Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Feyenoord's aggressive right center-back positioning

I went through all of Feyenoord’s conceded goals since November 25th. Arne Slot seems to instruct all of their right center-backs to position themselves aggressively wide or to follow the center-forward, which has left them vulnerable in settled play.

Figure 1.1 - Thomas Beelen follows a forward when he drops.
Figure 1.2 - Space behind Feyenoord's defense and PSV are in on goal.
Figure 2.1 - Thomas Beelen moves up the wing aggressively out-of-possession.
Figure 2.2 - Feyenoord are caught out 2v2 on the counter.

I looked at all 20 goals conceded and this pattern of Thomas Beelen asserting himself on the right side is the most prevalent “issue”.

If he can win the ball, it’s effective. If he doesn’t win the ball, the left center-back is normally fairly exposed, and Beelen isn’t particularly fast, so he’s not going to beat other forwards joining the attack to the box.

He jumps, and then there’s a space behind to attack.

Figure 3.1 - Feyenoord with a flat back four to start.
Figure 3.2 - Gernot Trauner steps forward, leaving the second man free once Lazio break past Feyenoord's defense.
Figure 4.1 - Atletico Madrid work the ball in the corner, out.
Figure 4.2 - Gernot Trauner moves over to double-team Álvaro Morata. Atletico Madrid play the ball over the top into the open left half-space.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Beelen, Traumer, or Geertruida; the right center-back is tasked with marking closely the opposition’s center-forward. Regardless of whether or not moving to mark the center-forward would mean there will be a large space free between the ball-side full-back or far-side center-back.

Figure 5.1 - Lutsharel Geertruida is positioned very wide, leaving a large amount of space for Excelsior to play through.

Geertruida likes to carry forward, and when he’s at right center-back, there’s often a lot of space between him and the left center-back.

Figure 6.1 - When Excelsior play the ball forward, Thomas Beelen is positioned too far wide, leaving center-back Sven Nieuwpoort exposed.
Figure 7.1 - The ball is played behind Sven Nieuwpoort once he jumps to the ball.

All of these examples were goals, and I’m surprised that Feyenoord don’t concede more. This seems like it could be an easy thing to exploit by forcing the center-forward wide or deep to isolate Feyenoord’s left center-back. Use the center-forward to manipulate the position of the right center-back to open space between defenders.

Players: Thomas Beelen, Gernot Trauner, Lutsharel Geertruida

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