EPL: Leicester v Arsenal analysis, a game nobody wanted to win

It is never good to lose two in a row and it is especially bad if it happens to be first two games of the season. Arsenal and Leicester were both risking that faith before their clash at King Power stadium in Leicester. Neither of managers wanted that as hit on confidence could be determinant on current campaign in Premiership.
While Claudio Ranieri had his best players all available for the match, Arsene Wenger had to bench Mesut Oezil and Olivier Giroud as they aren’t fully fit after EURO. However, he got Laurent Koscielny back in defence and Granit Xhaka in midfield while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took place from Iwobi on right wing and Santiago Cazorla replacing injured Wilshire in attacking midfielder role. In comparison with match against Liverpool last week, Arsenal was stronger in defence and deep midfield position.

Although Kante went to Chelsea, Nampalys Mendy seems a good replacement and Leicester is strong in defence as they have always been. To counter that strong double block of four defenders Wenger occasionally employed Bellerin and Monreal to come inside instead of hugging the line.

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Lack of runners from deep was rucial in Arsenal’s ineffectivness to win the match

Above you can see Monreal¬†drifting inside which left Oxlade-Chamberlain alone on the wing. However, as Cazorla has already left his attacking midfielder slot there are no runners from deep to further disrupt the Leicester’s defensive block. The fact that Coquelin and Xhaka were strictly tasked to cover for counter attacks and not to venture forward didn’t help Arsenal cause. However, we have already established that the goal was not to lose second match in a row so that is understandable.

While Arsenal had the advantage in ball possession in first half it seems their fluid movement of front players didn0t really work against Leicester. At point seemed as Sanchez had free role as he was often drifting into Oxlade Chamberlain’s space while Cazorla also moved laterally. Instead of creating confusion in Leicester defence at times it looked more like disorganized attacking that didn’t really threaten the hosts.

Xhaka is becoming crucial in Arsenal build up. However, front two had so much freedom it hurt them (source: @11tegen11)

Excellent chart from @11tegen11 provides an insight in Arsenal offensive play and you can clearly see Xhaka was playing sort of deep lying midfielder and a heavy involvement of both full backs. The left side is clearly more active as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez and Cazorla are often drifting left to overload opposition. However, lack of runners from central area doesn’t destabilize the defence and there is very little to show for all the running.

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Arsenal failed to use the width of the pitch which made it easier for  Leicester to defend

Above you see Coquelin well closed down but real problem Arsenal has is that they are plying into hands of Leicester despite all the possession they have. Sanchez and Monreal are too narrow helping the defensive line stay compact and close enough to support each other. There is at least 15 yards of space on left flank Monreal and Sanchez should really use to stretch the defensive block and open up gaps for fast players such as Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain to run in. Additionally, positioning of Cazorla is completely out of place. Even if Coquelin wasn’t closed down, he would never be able to receive the pass and all he is doing is bringing defenders closer to Bellerin who is already in tight spot.

Second half opens up much differently as Leicester gets their pressing much higher up the pitch and closes down Arsenal really well. Suddenly it is the visitors who can’t get on the ball and Leicester high tempo gets Arsenal in lot of trouble.

With second half Leicester played much higher and closed down well preventing Arsenal from creating much even when Oezil came on the pitch

You can see above how high pressing by Leicester really worked. Man on the ball doesn’t really have an option but to clear the ball aimlessly. As second half progressed Leicester won lot of balls high up field to launch quick counter attacks. If direct approach for Vardy couldn’t be used the ball frequently went to right side and Mahrez who would then go either one on one or search for a crossing option.

As game was quickly going out of hands for Arsenal, Wenger replaced Cazorla with Oezil while Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted with Giroud and Coquelin went out to be replaced by Wilshire. This meant Oezil got more central role while Wilshire was more keen to make forward runs compared to Coquelin. While this might have worked in first half with Leicester sitting deeper, it didn’t really work last 15 minutes as hosts were high, closing down well and Arsenal didn’t have fast players as Oxlade-Chamberlain to exploit the space.

To conclude, Arsenal was way too cautious in the first half with two holding midfielders and while they had the ball Leicester was all happy to rely on quick breaks. Second half went all wrong for Wenger as Leicester players were always first on the ball and sprung attack after attack. In the end both temas will be satisfied with a point as that was the idea before the game.

Better to be born without penis than luck, GERvFRA analysis

After hosts France beat Germany in second EURO semi final we are slowly coming to conlusion of what once was the toughest football tournament in the world. Prior to the game France had quite clear startng line up while Joachim Loew had to make som e hard decisions due to suspensions and injuries.

