“Win your individual battles”. This is the mantra of a manager employing man-on-man marking. Win the battle on restarts, when isolated, and with or without the ball. This is because 1v1 success inevitably increases the likelihood of 11v11 victory. And so, paired with each tactical posturing is this personal pursuit. With the many dynamic, dribbling attackers and foul-catching cameras in the modern era, sometimes these 1v1 situations in dangerous areas are seen as a shortcoming or an ill-advised 50:50 from the defending side. Seemingly, to a certain extent, AC Milan and Inter Milan beg to differ.
During their recent Serie A match at San Siro, the two teams employed distinctly different formations (specifically, AC Milan lined up in a 4-2-3-1 while Inter opted for a 3-5-2), which positioned players in similar spaces and set the stage for pitch-wide 1v1s. Whoever could force their opponent out of shape by the pass, dribble, or run was sure to gain the upper hand.
In actuality, the two sides’ unique tactical preferences mitigated some of the man-on-man opportunities. Inter characteristically sat slightly deeper, looking to capitalize on changes in possession and counter with pace. AC Milan sought to work the ball side-to-side, breaking lines with a pass into an attacking player when space was found. Despite these key differences, players from front to back on both sides could be seen following their mark closely, with a heavy reliance on the defensive midfielders to shield their center backs from direct passing and dribbling pressure.
In the end, this tight game, like so many before it, was decided by two key dead-ball situations. But the energy and excitement spanned the ninety minutes, exhibited in innumerable 1v1 moments between two of the top teams in European football. The takeaway? When teams line up in juxtaposition, fans are in for a treat.
Rose had clear attacking intentions and tactical ideologies that he wanted to implement, but few of them seemed to pan out in application. While many individuals consistently performed to the highest level, very few of them gelled together as a cohesive unit, working toward an over-arching tactical plan. Here in lies Rose’s greatest failure. Those who watched Dortmund once in a blue moon were able to see the exact same problem as those who watched Dortmund week in and week out. The Black & Yellows simply played like a team of individuals.
Today marks a sad day – the day that Alex Stewart announced his departure from Tifo Football. Alex has been an inspiration for many in the tactics community, and continues to serve as a reminder of what can be accomplished in the tactics and analytics field. Here is why Alex’s work at Tifo can continue to serve as an inspiration.
After the conclusion of the Premier League season and the subsequent relegations of Norwich, Watford and Burnley, we ask you to conjure up the players that you would keep in the Premier League next season. Whether it’s likely to happen or not, we want to know who you would take at your club next season, or who you think would excel at a Premier League team in 2022-23. Answer our latest Tactical Thinker below!