Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

West Ham are similar to Emperor Penguins

April 29, 2023 — West Ham’s defense has a tendency to be too compact, which gives space to attackers on the far-side. There has been a trend of back post goals over several matches with the same compact shape.

They have the numbers to plug the spaces with bodies but they huddle together like a pack of Emperor Penguins seeking warmth.

Figure 1.1 - Olise drives to the corner while Zaha runs inside.
Figure 1.2 - Zaha's run inside coaxes Coufal inside, creating a large pocket of space behind Zaha.
Figure 1.3 - Ball is fumbled across goal from Olise to Zaha. He first-time shoots the ball on the volley, into the top right-hand corner, for the goal.

Here are two examples from their recent matches against Brighton and Arsenal.

Figure 2.1 - March plays the ball to Gross.

Mitoma was smart to move outside then aim his run for the back post, taking advantage of West Ham’s narrow defense.

Figure 2.2 - Gross plays the ball to the back post and Mitoma taps-in the goal.
Figure 3.1 - West Ham’s compact six marking only three Arsenal players left Odegaard free on the back-post for the goal. You can see Fabianski noticed and pointed out that imbalance.

West Ham will play Manchester City, Manchester United, Brentford, Leeds, and Leicester in their final five league matches.

All of those teams should be looking to sneak one or two forwards into the space behind West Ham’s narrow compact defense and attack the back post. If one of those teams doesn’t manage to score a goal on the back post, I’ll be surprised.

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