The key to breaking down Sydney FC’s remarkable defence

Tim Palmer Columnist

By Tim Palmer, Tim Palmer is a Roar Expert

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    Saturday night’s 0-0 stalemate in the Sydney Derby was the Western Sydney Wanderers’ first clean sheet of the season, which was the biggest positive from the match for coach Tony Popovic.

    By contrast, though, it was the seventh clean sheet in this campaign for their neighbours in Sky Blue. Keeping their opponents scoreless was a breakthrough moment for the Wanderers; a run-of-the-mill event for Graham Arnold’s team.

    Sydney’s defensive record this season is astonishing. They have conceded just seven goals in fifteen games. In the FFA Cup, they were breached only once (in the final against Melbourne City). They average just three shots conceded per game, easily the lowest in the league. So how do you score against such a mean, stingy defence?

    Sydney’s defensive strategy can be broken down into two broad components. The first is their ability to press opponents high up the pitch, something Arnold constantly applauds when saying β€œour defence starts from the front.”

    Sydney play a 4-2-3-1 formation that becomes a 4-4-2 without the ball. The front two, Alex Brosque and Bobo, form the first pressing line. Their exact starting position varies, but it is typically around the opposition’s deepest midfield player, as Sydney’s first priority defensively is to stop teams progressing the ball through central areas.

    Depending on their overall tactics for a match, this first pressing line might be higher or deeper. However, the key principle – that the front two form the first line of defence, and position to force passes from the back wide – is always consistent.

    To ensure the side has great horizontal compactness, the wide players, Filip Holosko and Milos Ninkovic, drop back into a position between the front two and the two central midfielders, blocking the passing lane into opposition midfielders. Often, this means they must leave the pass from opposition centre-back to full-back free and open – which is fine, because it fits into Sydney’s focus on forcing opponents wide when building up from the back.

    Importantly, however, if the opposition does play a pass into the feet of a full-back, Sydney’s wingers spring into life. They press the ball aggressively, looking to force a backwards pass.

    When this occurs, the entire defensive block moves forward collectively, lead by Brosque and Bobo. Sydney are unrelenting when teams pass backwards, with Brosque tireless in his efforts to maintain pressure on the ball.

    Sydney will often press high based on a number of β€˜triggers’ – including, but not limited to, backwards passes, poor first touches or poor passes. Regardless of the trigger, the resulting press is always collective. This means as the first pressing line moves forward, so does the rest of the defensive block, ensuring pressure on the ball is always consistent, and minimal space is conceded between the lines.

    Beating this press is the first challenge of breaking down Sydney defensively. Several teams have tried in vain this season, to varying success. An interesting example was in the Sydney Derby. Popovic instructed Kearyn Baccus, one of two deep midfielders, to position himself in between Bobo and Brosque, in an attempt to separate the front two.

    If Baccus could receive the ball between the two Sydney players and dribble forward, he could remove Sydney’s press from the equation, and give the Wanderers a chance to progress forward into the final third while still being in control of possession.


    The problem is, even if you get into the middle third, the second component of Sydney’s defensive strategy is equally formidable. When teams have control of the ball inside the middle or front third, the wide players drop back alongside the central midfielders, and the front two drop goal side of the ball. This creates a solid defensive block.

    Crucially, the defensive effort is still collective. If the ball shifts wide, the whole team shifts with it. If a central midfielder steps forward to close down an opponent, the players behind him squeeze horizontally and reduce the space. It is an extremely well-oiled machine.

    This has been a hallmark of Arnold’s teams, including the 2012 Championship-winning Central Coast Mariners. Interestingly, however, this current Sydney team is more aggressive in trying to win the ball back. For example, Arnold encourages the full-backs to step up quickly to try and intercept passes into opposition wingers.

    This was obvious in the Derby, when Rhyan Grant ran into some trouble with the referee when trying to rob Jaushua Sotirio of the ball from behind. While Grant has defended well in this manner throughout the season, it is a possible route of attack for opponents.

    Drawing the Sydney full-backs up the pitch can create attacking possibilities elsewhere. Typically, if the full-back is beaten, and the ball progresses into a wide area of the front third, the nearest centre-back will not move out from the middle to pressure the player on the ball.

