Evading the press and breaking the lines

One of the first two things I try and observe during a game are, where is the opposition’s defensive line, and secondly, how high up the pitch are they prepared to press.

Generally during the save teams have played with a relatively high defensive line against me, as Anzhi remains one of the lesser sides in the division, leaving plenty of space in behind for me to exploit.

I play a flat 4141 and, when I think about how I would want any side I managed to actually defend, this is the shape I imagine. In possession, however, the shape is very different due to the roles and duties selected, especially the midfield four. My left-midfielder(a) is instructed to cut inside with the ball and dribble more, as well as get further forward by default. I’ve added get further forward to my box to box midfielder while my mezzala(a) and winger(s) are vanilla. All four of these roles will attack space in front of them fairly aggressively. Having a standard defensive midfielder behind them offers me great security should we lose the ball in advanced areas. Continue reading “Evading the press and breaking the lines”

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Match in Focus 1 – Zenit v Anzhi

Welcome to the first “match in focus”. These will be a small aside to each blog post in which I will discuss, in more detail, one particular match. In these posts, I will give an overview of the match, along with my reasoning behind any key decisions I took, both before, and during the game.


Date: 6.00pm 4th August 2018 Attendance: 44, 912

Before many games, especially early in a save, I like to scroll through some opposition players. This serves two purposes, firstly I get to thoroughly evaluate the opposition looking for strengths and weaknesses and secondly, it allows me to better benchmark my own side. It is important to know what is out there.

My initial assessment highlighted Claudio Marchisio as Zenit’s best player. As it was so early in the season I was unsure what role he would play against me, but I was prepared to adjust things to nullify him if required.

Zenit lined up in a 5-1-2-2 formation quite different from the 4-2-3-1 my scouts had suggested they would. Marchisio was in the DM slot presumably as some sort of playmaker. I was content for him to have the ball in deep positions as we would be defending deep and compact ourselves. I was hopeful this would limit his ability to easily find space to pass into.

We would line up in a 4-1-4-1, at this point I was still using the direct counter attack pre-set as a base for my team instructions. I had no player instructions as I tend to develop them once I am more familiar with my players and I adjust according to patterns I see repeated during games. I used an extra central defender in the DM slot and Kulik was deployed as a deep-lying playmaker. My plan was to sit deep and narrow, allowing Zenit to cross the ball into our box, where I would have two giants heading the ball away. My hope was for Kulik to then pick up any loose balls and immediately release my winger on attack Savichev. I was without three of my preferred back four, both full backs and a central defender. Leaving me with the substandard Kerimov at right back, and I opted to use a winger as a wing back on attack on the left hoping to push Zenit’s wing backs towards their own goal. Continue reading “Match in Focus 1 – Zenit v Anzhi”