Arsenals Game Plan to Beat Man City

By Stevie Grieve

Arsenal allow City to attack down the left; tempt Kolarov forward and use his space to counter via Sanchez


Arsenal expects that Man City will use Kolarov down the left, so Alexis Sanchez is not to track back. Instead, Mikel Arteta will shift over and cover the space with Debuchy. When City attack centrally, Arsenal will tease City to playing to the left side when Kolarov is deep, to entice him to get forward and into a crossing position. When the cross is dealt with, Arsenal instantly look for Sanchez in Kolarov’s zone, knowing that nobody is quick enough to catch him on the break.

Sanogo will play close to the right side so that Sanchez has someone to help him, and to help create space. With these 2 on the right, Ramsey, Cazorla and Wilshere can all rotate positions.

Push Debuchy high and get players between the lines; Leave left side for rotations


When in organized possession, Debuchy will always look to play high and stretch the width of the field, with Gibbs in a deeper role on the opposite side to make a back 3 in transition.

As Debuchy gets high, Arsenal will have Sanogo on the last line on the right side, Sanchez inside right between the lines, with Cazorla and Ramsey dropping deep then drifting between the lines from deep or from the left side.

As Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla are all comfortable in this zone, they all rotate positions to make it difficult to be marked or tracked on the left side. Arteta will stay deep and screen the defence to maintain the 3v2 advantage in central midfield.

Cazorla goal – 4 players between the lines, Debuchy high

Article17 ArsenalvCity

For the 1st goal, Cazorla and Wilshere are inside left, while Sanogo and Sanchez are in the places they are intended to be, with Debuchy high and out of image. Ramsey feeds the pass into Sanchez who passes 1st time to Sanogo who drops off from his marker.

Article17 ArsenalvCity3-2

The ball breaks from Sanogo to Cazorla, who fakes to shoot with the right, lets it run across his body before shooting with his left foot from 20m.

Arsenal makes another counter attack behind Kolarov

Article17 ArsenalvCity7

As Arsenal win possession, they instantly look for Sanchez who has half the field available to attack as Kolarov is still recovering from the previous attack. Arsenal have players between the lines as the midfield 2 are flat in transition with the back 4 dropping off, worried about the space behind them.

Arsenal allow the pass to go left then tease Kolarov to get forward and help Nasri

Article17 ArsenalvCity8

Arteta closes down the space but doesn’t try to force play towards Gibbs. Instead, he lets the ball go to his left, as the back 4 get into position.

Article17 ArsenalvCity10

As the ball is passed wide to Nasri, he wants to drift inside while Kolarov can’t resist getting forward despite Sanchez having broke away on the counter attack several times previously.

Sanchez half-tracks back as he is supposed to do, and stays in a position where he can be found from the defence when the cross is cut out.

Arsenal almost score from Sanchez’s 60m counter attack run

Article17 ArsenalvCity11

Kolarov is again in the final 3rd, which is fine if you are able to cover his space which Sanchez keeps exploiting. They don’t place someone in his position for the transition, and again Sanchez can break.

Article17 ArsenalvCity12 - Copy - Copy

Sanchez receives a great pass from Chambers from Kolarov’s cross. City’s midfield don’t cover the spaces around the edge of the box, while nobody is near Sanchez in transition, which gives him space to run into again.

Article17 ArsenalvCity13

Sanchez plays the 1-2 with Sanogo but the pass is poor and the chance is lost.

Alexis on the counter attack into Kolarov’s space results in the 2nd goal

Article17 ArsenalvCity3

Kolarov is again tempted forward, despite several warnings, while City still don’t change roles in transition. As the ball is regained Arsenal instantly find Sanchez on the right again, he drives forward into the space and allows Sanogo to get into the same line as the defence. As he makes the run, the right CB drifts over to help, creating a gap for anyone running from deep.

Ramsey’s run into the gap created by Sanogo’s run

Article17 ArsenalvCity4 - Copy

Sanchez releases the ball behind the defense, dragging his marker with him.

Article17 ArsenalvCity5 - Copy

As Sanogo drags his marker away from Ramseys perfectly timed run, Sanogo brushes off the challenge before releasing to Ramsey who chips the ball away from the challenge from the recovering defender before smashing the 2nd goal into the far corner.

Arsenal exploit the space behind Kolarov and between the lines for the 3rd goal

Article17 Arsenal v City 6

After Kolarov gets forward to attack, he can’t get back into position, so Arsenal try to get the ball in there as quickly as possible. Arsenal also look to get in the gap between the lines as Cazorla pulls wide which occupies the full back, and stops him from moving into the space to press.

Article17 ArsenalvCity6

As the ball is passed inside, Giroud protects the ball before setting it to shoot from 25m.