    Rather, this is the responsibility of the nearest central midfielder, who shifts wide. This is because all of Sydney’s centre-backs are very strong in the air. They would prefer to invite aerial crosses into the middle rather than move out wide, risk being exposed in a one-on-one situation and leaving their other centre-back vulnerable in the penalty box.

    The trick for Sydney’s opponents then, is to find a way to get in behind the full-back, then resist the temptation to cross into the middle. Rather, they should try and draw the midfielder out wide, then potentially attack the space vacated with a cut-back in front of the centre-backs.

    As with all of the best-laid plans, though, this is one that sounds straightforward in theory, but difficult in practice. The real beauty of Sydney’s defensive system is simply how hard every player works. It is a real disciplined, collective effort, in a structured and organised unit.

    Tim Palmer
    Tim Palmer

    Tim is a football coach, writer, analyst and sports scientist. He has worked with the Socceroos in an analysis role, has completed the FFA B Licence, is currently a player in the Australian Deaf Football Team and coaches in the NSW NPL. You can follow him on Twitter @timpalmerftbl.

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    The Crowd Says (78)

    • January 18th 2017 @ 6:28am
      jeff milton said | January 18th 2017 @ 6:28am | ! Report

      great to see such in depth analysis on the roar- more please!

    • January 18th 2017 @ 7:37am
      Fadida said | January 18th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      Another excellent article Tim. You have summarised beautifully the SFC approach. The last paragraph is the key, hard work, disciplined, organised. Directing the opponent into a predictable area is also key.

      As an example of how not to press, look at CCM last season. The front men would press, often without “triggers” meaning there was no pressure on the ball when the press began, given the opponent the advantage immediately and leading to an easy pass into midfield. Typically the rest of the side would not respond quickly enough, meaning the midfield were too far away, the opposition receiving the ball in midfield and being able to play the ball in behind a defence who would attempt to press a ball that has no pressure on it. Disaster.

      I agree the way to break Sydney down is a quick counter behind the fullbacks, particularly if they pick Dimitrejvic, who lacks the mobility to cover. I also think Zullo is vulnerable to balls played inside him, due to his position.

    • January 18th 2017 @ 7:42am
      Nemesis said | January 18th 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Good insights, Tim. No doubting the stats. SydFC defensive record to-date must be close to the best ever in the ALeague’s history.

      I’ve only watched SydFC a few (maybe 4 full matches) times this season and, to be honest, their defence (back 4) has been nothing special. The team was easily broken down multiple times during these matches I watched.

      The only reason they kept clean sheets, or didn’t concede multiple goals, when I was watching was due to one factor: superb form of Danny Vukovic.

      • January 18th 2017 @ 8:29am
        jupiter 53 said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Saying that the back 4 is nothing special is broadly correct, though I would suggest that Wilkinson is a step above the average.

        I think that is the story of SFC this year. They have a an evenly balanced squad, playing a tightly organised system. I do agree that the one star they have is Vukovic who has been spectacularly and consistently excellent.

        • January 18th 2017 @ 8:36am
          Nemesis said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:36am | ! Report

          Agree. What has impressed me hugely about SydFC is their work rate when they don’t have the ball to win it back or cut down the angles. It’s pressing with purpose. City also did this exceptionally well when they were impressive early on, but now they’ve gotten lazy.

          I read/heard that the vast majority of Sydney FC goals come from less than 6 passes after they win the ball in midfield.

          To me, that’s the story of Sydney FC’s success. So, maybe, for opponents it’s a good idea to bypass that SydFC midfield crunch – go wide, or go over the top?

          • January 18th 2017 @ 9:59am
            Sydneysider said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

            SFC’s record this season is amazing thus far.

            15 games – 11 wins, 4 draws – 34 goals for, 7 against.

            Arnold got his recruitment right this season.

            Strong striker with good skills on the ball – Bobo.
            Central defensive midfielder who can tackle hard and pass – Brillante
            Central defender who can partner other strong central defender (Jurman has gone though) – Wilkinson
            Attacking left fullback who is fast and cross the ball – Zullo
            Goalkeeper who doesn’t make silly mistakes like previous keeper – Vukovic

            He basically nailed his recruitment and kept some solid squad players like Grant, Ryall, O’Neill and he also retained 2 imports who have produced – Ninkovic and Holosko. Ninkovic has been superb this season.

