Ajax 2-3 Tottenham: Plan B Llorente frees up Plan A Lucas to score hattrick

May 28, 2019
Ajax 2-3 Tottenham: Plan B Llorente frees up Plan A Lucas to score hattrick

Reminder that my book Zonal Marking is out tomorrow!

Just like Liverpool the previous evening, Tottenham came back from 3-0 down in the tie, to set up an all-English Champions League final.

Eric ten Hag was without David Neres, and therefore switched Dusan Tadic to the left flank, with Kasper Dolberg upfront.

Mauricio Pochettino was still without Harry Kane, and the absence of Davinson Sanchez meant a three-man defence was less likely. He instead used 4-2-3-1, with Lucas Moura upfront and Fernando Llorente on the bench. Read more »

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona: sloppy set-piece defending and full-back positioning

May 26, 2019
Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona: sloppy set-piece defending and full-back positioning

Reminder that my book Zonal Marking is out this week…
Liverpool produced a remarkable comeback to defeat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, having lost the first leg 3-0 at the Camp Nou. As always with Liverpool’s European victories at Anfield, the win was credited to emotion, atmosphere and history. While those factors are certainly relevant, this was also a very interesting game tactically.

Arguably the most surprising thing about the turnaround was the fact Jurgen Klopp was without both Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, two of his first-choice front three. Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri played instead, while James Milner was in midfield with Gini Wijnaldum on the bench – until half-time.

Barcelona were unchanged from the first leg – and another point of interest is that Ernesto Valverde had the luxury of rotating his entire side for the La Liga fixture between the two games, as Barca had already wrapped up the title. The rest didn’t seem to help.

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Juventus 1-2 Ajax: Ajax consistently work overloads down the right

April 18, 2019
Juventus 1-2 Ajax: Ajax consistently work overloads down the right

Ajax followed their historic win at the Bernabeu in the previous round with a similarly impressive victory away at Juventus.

There were two major themes from the first leg in Amsterdam, a 1-1 draw. First, Ajax used Donny van de Beek in a man-marking job on Miralem Pjanic, which badly hurt Juventus’ passing from deep positions. Juve seemed surprisingly troubled by this relatively simple tactic, and there was little sign of Leonardo Bonucci stepping forward to become the deep playmaker, as he used to do so effectively.

Second, Ajax had a very consistent approach in the final third. They would overload the right flank, bringing four or five players towards that flank, before quickly switching play to the left, usually by looking for attacking full-back Nicolas Tagliafico. He, however, was suspended for this game. In his place, Eric ten Hag was forced to use three players. He started with Noussair Mazraoui, a right-back, who got injured early on. He was replaced by the more naturally attacking Daley Sinkgraven, who later gave way to Lisandro Magallán, a centre-back by trade.

Max Allegri, meanwhile, brought in Mattia De Sciglio for Joao Cancelo at right-back, Emre Can for Rodrigo Bentancur in the middle, and upfront Paulo Dybala returned – as captain – in place of the injured Mario Mandzukic.

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