martedì 12 giugno 2012

Answering: Tiki-Taka and defending deep as England did

Welcome to the new England playing style era. Roy Hodgson was 'Parking the bus' against a France that dominated possession (65%) and had a lot more of shots. As usual, Hodgson lined up two banks of four, with two deep holding midfielders in Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, and with two guys up top, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck, waiting for support from the two wide players. In the first half, this system had troubles against a France very fluid. Laurent Blanc's side started in a 4-3-3 shape but while Franck Ribery generally played on the left, Samir Nasri was coming inside to play as an attacking midfielder behind lone forward Karim Benzema. Blanc asked Yohan Cabaye and Florent Malouda to support the ball circulation and Mathieu Debuchy to go forward supporting the offensive phase on the right, while Patrice Evra became the third central back alongside Philippe Mexes and Adil Rami. It worked a little in the first half, with France that was the better side and England that had troubles. In the second half, despite that Frence had Evra going forward, England showed improvement, defending deep in compact lines but more organized and playing a better defensive football. They restricted France centrally - but allowed long shots. Hodgson called it a platform. His approach against France was similar to Chelsea's successful display showed when they met Barcelona in the Champions League. After the loss against Chelsea, Pep Guardiola too questioned whether high pressing and all-out attack was the best way to win matches. Is this the only way to defend against a Tiki-Taka side? Not every defensive effort made a team "playing like Chelsea" because not all the teams defend deep in compact lines. Italy defended differently, parking the bus in the middle of the pitch in the first half against Spain. In the second half Azzurri were dangerous playing some good counter-attacks. The problem with other teams such as Greece or Denmark is that they defended too deep, with too much distance to cover when the ball was won. Chelsea's victory - and Inter victory under Josè Mourinho too -  gave other teams the hope that, with an inferior side, absorbing the pressure, building two banks very deep and counting on counter-attacks or set-pieces to score is enough to win. But this can't guarantee reactive football. What has been seen over the past months, is a way to contain Tiki-Taka with a team sitting down and waiting for the moment to exploit fast-breaks. It can work because it's hard, for an attacking team, to find spaces against a compact side with nine players behind the ball. But when a team can't score and the other can't hit on the break, we can see a steril, controlling the ball, playing style against a defending squad with 9-men in front of the box. Real Madrid under José Mourinho tried to contain Tiki-Taka pressing high, but you can't do it longly if you are not in a perfect fitness shape. So, it seems that a team just can pick its philosophy between be active or be reactive. It don't mean to be a Tiki-Taka team or a Parking the Bus side. You can play going vertically or you can play looking for fast-breaks but pressuring in the middle of the field, not so deep, as Italy did against Spain. England can't do it. The transitions game was absent because they had troubles to find Young and Welbeck. Next games they have to be much strong vertically.

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