            The structure is strong in the centre of the park, it has been exposed on the flanks but having Vukovic between the sticks has ensured it being hard to score against them.

            Still a long way to go though but hopefully they can win the premiership and then hopefully the grand final.

            • January 18th 2017 @ 10:52am
              Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | January 18th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

              Absolutely correct. I never felt Vukovic was a great keeper, but he has proven to be one. Perhaps a call up for the ‘Roos not far off.

              • January 18th 2017 @ 12:18pm
                Fadida said | January 18th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

                Agree Caltex. I’d definitely call him up over Federici. Deserves the recognition

              • Roar Guru

                January 18th 2017 @ 12:32pm
                Griffo said | January 18th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

                I would say that Vukovic had potential when younger and was among the young keepers of his era being looked at for the national team until that slap on the ref in the Grand Final saw him banned for months and miss the Olyroos.

                Agree that with his current consistency he should be competing for the third ‘keeper spot for the NT.

            • January 18th 2017 @ 7:28pm
              Squizz said | January 18th 2017 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

              Arnold has basically re-created structurally his Championship side from CCM including most of the coaching staff.

        • January 19th 2017 @ 11:22pm
          Arto said | January 19th 2017 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

          @ Nemesis & jupiter 53:

          A bit of a tough call to say the back 4 is nothing special.
          Let’s make a comparison with the other 3 sides in the Top 4, shall we in order to get a bit of perspective…

          MV – Geria, Ansell, Baro, Broxham (last game vs Nix – vs. BR, Baro was suspended so Donachie played & vs AU, Doncahie played instead of Ansell)
          Geria & Zullo have been the best 2 performing LBs in the comp, so even match-up there. The Jurman/Wilkinson combo is at least as good as any of the combinations MV have used in the last 3 games, Broxham is a better DM than RB and whilst admittedly it’s a bit of fantasy/hysteria Grant has been nominated by some as earning a Socceroos call-up (he is a former U-23 & U-20 player for Aus) so I’d suggest SFC’s back 4 is slightly better.

          MC – Colazzo, Jakobsen, Malik, Franjic (Tongyik has played in 2 of the last 3 matches, but that’s all the exp he has in the A-League. Josh Rose could arguably play LB instead of Colazzo, but Colazzo seems to be the current first-choice)
          As mentioned above, Zullo has been the best LB season (with Geria) and is also a former Socceroo, whereas Colazzo is more of an attacking player than defender and Rose’s best years are behind him so it’s fair to say Zullo wins that battle.
          Jakobsen has been a revelation for MC and a major reason why they have done well so far, but Malik is too inconsistent and has defensive lapses too often so whlilst one might argue Jakobsen is better than both Jurman and Wilkinson, SFC’s CB combination is better overall. Whilst Franjic has had his moments this season, he has been disrupted by the serious injury he had in pre-season and hasn’t hit top form so far so despite him being a better RB than Grant on paper, Grant also wins this battle based upon form and performance.

          And last but not least, BR – Brown, North, De Vere, Hingert (this 4 has started every A-League game this season)
          Zullo is a better LB than Brown and only BR fans would probably argue otherwise. North is a good defender, but this hasn’t been his best season, Jurman has arguably played as well as last season where he won all the player awards available at SFC, therefore I’d say Jurman has been the better CB this season. De Vere has been one of the league’s best CBs this season and like Grant has also been mentioned in Socceroos terms, so whilst Wilkinson has been terriffic too, I’ll put De Vere ahead slightly in that battle and call the CB-combo match-up even. Then finally to Hingert and he’s in the same situation as his RB counterpart in that he matches up against arguably the the best RB in the A-League this season so he too must also lose that match-up.

          Therefore I’d suggest that whilst SFC’s back-4 isn’t necessarily full of flashy names, they are pretty much THE BEST back-4 this season and I’d really like to know which team has a better back-4 and if people still want to say they “aren’t that special”, so please define your definition(s) of special to back up that claim…

          Cheers, a SFC-fan! πŸ™‚

          • January 20th 2017 @ 12:19am
            Nemesis said | January 20th 2017 @ 12:19am | ! Report

            Arto, you make good points. In no way was I suggesting other teams have better Back 4s. However, from what I see, Sydney’s low goals conceded is largely due to Vukovic and very strong work by the midfield & even the attackers to stop supply. If fact, I’d say the Back 4 for Sydney are the least impressive unit of Sydney FC’s structure.