Since Mario Gomez was injured he had no striker and decided to leave on bench Goetze while Thomas Mueller took most advanced spot in 4-2-3-1 formation. Khedira was out as well and Loew opted for Emre Can instead of Weigel while Hoewedes took the place of Hummels. The biggest problem for Loew was no proper striker in the squad and Khedira’s replacement. However, with Mueller up front Loew was confident he could create chances for others or himself. Style of play was changed since Gomez is less mobile but bigger threat in the air while Can took the role of coming from deep and adding to aerial power in absence of tall striker.

As the game started France came out as if they are going to tear apart Germany but five minutes were enough for Loew’s team to take controll on the pitch. They didn’t differ from their overall approach during the tournament. Plan was to get high, compress the opposition and then to create overload either by passing and movement or to switch the point of attack. Once France didn’t bother to press high, Die Mannschaft had little trouble bringing football forward and compressing France into their own half.

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Loew tried to break deep French defence by sending his center backs forward to create numerical advantage

Above you see a prototype of modern center back as Boateng is entering his midfield line to create a spare man. Advancing full backs are always creating an option on the wing, but what Loew preferes is overload in midfield which is allowed once Boateng enters the zone unopposed. He has number of options infront and Schweinsteiger with Kroos on his sides who can support him if he gets closed down. However, that isn’t preferred option. Actual plan is for Mueller to drag away Coscielny who leaves a gap for Draxler to get in and receive the ball.

France had great trouble stipping these passes through the middle and were only lucky not to get punished. You can see below how french failed to cope with their opponents roaming through their zones of responsability. Oezil is free on the ball and has an easy pass to Mueller who is coming to receive the pass. Before the move is over Die Mannschaft has created an overload on Payet and Mueller passes quick ball to flank for Kimmich who can go one on one with Patrice Evra and look for cut back, cross or recycle the possession with Oezil again.

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Despite France allowed numerous passes between lines, Germany didn’t have a man to convert chances created

Emre Can had an important role here as, while Oezil looked to drop deeper, Can was taking his position ready for run into the box replacing Gomez as an aerial threat in case his team mates chose to cross the ball. Despite numerous passes through French defensive lines, Germany failed to get anything out of their domination in the first half. One individual mistake from experienced Schweinsteiger gave Griezmann opportunity to score and he took it happily.

Germany had to be very disappointed going into the dressing room as they controlled the match and, while they didn’t create any extraordinary chances, France wasn’t any better. Start of second half was the same as the first with France pushing early on and then getting compressed in their half again.

While without the ball, Germany was, unlike France, trying to press high and disturb French transition into the middle third. It worked reasonably well but apart occasional break, French were always ready to get back and cover. Germany didn’t change their approach as they must have been fairly confident they will score with all the possession. However, another individual mistake, this time from Kimmich who carelessly lost the ball in his own area, essentially ended the game.

French kept to their feeble defending that Germany wasn’t able to break mainly due to lack of any inspiration from Mueller or Oezil and some great defending from new Barcelona star Samuel Umtiti.
As time went on Germany was ever more desperate since nothing they did went in, and France was happy to override its own midfield and ping direct long balls to Griezmann who was kind of player Germany missed to make this trully classic match.

French were happy to send long direct balls for in form Griezmann bypassing their midfield while Mueller disappointed not being able to get on the ball. If that was Gomez, it would be fine, but player as Mueller should have participated more  (diagram source: @11tegen11)

If you look above you can see Fraance mainly attacked down left without trying to involve Pogba or Matuidi in the center. Deschamps put all his faith in Griezmann – Giroud partnership and got it right. Germany will be heavily disappointed with Mueller who was completely lost between French center backs.

To conclude, what Germany was lacking was an inspired player that France had in Griezmann for whole tournament. Their defending was apalling at times but theere was no one there who was able to punish it. In the end, they were collectively punished by elimination. Was Loew able to do something to overturn result? Not really, Germany had sound plan and executed it reasonably, just as French did. They didn’t have any luck though, and as they say were I come from, it is better to be born without a dick than without luck.

EURO Quarter finals; FRAvICE analysis: A Deceiving victory

The last of quarter finals at EURO brought us a true underdog Iceland against France which, in the end, showed England how it is done. A comfortable win for home nation, however, might be a tad bit deceiving. Unlike England, everything French did seem to work. They had three shots in first 20 minutes and scored twice. Summed up, It was a very harsh game for brave Iceland that kept plugging when most teams would have just waited for a million of grasshoppers to have invaded the pitch and eat all the grass so the match is abandoned.
Front page of L’equipe, famous French football magazine, published a title “Can we be as stupid as English?” before the match as a reminder to their team. They were under pressure but hadtadd bit more confidencee than their rivals over The Channel. Iceland, on the other hand, came on the pitch ready for another surprise.

