Match analysis

Klopp comes out on Top vs Conte

In a clash between two of this season’s title contenders, Klopp’s Liverpool ended Antonio Conte’s 30 match unbeaten home league record. The Reds were impressive and dominated proceedings for majority of the game which culminated in a 2-1 win. 

Lineups

Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luis, Azpilicueta; Kante, Matic, Oscar; Hazard, Willian, Costa

Liverpool: Mignolet;Clyne, Matip,Lovren,Milner;Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana;Coutinho, Sturridge, Mane.

Both teams lineup in a 4-3-3 type of shape.

Improved play in possession leads to a dominant game for Liverpool

Having struggled with issues in the possession phase against most teams last season, it seems Liverpool are doing some good work on the training ground. The efforts of their training can be seen on the pitch as they look better both structurally and functionally. Fluid passing with good positional play between the lines leads to a smooth transition from the attacking transition to the attacking organisation phase. Liverpool were very good in getting the ball into players like Coutinho, Sturridge and Mane who excel in playing between the lines. Coutinho and Mane, in particular, have good press resistance which makes them effective in playing between the lines. Another advantage of players being positioned between the opposition lines is that it allows them to exploit the blind side ( read this article by Judah Davies to know more about it) of the opponent midfielders. However, Liverpool have a serious liability in build up phases because of Mignolet’s flawed technique with his feet. There were often times when the Liverpool CBs were pressed by Chelsea. To escape pressure, the CBs had to pass the ball back to Mignolet. Mignolet being the free man should have opened up the field by his body posture but a closed body shape when receiving meant he had no option but to pass it back into the area of pressure putting his CBs in a similar position again. Karius coming into the team may solve this.

Chelsea pressing the back line of Liverpool. Lovren tries to avoid the press by passing to Mignolet. Mignolet has an open passing lane towards Clyne. He could have opened up the field with a good body position when receiving the pass.

Mignolet’s poor body position when receiving means that he cannot pass the ball to free man Clyne. As a result, he has no option but to pass to Lovren again leading to another wave of Chelsea pressure

Chelsea used a position-oriented zonal marking system which was particularly visible in the area in front of their own penalty box. The main aim of position-oriented zonal marking is to preserve horizontal and vertical compactness at all times. This involved one of the two lines moving close to the other to reduce the space between the lines for the Liverpool players to exploit. To exploit this position-oriented zonal marking system, Liverpool used quick local combinations which aimed at attacking the spaces left behind the line which moved to reduce the space between the two lines. If this was successful, it enabled the likes of Coutinho and Mane to find the runners from deep (Wijnaldum and Lallana) to use their pace to run into the vacant spaces leading to potential 1 v 1 situations. 

Liverpool’s intelligent positioning between the lines. Such positioning ensures pockets of space for the likes of Coutinho to receive the ball in threatening areas. As Chelsea use a space-oriented zonal marking system, a CB (Cahill in this case) steps out of the back line to compress the space available for Coutinho to receive the ball in. Coutinho realises this and tries to solve this problem by trying to find the runs of Lallana or Sturridge who intelligently run into the space vacated by Cahill. Such combinations in the final third can often expose such defensive systems.

Another trend which was noticeable in Liverpool’s build up was the high positions taken up by Milner and Clyne in advanced stages of build up. Because of their high positions, they attracted the likes of Willian into Chelsea’s backline forming a situational back 5 which meant that the halfspaces were free for Henderson and the Liverpool CBs to utilise. Henderson had one of his best games as he was impressive with his distribution. His quick and intricate passing enabled Mane and Coutinho to receive the ball in pockets of space on the blind side of Chelsea’s midfielders. 

The high positioning of Milner makes Willian fall back into Chelsea’s back line forming a situational back 5. This resulted in space for Wijnaldum in the halfspace(circled area).