            Vukovic & the midfielders are the key.
            Plus the attackers have been extremely clinical with finishing – albeit they’ve been less clinical in recent weeks.

            • January 20th 2017 @ 1:05am
              Arto said | January 20th 2017 @ 1:05am | ! Report

              Ahh, seen in that light then yes, I can see your point quite easily now!
              Apologies for the misunderstanding! πŸ™‚

      • January 18th 2017 @ 9:20am
        Chris said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        No special players agreed but they work collectively very well. The top 3 players press high and if any of the opposition’s back 4 try to push into midfield, one of the front 3 tracks their run. By doing this, Sydney will always have that extra defender in their defensive line making them difficult to break down. Also having 2 quick wide defenders in Grant and Zullo helps enormously as its difficult to get in behind them.

        • January 18th 2017 @ 10:53am
          Michael Mills said | January 18th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          I think Brandon O’Neill has been fantastic this season. He and Brillante allow Ninkovic so much freedom to focus on the front third.

          The defensive arrangement of O’Neill, Brillante, Wilkinson, Jurman and Vuckovic has been excellent. Hopefully Jordy will fit in seamlessly for Jurman now. Sydney are the fittest team in the comp and, in my opinion, the best in transition.

          Victory, last night notwithstanding, have probably been in better form over the past few rounds.Hopefully Perth can do us a favour and take more points off them. I’m very much looking forward to the Big Blue on Australia Day.

          • January 18th 2017 @ 12:07pm
            Chris said | January 18th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

            Wish I could get to Melbourne to watch the big blue. But sadly I cant πŸ™
            Should be a great game and excellent crowd

          • January 20th 2017 @ 1:06am
            Arto said | January 20th 2017 @ 1:06am | ! Report

            100% agree with you!

            • January 20th 2017 @ 12:07pm
              Needles said | January 20th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

              No need to worry. We’ll most likely see them play again in the final, hopefully at Moore Park

        • Roar Guru

          January 18th 2017 @ 12:39pm
          Griffo said | January 18th 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

          Brilliante is a great player and technically good in tight spaces. He did well at the Jets out of position at right-back, and U20 NT.

          He was on track at Fiorentina until nerves got him in his first half in Serie A πŸ™

          My thoughts were he was a good pickup by SFC and I haven’t changed that opinion from what I’ve seen.

    • January 18th 2017 @ 8:02am
      SVB said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      The problem with attacking behind the fullbacks is that Grant and Zullo are very fit, and tend to make up the ground to recover back in defence. Also their centre backs and midfielders tend to cover well for them. So eventually their scrambling defence will stop any attack that looks like it could threaten them.

      I think when playing Sydney FC the key is to remain patient. They are an opportunistic team who preys on mistakes made by defenders and midfielders. They will try a high press early on in the game to get an early goal or two, then retreat and set up a defensive wall during the middle period of the game. If you stay disciplined at the back and don’t give away cheap possession in the middle of the field, then you are in the game against them. How to score against them is another thing as they have a pretty good defence.

    • January 18th 2017 @ 8:28am
      j binnie said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      Tim – If you want to see a stingy defence at work I suggest you get some movies showing Inter or AC Milan from the late 1950’s into the early 1960’s when with their “catenaccio” they ruled European football.
      Catenaccio had to be seen to be believed for these teams would quite happily play in their own half of the field for an hour or so,constantly inviting their opponents “forward” and then using their “world class” strikers to break through and get the all important goal or goals.
      The tactic had evolved from an idea generated in of all places Switzerland and was developed among lesser clubs in Italy in an attempt to “match it ” with big boys of Serie A, but it was when the “big boys” too began to adopt the tactic that football fans began to suffer the bad side of what became known as defensive football.
      The tactic reached it’s “peak” at Inter Milan under the coach Herrera who introduced a side to the tactic that was not “kosher”. Herrera dabbled in amateur psychology and encouraged his players to use petty fouling and verbal abuse in his team’s make up as a way of “upsetting ” opponents.
      That brings us to Sydney FC, still playing under the well tried mantle of Graham Arnold,using the same tactics he used at his previous club but no doubt improving the standard of the players. Have you noticed the number of times both Brillante and O’Neill commit “petty” fouls to stop an opponent ” building” in midfield. Have you noticed the big bustling centre- forward usually introduced in the latter part of a game ,no doubt to create mayhem among tiring teams trying to play out from the back.
      It’s all part of the psychology, sports version, that is now a part of the game.
      What happened to the exponents of “catenaccio”
      A very shrewd coach called Stein had put together a team of local players and in 1967 they gave Inter Milan the 1 goal start they desired and then proceeded to ” run them off the park” using speed out wide and up front to tire their opponents out. They scored twice and lifted the European Cup and in doing so began the death march of “catenaccio”.
      So is that history telling us anything? Already among the “lesser” teams in the HAL we are seeing fast wingers being used as a way of penetrating these structured defences,
      Mabbout,and Hoole at Jets,Pain and Buhagar at CCM and Krishna and Barbarousses are all beginning to show success in penetration and who knows ,maybe after all these years of football being played defensively we are on the cusp of once again enjoying the scenario of flying wingers getting behind fullbacks to create havoc in behind their opponents back line.
      You mention “pressing” a lot in your analysis of Sydney FC and that is not a new tactic either, it is simply a manifestation of the coaching mantra, “When in possession look for space,when not in possession look for your nearest opponent and mark him”.
      Cheers jb.

