space in transition, while pinning them back while Bayern were in possession by dominating the zone with a flood of players and a constant attacking presence.

Bayern set up – Flood the right side and look for 4v3 on the side

BayernRSAtt (1)

As we can see, Bayern would have 4 players wide on the right side, which enables them to

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Creativity in the Final Third By Real Madrid

By Stevie Grieve

Real Madrid went into the European Super Cup match against Sevilla on the back of a summer of spending on big names Toni Kroos, and James Rodriguez. It will be hard for Carlo Ancelotti to balance his squad trying to accommodate Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria within the starting 11, but this is a task the biggest manager must face if they are to be successful. Angel Di Maria brought balance and stability to the team, and a high assist ratio, something which Mesut Ozil brought to Cristiano Ronaldo (it seems as though assists aren’t enough to stay at Real Madrid).

With the players they have, creativity and quality in the final 3rd is not in short supply.

Ronaldo goal from Bale early cross – eliminated the possibility of the full back recovery


As Ronaldo switches play to James, Bale is wide to offer an outball should James be pressed. The main aspect of this scenario is that the

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How to Beat a Four-Man Midfield

By Stevie Grieve

Borussia Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League Final, the 2014 German Cup Final, and lost Robert Lewandowski to their domestic rivals on a free transfer. They have however, now won the last 2 German Super Cups.

Jurgen Klopp has made some slight changes to his team and the structure and these slight changes worked perfectly against the 3-4-3 of Bayern Munich.

Positioning against the Bayern build-up phase


With Bayern playing a 3-4-3 formation, they have great width to circulate horizontally, so to counter this, Dortmund

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How to Exploit the High Pressure Defense

By Stevie Grieve

Valencia entice pressure to exploit the spaces behind the press.

Valencia came into the Emirates Cup with a new coaching staff, hired from Rio Ave in Portugal. New manager Nuno Espirito Santo and his staff already had the preparation done for this game as his last game in charge of Rio Ave was a Portuguese Cup Final 1-0 defeat to Benfica, where Rio Ave had some good opportunities to score but it wasn’t be a historic day for them.

Going into this game, they knew the spaces they would be able to find if they enticed Benfica to press like they usually do, so set out to pass into areas where Benfica would press, then find a way out to find players in the attacking midfield line between the Benfica defence and midfield line.

They looked for these spaces from the opening minutes, unfortunately losing a daft goal from a pass against a team mate, but from the 2nd half, with the injection of pace from Rodrigo on the left, and Andre Gomes positioning and speed of distribution in central midfield, they looked much more threatening, especially when the Benfica central midfielders were enticed to press in pairs.

Valencia Game Plan

Provoke high pressing from Benfica – Central pressure – release WM between lines

Valencia v Benfica1 (1)

When the ball is passed into a central midfielder, they will hold until

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The Tactics That Made Mourinho Great

By Stevie Grieve

Jose Mourinho’s Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003 then the UEFA Champions League in 2004. They did this on the basis of having a very strong defence, very organised in midfield with fast attacking transitions.

When I organised possession, they would play direct and often lose possession but look to recover the second ball while the opponent were unorganised and exploit space that they leave to press.

This week, I will look at the counter attacking phase and how Deco was the main attacking outlet in short pass counter attacks with plenty of support running at pace ahead of the ball, knowing Deco was good enough to find most passes in even the tightest of areas.

Deco initiates the counter attack

Mourinho Porto - Deco Playmaker 1

Here, Costinha wins the ball and passes to Maniche, who splits the midfield with a 1st time pass to Deco who is

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Mourinho’s tactics from Porto 2004

By Stevie Grieve

Since I was young, I have always had an interest in tactics, specifically successful coaches, or coaches who have seemingly come from nowhere. When Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003 against Celtic, I enjoyed the direct style of play much more than I enjoyed watching Celtic’s direct style of play, mainly because it had some unpredictability, fluidity of movement and the talents of Deco as a number 10 in a midfield diamond.

Costinha’s role was an interesting one; a common thing in all of Mourinho’s teams has been the utilisation of a defensive midfielder who sticks to his position and protects the defence – Costinha, Claude Makelele, Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta, Xabi Alonso, Nemanja Matic – but for me it was interesting because it was a ‘new’ position as I had grown up in Scotland with a 4-4-2 and no set defensive or attacking midfielder, and certainly not within a diamond midfield which is common in Switzerland and Italy.

Mourinho’s Porto were a strong defensive team with pace and efficiency in attack, with a good supporting cast in midfield in the form of Thiago, Nuno Maniche and super-sub Dmitri Alenichev.

Porto’s defensive solidity - Establish a block width, depth and compensation system

Wide area turnover; Porto drop off and form a flat back 4

Mourinho Porto - Solid back 4 - 2.5

As the ball is lost on the side instantly the back 4 drop off and get

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Tactical Analysis – Real Madrid Defending v Barcelona

By Stevie Grieve

In the Copa Del Rey final, Real Madrid went into the game against Barcelona confident of a win, even without Cristiano Ronaldo who mass missing due to injury, but with Bale and Benzema both capable of defending from the front and causing problems on the counter attack, Ancelotti set his team up to defend against Barcelona’s main attacking areas, and exploit Madrid’s pace on the counter attack.

Madrid counter-pressing in the opening minutes

Art 5 MadridDefvBarca

Here, we can see that Madrid, having just lost possession, are reluctant to simply drop deep and defend, instead they

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How Germany Broke Through Algeria’s Defence

By Stevie Grieve

In the last analysis I made which was on Algeria’s solid defensive system, I looked at how they made Germany predictable, and how they almost defended in a 6-3-1 formation, playing on the counter attack behind Germany’s high line.

In this, I will look at the slight tactical alteration Jogi Loew made in regards to the runs that Germany looked for, and how it won them the game in Extra Time.

Highlighted areas and runs to exploit the spaces

Germany v Algeria runs
Germany v Algeria runs 2

When Germany had the ball in deep or wide positions, there were 2 main areas that were available on both sides (due to the symmetrical nature of the Algeria defensive block shape) which were;

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