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Tactical Theory: Compactness 戦術の基礎:コンパクト 翻訳 後編

戦術の基礎:コンパクト 後編になります。前編はこちら。

Reducing the Threat of Counterpressing

A compact defence can also have benefits during the start of attacking transition, once possession has been regained.
The increased numbers around the ball provides vital insurance against counterpressing, which could potentially be used by the opposition to immediately initiate another attack.
A key aspect of the effectiveness of counterpressing is the premise that there are large numbers of players still forward following the attack, who can all begin to press after losing possession.

Therefore, if the defensive team also has a large number of players around the ball during these moments then it works against one of the key features of counterpressing.
Aside from this, the defender who regains possession instantly has a large number of passing options due to the amount of players nearby so he can quickly move the ball onwards away from the space where the opposition are closing in.




Pressing Benefits

The best and most extreme pressing teams in the world are all founded upon a well-organized and compact defensive block.

With an increase in supporting teammates, the main pressing movements can be accompanied by auxiliary pressing from deeper players, creating a better-structured press which can attack the space more effectively.
The addition of supporting movements is key to the stability of a pressing which otherwise could be easily countered into the space left exposed.

A prime example of bad pressing was from an early Premier League (obviously) match between Chelsea and Everton.
The diagram below shows how Everton’s very uncompact and uncoordinated press was easily exposed by Chelsea in the build-up to their second goal.






Everton have particularly awful vertical compactness in the build-up, meaning Chelsea could easily exploit the spaces between the lines in the centre.


There is often less of a requirement for an individual player to make long runs during pressing also.
A common sight in the Premier League, is to see a lone striker run continuously for upwards of 5 seconds in an individual press, and is then easily beaten through simple passing.
Not only can the player not maintain pace as he runs too far, but the simple fact that the ball can be moved quicker than a player can run over such a distance means that the pressing can very easily be bypassed.

プレミアリーグでよく見られるのは、FWが単独でプレスをかけて5秒以上連続して走っている場面です。 そして簡単に突破されてやられてしまうのです。


Uncompact pressing has greater demands on and individual and is rarely effective.


On the other hand, when an individual is accompanied by other teammates, he doesn’t have to run as far as the space he needs to cover is less, and an alternative player will press once the ball nears his area.
With multiple players pressing (or at least supporting) in the first line, the defending team can also adjust to a frequent changing of the ball’s position.



Whilst a compact defence can press with greater numbers, reducing the demands in both distance and intensity of the individual.


Pressing is less easily exploited when the block has a high level of compaction.
During many cases of pressing with no regard to maintain vertical compaction, lines often open up between the lines, especially should the pressing be poorly-coordinated initially.

A compact defensive block also minimizes the accessibility of passing lanes, which can be vital in the effectiveness of a team’s pressing.
Without the possibility of utilising a vertical pass to bypass the initial lines of pressure, a player may resort to a lateral or pass backwards which would likely invite more pressure.

The preparation in anticipation of pressing the opposition is also aided by a compact organisation beforehand.
Within this, a team will make more fine movements in order to prepare the organisation to be in an optimal position to press from, ensuring that it is of high stability and co-ordination.
This is supported by the compact shape as previously stated, the narrow block can be organised better and within a shorter time period as it is naturally stable due to the control and defensive connections.




Translating to Attack

It is possible to translate some of the above principles into increasing the effectiveness of attacking.
In some aspects, this is not as literal as in defence given that width can often be vital in supporting central possession, as shown by the positional play of Guardiola’s Barcelona and Bayern.

Just like in the defensive aspects, an increased number of connections can benefit an attacking team.
This facilitates the use of combination plays with more teammates in a distance from which they can support the ball-carrier.
A prime example being Guardiola’s 3-3-4 seen through his final year at Barcelona.
Such combinations can be used for many reasons from ball retention to creating a situation for penetrating the defensive block.





A scene from Barcelona’s 8-0 demolition of Osasuna. The central movements of the players allowed for a combination to destabilize the opposition.


With a greater density of players in a small area, overloads happen naturally as a result.
These are vital in numerous ways, as they can allow the team to expose the opposite space on the field as the opposition try to match the numerical superiority whilst the simple number of players within a short space can cause great problems.

Through the overloads, a team will always have a free player (trusting that the positioning isn’t so bad) which can be pivotal in the breaking down of a defence.
In the situations of numerical superiority (a 3v2 for example), the attacking team must utilise the free player as there is no available defensive player to cover him.
An example of this can be found in Roger Schmidt’s Red Bull Salzburg in their 3-0 defeat of Bayern Munich back in January 2014.





The 5v3 overload for Sadio Mané’s opener.


