In my last piece, I spoke about halfspaces (my last piece – https://adinosmanbasic.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/new-spaces-to-target-the-evolution-to-protect-them/). I mostly talked about the attacking aspects of halfspaces, but now i will elaborate and speak about the deeper halfspaces while in possession. Half spaces have many different effects all over the field, as well as having an important role in the defensive phase, but that’s enough information to write for a later piece.
Using half spaces in deeper positions while in possession is a great way to progress the possessing team up the field, and also penetrate the opponent’s lines. When in halfspace a player can either receive the ball in space unmarked and progress through the lines, or the player can be marked – which is where they can open some spaces.
Most of my examples will show graphics that are attacking against a team who is in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 shape, this is because its most obvious to see the effects of half spaces against these shapes (most of the time).
In this graphic, the LCM (left-central midfielder) drifts wide into halfspace and receives the ball. This drags his marker wider than usual, stretching the normal length between the 2 central midfielders. This leaves a gap to progress further up the field into a dangerous area.
Augsburg had this approach vs Bayern in their recent domestic cup match. This allowed them to play a direct ball into their striker between the lines. This is because Bayern played with a 4-4-2 defensive shape, probably due to Augsburg’s 4-1-4-1. Bayern didn’t have their usual 4-1-3-1-1 pressing shape coming out of defense because Augsburg didn’t have a CAM (central attacking midfielder/#10) between the lines, allowing Bayern to leave the single striker to the CBs (center backs) and push up their midfielders, similar to their approach against Barcelona in their 7-0 win where Bayern would collapse on the ball & shut their pressing trap if the ball got in between the lines.
As you see, this is a similar approach to how Guardiola approached the Augsburg game.
This is Bayern’s usual shape when they press opponents (most opponents have a #10 between the lines). The DM stays deeper with the opponent’s CAM, while Bayern’s RCM marks the opponent LCM. Now Bayern’s LCM pushes up to press the opponent CB who is on the ball, while covering his assigned CM with his body shadow. This forms a sort of 4-1-3-1-1 shape while pressing, if the ball managed to get in the center Bayern collapse and shut their pressing trap. (Great piece on pressing traps within a 4-1-4-1 by Rene Maric – http://spielverlagerung.de/2013/11/06/beispielhafte-pressingfallen-beim-4-1-4-1/)
Another option to mark the halfspace player is when the opponent’s wide player comes inside to mark the player in halfspace. This opens space in the wide area for the possessing team’s FB (full-back) to progress through and make a run. With the FB moving up unmarked to join the possessing team’s winger, this forms a 2v1 on the flank vs. the opponent’s FB. This is an advantageous position because when the opponent FB is beaten, naturally the opponent’s CB must come out to meet the wide player, which leaves advantageous numbers in the box to score.
Some teams play in a defensive shape with 3 CMs protecting the center and halfspaces. In my last piece i showed you how Bayern used a lot of switches of the ball to be able to make runs through halfspace against Leverkusen (who play a narrow 4-3-2-1). There are various different approaches to open up spaces against a 4-5-1/4-3-3 defensive shape, but i will give a couple of my own examples.
Because a 4-5-1 has so few forward outlets, it is less dangerous for the possessing team to commit more defenders to the attack, which is a key feature for my examples. Though Bayern didn’t play 4-5-1 last year, my graphic is a situation where they were in such a shape
One approach vs. a 4-5-1 is to overload halfspaces, this is because they are already protected – simply standing in this zone wont have the same effect as usual because the player is already marked, keeping spaces closed. A particular form of progression Bayern, Augsburg, & others (Bundesliga is arguably the best league in terms of tactics) used last year did this very thing.
