Roar’s test will come with more use of the high press

Tony Tannous Columnist

By Tony Tannous, Tony Tannous is a Roar Expert

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    Newcastle Jets Sung-Hwan Byun. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    Newcastle Jets Sung-Hwan Byun. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    Right from the opening minutes of the opening game, between the Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Heart, there were two things in particular that caught the eye in the opening round of the A-League season.

    The first was the intensity, perhaps not surprising given that the players were coming off such a drawn-out pre-season.

    There’s no doubt about it, players across the league were absolutely up for the opening exchanges of this much talked about and anticipated season.

    As much could be told by the tempo with which the Jets and Heart 11s went about their early work, pressing, pouncing and springing into forward transition.

    Right across the five venues it was notable just how many players were going down with cramp.

    Even early in the first half of their respective games, the cameras caught a glimpse of Jamie Coyne and Daniel Mullen sucking in the deep ones, such was the working over Archie Thompson and Andrezinho, respectively, were giving them.

    Coyne and Mullen weren’t the only ones looking for oxygen. 

    The pace was breathtaking, no where more than at Etihad Stadium, where the Kewell-Emerton show-down produced not only a typically feisty Big Blue, but one played at a lightning tempo. 

    Brett Emerton, in the post match press conference, noted how difficult the A-League will be if the intensity is that high ever week.

    While you can do all the training and play all the trial games, nothing quite simulates an actual game, with points at stake.

    Of course, as the season progresses, expect the conditioning to improve rapidly.

    What this enhanced conditioning should provide is an opportunity for teams to sustain their defensive press for longer periods.

    This was the other feature of the opening game, the ability of the Jets and Heart to press the opposition high and place pressure on the defences to play out.

    While there was a fair bit of criticism of the defences at Ausgrid Stadium, the reality is that most of the errors were a result of the effective high pressing game employed by Craig Deans and John van ‘t Schip.

    In the early going it was the Heart’s very attacking front five setting the tempo, with Mate Dugandzic on the right, David Williams on the left and Jason Hoffman and Fred, both playing behind Maycon, all aggressive in their appetite to win the ball early.

    While it only reaped the one early goal, on another day it may have lead to two or three.

    The Jets, at home and pumped after a week of drama, also employed a high-octane high press, placing significant pressure on central defenders Matt Thompson and Curtis Good, and goalkeeper Nikola Roganovic, to play out. 

    It proved fruitful, with Good especially struggling with the attention.

    It was a trait we also saw, at times, in a couple of the other games. 

    In a league where the technical level continues to evolve, year after year, this growing tactical sophistication appears a natural step.

    Another team to achieve success with this higher press was the Perth Glory, who squeezed up and applied pressure on Adelaide’s defenders, forcing them, particularly in the first half, to play out via the long option to the head of Sergio van Dijk.

    In the second period, it was Adelaide who turned things around somewhat, coming out with a higher line and applying pressure on the Glory further up the park.

    The one team I thought might employ this high press tactic in the opening round, but didn’t, was the Central Coast Mariners.

    After all, it was a tactic I thought served them well throughout last season’s finals, and against a team featuring a bevy of new players, getting amongst them might prove fruitful.

    Instead though they appeared to come to Suncorp with a plan to sit back and counter attack, and while Graham Arnold’s tactic threatened to reap rewards at times, the Mariners were constantly on the back foot.

    While much of this was down to the quality of Ange Postecoglou’s Brisbane Roar, who seemed to seamlessly take off from where they left last season, with import Issey Nakajima-Farran in particular catching the eye, in part I felt the Mariners invited the pressure by not employing enough of their own, higher up the pitch.

    While they defended stubbornly and always looked a threat on the break, a tactic for which Bernie Ibini-Isei should have been employed, one wonders what might have been had the Mariners pressured Erik Paartalu and the Roar back four higher.

    Maybe Arnold felt his team wasn’t yet in the condition to be pressing the Roar high, or maybe he felt sitting back was the best bet at this early stage of the season, when surely the Roar wouldn’t be flowing.

    It is a tactic which not only requires supreme organisation and conditioning, but conviction.
    On Saturday it was the Roar who were able to settle into their pattern, Paartalu pulling the strings as the ball and his teammates fizzed around ahead of him, both constantly on the move. It seemed inevitable they would eventually score and stretch the unbeaten run to 29.

