FC Barcelona Femení had a slow start to their first match of the season, initially struggling to find avenues forward in Tenerife's 5-4-1 defensive block. UD Granadilla Tenerife compacted the lines both vertically and horizontally to stunt Barcelona's progress forward, but in an abnormally high-line that spurred Giráldez's team to hit long passes over the top. They were caught offside from these attempts time and time again, particularly in their quest to spray in behind for Geyse's speed. But then, everything changed.
One of the truest tests of any tactically adept coach is to identify mechanisms for changing around their team’s fortunes mid-game. This is never an easy task, but one that managers must be reflecting on not only with their substitutions, but with the potential for changing the master-plan on a grander scale, whether that be a tactical tweak in style or system. In what was one of the games of the weekend, both Freiburg and Leverkusen made pivotal formational changes as the match wore on. Crucially, both teams changed back to the shapes that they've prioritized since the start of the season, calling into question why they ever abandoned their favoured choice in the first place.
In the quest to establish beautiful football, possession-based play often reigns supreme, with the bitter ugliness of grit and determination seen as a lower standard way of approaching the game. But when done right and done effectively, counter attacking football can be the deadliest approach to winning football matches. That notion came to prominence over the weekend, as both of last season's Premier League title contenders dropped points, and Bundesliga giants RB Leipzig crashed down the stairs at Union Berlin.
Target Men are often seen as the bottom of the barrel centre-forward in terms of footballing ability. But increasingly, it's becoming more difficult to quantify 'Target Men', recognizing the vast skillsets they employ. The likes of Aleksandar Mitrović and Sasa Kalajdzic are easier to distinctly categorize as 'Target Men' for their physical, imposing frame that allows them to score headed goals for fun. But it becomes more difficult to keep the likes of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez in that same specification, recognizing the vast array of traits they possess, particularly speed on the break. Target Men have historically been seen as slow, technically inept individuals who use their physicality, whether that be height or strength, to get one up over the opponent. But more and more, we are seeing an evolution of the 'Target Man' in 2022, to include a vast array of traits.
Leave it to Manchester City to always be doing something interesting from a tactical perspective. Tactics were bound to change at the Ethiad with a new striker entering the door. City even made strides to accommodate Erling Haaland by purchasing yellow shirts for everybody. But the real tactical change against West Ham United came out from the back, with the re-emergence of an old City favourite that quietly died down in 2021-22. In large part, Bernardo Silva's 'Bernardo Silva Role' meant that the City fullbacks were responsible for inverting less in build-up phases, as the Portuguese playmaker drifted toward the ball to help the Citizens break through central corridors instead.
In our latest analysis series: Game of Numbers, we break down the various tactical undertones of the modern game, most notably the roles that individual players hold on the pitch to help their teams explore avenues for greatness. Positions are often broken down into 'numbers' to describe the areas of the field that a player may operate. This series aims to illustrate the ever-changing, fluid nature of those roles, and the ways in which various footballing teams may use the same players in the same roles to completely different effect. This is Issue No. 1, featuring the following: Lucas Paquetá & The 'Bernardo Silva Role', Joachim Andersen's 'Quarterback' Role vs. Arsenal, and Musiala's Masterclass vs. Eintracht Frankfurt.