New Spaces to target & the Evolution to protect them

Intro

Jose Mourinho always spoke about how the “space between the lines” was the most important space. He is even quoted saying so: “For me, the game between the lines is most important.”

Over time teams have adapted to protect this area by tightening the space their midfielders and defenders give between themselves. This space was one of the main areas that teams looked to (and still do) exploit in the attack. Lionel Messi’s False 9 role especially was about finding space between the lines and exploiting it.

Messi finding space in between the lines

Messi finding space in between the lines

When a player is in between the lines, he has passed the opponents entire midfield, and now he is only facing the back 4 of the opponents. There are so many options once in this position, a player can dribble at the back 4, he can shoot from distance, he can find a pass and play his teammate through, or he can combine with a teammate and make a run in behind the line. It’s very hard to defend against these options because you are caught in a flat back 4 line.

This piece was inspired by an in depth tactical conversation i had with a friend, Rene Maric (@ReneMaric on twitter) about the spaces that are targeted in today’s game and possible ways teams/players could evolve to solve these problems.

The Defensive Line

Before i begin talking about these spaces, it is important to know how a back line works. According to Arrigo Sacchi (Legendary Milan manager of the late 80’s), his defenders always had 4 references when defending. They referenced: The Opponents, The Teammates, The Space, and The Ball.

- The Opponents -

When referencing the opponent, the defenders must analyze how many opponents there are around them. If there are a lot of opponents threatening to penetrate the defensive line, the defenders should analyze this situation and drop their defensive line deeper. This is because when the line is dropped, there is less space for the attacker to run into behind the defenders and attack the goal.

Defenders analyzing the situation by referencing the opponents

Defenders analyzing the situation by referencing the opponents

- The Teammates -

When referencing their teammates, the defender must analyze how many teammates they have around them. If there are the right amount of teammates around the defender and in a solid shape, the defensive line will feel more comfortable defending higher up and leaving more space in behind. This is because there are more teammates than opponents so the defense can handle any attacks/runs in behind. Defending higher up also makes it tougher on the opponents because it will put more defenders higher up the field making it tougher to play through.

Defender referencing teammates and holding a higher line

Defenders analyzing the situation by referencing teammates

- The Space -

When referencing the space, defenders must analyze the amount of space they are leaving behind them. If the defenders feel like they are giving up a dangerous amount of space, they need to analyze the situation and drop deeper. When the defensive line is on the half way line, they are giving up a large amount of space, and if they are not very fast and there is a threat they can feel uncomfortable doing this. On the other hand, if there is not a dangerous threat to goal and the line is very deep, the defenders need to analyze this and push up the line to leave more space in behind. If the line is too deep then there will be a lot of space in the center that the opponents can expose, if the line is too high there will be too much space in behind the defense to exploit, so they must constantly change the depth of the line depending on the situation.

Defenders analyze the situation by referencing space

Defenders analyze the situation by referencing space *”to much” should say “more”*

- The Ball -

When referencing the ball, defenders must analyze the position of the ball and adjust accordingly. There may not be many opponents threatening to penetrate the defensive line, but if the ball is in a dangerous area where they can be played a good ball, the defensive line should analyze this and adjust the depth of their line. Some defenses might see this and immediately push up the line to catch the opponents offside. Other defenses will drop the line deeper to avoid the danger of the attacker running in behind. If there is only one striker trying to make a run behind the defense it doesn’t seem very dangerous, but if the ball is with an opponent in free space on the flank, the opponent can easily play him through, so this is dangerous.

Defenders analyze the situation by referencing the ball

Defenders analyze the situation by referencing the ball

The best defenders are constantly using these 4 references points Sacchi mentioned at the same time to decide how they will defend.

Cutback Cross Zone

Almost every team i have watched in any league have a tendency to not cover the top of their box when the ball is wide. This can be a result of either lack of positional intelligence or lack of work rate. This is an incredibly dangerous area to leave uncovered, so it’s amazing how many high level teams leave it uncovered.

Kroos scores against Leverkusen from a cutback cross in acres of space

Kroos scores against Leverkusen from a cutback cross in acres of space

When a team is running back towards their goal and dropping their defensive line (usually very deep into the box to not concede crosses in behind them), the Center Backs (CBs) should be about “arms length” off of the forward as Jamie Carragher puts it on his TV show – Monday Night Football. They should be slightly ahead of their man so they can effectively close down any option of the ball being played to them. Here in lies part of the problem, it is very difficult to read a forward & change speed/direction with him effectively (Thiago Silva is one of the best at this).