Chelsea: overreliance on wings and Hazard’s brilliance

One of the major flaws in Chelsea’s game is that they tend to be very one dimensional in their attacks. With the main attacking firepower resting on the wingers, Conte usually looks to get them on the ball. After that, almost everything depends on the individual brilliance of Hazard and Willian to make things click. Thus, most teams try to put two men on those two players. Usually that is enough to shut out Chelsea’s game. Because neither Matic nor Kante are good enough for final third play. Oscar is good on his day but is inconsistent when it comes to putting in 7/10 performances on a regular basis. Fabregas is the player Chelsea need at the moment to bring that incisiveness in the final third from central areas. The Spaniard’s vision will come in handy in central areas which are often left exposed when the opposition remain preoccupied with Hazard. However, Conte does not seem to trust him due to his lack of defensive work rate.  

Thus it was no surprise to see Chelsea going wide early in the buildup. Courtois from deeper areas would often look to pick out Hazard and Willian in the wide areas with an aerial pass. Aerial passes take time to reach the target. This gives time to the opposition to close down the receiver before the latter can control it. With Liverpool’s intense pressing, it was often difficult for Willian and Hazard to control such aerial passes as they were quickly closed down by Milner and Clyne. 

Chelsea’s passmap clearly shows their overemphasis on wide areas. (Thanks to

elftegenelf)

However, late in the game, as Liverpool’s pressing diminished , Hazard started getting more space to create some good attacks for Chelsea. One such spell of pressure led to Chelsea’s goal. 

Liverpool’s pressing 

No Liverpool analysis can be complete without talking about the gegenpressing. Gegenpressing is the trademark of Klopp’s teams and Liverpool are no exception to this. There was a ball-oriented pressing movement from Liverpool’s front 3 which aimed to create local compactness around the ball carrier so that he could not come out of it. The fullbacks moved up high towards the opponent fullbacks in Azpilicueta and Ivanovic. This further strengthened their pressing structure which left Chelsea’s ball carrier with fewer options to pass towards the wing. Without quality players in central areas, Chelsea could not do much to trouble Liverpool centrally. Moreover, attacking the centre was not part of Chelsea’s gameplan. So this played into Liverpool’s hands. This was validated by the fact that Conte brought on two wingers in Moses and Pedro late on in the game instead of changing the plan of attack. This one-dimensional nature of attack eventually meant defeat for Chelsea.

Chelsea’s passive approach in defending
Chelsea did not display the same amount of urgency in pressing like Liverpool. Their pressing was largely determined by few triggers. One such trigger was underweighed passes which lacked speed. Another trigger was poor body position when receiving(Mignolet suffered throughout because of this). Such triggers when recognised by the ball-near midfielder , led to aggressive attempts by the player to win the ball. Other than these triggers, Chelsea were patient in their approach while defending. They were relying on Liverpool making mistakes in circulation.

Conclusion

“I hate to lose, but for one or two days I suffer a lot after a defeat.”- Conte

Chelsea, after a strong start, are starting to drop points. With 1 point out of a possible 6 from the last two games, Conte will not be the happiest man alive. He will be looking to set things right sooner than later. The addition of Fabregas may bring variety to their currently stale gameplay. 

Klopp, on the other hand, was visibly pleased after the game. 

The beginning was brilliant from my side. We played football like hell!”— Klopp

The movement in the last two matches would have pleased Klopp. However, they need to put in such performances on a regular basis to have a serious shot at the Premier League title.

Standard
Match analysis

Feyenoord make it 5 out of 5 as they look to upset Manchester United

Feyenoord ensured a morale boosting win at home against ADO Den Haag in the Eredivisie. The win means Giovanni Bronckhorst’s boys sit on top of the Eredivisie table. 

Lineups

Team lineups . Red team=Feyenoord Blue=ADO Den Haag


Use of the wings as the main source of chance creation

There was a clear pattern in Feyenoord’s build up. In ADO Den Haag, they had a team who were prepared to play most of the game without the ball. This meant Feyenoord would see a lot of possession (66%) throughout the game. Without needle players who can trouble opposition defenses through the middle, it was not surprising to see Feyenoord use the wings as the main source of chance creation. Moreover, the inclusion of players like Vilhena in midfield justified this strategy. Vilhena is a player who is more comfortable drifting wide from central areas as opposed to moving towards goal. 

