Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Lines Lines Lines

Roy Hodgson's tactics are pretty well documented, particularly his preference to defend with 2 banks of 4 and not leave any space between the lines. This is something England did well the other day and largely restricted France to longer range efforts as they couldn't work the ball closer to the goal, a result of England's good work at closing off the space between the lines. Interestingly though, the goal France scored came from in front of the England lines after they had been thrown into disarray by the confusing positioning of Parker and Gerrard as shown below.
The goal was a result of the central midfielders crossing over, the midfield line being too deep and Oxlade-Chamberlain offering little cover. The likelihood is England may not have conceded were all 3 of these errors not to have coincided.
Gerrard and Parker Crossover
With Gerrard RCM and Parker LCM you can see that they begin in line, then cross over, then return to being in a line. When centre backs cross over they are rightly criticised and in this system Gerrard and Parker's positioning should be subject to similar criticism as in the defensive phase their roles are quite similar to those of centre backs in some respects. If they stay on their correct sides then Nasri will be faced with the two of them when he looks to shoot instead of just Gerrard, with Parker having been caught out chasing shadows toward right back.

Deep Midfield
This one is, ironically, recognised by Glen Johnson, frequently citicised for his lack of defensive skills. In the first picture you can actually see him pointing and he is signalling for pressure to be put on the trio of French players on the edge of the box. The English midfield begins the series of pictures with a slant leaving it very deep on one side. Gerrard positions himself deep so as not to allow Ribery (standing in front of Johnson in the first picture) to be between the lines. This aspect is not entirely an error as it is likely Hodgson instructed them not to allow any players to position themselves between the lines so Ribery forces Gerrard into that position. The picture below shows the ball in a similar position but the England midfield, despite Parker tracking back, is not forced so deep.
No Cover from the Ox
The picture above also shows that when a player has been dragged into the left back zone leaving the team shorthanded in the centre Milner comes across to cover and Gerrard is comfortable to move across to LCM. This isn't an entirely fair comparison as the goal came following sustained pressure whereas the positioning in this picture was taken up before they had come under any particular pressure. The difference is stark though and its notable that in the original series the longest line at every point is that between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Parker. Again this may have been under instruction by Hodgson with him wishing to have Chamberlain higher up the pitch as a pacy outlet for counter-attacks, particularly as he was on a yellow card by this point so not as useful defensively.

It's difficult to apportion blame here as Parker moved across to try and close down and wouldn't have done so if Gerrard wasn't so deep. Gerrard was deep because he was trying not to leave Ribery between the lines and Chamberlain didn't come across but both may have been following instructions. As someone who generally plays a more attacking role as either a winger or in an attacking band of 3 for Arsenal, Chamberlain would be unfamiliar with the position he was asked to play even if he was expected to come across making it, arguably a selection error. To put it simply though if a team is playing deep and not allowing space between the lines then they can't have that many complaints if the opposition score from in front of them, as that is the area they were looking to force them to play in.

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