The vein in Spain: A different approach from Spain in possession
There’s more than one way to the heart. Different approaches work with different people. Scientifically speaking, there is more than one way to the heart. Veins, which are blood vessels that carry blood towards the heart, fill our human body. Their amount? Numerous. All of them lead to heart. Football is the same. Different approaches work against different teams.
A 4-3-3 shape in possession might use the full backs high and wide, with the number 8s dropping to cover and focusing on triangular circulation in the wing area. The same 4-3-3 can keep the full backs deep with the number 8s narrower, focusing on combinational passes in the center of the pitch. More than one way to the goal. The amount? Numerous.
Spain’s two points out of their first two games against Sweden and Poland might have gotten their fans a heart attack. The root cause wasn’t necessarily a blocked vein. In both games Spain created enough to score more, but the finishing didn’t help. What was worrying though was the stretched time intervals when they didn’t create anything.
The approach in possession revolved mainly around triangular combinations between the number 8, full-back and wide player. Koke and Pedri usually dropped wide as the full backs, Jordi Alba and Marcos Llorente pushed forward. The aim was to beat the opponent in the wide areas using smart movement and passing combination between the trio.
At times this did work. An example towards the end of the first half against Poland sees Dani Olmo dropping, thus creating space for Alba to attack. The full back attacked the space and Pedri found him easily….
…..putting Spain in a threatening position as Gerard Moreno and Alvaro Morata are ready to attack the cross. As you know by now, Moreno missed the target.
The problems occurred when the circulation was ineffective, leaving Spain for stretched intervals of time just completing the passing triangle out wide, without any form of penetration. In addition to that, the positioning of the number 8s wide in this approach quite simply denies Spain’s best passers from combining with each other. Koke and Pedri are wide, seeking to combine with their nearest full back and wide player rather than combining with the rest of the midfield. The result is that when the wide triangle fails, Spain fail back to a U-shaped circulation of the ball.
Against Slovakia, it was different. Koke and Pedri were more central, nearer to Sergio Busquets. While, the full backs Alba and Cezar Azpilicueta were deep.
By being more central, Pedri and Koke provided progressive penetrative passing options for Spain’s center backs. Here, Aymeric Laporte’s passing ability comes in handy as he finds Pedri in the space to penetrate Slovakia’s block.
Also, the narrowness of Pedri and Koke provides them the option to combine with each other unlike the approach used against Sweden and Poland. Here, Pedri could have played Koke into the space but he didn’t.
Pedri and Koke’s new roles focused on accelerating the penetration process with the ball and also without the ball. Their movement without the ball dragged Slovakia’s center midfielders, creating passing angles for Spain’s center backs…..
……and provided Morata the space that he can drop into to receive.
For example, Koke’s run here drags Juraj Kucka towards Slovakia’s defensive line….
…..creating space for Morata to drop and receive the ball freely. Eric Garcia though, chose the safe option in passing to Azpilicueta.
Luckily for Morata, the experienced right back then chose the correct option. A pinball pass using Morata as the bumper……
……completes the penetration process and Busquets is inside Slovakia’s block.
Martin Dubravka’s calamity of an error gave Spain the lead, but it was their effective penetration that built up to the second. In the build up, Koke’s run not only drags Kucka with him but also psyches Milan Skriniar preventing the defender from moving forward. As a result, Morata drops free of any marking into the space Koke vacated.
After Azpilicueta played the pass into Morata, Slovakia’s midfield had to shift. Kucka’s central midfield partner Jakub Hromada moved towards Morata and Slovakia’s right winger Lukas Haraslin moved inside to mark Pedri. That left Alba completely free.
Pedri’s central and narrow positionining presents him as a passing option for Morata and attracts Haraslin inside before playing an exquisite pass into Pablo Sarabia out wide. The freedom Alba had as a result of this sequence put Slovakia’s right back Peter Pekarik in a 1 v 2 scenario and Sarabia crossed the ball comfortably. The resulting corner brought Spain their second after an exuberating pass from Pedri towards Gerard Moreno.
Spain’s next goal in the game also came from the same build up. Before Spain reset the attack that led to the goal, it’s important to note the effect of their approach. Morata’s movement here sticks Stanislav Lobotka to him, creating space for Koke to attack. The pinball is initiated by Laporte, but Koke plays the ball back despite him being inside Slovakia’s block.
The threat of Koke then forces Lobotka to shift across and with someone having to mark Morata, Kucka drops centrally. This frees Pedri to receive the pass from Busquets….
…..and with Haraslin eager to go inside and dispossess Pedri, he again leaves Alba free on the far side putting Pekarik in a 1 v 2 situation similar to that that led to the second goal.
Now that Alba is free to cross without any pressure, he finds Sarabia who puts into the net to make it 3-0.
Spain’s approach in possession used against Sweden and Poland might be effective in certain scenarios, but this one provides them more penetration and against teams that want to sit deep it makes more sense.
To keep their hopes alive, the blood should reach the heart using one vein or the other. One approach in possession or the other.
Article by @Walid_4