To create width, Feyenoord used some movements throughout the game to create space for crosses into the centre for target man Jorgensen and 37 year old veteran Dirk Kuyt to attack. In the left side, they looked to create triangles throughout the game. At all times, regardless of the players occupying such spaces, they ensured that a triangle was formed in the left flank and left halfspace. This attracted the ADO Den Haag defenders to that side which would create gaps  between their back 4 during shifting for Kuyt and Jorgensen to exploit. They tried this throughout the first half. It ultimately led to the first goal with a clever run by Kuyt ending one of such moves with a sleek finish. 

Feyenoord looked to create triangles in the left flank with the LB Woudenberg,LW Toornstra and LCM Vilhena all drifting wide to create overloads in the left halfspace and left wing. This attracted the LCB and LB of ADO Den Haag creating a slight gap in the backline for Kuyt to squeeze through and eventually score from the resulting cross


On the right flank, Berghuis was more direct and looked to use his diagonal dribbling to cut inside and put in inswinging crosses for the strikers. To ensure width, RB would take up a high position early in the buildup. This ensured a situation of numerical superiority or equality at all times giving Berghuis the much needed freedom to isolate the defenders marking him. 

Since the wings are not favourable in terms of passing angles available to the player in possession, Kuyt or Jorgensen often tried to nullify this by providing an extra passing option to the wide player when there was a possibility of the former losing possession. One of Jorgensen or Kuyt would then drift wide to engage the fullback and near sided CB to make more space for the wide man on the ball. At times, they try to link with each other with 1-2 combinations. 

Defending

Feyenoord’s waves of attack pushed ADO Den Haag into their own box. A superior structure compared to the visitors ensured that there were not much chances of counter attack. However, the game became open in the second half as Feyenoord pushed more men forward to score more goals. There is usually not much of a problem with men moving forward as long as there is good staggering in the team structure. However without proper staggering, opponents could exploit their weakened structure by bypassing the pressing efforts with one or two passes. This led to some chances on the break in the second half for the visitors. 

However, in the defensive organisation phase, Feyenoord were not tested much because of the inferior quality of opponents. It will be interesting to see how Feyenoord set up against Manchester United in their Europa League clash on Thursday. 

Conclusion

Having won all 5 of their league games, Feyenoord will look to continue their winning streak in the Europa League as well. However, odds against them are much higher as they face one of the favourites for the competition in Manchester United. With better defensive performances, there is no reason why they cannot beat Manchester United. Dirk Kuyt will be key in their encounter with his huge experience coming in handy for an otherwise inexperienced side.

Standard
Match analysis

Unai Emery facing serious issues as PSG slip up again

Having lost their previous game against AS Monaco, the pressure was mounting on newly apponted PSG manager Unai Emery to get his side’s campaign back on track. He looked set to get all 3 points till a late strike ensured share of the spoils.

TEAM LINEUPS

Paris Saint Germain lined up in their 4-3-3 formation which they used to such good effect last season. However, the absences of Cavani and Di Maria from the starting XI was a surprise. It was mainly due to a lack of match fitness due to the two players being heavily involved in international duties for their respective teams. Thiago Motta was deployed in the deep lying playmaker role with Verratti and Matuidi ahead of him to structure the attack better with their efficiency in ball-carrying traits. The front 3 included Moura and new signings Jesé and Harem Ben Arfa. 

Too many men behind the ball in build up hamper PSG’s build up

Looking at the front 3 before the game started, one would have expected a lot of chances for PSG due to the dynamism the front 3 of Ben Arfa, Jesé and Lucas Moura offer. These 3 are very mobile and effective players at switching positions which could have opened up a lot of spaces behind Saint Etienne’s back line. However, PSG struggled to create clear chances for the vast majority of the first half. Saint Etienne employed a bold approach as they looked to suffocate PSG in their deep build up by deploying a high line in a 3-5-1-1 formation to reduce the amount of space available for PSG to exploit between the lines. This ploy was successful as they managed to stop PSG from penetrating their block through the centre. It also forced PSG’s front 3 to drop deep which reduced their chances of penetration.