      • January 18th 2017 @ 8:56am
        Square Nostrils said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        j binnie

        Flying wingers, not enough around nowadays, effective and great to watch.
        Here’s one of dozens of articles on the subject, of course who who or who is not the best is subjective.

        • January 18th 2017 @ 4:16pm
          j binnie said | January 18th 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

          Square N -Thanks for the link, obviously written with an English newspaper n mind but can’t say I disagree with most of the choices. In his discussion he mentions 2 Scottish wingers Jimmy and Willie Johstone and I think he has made an error there, the two great wingers of Celtic and Rangers were Jimmy Johnstone and Willie HENDERSON, both magicians with the ball at their feet.
          Back to the 10.
          I have been lucky enough to see some of them play,,Garrincha ,Best, Mathews, Finney and of course Gento,but one of the best I ever saw play was a Swede, Kurt Hamrin, who, as an out and out winger played most of his football in the Serie A and I believe he is among the top 8 goalscorers EVER in Italian football.What does that tell you when we remember some great strikers in Italy.
          He played for Fiorentina and other top sides but his record speaks louder than words, In a career spanning 20 years he played 472 top class games and scored 244 goals which is better than 1 goal every 2 matches.
          He kept up the same average with Sweden ,playing 32 times and scoring 17 goals. That included a World Cup final v Germany.Thanks for the memories. Cheers jb.

          • January 18th 2017 @ 8:41pm
            pacman said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

            Great history SN & jb.

            Impossible to include all the great wingers, but one who comes to mind, rated by some highly qualified observers as better than Matthews or Finney, is John Robertson of Nottingham Forest in their heyday.

            Whilst managed by Brian Cough, John Robertson was irrepressible. Before and after, another story. Nevertheless, for two years Robertson was the dominant winger in European football.

    • Roar Guru

      January 18th 2017 @ 8:58am
      Mister Football said | January 18th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      SFC’s game plan works well because of the predicatbility of the other A-League teams, most of them trying to do that which they are ill-equipped to do, playing straight into SFC’s hands,

      The solution is obvious. Do the opposite, force SFC to play out from defence, force SFC to maintain possession, become the hunter rather than the hunted.

      The main problem is that most fans do not want to see their clubs playing this way, but a good coach should always have more than one string to his bow.

      • January 18th 2017 @ 9:04am
        Nemesis said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Isn’t this pretty much universal advice to beat the top team playing any sport in any league? Or, do you think only the ALeague has crap coaches who don’t have more than one string to the bow?

        • Roar Guru

          January 18th 2017 @ 9:37am
          Mister Football said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          The key difference with the A-League is:
          – salary cap means teams are relatively equal
          – enormous pressure on clubs to play attractive, attacking, possessio-based soccer
          – last point means there are opportunities for clubs to exploit, and indeed, putting aside an Ange coached Roar side, the majority of champions have come from those clubs who have exploited this very predictability which exists in the A-League.

          So I”m not talking ab out weaker teams using such tactics to beat the top teams – I’m talking about the top teams exploiting the unwillingness of the bottom teams to use such tactics, and having a field day as a consequence.

