Saturday, 28.11.2020

Language, stats, and football

Americans call aubergines ‘eggplants’. For those familiar with the deep purple skin of the vegetable(?), this seems peculiar. To British ears, it’s one of those “oh, America!” things to roll ones eyes at and quietly mock, like ‘pants’ and ‘soccer’ and the missing ‘u’ in ‘colour’. And then you learn that there’s a variety of aubergine that is white, and small, and generally looks quite like an egg.

The Art of the Long Ball

Ever since the massive success of Guardiola at Barcelona, a lot of people have gravitated towards the philosophy of positional play. This momentum in turn, increased the number of articles and analysis on the subject, putting a large emphasis on playing out from the back in the current literature on the game. Because of this, I thought that it might be interesting to go completely against the grain, and instead focus on long balls and how one is able to utilize them. 

Deep Full-Backs in Possession: a Strategic Alternative

As has often been discussed across Spielverlagerung, the flanks generally offer lesser strategic value for the in-possession team. A ball-carrier by the touchline only has 180 degrees of movement and limited access to space across the pitch. Therefore, defensive strategies commonly look to show the opponent towards the outside and into a pressing trap.

Pressing traps available in a 3-4-3

Pressing systems involving a back three formation offer the opportunity to commit more players to press in higher areas. With seven players within the first and second lines of the press, there are opportunities for numerical advantages in specific moments within the opposition’s build-up.

How (not) to constrain your principles.

The game of football is a game with a specified purpose, laws and means. Two teams are facing off against each other with the objective of scoring a goal utilizing the ball. These rules are the same all around the globe. Similarly, the principles following these laws of the game will be the same – as will be the purpose of training. Football is a game that is trained and therefore coached, with most coaches focusing on doing so within their specific interpretation of these principles, for attacking, defending and the transition in both directions between these two.

The Evolution of Counterattacking

As we move forward through the years football continues to evolve. The developments are not often massive evolutions such as Sacchi’s zonal congestion from the 80s or Michels’ and Cruyff’s total football from the 70s, but most frequently minor positional or role adjustments within the different phases of the game. Every goal scored for your team and every goal conceded that is prevented for your team has high value – and as analytics continue to grow within our sport, we are seeing its impact on football’s phases little by little.

Tactical Theory: Set-Pieces

Set-pieces are both under- and overrated in several ways. Some coaches & teams tend to overvalue them, focusing on them too much, whilst there are probably significantly more cases, where they don’t even work on this aspect of the game with their teams. Although there are more interests, articles towards the set-pieces, that show the increasing importance and complexity of a well-executed routine and strategy.

An Exceptional Game Model (Including Generic Theory and Lessons)

On December 2nd, 2018, Holstein Kiel travelled to MSV Duisburg and convincingly won 4-0. Last season, under the command of Tim Walter (now the coach of VfB Stuttgart), Kiel gained popularity as a high-pressing, possession-hungry side, using a variety of unique actions and structures not used by other teams. Kiel were identified as promotion candidates, but inconsistency lead to a 6th place finish. Amid this inconsistency though, were games where their approach couldn’t have been much better, with their win against Duisburg perhaps being the best example.