Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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No room for Brighton bait and Luton score

Brighton had to overload the ball side because that was their only chance to get that third man pass in. The issue is the distance. It had to be one-touch football because the next Luton Town defender was always less than five yards away.

Figure 1.1 - 9v8 Brighton advantage on the ball side, with a 2v1 on the far side.
Figure 1.2 - Attempted passing triangle from Brighton.

Kenilworth Road is the second smallest football pitch in the Premier League (6,619m), behind Craven Cottage (6,500m). Luton use that smaller space to smother opponents.

Two players can pass back and forth, but you need that third man to come in so you can advance to the next zone. The passing lanes between each line simply weren’t large enough to play that third pass if they were to attempt to spread out across the pitch.

Therefore, Brighton pack the ball side of the pitch to attempt to play in quick triangles. Move the ball to move the opponent. This isn’t Brighton’s game.

Figure 1.3 - Errant pass from Pervis Estupinan intercepted by Ross Barkley. Barkley passes forward to Elijah Adebayo.

Brighton’s game is to make the opponent move before passing. Each pass has a purpose. The ball does not dictate where the play is going next; the opponent’s movement does. That is not as easily achieved when away to Luton. Luton are on top of you.

There’s no room for Joao Pedro to drop. There’s no room to switch on the ground from Billy Gilmour to Pascal Gross. If a defender moves, the distance they move is tiny, less than five yards.

Everything gets pinned on three players.

  • The man with the ball
  • The second man receiving
  • The third man reacting to the play, receiving the final pass

If you can get the ball to the third man, you can get it forward past the next line. But the ball must go through a third man in these small spaces. And when you get it to the next line, the space the next defender has to cover is, again, very small.

It’s a constant game of small spaces, triangles, and the passing has to be perfect. If you connect enough passes, Luton will eventually be forced to back off.

Figure 1.4 - Elijah Adebayo passes back to Ross Barkley as he carries the ball forward.
Figure 1.5 - Ross Barkley passes to Elijah Adebayo.
Figure 1.6 - Elijah Adebayo is in on goal for the goal.

If you misplace a pass, like Brighton often did throughout the entire match, you will immediately be in danger because the back-line is fairly exposed.

Every Brighton midfielder was committed to methodically moving the play forward, positioning themselves ahead of the ball to leapfrog the ball into the final third. Once the turnover occurs, Luton instantly have the numerical advantage.

Match: Luton Town 4-0 Brighton, 30 January 2024

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