          • January 18th 2017 @ 9:55am
            Nemesis said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            In other Salary Capped competitions it’s not uncommon for one team out of 18 to be so dominant they win the trophy 3-4 years in succession, or the same teams to be in the Grand Final every year, or every few years.

            None of the coaches have the gumption to figure out how to beat the system played by the handful of good teams even though these loser coaches should know all the opposition players intimately – they’re all Australian & they never change. And they should know the opposition coaches intimately – they’re all Australian and they all grew up together and played together.

      • January 18th 2017 @ 9:44am
        SVB said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        Well Mister Football, we just had a few days ago a guy called Sports Prophet spewing his bile at the A-league and the way the Derby game turned out. It was a tight and tense affair. Popovic as a coach was doing simply what you were saying, and not playing into SFC’s hands. Alas some people don’t understand the reasons why some things are done, and why some games turn out the way they do. So it’s not really A-league fans who complain about these tactics, but it is more the novice football follower who needs goals to get anything out of the game. The tactical battle simply flies right over their heads.

        • Roar Guru

          January 18th 2017 @ 9:59am
          Mister Football said | January 18th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          I agree with you about what Poppa did, and the response by SP is an example of the sort of thing I am talking about, but I am actually referring more to the hard core fans, who, in the main, have very high expectations of what they expect to see from their team, and often these expectations are unrealistic (at least to play every game in that same manner is unrealistic).

          If people think I am having a go at the A-League, they are misunderstanding what I am saying.

          The history of the A-League shows that there is no better advantage a team can have than to be the one able to run with a counter-attacking style when nearly ever other club is trying to play attractive, attacking, possession-based soccer. In one sense, it’s a very obvious point I am making, but not too many people want to admit it.

          I say it as a general observation, not as something set in concrete. There are exceptions like an Ange coached Roar.

          One of the very best examples, was the Victory in season 2, winning the first seven games of the season, and going on to win the double – for much of the season, they were able to exploit an advantage by playing counter-attacking when most sides were coming at them – talk about making life easy for a team – and they had the weapons to exploit that advantage.

          What happens when most teams are trying to exploit that very same advantage? It’s not pretty – you need only look at the first seven or so games of Season 3.

          • January 18th 2017 @ 10:06am
            SVB said | January 18th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            The same for Wanderers in their first season. Hersi, Ono and Bridge exploiting the fact teams underrated them, and came at them in a naive manner.

            • Roar Guru

              January 18th 2017 @ 10:49am
              Mister Football said | January 18th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

              I agree, a perfect storm for someone like Ono to exploit, with his smarts, he would have seen it coming a mile away.

        • January 18th 2017 @ 2:38pm
          marron said | January 18th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

          One thing I was disappointed about re: Popa was not putting more pressure on Grant especially after his yellow.

          But then, this comes down to his coaching style – plan A plan A plan A.

      • January 20th 2017 @ 1:43am
        Arto said | January 20th 2017 @ 1:43am | ! Report

        @ Mister Football:
        Sorry, but I think your analysis is a bit too simplistic – essentially you are saying that if everyone parks the bus against SFC then they will beat SFC (or at least won’t get beaten by them)! Yes, it’s easier to play a defensive (destructive/anti-football?) style than it is to play beautiful attacking football, but to win you have to score and at some point the will to win has to kick in to the extent that parking the bus isn’t enough.

        Also, to suggest that it’s the conditions of the league that force teams to play a style of football they aren’t good enough to play is a pretty long bow to draw – I doubt any of the coaches of the “weaker” teams (apart from CCM’s previous coach) say that they only care about playing beautiful football and don’t care if they lose trying to play it! Of course everyone wants to play attractive attacking football, but you have to cut your cloth to the shape you’ve got in order to look good. In actual fact, by your logic the opposite should be happening as coaches have relatively low job security and and there isn’t an awful lot of opportunities so therefore it stands to the same reasoning then that they would be going for the win at all costs and couldn’t give shit about being entertaining or not!

        I think the situation is more nuanced than you make it out to be and therefore it’s a testament to what SFC have achieved rather than a failing of the other teams to play cynical enough football that has SFC so far out in front – it also stands to reason by your logic that conceeding such a small amount of goals should happen fairly often as that’s the ‘obvious’ way to beat teams.

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