UEFA Champions League Final – Part 2

By Stevie Grieve

Evra pressing out of the defensive line to close down Messi, Rakitic or Alves at RW

As Messi plays the deepest of the Barcelona front 3, Patrice Evra was tasked to push out of the defensive line and play close to Messi, usually with Paul Pogba but often with Vidal close to Messi (Pogba moved to RM on 30 minutes for 6 minutes then back to LM).

When Evra pressed ahead of the defensive line, it often would leave a large space for Suarez, Alves or Rakitic to move into, which would draw the Juve defensive line over and leave them ‘over compact’ and vulnerable to a switch of play, particularly from Messi to Neymar or Jordi Alba.

Messi has been closed down but not enough to impact where he will dribble into and release the ball as the exit diagonally hasn’t been sufficiently closed enough as the

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UEFA Champions League Final – Part 1

By Stevie Grieve

Juventus v Barcelona

In what proved to be a fantastic game of football both technically and tactically, the team with the most flair in attack proved to be the winners, but it was a game of defensive organisation in both teams, particularly in defensive transitions where both teams were incredibly quick to get back into position form an attacking phase, then become organised. Some clever tactical implementations where used, such as Ivan Rakitic and Dani Alves rotating positions defensively when the right back zone needed covered, and Gerard Pique playing as a single ‘defensive target’ when Barcelona defended.

We also saw Massimiliano Allegri block the influence of Lionel Messi in a penetrative way, not stopping his influence completely as he was able to open up the play with his range of passing and be a danger even 40m from goal, instead of the position we have become accustomed to seeing him in recent years as a false 9 and being the

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4-2-3-1 Defending Numbers Up Against 4-2-3

This article is an excerpt from our new best-selling book, Coaching the 4-2-3-1 by Stevie Grieve.

The Blacks play 4-2-3-1 v the Yellow 4-2-3 formation. The Yellows play 9 v 10 and when they win possession, look to counter attack quickly over the line with passes and dribbles. Players must not go chasing the ball and remember the distances between players are important, and moving forward to close down passing angles while closing off passing lanes into midfield are a crucial element of the defensive strategy. Above, the right back is in possession. The full back plays close to the winger, leaving a back 3 as the far side full back tucks in. The 2 holding players cover the spaces making an ‘M’ formation, playing close to the attacking midfielder and stopping passes into him. The 3 attacking midfielders press the ball and closest passing options, with the far side player playing almost in line with

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Too Much Focus on One Player

By Stevie Grieve

Since January, the return to form of Lionel Messi has seen him reach new heights in performance, unseen ever when he was World Player of The Year for 4 seasons running (2009 2010 2011 2012) and now he has changed his role in the team to play as a deep inverted winger, who has almost a free role as Dani Alves and Ivan Rakitic adapt the RB and RCM positioning to change and cover for Messi as he goes looking for solutions from deep.

We often see Messi in a position where he can play a now trademark diagonal through ball from the inside right channel to the inside left channel, where Thierry Henry, David Villa, Pedro, and now Neymar are the main beneficiaries of his fantastic through balls and lofted passes from this deep position.

In the game v Bilbao, they tried to overload Messi 2v1 and 3v1 on the touchline and block his access to the dribble diagonally towards the centre backs with the ball protected on his left side, but often left his supporting team mates unmarked or left the space inside open to be attacked by the supporting team mates. Often, this would mean that Messi would simply make a pass and allow his team mates to attack the defence with players on the

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Sevilla Blocking Diagonal Passes

By Stevie Grieve

Europa League holders and this seasons finalists, Sevilla, are a team with a strong defensive unit and a strong attacking process, particularly on the counter attack.

Against a possession orientated team like Fiorentina, they allowed the Italians to have the ball and then defend from areas where they felt comfortable to make Fiorentina predictable; on the sides where Fiorentia played with ‘inverted wingers’ in a 4-3-3.

From the wide zone, they looked to block the cut inside with close positioning to play 2v1 or if the play was with a midfielder or full back in a wide zone, they would ensure they had solid defensive triangles to cover the pass through the movement to engage 1v1 on the side which would often be in 2v2,3v3 or 4v4 scenarios.

To do this, the central midfielder on the far side would look to cover any angle between the 2 closest pressing players to the ball and block anything diagonally between the

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Bayern’s Failure to Stop Messi

By Stevie Grieve

In the Champions League Semi Final between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, the score was decided by one player’s ability to find space when there is little available, despite Bayern Munich’s best attempts to control the space around Lionel Messi, particularly in the 1st half.

For the 1st half, Bayern played wide and looked to enter the attacking phases from the CF drifting wide then playing 1v1 on the side and attacking from there, while Barcelona played more direct from central zones in transition, looking to use Suarez’ tenacity behind the Bayern defence, or with lots of circulation which kept the ball and looked for a breakthrough from quick combinations around the goal or in 1v1 play.

The 2nd half changed for Barcelona when Iniesta, Neymar, Messi and Rakitic all played directly through the channels, looking to cut inside and combine with centrally based players; Suarez or Neymar on the last line of the defence, with Alba and Alves staying deeper and making late runs outside the play.

The main danger was always through an ‘inverted’ player, cutting inside, particularly Messi from the

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