Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

How Andre Onana should play out against a passive counter-press

September 21, 2023 — Bayern Munich knew Andre Onana’s weakness was the pass out to the right, so they baited Manchester United to play out through the right. But there was an instance where they passed through this passive counter-press, something they need to repeat in the future.

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.

Manchester City put pressure on Onana in the Champions League Final last season, but Wolves had a different approach this season: sit off and wait. This is the approach Bayern Munich took.

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of Bayern Munich's counter-pressing structure when Andre Onana had the ball.

Harry Kane would cover shadow Lisandro Martinez, and Jamal Musiala covered Casemiro. Kane wouldn’t run towards Onana to make him pass; everyone stood still, tempting Onana to pass.

Figure 2.1 - Bayern Munich's counter-pressing structure when Andre Onana had the ball.

Onana had three options:

  1. Pass long to Rasmus Hojlund, Facundo Pellistri, or Marcus Rashford; none of whom are great in the air against Bayern’s defenders.
  2. Attempt to pass across Kane to Sergio Reguilon, but Kane did a good job blocking off this pass.
  3. Pass to Victor Lindelof.
Figure 2.2 - Andre Onana passes to Victor Lindelof, and Lindelof passes long to the forwards under pressure.

Bayern Munich wanted Onana to pass to Lindelof because of the same reasons I outlined in the “Andre Onana’s weakness” post. Onana’s pass, leaning back on his right foot, isn’t as crisp, and Lindelof has few options.

They used that pass as the pressing trigger, like Wolves did. Once Onana played the pass to Lindelof, Kane moved in front of Onana to block off the back-pass, Musiala continued to cover Casemiro, and Serge Gnabry pressured Lindelof to pass long.

More often than not, when the pass was made long, Bayern Munich easily won back possession.

I’m not going to show you every instance of this happening, this happened on several occasions, but every time Onana received the ball, this is what he was met with.

Figure 3.1 - Andre Onana ignores the pass to Victor Lindelof.

This is one example of how Manchester United played through Bayern Munich’s counter-press. Onana called their bluff and waited for them to jump. Before he would take his time and allow Bayern to settle and then he’d attempt the obvious pass. He didn’t fall for the trap to pass to Lindelof or play the obvious pass this time, he waited for movement.

Brighton is very good at doing this. They’ll sit and wait, let everyone get in position, then when the opponent moves, they play out. The ball doesn’t move the opponent; they wait for the opponent to move, and then attack the space the opponent leaves.

This movement can either be prompted by normal pressure or in reaction to one of their players moving, like Diogo Dalot dropping in Figure 3.2, for example.

Figure 3.2 - Diogo drops to receive the pass from Onana, and then plays the ball to Victor Lindelof.
Figure 3.3 - Victor Lindelof passes to Andre Onana.

Now Bayern Munich is off.

  • Harry Kane isn’t in position.
  • The player that followed Dalot is retreating back.
  • Musiala now switches his attention to marking Dalot instead of Casemiro.
Figure 3.4 - Andre Onana passes to Diogo Dalot under pressure from Harry Kane.
Figure 3.5 - Diogo Dalot runs into space.

Musiala remembers that he has to mark Casemiro, so he abandons Dalot, which leaves Dalot free to receive the pass and turn into space. He’s gone, and United are out of their own half.

This is how Manchester United need to play out of this passive counter-press. Wait for the team to jump and then go. Eventually, the opponent will stop waiting and press, but if a team sits off, there’s no rush to play out but you need the movement from the opponent.

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