SV-Mailbag #5: The Final Eight
In our mailbag we answer questions of our followers. In the #5 we discussed the last eight competitors for the Champions League. Also: playing from the back against high pressing, Arsenal, deep defending and training of a back-line.
In a juego de posicion (jdp) system and for possession, is kicking the ball long paradoxically the better approach than playing the ball on the ground from the back?
[Example: The 1st leg of City vs Monaco. Apart from Stones, nobody could play the ball out from the back. When they tried, they got very jittery and hectic. Poor control of the build-up. That was often the reason why the build-up was rarely controlled in the middle third of the pitch. (Exceptions: Teams who are very good at it or who face poor pressing.)]
Well, it’s not a question of strategy. When your jdp is not good enough to keep the ball, then it’s not good. Losing the ball harms your possession and shooting. It’s not a paradox. It simply means you are inferior to your opponent while in possession. If you can get the second balls and start quick attacks, then kicking it long would be the better choice. But it’s rather not the better choice “for a jdp system and possession”, because then you might not playing a jdp system anymore and you won’t have much possession. Generally, you can always beat the pressing in some way. But whether the team could do it often enough?
Here I’d like to leave a more broad remark, that succeeding or failing in one game doesn’t say much about the quality of the strategy. It’s rather an indication whether the strategy was well executed or not. People tend to use isolated examples to judge a football philosophy like “possession is dead”, et cetera. That’s rubbish, because then every strategy is wrong.
Can you still defend a 2-4 goal lead through ugly defensive destructive football in a CL knock-out game?
Sure you can. Leicester did it, Paris did it for a long stretch. The question is, whether it makes sense, especially against an opponent who is used to playing against teams that sit back and leave the ball to them and when you are better at playing with the ball than against it. If you keep playing the ball, you can run down the clock better, reduce the chance of opponent’s attacking, and maybe you can even score. All these factors say you shouldn’t throw away possession as soon as possible.
Which remaining CL teams would benefit from having a libero?
Who is the worst opponent or the Kryptonite for each remaining CL team?
It’s an hard but interesting question. I’ll take a stab in the dark.
Atletico: Dortmund? Atleti could counter BVB to death, but I believe Dortmund could deal with Atletic’s high pressing, evade it and counter very effectively. Also, Weigl, Guerreiro, Dembele and Reus can play against a team that sits back very well. Simone would have to pull a trick or two out of his sleeves.
Juventus: Bayern? I feel Juve is the most complete team at the moment and will be the favorite against many teams. But Bayern is also accomplished in many aspects and in some areas more so than Juve. Juve wouldn’t be without chance but I can’t see an option for them to be dominant in that match-up.
Monaco: I don’t know them well, sadly. They are very good at using their superior physical strength in their tactics. Perhaps Real won’t be impressed by it, or maybe Bayern is too dominant for that, maybe Leicester can deal with it with their own physical way and compactness.
Leicester: Barca? Barca is just used to opponents who sit deep. They deal with counters well and are savvy enough that I can’t imagine they would be bothered by scrappy defensive battles. Messi, Neymar and especially Suarez can break even the biggest buses.
Real: Juve? I think Juve can defend Real really well. Real don’t usually dominate you, but you have to contain their individual quality, Bonucci & co are masters in that. At the same time, Juve is very good at making the play themselves against deep-sitting opponents and can keep control under pressure. Dybala and Higuain can make troubles even for Varane and Ramos.
Barca: Bayern? These two would take turns dominating the game, but I think when it goes on long enough, Bayern will come on top because they defend more cleanly and run more.
Bayern: Dortmund? Bayern at least has already lost to BVB. They will be my favorite to win against every other opponent. But a draw against Real is also hard to predict. If Bayern draws Atletico, I can see a similarly hard fought scrappy battle like last year.
Dortmund: Juve? I think BVB can look good against any opponent because they are superior in one or two aspects, and that could translate into their dominance. I have the feeling only Juve can match them tactically in every phase of the game and maybe are even better than them. Also, Juve is more consistent and stable.
When I thought about the pairing, I realized what a balanced bunch we got this year, something that hasn’t happened for a long time. You could almost imagine anyone winning convincingly against anyone else.
What would be the most interesting pairing?
Like always, Barca vs Dortmund. It has been five long years, it’s about time.
Which opponent would be the easiest for FCB and BVB, tactically?
I think you can cross Atletico and Juve off the list, it’s unpleasant to play against them for anyone. Barcelona is able to play excellently, so they are also hard. We are left with Real, Leicester and Monaco. Let’s also disregard Leicester because the original question actually excluded them – but they might be the easiest for them because they are predictable and play like many Bundesliga teams.
Let’s say for Bayern it’s Monaco: I believe Monaco could cause some trouble, but they will also have to consider that at any point of the game, Bayern could overrun them with sheer superior quality. It would be tough for Monaco to find a steady rhythm that works for them. Bayern on the other hand can conduct their game their own way and wait for the right moment.
For Dortmund, maybe Real is indeed the easiest, at least when you focus on the tactics. BVB have already shown they can dominate the game and score goals from their possession against them. That way, they’ll always have momentum on their side. Real has incredible individual quality, which could win them the game regardless, but they would do so with their back against the wall.
Is there a silver bullet for Arsenal’s problem? If yes, what is it?
Well-organized pressing, well-organized possession and better periodisation. (Solution for the inadequacy in the defensive midfield has to wait until the summer transfer window, I guess.)
In order to improve 4-in-the-back, can I train with 3-in-the-back?
I think so, yes. It’s also my personal experience. Especially when you deploy the wingbacks high, into the midfield, then the three defenders will be forced to control the width and to support each other in defending the whole width of the pitch. They have to be very sure in duels and can’t rely on reinforcement, have to position and move precisely for long balls and have to execute their formation with high intensity. It’s very demanding, a good environment for development. When you add in the fourth players, everything will be easier then.