I went to the Liverpool v Arsenal game last week. Don’t ask, I’m not proud. I watched this aspect of their play, both teams set up with two players either side of the six yard box and the first pass every time was from the keeper to one of them.
So, my main point is this; it isn’t about the ability of the defenders to pass, it is about what is in front of them to pass to. Another point, keep in your mind or go and watch the pass Palmer made to Corbs @ Accrington for our second.
Now, back to Liverpool. The keeper passes to one of the central defenders. At that point, Salah on the RHS and Mane on the LHS, set off from the halfway line and sprint directly to wards Arsenals box at Mach 2. Occasionally, the centre half tries the long ball into the channel. What instantly happens is the back 4 and the DFM, run back with them to the edge of Arsenals box. At that point, the entire pitch from the edge of both boxes only has 5 Arsenal players and 9 Liverpool players in it. So, their is plenty of options to make the second pass into a midfielder, who almost everytime, then hits the full back square. By this time Salah and Mane have tracked back along the same path they ran forward on and are available for the ball to feet. The ball is played down the line from the respective full back and they then play the Palmer, first touch pass into an on-running midfielder who now has 4 or 5 players around him, advancing at pace towards Arsenals box….
Arsenal by contrast, start exactly the same. But LaCassette operates as a traditional number 9, posting up in the centre circle. 21 players are then compressed in Arsenals half and the ball has to be perrrrrrffffffect, which very quickly, 4/5/6th pass, is lost to the Liverpool player. He passes back to the centre half, Liverpool reset and repeat the process above. Time after time.
From our perspective, if we go back 10 games a go, we had Gregory as a loan striker, posting up in the centre circle. Our passes had to be perfect to a static player with a defender glued to them. Now, we have Corbs and Kamberi running off Gregory into the channels, creating more space for the midfield and more options for the defenders to pass to. Put Windass and Luongo into this equation and passing out from the back is very much something we should persist with. To be successful, we need runners off the ball, pushing the opposition defence deep, hitting them occasionally to maintain the long ball threat. But this tactic creates the space for our defence and midfielders to move into and receive a simple pass…