Inside movements from both Mané and Kampl help form a 5v3 overload alongside the less common higher positioning from Ilsanker, which came from the previous phase.

The counterpressing following loss of possession is made much easier when the team are attacking with a more compact shape.
This is quite simply a result of having a large number of players around the ball at the time of losing it, all of whom will be able to press instantly upon losing the ball.

From a defensive perspective, counterpressing can be pivotal in the nullification of potential counter-attacks from the opposition.
With the instant press of the attackers, the initiating pass can be cut off, stopping the break from happening at it’s beginning.

It can even be extended to be an attacking strategy, and has been used by Schmidt for both Salzburg and Leverkusen.
In early possession, they will often make a vertical pass towards an area of high density upfield.
The pass doesn’t have to be aimed at a teammate, but just in the general area, so that if it gets intercepted the ball carrier will be faced with 3-4 players counterpressing immediately.
From these situations then, the attackers can generate good momentum and combinations breaking out following the compact counterpress.





Working Against Compactness

In their 7-1 demolition of Rome in the Stadio Olimpico, Pep Guardiola demonstrated an excellent method of counteracting a compact defence.
On paper, his fielding of Arjen Robben as right wing-back in a 3-4-2-1 understandably came to some shock for a number of fans, as is his nature, but the Dutch winger produced a magnificent performance and was pivotal in their emphatic victory.




Starting formations from Bayern’s UCL game versus Roma.


Through Robben’s very wide positioning, Bayern exploited Roma’s shape brilliantly which caused them great issues as they looked to maintain a good horizontal compactness.
Simply through the wide positioning, Robben caused a massive threat whenever Roma were organised as through switching the play they could create 1v1 situations against Ashley Cole.
This is emphasised in the fact that this was often through Xabi Alonso who is very effective in this area of his game.


In argument of this strategy, one could state that such long diagonal passes are largely ineffective.
Colm McMullan’s OPTA presentation on the matter, titled ‘Please stop applauding diagonal cross-field passes’, proves that this type of pass in particular is a very ineffective means of ball circulation in attack.


From his study, McMullan found that for a start, this type of pass had only a 40% success rate across the top 5 European leagues.
Expanding on this through analysing the events following a completed pass, he calculated the probability of a positive outcome (shot, final third pass and successful take-on are examples of these) of an attempted cross-field diagonal was a meager 17%.


Furthermore, McMullan then used an alternate method of measuring the outcome by tracking the phases of play following the long diagonal (for example, 1 pass equals a phase, as does a shot, aerial duel or other events).
This then found figures even more incriminating of the pass, showing that by the end of the possession phase, the outcome was positive only 15% of the time.
Such findings carried significant proof of his initial hypothesis, which stated “Diagonal cross-field passes often have excellent aesthetic qualities, but my intuition is that they rarely directly lead to an effective attack”.


On a side note, the study was particularly damning of English ‘hero’ Steven Gerrard who, although McMullan used the findings in favour of the Liverpool midfielder, made a significantly greater number of passes than any other midfielder and thus had a greater negative impact on his team – highlighting his lack of intelligence in passing.


Going back to early-winter Rome, Xabi Alonso can be considered somewhat of an exception to the rule.
Unlike his former Liverpool teammate, Alonso’s diagonal switches of play are often made with great pace and low to the ground which negates two of the key issues with such passes.
Usually when a player will make this type of pass, there is often a lack of pace and it travels high in the air.
In relation to the issue of the speed of the pass, when it is made with low intensity the opposition have much more time to adjust, prepare well for the situation and often challenge the ball upon the attacker receiving it.
As for the trajectory, the fact that it travels high not only makes it difficult to control (especially when he is being challenged) due to the angle at which the ball is received, but it is almost impossible for the first touch to continue the attack – it often momentarily slows the play.


With Alonso’s faster and flatter passing however, the team can rarely shift in time to be organised at the point of the attacker receiving the ball, whilst the flat passes don’t slow the play down since the first touch can often be forward, maintaining the pace of the attack.
This equates into frequent 1v1 situations being made and given the quality of players which Bayern possess in this aspect, their attacking ability is far better than most – certainly not least in this situation as Robben made one of his best performances this season.



A scene just following the 1st goal – where Robben had cut inside, beaten Ashley Cole and made an excellent curling shot into the far corner.


As you can see above, Roma are quite significantly horizontally compact whilst the diagonal compactness is also strong with the midfield covering the necessary zones.
Their compaction and horizontal ball-orientation in this case is a result of having to deal with the left-sided overload which Bayern are forming through Gotze, Bernat, Muller and Alonso – a certain quote comes to mind:
“You have the ball on one side, to finish on the other.” – Josep Guardiola

「ボールがサイドにある時にシュートを決めるのは逆サイドだ。」by グアルディオラ

The quartet do well to move the ball deeper to Alonso, who is in a position where Roma cannot press him instantly due to poor access.
Then, as a result of the aforementioned characteristics of Alonso’s passing, he is able to find Robben with a brilliant switching pass which creates a 1v1 situation against Ashley Cole whom he beats before setting up Lahm for a cross towards the penalty spot.