Thiago Silva keeps up with Messi and intercepts the cutback cross

Thiago Silva keeps up with Messi and intercepts the cutback cross

At any moment that the defense is running back towards goal, the forward can drop off and sit around the edge of the box, while the momentum of the defenders sprinting back carries them away from the forward.

Fernando Torres drops off from poor marking and scores from a cutback cross in the SuperCup final

Fernando Torres drops off from poor marking and scores from a cutback cross in the SuperCup final

This zone is where the Defensive Midfielder (DM) (& hopefully one more Central Midfielder (CM) helping the DM because the top of the box is too much space for one Midfielder to cover), should be covering the edge of the box. They should cover this area IMMEDIATELY! It is very important to protect this zone, if it isn’t protected the forward is sitting in free space to be able to shoot off of the cross. Many goals are conceded this way all across Europe’s top 5 leagues.

Even late CM runners like Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal can take advantage of this space. He scored a great volley vs Sunderland this way.

Ramsey exposes space at the edge of the box not being marked and scores from a cutback cross

Ramsey exposes space at the edge of the box not being marked and scores from a cutback cross

This exposes the of work rate CMs have in defensive transition, & also exposes if any CM/DM have poor positioning. The best DMs always cover this zone, the ones i constantly see doing this are the likes of: De Rossi, Busquets, Javi Martinez, and even Philipp Lahm when he plays as DM.

Evolution

All of the top DMs/CMs in the world will have to learn to always protect this zone with intelligence, and always have the work rate to get back into this zone when in defensive transition. Eventually all top clubs will have these type of intelligent & hardworking midfielders. I believe part of the problem is that a lot of Midfielders don’t see the importance of protecting this area immediately on the break. They think most of the danger will be dealt with by the defensive line, but in reality this zone is just as important.

Half Spaces

The final important zone this piece will cover is called HALF SPACES.

If you evenly divide the field into 3 vertical zones (left, central, and right), you would have 1 central zone & 2 flanks. Half spaces are the spaces between the flanks and the central zone.

Half Spaces

Half Spaces

Attacking this zone is an advantage because when you are in half space, you have a whole 360 degree playing angle. You can play to the left, to the right, forwards, and backwards. It is similar to being in the central zone, but less crowded most of the time. When on the flanks, players are limited to 180 degree playing angles. they can go forwards (down the line), inside (to the left or right depending on which side), or backwards. This means they are limited by the touchline, cause if they go over the line they are out of bounds and they give away possession to the opposition. It acts as an invisible wall defenders can press you against. Pep Guardiola even called the sideline “the world’s best defender.”

The playing angles available when playing in halfspaces, the center, and on the flank

The playing angles available when playing in halfspaces, the center, and on the flank

Making runs into this zone will expose lack of defensive work rate of Midfielders. Most Midfielders are very unwilling to track runs in behind their own defensive line.

Using Bayern as an example – This means if the Winger has the ball and the Fullback (FB) makes a run into this zone (just how Alaba does many times per game) and he isnt tracked properly, it causes the opposition CB to come out wide into the half space to meet the FB who is attacking, because the opposition FB is already on the Winger. Now that the CB has left the box, the FB (or whoever made the direct run into half space) can put the ball into the box with the only opposition defenders usually being the other CB and the opposite FB on the far post. This would leave the Striker (Mandzukic) and the opposite Winger (Muller) in the box vs. 2 defenders. Usually there is also an attacking interior CM for Bayern entering the box for crosses so its 3v2 for Bayern! This is how they scored vs. Schalke, and they constantly try to open up these zones with switches & attack them.

Ribery plays Alaba into Halfspace, Alaba is poorly marked so the CB comes out to meet him, leaving Kroos, Mandzukic, and Muller (off screen) vs 2 defenders for the goal

Ribery plays Alaba into Halfspace, Alaba is poorly marked so the CB comes out to meet him, leaving Kroos, Mandzukic, and Muller (off screen) vs 2 defenders for the goal

When receiving the ball in these half spaces, a player has many options. They can cut inside & shoot, they can play a teammate through from that angle, they can combine with a teammate and make a run in behind to pull the line apart, or they can cross. Being in half space also means that when this zone is attacked, the attack is closer to goal. This means its much easier to be accurate with the techniques being used (passes, shots, crosses).