    As the season unfolds, one of the most fascinating things will be to see just how teams set up to try and stop Postecoglou’s men.

    Apart from the Mariners last season, the team which arguably had the most success was the Melbourne Victory, who did it by applying a very physical high press. Luke DeVere, you might remember, was caught out in an early epic at AAMI Park.

    This season the spotlight is on managers right across the league, starting with Sydney FC’s Vitezslav Lavicka on Saturday night, to see who can come up with a high press plan to disrupt the Roar.

    Tony Tannous
    Tony Tannous

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • Roar Guru

      October 11th 2011 @ 8:30am
      Rellum said | October 11th 2011 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      Spot on about the Heart Tony, I wrote as as much yesterday on,

      Perth will also try and press high against us this weekend, and I think JVS should toy with the Idea of having two Defensive Mids to help Thommo and Good with options to play out from the back . Either that or have Fred drop deep like he did in the second half of the Newcastle game. We have an inexperienced back line and the wing backs and midfielders need to work hard off the ball to help them out, so we don’t have any aimless long balls like we did get in the first half of of round 1, again because of the lack of options to play out from the back.

    • Roar Guru

      October 11th 2011 @ 9:08am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | October 11th 2011 @ 9:08am | ! Report

      Nice analysis, Tony.

      Totally agree that the key to success against Brisbane is pressing them high up the park – right from their defensive third, don’t allow them to play their neat triangle-passes. It takes discipline and stamina to keep it going for 90′, but MVFC did it quite easily last season – home and away.

      One issue I was hoping you would address about Brisbane is: Who will score their goals? Barbarouses and Solarzano scored over 40% of Brisbane’s goals last year and nothing I saw on Saturday night suggests a replacement has been found.

      So, 5 November 2011: Etihad Stadium – pencil it into the diary.

      MVFC, once again, will show the HAL how to make Brisbane look 2nd rate. Without H & Rojas, MVFC smashed 6 goals past Brisbane over 2 matches in Melbourne.

      With Rojas, H, Solarzano and Cernak … the scoreline could get embarrassing. 😉

      • October 11th 2011 @ 12:02pm
        Roarchild said | October 11th 2011 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        Looking forward to the MV games. Even Sydney with a fully fit Carle and Emmo will be great games and last year all 3 matches against Adelaide were classics.
        Heart and Glory should be better this year too.
        It’s just going to be a great season.

        As good as Brisbane’s system is it is just a system and the players are largely unheralded. The individual quality of the Victory attackers is just so high….. it’s going to be interesting.

      • October 11th 2011 @ 12:21pm
        j binnie said | October 11th 2011 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        Fussball – Ashamed of you for this comment.You didn’t see much at all on Saturday night if you missed one of the huge talking points of the game, the performance of young Matt Ryan who was superb in CCM’s goal,making at least 4 saves that could correctly be labelled “world class”. You should have made the same observation at “your” home game where the score could have been around 4-3 (to any team) were it not for the displays of both keepers.
        “High pressing” a misnomer if ever there was one. “Pressing” was a name given out by journalists to a tactic used by Graham Taylor at Watford,where ,recognising he did not have the staff to compete at that level ,drummed the first principle of defence into his players, ie “No matter where we lose possession on the field you (all players) will immediately get yourself “goalside” of your nearest opponent”. This directive can be described in many ways(“pressing” is one) but as the game between 2 teams is one of opposites the counter to successful “marking” (another description) is “good movement”,in other words,as soon as possession is gained by a team those players must endeavour to “lose” their nearest opponent ,thus,creating options for the man on the ball, the No.1 attacker. That’s where the “triangle” comes in.No 2 attacker,usually in front of the play-maker ,should try to create space by “dragging” a defender away with him thus creating space, or the 3rd attacker usually positions himself as a “support” mover giving the “play-maker” an option should he ,the ball carrier, be “pressed.
        It really is a very simple game it is people who keep making it difficult. jb

        • Roar Guru

          October 11th 2011 @ 12:40pm
          Fussball ist unser leben said | October 11th 2011 @ 12:40pm | ! Report


          Thought I’d throw that verbal incendiary out there to generate (more!) antagonism towards MVFC from outside our “Blue & White Family” (as you know VicPol are not allowing MVFC to throw any maritime incendiaries any more)! 🙂

          Of course, Brisbane created numerous scoring options – you cannot play that way and not be creating scoring chances. And, yes, Matt Ryan was outstanding, which is why he’s in my Fantasy Team.

