Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tactically speaking

If there was any doubt that Frank Farina is a clueless fuck, he's chased it away.

Either that, or he simply does not watch the matches he attends. How anyone could say "the Roar's form was still impressive" is beyond me. They have been very poor,particularly in attack.

The Roar's problems stem from Farina's footballing philosophy. He has them playing like Italians, when they should play like an English lower-league side.

Italian teams tend to allow their opponents space, defending deep, and looking to compress space in the final third, so that the other team is forced to play high-risk football to break them down and is faced with superior numbers. They build up slowly to counteract other teams doing the same thing: by moving the ball up the pitch slowly, you allow your side to push up. Italian teams tend to keep the play fairly narrow, because, playing to their strengths, which rarely include height or aerial ability, which aren't favoured in Italy, their chief means of breaking down the opposition defence is rapid movement and precise passing: a lot of goals in Italy come from the inside ball, where a striker pushes the ball inside a defender who is caught flatfooted by a midfielder's run.

Now, this is a valid way to play football. It suits the technically skilled, sharp players that Italy produces, and Italian sides tend to buy. But it's not suitable for teams that lack the quality of Serie A's stars, and there is a fine line between getting it right and becoming laboured and lumbering. Students of Liverpool will note that whereas they played this style very successfully in their glory days, under Houllier, for example, and sometimes under Benitez, they have lacked the incision that it demands.

The Roar should rather mimic decent Championship sides. An English side will tend to try to get the ball forward quickly. Defenders do not dwell on the ball: they look for an outlet for the quick pass. The team will close down space quickly and defend as high up the pitch as they can. Instead of compressing space in the final third, they look to compress it in midfield, making it impossible for their opponents to pick out their strikers with any accuracy. This style demands width, because the main attacking threat against compact defences is the ball wide, allowing a winger to get behind the defence and put in a cross. I had to explain to Zenella's tennis coach, who stands next to me at Roar matches, so alien is this concept, that this is dangerous for the defence because every attack becomes a corner. The attacking side must get bodies forward, but this is not so difficult when you are defending the halfway line, not your box, and your midfielders are busting their guts to get up the pitch (I am yet to see much gutbusting going on at the Roar). It's important for English sides that when the ball is played up to attackers, midfielders are looking to run on beyond them (something Marcinho almost never does), allowing the option of the through ball as well as the layoff (the Roar's forwards can only lay it off with their backs to goal, or must try to turn, which is often comic but rarely productive). This style is effective against sides that are defending deep because they lose their shape. Eventually, they too start to push up the pitch to get numbers into midfield and relieve the pressure, and you can get a ball in behind them. The opposition are not able to take the time to mark you up, and are going to be vulnerable to quick balls out to wingers who ping it into their box, where defenders are outnumbered if you have pushed forward quicker than their midfielders have come back. It's all about pressure, which makes the opposition make mistakes that you can capitalise on.

This style suits players with limited ability, and, what's more, would be very effective against sides that are not trying to compete in midfield. The Roar would need to be a lot fitter to play it, but getting fitter is a lot easier than acquiring technical ability. It would suit the players we have too. Reinaldo is a shithouse player, but he's big, and would conceivably cause more difficulty to defences if they had to defend high balls. He's rubbish in the air, but they still have to mark him. Milicic is a good player when he has some space to work in, so early balls are going to suit him. At present, he looks very poor, unable to work in the compressed space that Farina's tactics leave him with. Watching from the sidelines are Minniecon and Nicholls, quick, keen lads who would terrorise full backs and provide a stream of dangerous balls. Murdocca too could play this role. He has a bit of nip about him, mostly wasted because the Roar play at walking pace. It would definitely suit McKay, whose strength is his aggression, which he could use much more effectively. The prospect of Seo pinging long balls to the boys on the wing is mouthwatering. How threatening we would be then!

Naturally, we would need to play a standard 442 and not the hybrid 4132 that Farina has been indulging in, which simply has not worked.

But nothing is going to change, of course. Farina says ""I would be really concerned if we were garbage - (but) we are on the right track." Well, we are garbage, and the reason is that we are on a very wrong track.


Post a Comment

<< Home