Didier Deschamps was aware of quick counters down wings that Iceland loves, not as much for the possibility of cross (although, they would take that) but as an opportunity for Aron Gunnarsson’s throw ins. France wasn’t pressing high and both full backs, Patrice Evra and Bakary Sagna, were particularly careful during the opening minutes not to surge forward too much.

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First rule from Deschamps to prevent an upset; don’t overcommit your fullbacks and leave flanks open

You can see above that Sagna had a tad bit more attacking role on the right in first half but generally both fullbacks, despite their attacking ability, played quite a conservative game. Their role, when France had the ball, was to widen the pitch and spread Iceland defence so offensive players Payet, Griezmann and Sissoko had more space. Only occasionally Sagna would cross from advanced positions (twice) while Evra was more concerned about passing the ball to advanced wide play maker Dmitri Payet or Blaise Matuidi.

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Second rule of Deschamps to prevent upset; keep your defence clean and tidy. Don’t press high allowing them easy counters

Apart not overcommitting fullbacks when on the ball, France was obviously defending without it. Above you see they employed fairly high line at about 10 meters behind the half line. However, they didn’t press relentlessly at all even if Icelandic defenders aren’t exactly comfortable on the ball. Pressing the ball carrier would allow them to get the ball much higher but at risk of giving Iceland opportunity to slingshot long balls for their tall strikers up front and fast transition they are good at.

Instead, Deschamps opted much more patient and controlled approach, as with his full backs when on the ball, letting Iceland find their way through his defensive lines. You can see effect of that bellow. Not having particularly creative players in midfield Iceland had tough time arriving in the middle third and even tougher getting into attacking third. They were left with long balls onto set up French defence that marked their forwards.

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The result of Deschamps’ rules; long balls towards marked forwards

Neutralizing counter attacks with conservative full backs and zonal defending without the ball to prevent confusion in defence were main aims for Deschamps ensuring Iceland is kept at bay. Going forward, however, France had to offer a lot. Basically they did what Belgium wanted to do whole tournament but were unable.

Deschamps played with two defensive midfielders, although Pogba was very keen to go forward, and Payet as a wide play maker on left. While Griezmann was allowed to move freely and Giroud often backtracked to make room for him and Sissoko cutting inside from right. These movements were often confusing for Iceland and created quite a few opportunities. Mainly due to Iceland defending.

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Arrigho Sacchi wouldn’t approve: If you play high defensive line, make sure ball carrier is not able to ping long direct balls to forwards. Or practice off side trap!

Above you can see how high is the Iceland defensive line. They are tight and compact and that is all well and good. However, Arrigho Sacchi wouldn’t approve the behaviour of Forwards Bodvarsson and Sigthorsson. If you are playing high line as Iceland, even if it is as nice and compact as theirs, you leave a lot of space behind the defence, around 40 meters in this particular case. To make this effective your strikers can not simply look at the player with the ball, especially if it is Paul Pogba who has really good and precise long pass.

These passes repeated through the first half and created a goal and a few chances. Combined with cut ins from Payet and intelligent off ball movement from Griezmann and Giroud, these was the offensive plan from Deschamp to supply his strikers. It worked so well it was unfair to Iceland who failed to adapt their pressing game to disrupt it. However, goals came so fast and in quick succession that game was virtually taken away from the opposition team. Not for Iceland, mind you.

They had to be frustrated at half time and wanted to prove it was not what they are capable of. Laagerbaek Substituted Arnasson who had a torrid game with Ingasson and more mobile Finnbogasson came in for fairly static Bodvarsson. They also changed the formation when on the ball. Captain Gunnarsson dropped between two center backs while full backs went higher and Bjarnasson together with Gudmundsson went central to form 3-5-2 which often transformed into 3-4-3 as Bjarnasson and Gudmundsson surged forward in possession.

ice transforms 352.jpg
Iceland changed their approach in second half and transformed into 3-4-3/3-5-2 while attacking. Good choice, too bad France was merciless in front of goal

More offensive stance from the beginning of second half paid off after 10 minutes but French efficiency was really ruthless and Giroud scores yet again from another set piece. This didn’t dishearten Iceland as they continued with their approach looking for crosses and set pieces and they managed to score six minutes before the end.

France was largely content to preserve energy for semi final with Germany throughout the second half and wrapped the game looking for counter attacks. As Iceland was wide open at times they could have scored more.

To conclude, France had sound plan with direct balls for offensive players as well as quick combination play mainly down left where Dmitri Payet operated. Iceland helped them with inadequate closing down of ball carrier allowing time and space for French to pick their passes into attacking third. France got luck on their side as well since they scored two goals from their first three shots and then added another two goals from next three tries.

Strange game that didn’t give moment of breath to Iceland and might be quite deceiving for France going into the match with Germany.