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Thursday, 31 December 2015

We struggled against 10 men, why?

Against Watford we played against 10 men for 27 minutes plus 4 minutes of injury time, so 31 minutes in total. To be frank, although we won, we didn't play very well against them, we hardly created anything.

There are two things you can do is you are playing against ten men, stretch them or let them have the ball. That may sound ludicrous but let me explain. If you are a side who have gone down to ten men then your most likely method of scoring is from a set-piece, apart from that your objective is to defend and not concede, assuming of course that you are not already losing.

The way to defend is to retain your shape. A solid defence is difficult to break down, even with a man sent off you still have your full compliment of two banks of defence, one bank of four, one bank of five. Your players must always stay goal side of the ball. When you tackle it is with cover and you get up immediately to get behind the ball again. Players must eliminate spaces, track runs, stay disciplined and defend their designated zone.

Jose Mourinho made a telling quote when he was the manager at Inter Milan after his 10 men had knocked Barcelona out of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League at the semi-final stage.

“We didn’t want the ball because when Barcelona press and win the ball back, we lose our position. I never want to lose position on the pitch, so I didn’t want us to have the ball. We gave it away.”

It makes perfect sense. The words of the then Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino spring to mind.

“We are an attack-minded team and always want to push forward, and it’s not such a big deal if we concede a goal when we are pressing really high to get a goal for ourselves as well. But to concede a goal when there are ten of my players in my own area, in my own box, and concede a goal like that, I can never tolerate that.”

Playing with ten men is a bit like that, if you all do your job properly the opposition shouldn't score unless it is a fluke goal. We have phases where we pass sideways when met with a packed defence. We either have to find a way through, eye of a needle style, or we have to stretch the defence to widen the gap between players to exploit, making bigger eye of the needle holes.

I noticed when Danny Rose received the ball inside the Watford half with miles of space in front of him he didn't attack it and draw a defender out, he stopped waited and passed inside thereby allowing the defence to retain their shape, the opposite of what we needed. Our goal came because Trippier overlapped and drew players out to him, Son then exploited the space.

the other option is to draw the opposition out by letting them have the ball so you can exploit them when they do lose their shape. Teams are drilled for playing with a man down though so you have to quickly judge whether letting them come on to you is actually going to work.

It seems to me to be an area we need to be a little more aware of what we are trying to achieve.

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