You can’t lose a game if their is a 0 lying next to the opposition on the scoresheet. Good defence are key to winning competitions. We seen just that from the 2010 World Cup. Football is entering a cagey and negativity as teams become scared to lose. But one of the teams of 2010 most applauded for their attacking talent has been Spain and Barcelona both built on solid defensive performances. But how can you build an unbeatable defence?
1. Keep hold of the ball
It is no surprise that Spain only actually conceded 1 goal throughout the whole of the World Cup finals even while they had there full backs bombing forward at every opportunity and that Barcelona had the best defensive record in all of La Liga last season.
If you have the ball then the opposition won’t see enough possession to put the ball in the back of the net. Spainards have shown that controlled, patient build up can win matches.
Every road to tactical excellence leads its way back to 1970s Ajax, aggressive and organised pressing systems that make the pitch smaller when defending, and make it bigger when attacking has developed some of the best and solid football of all time. All made to get the ball back as quick as possible and keeping it, defending from the front. As Pep says “Without the ball we are a horrible team”.
2. Lets the other side have the ball
But not every side can keep hold of the ball or use it as patiently as the Spanish. That takes intelligent movement, pressing, stamina and technical ability to pull it off. As Jose Mourinho showed against Barcelona in the Champions League that you don’t need the ball to be able to win games.
Jose Mourinho seems to have inspired a collection of underdogs that have moulded their own tactics to go up against the big boys. Everyone seemed to want to defend deep, solidly with good compact lines when playing against Spain. Cantania, Herclues, Cesena have all been inspired by Jose this season as they have faced the bigger clubs.
Defending like this requires disciplined shape, Mourinho knew if he was constantly chasing the ball or playing possession football that there was a chance that their shape would be disrupted. Allowing Barcelona to have the ball was no real risk if they couldn’t put any dangerous passes past the Inter defence. While Inter were quick to move on the counter attack in the first leg to secure passage to the final.
3. Watch the game
The best way to sort out your defensive problem is to analyse the goals that you are conceding. The key to analysing a football match is to be able to spot the patterns in play. Are you constantly being exploited down the wings, allowing crosses to be too easily played into the box or struggling to control the midfield?
All of this will be apparent as defensive problems are rarely one offs, once you have been able to identify problems you can work on solving them with small changes, changes that you can track knowing what you have to to make a tactic successful.
But here are some common problems;
- Exploited on the wing – Try closing down or marking more closely the players on the flanks. Play wider
- Giving players too much space between the lines – restrict the playing space by using a higher line or keep your lines compact and organised to prove themselves hard to breakdown
- Not able to win the ball back – consider, is this what you have setup your tactics to do? Take a look at your numbers or analysis pages and see who and where you are losing tackles. Consider the ability of your players, it might be better for them to stay on their feet and stand strong instead of diving in and missing the tackles, potentially leaving gaps around them.
- Unable to control the midfield – How many players have you got in midfield, the main problem with a 4-4-2 v a 4-5-1 is the extra man in the midfield 3v2 allows teams a spare man to pass the ball to. A defensive midfielder or two can also go along way to protect the back 4 as you have 4 other players free to attack.
What common problems do you have in defence?
But spotting these problems comes from knowing what to look for, knowing what to look for comes from learning about the theory of football in the real world. The numbers can give you an idea of where the problems lie and the improve Football Manager 2011 analysis module will become vital in spotting problems in your tactics. But you first need to understand what you want your players to do and how they are actually behaving.