However,PSG had themselves to blame for struggling throughout the first half. It was common to see the players from the forward and midfield line dropping into the spaces in front of the opponent’s second line. This dropping movement is not a problem as long as it is balanced by another player moving into advanced areas. When this is not done as happened in PSG’s case,it leads to a lack of penetration. In the first half, too many players dropped deep for PSG which led to a lack of connectivity into the final third of the pitch. Without such connectivity PSG were compelled to pass in less dangerous areas in their own half without doing much to disrupt the opponent shape. Verratti with his immense pressing resistance did well to move the ball into final third in the absence of such connectivity. Once Verratti moved the ball into the final third, the movements of Ben Arfa ,Moura and Jese came in handy. Such movements combined with Verratti’s great vision led to a save from Etienne goalkeeper after good movement from Ben Arfa through the channels. 

PSG with build up issues. There is a serious lack of presence between the lines leading to a lack of connectivity towards the final third. This made penetration difficult.

However with many players dropping deep, it is possible to create large gaps between the opponent lines by provoking an opponent press. This disrupts the vertical compactness of the opposition. However, once this has been done, it is necessary for players to get into the spaces created as a result of the opponent press. PSG did well getting the opponents to press them but lacked the movements necessary to exploit the created spaces. (See this article by Judah Davies on Napoli. Jorginho excels in provoking opponent pressure by receiving with a closed body shape. Napoli exploit the created spaces by getting men between the opponent lines). 

Moreover, the absence of a target man like Cavani up front meant that PSG did not have a plan B if their build up failed. PSG were reluctant to use the wings in the first half maybe due to the absence of a target man up front to convert directly from crosses. However, this was a flawed policy because it made their attacking strategy predictable and easy to defend against. Crosses offer a unique way of destabilising a stubborn defense. Once a cross is delivered, it is attacked by the defenders of the opposition team. After clearing the cross, the defenders are not in the best position to defend another attack resulting from winning the second ball. This creates a small time frame for the attacking team to exploit the temporarily unstable  opposition defense. PSG unfortunately were too reliant on attacking through the centre against a packed midfield of Saint Etienne which was always going to be difficult. 

Improved attacking play in the second half

Injury to LB Layvin Kurzawa meant Kimpembe had to slot in there. Motta took his place as a CB alongside Marquinhos with Krychowiak coming in for Kurzawa from the bench. PSG started the second half much better. This was due to greater synchronization in the movements of the forwards and midfielders. Compared to the first half in which there were too many players behind the ball, PSG took up better positions as there were more players behind Etienne’s midfield. This led to better penetration when the deeper players managed to find them with passes. Verratti, in particular, looked to pick out Matuidi’s deep runs with surprise aerial balls against Etienne’s high line. This paid off with Matuidi winning the penalty for PSG’s first goal. The addition of Di Maria added variety to PSG’s attacks. The pacy Argentine adds directness to PSG’s attacks which was useful as gaps opened up in Etienne’s structure. To spice things up further, the addition of Cavani added the targetman which PSG lacked in the first half. The Uruguayan striker is good at bringing runners into play. His presence also meant more space for the likes of Verratti, Krychowiak and Matuidi in midfield. PSG’s circulation improved as a result. However, they failed to see out the game as a late goal against the run of play cost them 2 points.

PSG’s changes in the second half led to better attacking chances in the second half. Cavani added depth to PSG’s game which pushed Saint Etienne’s centre backs behind creating more space in midfield for PSG’s midfielders. Di Maria’s directness and runs-in behind the opposition back line also pushed Saint Etienne’s CBs behind. Moreover, there was greater presence between the lines after half time leading to better penetration. However, poor finishing meant they could not kill the game off.


Transition issues

PSG looked to build up through the central areas. Etienne were well organised in the central areas. This meant that PSG were vulnerable to losing possession in deeper areas. It was a cause of concern in some occasions as Saint Etienne could exploit the gaps PSG’s fullbacks left in the build up phase. This led to some chances for them which should have been converted. However, due to 62% possession in favour of PSG, chances were few for St Etienne. 

Conclusion

With Arsenal to play against in the Champions League in midweek, PSG need to make sure they sort out their issues soon. PSG will be boosted by the return of ball playing centre back Thiago Silva. His distribution will ensure that PSG’s midfielders can push up more into the attacking third. However, without sorting out their positional issues, PSG will struggle to get the right result against Arsenal. Only time will tell if Unai Emery is good enough to handle their issues after a rocky start.


Standard