giovedì 16 agosto 2012

More offensive approach paid off for Scotland

With Craig Levein even under pressure, Scotland put on the pitch a good performance in their 3-1 victory against Australia. Levein was highly criticized for the 4-6-0 formation he lined up against Czech Republic in 2010. For all that criticism, Spain invented the striker-less system and deployed it during last European Championship. But Vicente del Bosque wasn't the first coach to utilize it. Luciano Spalletti with AS Rome and Craig Levein were the first ones to use it. Obviously, Spanish and Spalletti's versions aren’t useless, defensive systems, while Scotland's formation was essentially a defensive one. Scotland started their Euro 2012 qualifiers in Prague and Craig Levein went to his 4-6-0 formation. And he strongly defended it.
"Even Barcelona, with their 4-5-1, use just one striker. In fact, when they lose the ball, they go 4-6-0. They don't even leave a striker up the park." (Craig Levein 2012)
Football's history was written by tactics and players: had Levein here more technical gifted players, the criticisms could have been different. Against the Socceroos, Levein lined up a 4-4-1-1 formation, that became a 4-5-1 on the defensive phase. In that way, Levein was trying to find a balance between defence and fast-breaks, staying away from Scotland's classic 4-4-2 and playing with a packed midfield when the ball was lost. 
"People seem to think that if you play with two up top, you will win a game or score more goals. Well, you might score more goals but the chances are you'll lose more as well. Playing with two strikers? I'm not saying I wouldn't ever do it but right now we don't have a combination of strikers who would be worth us giving up that midfield domination. That is the key for us." (Craig Levein 2012)
Scotland's 4-4-1-1 wasn't attack-minded although they had Jordan Rhodes, James Morrsion, Steven Naismith, Charlie Adam, and Robert Snodgrass on the field at the same time. Glad to absorb pressure, Socceroos played their way through fast-breaks. But Australia's defence looked not secure. With the duty to have the ball controll and to make the game, Scotland showed some lacks. The play was based only on crosses from the flanks. Levein's  thought to play with cutting inside wingers, specially Naismith, left his full-backs with the goal to provide width. Daniel Fox on the left and Snodgrass on the right was able to push up and down the line in the way to send good balls into the box. It was a classic matchup between two old-fashion British style football teams with an offensive team attacking from the outside and the other one playing a more defensive brand of football based on counter-attacks. Levein took Gary Caldwell as a deep-lying midfielder but as a holding one. With his limited offensive skills, Caldwell was good enough as wall in front of the four men back-line but was unable to orchestrate the offensive play so Scotland's superiority 3 vs 2 in the middle of the pitch was nullified. By the way, Levein's decision to take Caldwell down allowed Adam to play higher up supporting the play between defence and midfield paired with Morrison. Scotland, though, had troubles to contain Australia's counter-attacks, showing to have yet to learn how to deal with the negative transition phase. On the right, they suffedered the overlapping work made by Alex Brosque and Brett Holman. In the set pieces too, Scotland needs to improve, as they showed when an uncovered Mark Bresciano scored on a second ball coming from a corner kick. At the end, Scotland secured a needed win and while Craig Levein is under the pressure yet and with a lot of work to do, he had some good news from this match, such as the performances of Fox and Snodgrass and the impressive Rhodes 's debut.

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