In this game, Arsene Wenger was tactically excellent, while Manuel Pellegrini would say that he didn’t have his best 11 playing, tactically they didn’t deal with any of the threats Arsenal were quite clearly using over and over again. Had Pellegrini asked Fernando to play in the zone of Sanchez in and out of possession, and maybe asked Kolarov to not support the attack, the 3-0 defeat may have been prevented as it could have been much more for Arsenal.

By Stevie Grieve. (Follow on Twitter @steviegrieve)  Stevie is also the author Coaching the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching the 4-2-3-1 Advanced Tactics

How to Exploit the High Pressure Defense

By Stevie Grieve

Valencia entice pressure to exploit the spaces behind the press.

Valencia came into the Emirates Cup with a new coaching staff, hired from Rio Ave in Portugal. New manager Nuno Espirito Santo and his staff already had the preparation done for this game as his last game in charge of Rio Ave was a Portuguese Cup Final 1-0 defeat to Benfica, where Rio Ave had some good opportunities to score but it wasn’t be a historic day for them.

Going into this game, they knew the spaces they would be able to find if they enticed Benfica to press like they usually do, so set out to pass into areas where Benfica would press, then find a way out to find players in the attacking midfield line between the Benfica defence and midfield line.

They looked for these spaces from the opening minutes, unfortunately losing a daft goal from a pass against a team mate, but from the 2nd half, with the injection of pace from Rodrigo on the left, and Andre Gomes positioning and speed of distribution in central midfield, they looked much more threatening, especially when the Benfica central midfielders were enticed to press in pairs.

Valencia Game Plan

Provoke high pressing from Benfica – Central pressure – release WM between lines

Valencia v Benfica1 (1)

When the ball is passed into a central midfielder, they will hold until

Read the rest of this article »

The Tactics That Made Mourinho Great

By Stevie Grieve

Jose Mourinho’s Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003 then the UEFA Champions League in 2004. They did this on the basis of having a very strong defence, very organised in midfield with fast attacking transitions.

When I organised possession, they would play direct and often lose possession but look to recover the second ball while the opponent were unorganised and exploit space that they leave to press.

This week, I will look at the counter attacking phase and how Deco was the main attacking outlet in short pass counter attacks with plenty of support running at pace ahead of the ball, knowing Deco was good enough to find most passes in even the tightest of areas.

Deco initiates the counter attack

Mourinho Porto - Deco Playmaker 1

Here, Costinha wins the ball and passes to Maniche, who splits the midfield with a 1st time pass to Deco who is

Read the rest of this article »

Mourinho’s tactics from Porto 2004

By Stevie Grieve

Since I was young, I have always had an interest in tactics, specifically successful coaches, or coaches who have seemingly come from nowhere. When Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003 against Celtic, I enjoyed the direct style of play much more than I enjoyed watching Celtic’s direct style of play, mainly because it had some unpredictability, fluidity of movement and the talents of Deco as a number 10 in a midfield diamond.

Costinha’s role was an interesting one; a common thing in all of Mourinho’s teams has been the utilisation of a defensive midfielder who sticks to his position and protects the defence – Costinha, Claude Makelele, Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta, Xabi Alonso, Nemanja Matic – but for me it was interesting because it was a ‘new’ position as I had grown up in Scotland with a 4-4-2 and no set defensive or attacking midfielder, and certainly not within a diamond midfield which is common in Switzerland and Italy.

Mourinho’s Porto were a strong defensive team with pace and efficiency in attack, with a good supporting cast in midfield in the form of Thiago, Nuno Maniche and super-sub Dmitri Alenichev.

Porto’s defensive solidity – Establish a block width, depth and compensation system

Wide area turnover; Porto drop off and form a flat back 4

Mourinho Porto - Solid back 4 - 2.5

As the ball is lost on the side instantly the back 4 drop off and get

Read the rest of this article »

Improve Your Flank Play

By Keith Scarlett

This activity is a 4 v 4 game plus 2 flank players plus 2 neutral players to regulation goals. Two goals should be set up about 25 metres apart. The field is 30 metres wide. A channel is made along the sidelines 5 metres wide.


Each group puts on the field, one player in their offensive half in the channel and

Read the rest of this article »

Tactical Analysis – Real Madrid Defending v Barcelona

By Stevie Grieve

In the Copa Del Rey final, Real Madrid went into the game against Barcelona confident of a win, even without Cristiano Ronaldo who mass missing due to injury, but with Bale and Benzema both capable of defending from the front and causing problems on the counter attack, Ancelotti set his team up to defend against Barcelona’s main attacking areas, and exploit Madrid’s pace on the counter attack.

Madrid counter-pressing in the opening minutes

Art 5 MadridDefvBarca

Here, we can see that Madrid, having just lost possession, are reluctant to simply drop deep and defend, instead they

Read the rest of this article »