Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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The Battle of the High Lines and Aston Villa's far-side weakness

I identified a significant weakness in Aston Villa’s high line, one that Tottenham failed to exploit. When you breach their back-line, a slow square ball to the far side leaves an uncontested space.

The key is to roll the ball slowly; since the space is uncontested, there’s no need for a firm quick pass. It’s a simple tap-in.

Figure 1.1

Aston Villa converges on Destiny Udogie, leaving Son Hueng-min free for a slow pass and tap-in. Had they known about this weakness before the game, Udogie would be looking to pass for the tap-in.

Figure 2.1

Dejan Kulusevski hits the post, but observe Bryan Gil running at speed toward the far post. Ezri Konsa is jogging back, Gil is beating him to that space. Kulusevski takes the shot, as he should, but a slow roll to the far post would result in a tap-in for Gil.

Figure 3.1 - Attempted shot, no pass.
Figure 4.1 - Attempted shot, pass ignored.
Figure 5.1 - Pass was inaccurate, but notice the freedom on the far post.
Figure 6.1 - 2v1 on the back-post.
Figure 7.1 - Attempted shot, pass ignored.

Rather than attempting a 1v1 against Emi Martinez, opt for the simpler, unselfish play by passing to the free man on the far side. It’s the easiest goal you’ll score all season, and Tottenham could have had at least 5 goals from similar chances.

The issue was Tottenham falling for the trap of attempting the lower quality shot, rather than the unselfish pass. Aston Villa want you to shoot immediately because it allows their defense to regroup, block off the cut-back, and converge on the ball.

Although the pass wasn’t always obvious, future teams should prioritize finding that pass before considering a shot, as it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get.

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