Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Aitana Bonmati's best qualities in one play

If I had to show someone one play that showcases Aitana Bonmati’s best qualities, on and off the ball, it would be this one. Awareness, scanning, anticipation, acceleration, touch, close-control, la pausa, and intelligence. Others can learn from it.

Figure 1.1 - Aitana Bonmatí heads the ball down to Keira Walsh.
Figure 1.2 - Aitana Bonmatí tells Keira Walsh to take her time, and the Walsh passes to Patricia Guijarro.

Bonmatí knows that run is being made ahead so she lets Walsh know she should take her time. The more time Walsh and Guijarro take, the more space Bonmatí has as the Chelsea defense organize. When they organize, they get in that more predictable shape, and the run creates the pocket.

Figure 1.3 - Aitana Bonmatí scans to her right and sees the run ahead being made, which opens a pocket of space between Chelsea's defense and midfield.
Figure 1.4 - Aitana Bonmatí makes the run into the pocket of space.

Once she scans, she sees the run again and then begins her run, anticipating the pass from Guijarro.

Figure 1.5 - Patricia Guijarro passes to Aitana Bonmatí.
Figure 1.6 - Aitana Bonmatí takes her first touch with her right foot, close to her body.
Figure 1.7 - Aitana Bonmatí takes a second touch with her left foot to draw in the defender.
Figure 1.8 - Aitana Bonmatí performs a step-over to lock the defender in place.

The first touch is close to her body, which draws in the Chelsea defender from her right, opening space to the right. The second touch then locks the defender’s knees in, with her hips pointed towards Bonamtí’s left side. The defender’s back is now to the space, and she’ll have to fully rotate her hips to track Bonmatí when she takes her next touch.

Figure 1.9 - Aitana Bonmatí scans ahead after taking the touch to her right.

This is the critical part. Bonmatí scans ahead to the two defenders.

One, if she takes the shot towards the far post, instead of waiting, it will likely be blocked by either the lead defender, Niamh Charles, or last defender, Buchanan.

Two, if she takes a touch, Buchanan may either shield the goalkeeper’s vision when Bonmatí takes the shot, if Buchanan overruns the ball, or the ball might deflect off Buchanan.

Figure 1.10 - Aitana Bonmatí takes another touch.
Figure 1.11 - Aitana Bonmatí shoots as the Chelsea defender enters the path of the ball.
Figure 1.12 - Aitana Bonmatí's contact with the inside of her foot for the shot.

The touch gives Bonmatí the necessary separation from Charles, and Buchanan is in a position where she could either block the shot or it will deflect off her and into the goal. Added level of unpredictability for the goalkeeper if the ball deflects.

Figure 1.13 - Shot goes between the legs of the Chelsea defender and deflects to the left.
Figure 1.14 - Ball bounces into the bottom left hand corner near the post.

The ball deflects off Buchanan, between her legs, and the ball trickles into the bottom left hand side of the net.

In a situation where most players would rush to shoot, Aitana Bonmatí knows when to go and when to slow down. It was not a great shot, it appeared to be going straight towards the goalkeeper before it was deflected, but the thought was there to create a situation in which a deflection was more likely to happen than not.

Match: Chelsea 0-2 (1-2) Barcelona (W), 27 April 2024

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