Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Andre Onana's weakness leaning back passing to his right

August 15, 2023 — Andre Onana’s weakness is his slower passes when he leans back to pass to the right, and Wolves used that specific pass as a press trigger to win back the ball from Manchester United.

Figure 1.1 - Andre Onana brings the ball forward while Wolves sit and wait for Manchester United's next move.

Wolves are in no rush. They sit back and wait. The ‘come on, try to play through me’ defense.

The positive with Andre Onana is that he is a holding midfielder with gloves on in possession.

Figure 2.1 - Andre Onana's pass map against Wolves.

The negative is that they rely too much on his ability to find the direct pass to the wing. Their build-up is too slow. They give their opponent too much time to get into the perfect position to defend.

Manchester United don’t have an Edin Dzeko or Romelu Lukaku to pass long, so they have to play short, and their build-up short is too predictable.

Wolves know this so they simply sit back. Onana can’t dribble through them, so waiting for his one weakness is the way you win back the ball.

Figure 3.1 - (21 May 2023) Andre Onana passes vertically wide right under pressure.

Onana’s weakness is this. Passes to his right where he’s leaning backward at an angle.

Knee is not over the ball, he’s leaning back. The pass comes off inaccurate with vertical passes and slow bobbled with passes on the ground.

He’ll plant his foot, lean back, throw his leading arm high up in the air, and when he makes contact with the ball he stumbles a bit. The pass bounces slowly to its intended target, but that slight change gives defenders time to get into position to intercept the ball.

Figure 4.1 - Wolves curve their press to force Andre Onana to pass long. Onana passes on the ground to Mason Mount.
Figure 4.2 - The pass is too slow and the Wolves' defender easily picks off the pass.

Lean back, off-balance, leading arm up high, and that results in the pass being too slow. He needs to instead get his knee over the ball. All those dynamics mean the ball bobbles when it leaves his foot and hops to Mason Mount.

Mount is expecting a quicker pass, he gets caught flat-footed, and the defender easily cuts off the pass.

Figure 5.1 - Illustration of Andre Onana

The goal for any opposition defense will be to force Onana to play this pass because if he plays this pass, more often than not, they will force a turnover. The error can either come directly from Onana or from the result of Onana’s pass being too slow and hard to control.

For that reason, Wolves will force Manchester United to the right with the use of cover shadows, while leaving right-back Aaron Wan-Bisakka free. You leave him free to say ‘here you go,’ here’s your outlet, but it’s a trap.

Figure 6.1 - Andre Onana passes to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Lean back, off-balance, leading arm up high, and the pass bobbles slower than you’d expect to Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Once Wolves see this, this triggers their press, because they know that that pass is harder to control. It’s going to take Wan-Bisakka more time to bring it down and make the next pass.

Figure 6.2

By the time Wan-Bisakka is ready to pass, Marcus Rashford (right-wing, out of the picture), Raphael Varane, and Lisandro Martinez are all behind a cover shadow. The ball can’t be played to them because there’s a defender between them and the ball carrier.

Wan-Bisakka has only one option, Casemiro.

Figure 6.3

A hospital pass is played to Casemiro, one which the Wolves defender easily intercepts because Casemiro doesn’t prepare his left hip to shield the attempted tackle.

If Casemiro stuck his left hip out he would have had a chance to turn his marker and dribble infield out of trouble. You can see that Wolves smartly cut off the pass to Rashford, so that move infield was Casemiro’s only forward option.

Bournemouth manager, Gary O’Neil, on how he set out to stop Manchester United:

“We tried to overload the middle, create a box in there four versus three, lots of detail. Similar approach to what I have always done, tweaking it with the players we have.”

Teams should look to replicate this. Force Andre Onana to his right, don’t give him an option to his left.

With traditional goalkeepers, we wouldn’t need to put a big microscope on their actions because they normally don’t hold the ball. They receive a quick short pass or kick long. Get it out of their feet so that the skilled outfield players can progress the ball.

With modern goalkeepers who are the quarterback of the first phase, it’s important to find their weaknesses so that you can eliminate the options that showcase their strengths.

Andre Onana has a ton of strengths on the ball and it should be easy for him to improve upon this specific type of pass, but in the meantime, it’s the main way to stop Manchester United.

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