Different ways to attack Half Space, With FB overlapping

Different ways to attack Half Space, With FB overlapping

It forces the opponent into almost the exact same tactical movements as if you were on the flank, but gives extra options. If you switch the ball from half space to half space the opponents will shift across the field, similar to when balls switches flanks, etc.

Bayern constantly use switches to open up half spaces. This is even more advantageous for them as they have Robben/Lahm on one flank & Ribery/ Alaba on the other, probably the best flanks on the planet. When the ball is switched, the CM/DM who should be protecting the zone in front of the CB+FB (halfspace) hasnt shifted completely across yet, so the zone is open for an unmarked attack.

Alaba attacking half space with a direct run after the ball is switched

Alaba attacking half space with a direct run after the ball is switched

My friend Rene Maric has an excellent analysis of the Bayern Munich vs. Leverkusen match on Spielverlagerung (http://spielverlagerung.de/2013/10/06/bayer-04-leverkusen-bayern-munchen-11/). He talks about how Bayern would switch the ball constantly to be able to open up the half spaces before Alaba would attack the space. This is because Leverkusen plays in a narrow 4-3-2-1 (the shape i modeled the blue team above on is Leverkusen in Rene’s piece) formation & defends these central and half space zones very well with their 3 CMs. Bayern had to switch the ball a lot to open up the spaces.

This is a very dangerous area that Bayern in particular are amazing at exposing, it exposes the lack of work rate of midfielders to track runs from deep by CMs or FBs like Alaba or Lahm.

Evolution

The evolution that came to mind from my conversations with Rene Maric was that when the Midfielders learn that they must track these runs deep in behind their defense, that CBs would have to evolve to be able to step up into the DM spot so the shape isnt ruined by the run. If the run is made and a CB doesnt step out, this means there are a lot of players in the defensive line (4/5+1 player who tracked the run). This would leave the midfield with less players and space would be there to exploit by the opponents. So CBs would have to be able to step up into the DM spot when such a run is tracked & be able to resist pressure & build play like the best DMs can when the ball is won, then switch back. A suggestion to this role could be  a player of the Javi Martinez mould. He is skilled enough to play both CB & DM greatly. This might very well be the future of how the best CBs can play to solve these tactical problems.

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23 thoughts on “New Spaces to target & the Evolution to protect them

  1. Very good and highly interesting analyis, I actually prefer this one to the one on spielverlagerung.de (even though I’m a great fan of that site) as I consider your illustrations to be easier to understand.

    Still I would like to add some thoughts here:

    “All of the top DMs/CMs in the world will have to learn to always protect this zone (the Cutback Cross Zone) with intelligence, and always have the work rate to get back into this zone when in defensive transition. Eventually all top clubs will have these type of intelligent & hardworking midfielders. I believe part of the problem is that a lot of Midfielders don’t see the importance of protecting this area immediately on the break.”

    –> I doubt that, even with better training in younger years, every top team will have this type of middlefielder. Protecting this zone requires not only high intelligence but also exceptional physis (considering all the other duties of the player on the field) feeling for the space and timing, a combination which will always be rare. Players like this simply don’t grow on trees.

    –> I believe that the root of this problem are not the players but rather a lot of coaches who underestimate this problem (or accept it as disadvantage of their system). Even without such a good CM/DM there should be possibilies to tackle that problem…

    “A suggestion to this role could be a player of the Javi Martinez mould. He is skilled enough to play both CB & DM greatly. This might very well be the future of how the best CBs can play to solve these tactical problems.”

    –> Without being a Bayern fan I am huge fan of Martinez as his anticipation is outstanding and he often mananges resolve situations before they become dangerous. The question I have here is: If you employ a player like Martinez as CB, what kind of player would you chose for the DM position?

    • First off, thank you! :-)

      “–> I doubt that, even with better training in younger years, every top team will have this type of middlefielder. Protecting this zone requires not only high intelligence but also exceptional physis (considering all the other duties of the player on the field) feeling for the space and timing, a combination which will always be rare. Players like this simply don’t grow on trees.”

      I suppose that seems like a likely outcome. I agree with you that it take incredible ability in both the mental and physical aspects. I like to think the game is constantly improving and evolving because teams are always trying to become better than the others, so this might become common in the future, time will tell.