The FB of the possessing team pushes up very high, which allows the winger inside. One of the DMs drift into wide halfspace, this group tactical movement overloads this zone which moves a large concentration of players into one part of the field. One of the results of this movement is the opening of central spaces towards the opposite side of the field.
vs. Barcelona in the SuperCup final, Atletico Madrid defended in a 4-5-1 shape with Diego Costa (a main attacking outlet) dropping to the left to mark Alba (so Atletico don’t get overrun in central midfield) on defense. Fabregas drifted into halfspace as the LCM, naturally being marked by the opponent’s RCM who is protecting the halfspace. Neymar had the ball wide against Atletico’s FB. This left Diego Costa to mark Jordi Alba, and Alba made a run into the already occupied halfspace. Diego Costa, who is normally a striker, was reluctant to track a run in behind the defense. This meant the opponent’s CB had to come out wide to meet Alba, leaving less defenders in the box. Alba made a cross to the far post where Alexis Sanchez barely missed an open goal.
Before i begin talking about mixed positions, it’s important to note the difference in distances when a player is pulled diagonally from one point as opposed to being pulled horizontally or vertically from the same point.
Diagonal pulls are always mathematically larger than normal vertical or horizontal pulls, opening up more space than usual.
Using the Pythagorean Theorem we can see in a 5×5 meter square of space (smaller scale of actual space on the field), moving horizontally or vertically from one of the corners would mean the player left his original point by 5 meters. If he left his space diagonally to the opposite corner, the player left his original point by 7.1 meters. This means there is an extra 2.1 meters created which is a huge amount of extra space in football. That extra 2.1 meters (again, this is a smaller scale) can provide extra time to shoot, pass, dribble, etc.
To prove this point, you simply use the equation A(squared) + B(squared) = C(squared) to find the diagonal length (C), which is how far a player would move diagonally. For this example the equation would be 25 + 25 = C(squared). When the square roots of both sides are taken it is found that C = 7.1 meters (amount of distance a player would cover diagonally).
Whenever a player leaves his position horizontally or vertically, he moves into another position within the teams formation (the vertical & horizontal lines of the formation), but if he moves diagonally, he is in between positions. This is called being in a MIXED-POSITION (co-named with Rene Maric – @ReneMaric on twitter).
When looking at the 18-zone model of a football field, these positions are usually found in the zones 4.5, 5.5, 13.5, and 14.5. Mixed positions aren’t ALWAYS in these zones, the positioning can vary based on how the opponents are set up (it simply means that the player is in between positions).
These positions are both between opponent lines as well as being in half space. These positions have the basic effects of both. While in halfspace a player drags opponents out of position to open spaces, and its the same for these positions, though it creates a bit more space. At the same time, the player is in between the lines so he can drag the defensive line out of position and even play a ball through, make a run, shoot, dribble, etc.
Moving into a mixed position has various impacts on the opponents. Whatever player gets dragged by the mixed position player to leave their zone will be unbalancing the defense in some way, providing an advantage somewhere on the field. There are various possible effects of being in a mixed position, I’m going to share a few examples of mine.
The first example is if the LCM of the opponent drifts in a high-left mixed position (from his point of view). This opens a lot of central space and allows for a free CM to progress through into the space, he can then shoot, pass, or dribble. The exposed CBs have to decide which one will quickly press the ball player (if they manage to choose), it must be quick because a ball could be played into the unoccupied space.
The second example is if a CB leaves his space to follow the mixed position player. This leaves a gap in the defensive line that could be played through. There is also another pass possible to the opposite winger because the CB that is left alone must cover a large amount of space on his own.
My third example is when the FB leaves his position to follow the player in the mixed position. This would leave the winger free, & on a larger scale – this leaves the possession team’s FB 2v1 vs. the opponent winger, if he tracks back. A ball can be played to winger or FB & if they beat the winger who tracks back, they can attack halfspace and pull opponent defenders wide for an advantageous number of attackers in the box.
The final example is when the winger follows the player in the mixed position, this has almost the same effect as if the FB followed the mixed position player. It leaves the possessing team’s FB free, & on a larger scale – it leaves the FB 2v1 against the winger and the possessing team’s FB. The effects of winning the 2v1 would be the same as the previous example.
These are just some examples – in my graphics it shows the False 9 of a 4-3-3 moving into the mixed position, but many different players can move into these positions, and they can cause various different reactions from the opponents. My examples are just for you to get a better understanding of the effects of being in these spaces between positions.