Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Inter v Schalke Decompacted

Inter Milan v Schalke 04 by DeezRed77

At 2-1 the big chances had fallen Inter's way. They were ostensibly looking good. Their lack of compactness - a crime at this stage of the Champions League - proved their undoing.

Inter have just won the ball back. Then we have a ball that both Cambiasso and Sneijder tried to play frequently (with some success) all night: a diagonal ball to a forward. This time the forward is...Thiago Motta.

Look how close Sneijder, Cambiasso and Zanetti are. You'd think they were U10s who struggle to play a longer pass. The support play here is poor. There is no adequate transition from defence to attack. The strategy appear to be to spray balls in to the forward.

However, even with good passers, a long pass is risky business. The ball is miscontrolled and the defender takes the ball passing it forward. Notice now how they have 3 players around the ball (as Inter had). However they have a lot more space in which to advance. This time Inter's problem is the transition from attack to defence. 3 of Inter's midfielders were within 10 m of the lefthand touchline and so have a mission to resume central positions (the fourth, Thiago Motta, has bombed forward despite having lost it). The result of this is that having won the ball Schalke can travel 20m up the pitch without facing so much as a sniff of a challenge. There is no threat to the ball and their attack builds momentum IMMEDIATELY. There is no pause to consider which intricate pass to play, no problem solving required. Head up - GO!

As we can see here the two Inter players closest to the ball (Stankovic and Sneijder) will be easily split by a pass.

Schalke now have pace and momentum in their favour as they have a retreating defence to beat. It took 15 seconds from the moment the pass in the first frame was made to the ball being in the back of the net.

Inter's lack of compactness and positional awareness in midfield are compounded because they lack pace. Cambiasso, Stankovic, Thiago Motta and Sneijder are terrific players who are all worthy of being European Champions but none of them have much pace. To allow three of those midfielders to exhibit such a small area of the pitch is asking for trouble when playing risky balls forward to a defensive midfielder (as they did to Motta). This problem is compounded when you consider that the defence is also very slow. Zanetti is 37 and Chivu and Rannocchia are both SLOW. By not playing compactly you invite pressure onto the defence and they are made to do the one thing they least want to do: backtrack at pace. Introduce a player like Jefferson Farfan into the equation and you are asking for trouble.

This problem is not new. Benitez tried to play a high line earlier in the season and was consistently taken apart by teams who were pacey (Bale's annihilation of Inter's fastest defender Maicon stands out). You can only play a high line if you are EXTREMELY aggressive in midfield and win the ball back quickly denying the opposition midfield time and space on the ball to pick out those long passes behind the defence.

This problem is particularly frustrating because it was the principle problem during the Milan derby.

Everything Mourinho's side was - deep, aggressive, disciplined, compact, excellent at transitions - this side is not. Mourinho's side wouldn't have conceded such a sloppy goal at a corner. They wouldn't have left such big spaces after they lost the ball. Excellent players would have seemed like the best in the world (Cambiasso, Sneijder, Milito..).

Schalke themselves were poor leaving far too many spaces for Inter's static midfield and forward line but they were not Treble winners last year.

Oh how the mighty fall.

1 comment:

  1. Rangnick:

    “I did well to watch the Milan derby personally,” Rangnick said. “I understood that Inter didn't press at all in midfield and left big spaces.

    “They were vulnerable to quick opponents like Alex Pato and those who are capable of taking the initiative like Milan did.

    “I asked my players to give everything, to attack every ball and to play with a high line to be as least far away from the Inter goal as possible.”