      “–> I believe that the root of this problem are not the players but rather a lot of coaches who underestimate this problem (or accept it as disadvantage of their system). Even without such a good CM/DM there should be possibilies to tackle that problem…”

      I agree that part of the problem, and maybe even a bigger part of the problem – are the coaches. Its amazing how many teams concede this way, so it cannot be down only due to the players as you said. As you said earlier though, it requires great ability mentally and physically, so blame can be put on the players as well.

      “–> Without being a Bayern fan I am huge fan of Martinez as his anticipation is outstanding and he often mananges resolve situations before they become dangerous. The question I have here is: If you employ a player like Martinez as CB, what kind of player would you chose for the DM position?”

      This is an interesting question, the obvious answer would be another DM like him that could interchange roles as well, but as you said they dont grow on trees (maybe might be more common in the future).

  2. But if the CB steps out to become a DM then the 2nd CB would need to get inbetween the the attacking FB and the central striker to defend the easy cross in by the attacking FB who only is challenged by the DM, am I right?

    • I believe the DM who is challenging the FB in the half space is enough to mark him properly. The 2nd CB just need to worry about the striker or whoever. The CB stepping into DM role can protect edge of the box for cutbacks or in the box deeper if there is another dangerous crossing option.

  3. Great article when you said “This is because Leverkusen plays in a narrow 4-3-2-1″ did u mean 4-2-3-1 thats what the blue looks like in the diagram…

    • that was actually a 4231 looking formation in that situation, its usually a 4321 with narrow wingers. If you want to get super specific that formation could be called a 42121

      • Cool just wanted to check! really interesting read, put on paper many thoughts id had but been unable to word.

  4. Very well elaborated piece. Thanks for sharing!

  5. On the cutback zone

    I had a chat myself with Steve Grieve as I was wondering to what extent are pro coaches unaware of that zone, how much goals can be avoided or conceded from those very situation. From my very own experience, my U11 conceded around 30 goals from those situations last season (150 overral on ~70 games).
    I do think there’s two points to take into consideration:
    First of all, coaches not actually aware of that zone and seemingly not giving specific instructions. That can be seen of Sunderland in recent weeks, the way Kevin Ball and Gustavo Poyet set up Sunderland in 433. Same pattern but different instructions;
    Ball instructed his two CM to come out to press, what they did for 60mn. Ki wasn’t given specific instructions and Januzaj scored the equalizer goal just like at training.
    Barely three weeks later, Poyet asked his team to keep his shape and trigger the pressing in Sunderland’s 40 yards (a tad deeper than what Ball asked). And above all, Ki was focused to occupy that zone as much on the ball but on crosses (what City did most of the second half). Beside the fact I like very much Ki, that’s really reminescent of how a player’s performance is related to the instructions he’s been given.

    Secondly, I do think the double pivot is one of the reasons midfielders aren’t particulary eager to drop in between the center backs, for two reasons:
    the profile played in the double pivot nowadays is the all round midfielder, who can do a lot of things and has running & attacking abilities. Teams relying on pressing, especially high up the pitch makes less important the necessity to have good defending players (as much in terms of defending than defending in numerical inferiority) than before, because the proactive approach is supposed to release the back lines of a kind of pressure (on paper). I think it’s very much to teach/ask a midfielder to be able to get first on the ball yet be able to control a zone in which the danger will come later. Most players coming through are fairly average nowadays, either tactically, mentally… It just reflects the not sufficient work done in academies (either success-driven youth coaches, drop in standards…)
    Also, it’s about the actual numbers of midfielders. 433 allows a midfielder to come and support a full back, balance the team when the full back gets high up (Florent Balmont for Debuchy at Losc, Ward Prowse for Clyne). The anchor man can also drop in between the CB just ahead of them (what I call “pyramid” with my kids) to control the cut back zone. All that is because in both cases there’s two midfielders able to cover the two zones ahead of them.
    4231 with a genuine 3rd midfielder behind the ball in 1 & 2nd phase (Oscar, not Mata) gives more flexibility on that aspect as Oscar dropping ahead of the box (alongside some Lampard, Mikel) allows Ramires to cancel a 1v2 situation that a full back faces (in order not a CFC defender being pulled out and thus take off one man of the box).
    But basically, the triangle being inverted in 4231 makes bigger the zone to control for the two midfielders who have to be really careful not to be both drawn on one side whilst still covering each other ; switches of play means they have to slide quickly. One of the two midfielders just can’t defend purely zonally (except if the “10” is really the defensive outlet deployed as so – El Ahmadi at Villa). They have to create numbers in the ball’s side and move a bit depending on the ball’s position.