          Having said that, on past form, Danning is likely to work the ball kids behind the opposition goal more than he works the opposition GK; and, as much as I admire Mitch Nicholls work-rate and endeavour, if Brisbane is relying on him to score their goals … well, you best be happy with a goal every 3-4 matches!?

          • October 11th 2011 @ 1:25pm
            jmac said | October 11th 2011 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

            hopefully it’s ok to suggest that finish from nichols on the weekend was very un-mitch nichols. maybe he actually aimed for the corner flag this time 😉

            I didn’t see that game, but maybe it is a sign he is improving with the added responsibility. (he also looks to be taking on this level of responsibility, and more probably, with the olyroos). lets wait and see.. go mitch (except against the Victory).

          • October 11th 2011 @ 8:38pm
            j binnie said | October 11th 2011 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

            Fussball – Would have never guessed the motivation behind your contribution’. Would not pass comment on the lad Danning ,he was only on the park for 15 minutes, but I would pass comment on the best use of the substitution rules I’ve probably ever seen.The Roar fullback had got a nasty knock and for the next 10 minutes the CCM back Rose made 3 or 4 excellent runs down the left flank. Danger. Ange pops up and puts the right wing flying machine on who immediately attacks the CCM defence with pace. Result – Rose’s runs stop at once. Shrewd ,shrewd decision making.
            Note you did not pass comment on my explanation of the latest buzz words “high pressing”, a description used by people who should know better. Cheers jb

      • October 11th 2011 @ 12:38pm
        el gee said | October 11th 2011 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Ahh but for all the goals “smashed” past brisbane by the victory last year only one win in three? MV are hardly are bogey team for brisbane, we’ve had good results against you before (home and away) and will again. Yes you may be a quality side but when you face brisbane you can be beaten just like any other team. One advantage Brisbane has in this fixture this season is that we already know all about Solorzano and Cernak.

        • October 12th 2011 @ 2:37pm
          David Heidelberg said | October 12th 2011 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          And of course the Victory win over the Roar last year was in no small part due to the Muscat inspired ‘kick them off the park’ style.

      • October 11th 2011 @ 2:41pm
        Realfootball said | October 11th 2011 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

        Just like the scoreline got “embarrassing” against Sydney’s stellar defence, eh Fussball?

        • Roar Guru

          October 11th 2011 @ 2:48pm
          Fussball ist unser leben said | October 11th 2011 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

          I’m keen to see how Brissy goes against SFC’s defence this week-end. I was quite impressed by SFC’s overall performance and, with Kisel in the team, the midfield battle will be intriguing.

          I think 1-0 to SFC.

          • October 11th 2011 @ 3:23pm
            Titus said | October 11th 2011 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

            Well said Fuss ; )

            I too am keen to see this game.

          • October 11th 2011 @ 4:49pm
            TomC said | October 11th 2011 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

            Hmm. Having watched the two games back to back I would say that Brisbane looked several cuts about Sydney FC on Saturday night.

          • October 11th 2011 @ 5:23pm
            punter said | October 11th 2011 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

            I’m a SFC fan & I think BR are a couple levels ahead of most teams in the A-League.

          • October 12th 2011 @ 9:11am
            Realfootball said | October 12th 2011 @ 9:11am | ! Report

            Will be a very interesting gauge of both sides. On the weekend’s performance, Brisbane should play Sydney off the park. “Should” being the operative word. It is worth bearing in mind that the Roar have Henrique to come back in. With Danning, Henrique and Nakajima-Faran – and Visconte due back from injury – Brisbane’s pace up front is exceptional.

            I will be very, very surprised if Sydney win this game. Nothing on paper or on the park suggests that they are capable of beating Brisbane.