This factor alone was the source of a significant issue which Rudi Garcia was faced with.
If he organised his team with an emphasis on horizontal compaction, then they would get exposed by Robben in the switching of play as demonstrated above.
It only becomes a significant issue for Roma however, if you consider the consequences of not maintaining a compact defence against Bayern.
Had Garcia allowed his team to become stretched then the attacking talents of Gotze, Lewandowski and co. would’ve exploited the centre instantly, making it somewhat of a lose-lose situation for the Giallorossi.


In hindsight, if Roma had made an emphasis on maintaining access to Alonso as frequently as possible, they may have found fewer issues as Bayern’s ability to switch would’ve been limited – something which teams have been doing more and more frequently in the Rückrunde.
Admittedly, it is rather easy to suggest ways in which the defense could’ve been better organised following the original strategy resulting in a 7-1 dismantling.


Another way of exploiting compactness is through a previously-mentioned aspect; ball access.
During moments where the defending team is unable to press effectively, they become immediately susceptible in areas weakened by their compactness – usually the flanks or behind the defensive line.
When against such a team, it is therefore imperative to exploit these situations when they arise – which is inevitable as very few teams can go a full 90 minutes with constant ball access in defence.


Andre Villas-Boas’ teams are notorious for having this issue, as his Chelsea and Spurs sides both had issues with playing a high block without pressure on the ball, and he has brought the problem to Russia too.
This is typified in a scene from Zenit’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla in the Europa League which sent the Russians out as Emery’s side edged the first leg 2:1.



In their Europa League game against Sevilla, Zenit press with poor organisation and lack ball access as a result.


In this case, Vitolo has managed to find lots of time and space on the ball as a result of Zenit having no access.
You can contribute this to a number of different reasons, namely that the defending team had a very poor spatial compactness as demonstrated by the yellow highlight.
The diagonal compactness, or spatial distribution is also quite poor particularly in the pair of Witsel and Shatov who show poor co-ordination and communication which ultimately leaves Vitolo free.


England’s Issues


Because it wouldn’t be an article about compactness if we didn’t have a laugh at the Premier League’s ‘attempts’.

Whether it be a result of a poor-quality of coaching and management, or simply a factor of teams following suit after one-another in a mess of midfield-passivity and high blocks without ball access, the Premier League is notoriously bad in this tactical aspect.

The best way to observe the stark contrast is when an English team takes to the European stage in search of Champions League glory (ha).





A scene from Manchester City’s 1:0 defeat in Barcelona.


In the above situation, Pellegrini’s side display a poor organisation in terms of compactness, which translates into an uncoordinated press.
The vertical and horizontal compactness isn’t exactly good, but it’s not bad either – the issue is their spatial compactness.
This is the level of compactness within the block and as shown by the red space here, they lack it severely in midfield.
Once Rakitic breaks (can you break something which was never correct?) the line of Milner and Silva, he has a great area to drive into.


The poor organisation overall in this scene can be contributed at least somewhat down to the lack of preparation.
In the seconds before the diagram there was no effort to prepare the team to press by any player – the most severe case is perhaps amongst the deeper midfield 3 who have made no attempt to close out the space highlighted in red which would’ve made the press at least partially stable.


These factors result in absolutely zero defensive access as Rakitic cannot be put under any decent pressure for a long period of time, at which point he could have already caused damage to the English defence.
This, accompanied by spaces in the defensive block through poor spatial compaction, equates to a very threatening situation for City to deal with – one which results in an unmarked Neymar hitting the post from inside the box.


Other aspects such as the incorrect situational man-marking highlight the poor intelligence which is common in English football, most likely a result of the coaching standard and culture.

You can contrast this easily with teams such as Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus however instead of looking at the champions in their respective leagues (just like Man City), we’ll go to Monaco – a team Arsenal expected to walk over.




In contrast, Monaco held great compactness in their victory in London, stopping any chance of central access for Arsenal.


In stark contrast to City, Monaco defend with a brilliantly organised compact shape.
From this, they have benefits which City didn’t possess – such as strong defensive access to the ball (as they’re in a strong position to press with Berbatov suported by Mouthino and Dirar), whilst they control the centre and force the likes of Sanchez drop away from a dangerous area, as shown above.
It is noteworthy that second before this diagram, the midfield and forwards made slight adjustments before pressing again, showing a preparation to increase effectiveness.