    More ground to cover really highlights players who respect instructions, can adapt quickly etc. Because it’s really a matter of good positioning, being able to cover, control the route to goal and be able to slide if the opponent switches the play.
    Mikel usually covers that cutback zone in 4231 on crosses in instance. He really learned how to cover yards of space in recent seasons, holding the less-worse positioning given the lack of work from his team mates ahead of him.

    On the half spaces:
    What did strike me in the opening game of Spurs’ campaign at Palace was Nacer Chadli’s positioning, I remember tweeting he was kind of “stapled” 10 yards to the angle of the penalty box. It’s exactly the half space zone
    I really wouldn’t be surprised to learn that AVB created a cartography of the zones to occupy in each phases, in order to set up and instruct his players to realize movements based on a pattern directly linked to the players’ positioning. The staticness of some of his players, apparently restricted into precise roles in terms of movements:
    Soldado doesn’t runs the channels, partly because he’s not used to and also because he’s seemingly asked not to leave his zone upfront
    beside the aspects I don’t like about him, Dembélé is very much restricted
    Paulinho’s running doesn’t seems only instinctive or reactive.

    I pompously called that zone “the Mata zone” in my Chelsea piece, as it’s the direct consequence of a square rotating on itself ; Ramires, Lampard, OSCAR and Mata being the 4 angles, with the Brazilian dropping deeper to ask the ball.
    A full back underlapping (on the inside) was one of the things that did strike me in City-Bayern. I first thought it was in order to force Richards into a 1v1 vs Ribéry but as it’s been frequently being used elsewhere I realized it wasn’t a one-off. I noticed Zabaleta does this a lot for years (hence why he’s involved in that much penalties/controversies each season getting into the box through it’s angle).
    That’s an interesting set up, hence why it’s becoming a trend: 3 midfielders to sweep in behind, team set up to have a good attitude without the ball to recover it as fast & high as possible: so then it’s easier to play 1v1 specialists wide and getting a full back bombing & running in order to create space without being short at the back

    On the CB/CM stuff.
    I personally regard a good center back as being able to play a very deep role ahead of the defence, it’s something I’m really taking in consideration in my own coaching thoughts (and thinking ahead).
    We come again to the double pivot point: I’m really fond of the high risk defending (not nonsensical), i.e David Luiz stepping up to get first. Medias and people clever as a broomstick only point at the 2 or 3 times out of 10 interventions when the striker actually wins his challenge or Luiz mis-times his challenge from a fraction of second. But Nedum Onuoha said that the CB PL strikers fear the most is Luiz. Point is that Luiz’s massively aggressive play (to play the ball – not the player) hasn’t just an impact on the actual challenge won figure, it also makes the striker asking himself a lot of questions and “fearing” the following challenge.
    Teams plays with 1 out & out striker nowadays, playing 2 center backs is in order to have one to cover the other. But I genuinly feel that playing with a compact block, as much midfielders close to the defenders than the goalkeeper ready to step-up to cover in behind the defenders is the future. We just can’t say “the CB is dangerously coming out, leaving his team mate in 1v1″
    In a 4231 set up one can have a layered pressing in central zones, first with the “10” work, then the two others midfielders and with a center back stepping up as cover just behind. Luiz did that a lot last season behind Lampard and Ramires.
    The advantage compared to 433 with the 3 midfielders sliding is that the CB coming out to cover is already positioned on the ball’s side.
    It’s even more obvious in 343 with the spare man being really to step up on the ball’s side. I’ll translate the piece I did on the FA Cup final in French, I had a very little audience but I guess I’ll have more feedback if I translate it in english lol. There’s a part on how the spare man is a really good asset against a team playing with 1 out and out forward.

    Last thing: that’s really easy to do great things using PowerPoint for your charts :P

    • “Beside the fact I like very much Ki, that’s really reminescent of how a player’s performance is related to the instructions he’s been given.”
      I think this is true, its probably a lot to expect a player to know this on his own – it is more important for the coach to point it out because a player will do what he has been told – which can make a great player or a bad one based on characteristics of that player

      “because the proactive approach is supposed to release the back lines of a kind of pressure (on paper)”

      I also find the thought of teams pressing means they wont have to defend deep is interesting, its obviously wrong. I think one thing everyone has to realize that every team will have to play all levels of blocks in both offense and defense during a match. Teams might get away with being bad at one aspect by being good at the others most of the time, but the best can handle all phases of play.

