Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sergio Busquets

The best holding midfielders have the ability to find the least obvious pass that will break a line. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sergio Busquets have that trait.

Figure 1.1 - Trent Alexander-Arnold
Figure 1.2 - Trent Alexander-Arnold
Figure 1.3 - Trent Alexander-Arnold

You need those line-breaking passes to disrupt the opponent’s shape. A pass that is played through a tight space past one, two, three, four men.

Head moving, scanning, to find the small pocket to play the ball into. Looking for the progressive pass that only they have the quality to make. Not passing just to pass, each pass has a purpose to progress the ball.

Receive the pass, turn, and you have the numerical advantage.

Figure 2.1 - Sergio Busquets
Figure 2.2 - Sergio Busquets
Figure 2.3 - Sergio Busquets
Figure 2.4 - Sergio Busquets
Figure 2.5 - Sergio Busquets

A simple pass short, either backwards or sideways, allows the defense to maintain their shape. A team with a holding midfielder that doesn’t break lines will have a harder time creating chances. They will be forced to play the ball wide and create through the wide areas. The midfielders ahead will be less involved.

By breaking the line, you relieve the tension brought by the opponent’s first and second line. Then you can play through the half-spaces and choose to either go wide or penetrate the box centrally. Everyone becomes involved.

The opponent’s second line can never relax because they’re always having to turn and chase. They have to think about blocking the passing lanes which creates space for the midfielders to the left and right.

Match: Liverpool 4-2 Newcastle, 1 January 2023

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