Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Liverpool's negatively angled runs on the break

Liverpool’s wide players angle their runs too narrow on the counter. If they widened their run it would open space for both the ball carrier and improve the angles for the man receiving the ball.

Figure 1.1 - Diogo Jota wins the ball from Cole Palmer.
Figure 1.2
Figure 1.3
Figure 1.4 - Diogo Jota passes to Dominik Szoboszlai.

Both Darwin Nunez and Dominik Szoboszlai aim their run towards the corners of the penalty box, towards the goal. Not curved wide to open space and drag the full-backs wide. This has a positive and negative.

The positive is that Chelsea’s back-line are forced to move closer together, tracking both Nunez and Szoboszlai’s runs. If Chelsea were to win the ball, it would be easier for Liverpool to counter-press and win the ball because Chelsea would be compact. There is less space for them to pass into and fewer players open wide. The full-backs are tucked close to the three center-backs.

A negative is that this tightens the space at which Diogo Jota has to carry into, and it makes it awkward for Luis Diaz. If Nunez was to receive the ball, he would have very little room to dribble to shoot or cross.

Figure 1.5 - Dominik Szoboszlai passes to Luis Diaz.
Figure 1.6

Because Szoboszlai angled his run the way he did, he’s forced to play the pass to Diaz at this angle, with Diaz running away from the goal. He’s telegraphing that pass; he doesn’t have his hips pointed in a way where he could shoot.

Had Szoboszlai angled his run straight initially when Jota was running towards the box, wider, away from Jota, receiving the ball closer to the top corner of the penalty area, he would have had the option to cut in and shoot or offer a more favorable angle to Diaz with a pass into the box, facing goal.

That was an example of how they shouldn’t make runs on the break. Here is an example of Liverpool making intelligent runs, using width, running wider on the break. Both teams are compact because this sequence started from a throw-in.

Figure 2.1 - Luis Diaz receives the ball, on the turn.
Figure 2.2
Figure 2.3 - Luis Diaz passes to Connor Bradley.

Bradley angles his run wide to the right and then curves in straight to the box, rather than cutting towards Diaz. And Darwin Nunez starts wide and then cuts behind Chelsea’s right-back.

The initial width takes advantage of Chelsea’s already compact shape, attack the space wide, and the angle at which Bradley receives the ball is positive, running towards the right post.

Figure 2.4

Darwin Nunez cuts in when Bradley receives the ball, and then cuts back out once Bradley carries into the box.

This is what Liverpool need to do more of. They need to use the full width of the pitch to their advantage, cutting in and out. Stop crowding the ball and make more intelligent curved runs wide to then open up space ahead to receive.

Not too wide, the distance between each Liverpool player can’t be too large, but angle the run so that when you receive the ball you’d have five to ten yards of space ahead instead of two yards or less. Open the option to cut-in for a shot, cross, pass into the box angled towards the goal not moving away from the goal.

Figure 2.5 - Conor Bradley shoots and scores, under pressure.

Had Nunez made the run to the back-post, Conor Bradley could have easily placed a ball across the ground to the top of the six-yard box, for a tap-in. But he has the quality to slot it into the bottom left-hand corner. Love the confidence from the 20-year-old, and the technique to shoot under pressure is top.

Match: Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea, 31 January 2024

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