      “4231 with a genuine 3rd midfielder behind the ball in 1 & 2nd phase (Oscar, not Mata) gives more flexibility on that aspect as Oscar dropping ahead of the box (alongside some Lampard, Mikel) allows Ramires to cancel a 1v2 situation that a full back faces (in order not a CFC defender being pulled out and thus take off one man of the box).”

      This confused me a bit haha – You mention Oscar dropping to support Lampard & Mikel and then say Ramires helps the FB vs a 2v1. Im going to assume you meant to put one of Lampards/Mikels name there – wouldnt the FB need to be help by his supporting winger ahead of him if the FB is coming up? Unless you are referring to a #10 trying to pull out wide to support the FB and drag a DM with him.

      “I really wouldn’t be surprised to learn that AVB created a cartography of the zones to occupy in each phases, in order to set up and instruct his players to realize movements based on a pattern directly linked to the players’ ”

      This wouldnt surprise me either. I think thats a good way of educating players – by giving them a map. As you mentioned a bit after that though, the team feels very restricted in movement. I think that even if a zone is open and a player is occupying it – if he doesnt have an impact (receiving the ball, dragging a player, etc.) after a couple of seconds he should move out of that zone or else the offense will become static because nobody can fluidly move throughout the zones.

      “In a 4231 set up one can have a layered pressing in central zones, first with the “10″ work, then the two others midfielders and with a center back stepping up as cover just behind. Luiz did that a lot last season behind Lampard and Ramires.”

      I have been saying this about Chelsea and Luiz for ages – i think it is very easy when in a pressing stage to form a 343 diamond – which to me is the absolute pressing shape because it covers all zones and is very layered in a press. Think a sort of “double pivot for CBs” can be a tool in 4231. Can constantly change shape when needed for things like that. Forms even more triangulations in possession if needed.

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  7. Any chance you could repeat this analysis over the past say 20 years of football. A kinda how space was exploited through the ages? Would be a pretty awesome piece!

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  10. Really interesting stuff. I am also constantly thinking about the future of the game, and the truth is very simple – teams that will be able to involve their “weak side” (the flank/side opposite to ball position) into play quicker, will be the ones with most attacking potential. Pretty much the same conclusion as your “half spaces” theory. But when there are teams who can dominate midfield (have an 360 angle to start and progress with the ball in each phase), you get dominate teams as Pep’s Barca or today’s Bayern – simply the best, full attacking package.

    Tactically, it’s the same story on the defensive end, only in reverse. The goal is to form constanct block that will discourage the oponnent to play through middle and force him to the flanks. Ideally, force him to play a back pass that will give you enough time and enable you to shift the focus of the deffence from flank to flank, according to the position of the ball. There are solutions to this problem in all kind of formations – 4 3 3, 4 2 3 1 , 3 5 2…What makes the difference are specific player characteristics and roles, which brings me to the next point:

    I’m really glad you mentioned Martinez – differences in tactical and tehnical assignments/aspects between dm’s and cb’s are being more and more sublime, and Martinez is kind of a prototype of a universal player that can play and cover both sets of assignments and roles. Once we (football civilization) start to produce and educate those kind of players – we will be able to learn the patterns of defensive rotations that are best suited to react to this kind of movements. Even at the top, Champions league level, there are plenty of clubs/players/managers that comprehend this stuff pretty narrowly – DM’s has specific zones and roles to fill up, and managers refuse to put new demands before them – probably because they see a 25 or 28 year old player as a finished product, and it’s not easy to learn an old dog new tricks. It is a misconception to some extent, and as in every other sport, the dynamics of the new ideas will prevail, set up new paradigmas.(7 years ago, ideas like playing without a striker as Spain

    The award for best defending of the cutback zone goes to Borussia Dortmund – especially with the Bender – Gundogan pivot duo. They also get their power in numbers, as they will hurry back and defend the cross with 8 players, so there will always be 2 or 3 of them on the edge of the box.

    p.s. don’t know if you’re of Balkan origin, sure sounds like you are :) anyway, if you are, visit our blog, maybe you’ll find something interesting.

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  13. Great job. Amazing analysis.

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  16. Do you have a girlfriend ?

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