    • October 11th 2011 @ 10:08am
      jmac said | October 11th 2011 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      I don’t watch that much la liga, but if I catch someone playing barca, they are usually trying to out-barca barca with a high intensity pressing game. barcelona usually are up to the test of having less space and time, and the wizardry of their possession play becomes even more intoxicating. If the Roar can also step up this year under increased pressure on the ball, that will be an impressive feat..

      As for which teams will apply this type of pressure against them, lets wait and see. I wouldn’t be holding your breath waiting for anything special from SFC this week though.

      • Roar Guru

        October 11th 2011 @ 11:11am
        Griffo said | October 11th 2011 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        jmac, part of Barça’s toolkit is their one-touch passing technique. They can string together numerous combinations of one-touch passes while under extreme pressure in their defensive third and retain posession into the middle third nearly every time.

        A team might be fit enough to press high for much of the game but to do so with little return against a team like Barça will test, as Tony says, the conviction of a forward line getting little joy.

        If Brisbane are yet to train to do so, which I’m sure they are, then their style’s next evolution will be to increase the technique of their one-touch passing under pressure in their own defensive third.

        I am hoping to be impressed by Roar with teams looking to press high (hopefully everygame against them) this season. We will see…

    • Roar Guru

      October 11th 2011 @ 10:45am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | October 11th 2011 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      21st century is already providing us with a multitude of diverse information channels to grab our daily (hourly!!) football fix.

      This weekly HAL video review provides provides tongue-in-cheek & some serious analysis in the inimitable Four Diegos style – I highly recommend it

    • October 11th 2011 @ 10:47am
      Al said | October 11th 2011 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      I disagree in that a high defensive line and pressing is the only way to beat a team of the style of Brisbane, playing with a deep 4-2-3-1, holding a deep defensive line and shifting the two wingers out extremely wide as defensive wingers to mark the full backs to keep them in check would deprive sides that like to use advancing full backs one of their main attacking sources, width via the distribution of the ball through the flanks and/or the shifting of central players to the flanks to cover these wide players thus exposing the middle. Channeling these full backs into more central positions (either by the full backs trying to claim some possession of the ball themselves to get into the game or by forcing slight formation tweaks to get these full backs in the game) also exposes the flanks to counter-attacks, with longer balls being distributed into the space, being fed to the more advanced players who have been instructed to run into these vacant channels as soon as the opposition loses the ball. As with any team playing high defensive lines, long balls over the top or killer through balls is always the risk.

      The interesting thing about the Brisbane vs Central Coast game is that although Central Coast were good value, I feel that they were let down by their choice of formation, a 4-4-2 with a central diamond was always going to be susceptible to maurauding full backs, and time and time again Brisbane got extreme numbers in width that Central Coast couldn’t handle. Whilst it is all good and well playing a higher defensive line, if your flanks are continually exposed then a high line is going to counteract the value of constricting space in the centre of the park, as the attacking team will just use the flanks instead.

      • October 11th 2011 @ 1:44pm
        jmac said | October 11th 2011 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

        yeah it’s always true that if you load one area of the pitch to gain an advantage (eg midfield diamond), by definition you leave yourself short elsewhere.

        what’s interesting though – with CCM late last season (from memory it was from the second leg of the major semi onwards), arnold was splitting his strikers and sending them to the wide areas when not is possession, in order to mark the brisbane fullbacks. he then relied on numbers in the midfield diamond to try and dominate brisbane’s three. the 10 may have been pressing the centre-halves from memory also. if you take out the last few minutes of extra time in the decider, then its probably safe to say it worked pretty well, in that the roar scored only twice in almost three and a half hours of football. obvious problem though, is how to counter when both your forwards are occupied in wide areas, but from memory CCM did manage to create some danger for the Roar in these games..

    • October 11th 2011 @ 11:55am
      TomC said | October 11th 2011 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      Newcastle-Heart was certainly exciting and fluid, but both teams looked very spread out across the pitch (at least on TV) and I can’t imagine the Roar would struggle too much to find space. Good looked completely overwhelmed.

      The Roar looked just awesome. They compleletely controlled that game against the Mariners, and if it wasn’t for Ryan there’d have been a more comprehensive scoreline.

      I’m still a little concerned at their lack of scoring power, but no one would be in any doubt about their ability to create chances.

      Nakajima-Farran looks like a very good signing. Most imports take a few games to really show their quality. He looked very dangerous from the word go.

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