How to tactically analyse a football match
- Updated: 10th January 2020
Lately I’ve been noticing that a lot of bettors analyse the matches purely with statistics. I’m not saying it isn’t a valid method, I myself love statistics, and I usually take advantage of them when betting, but it is also essential to know how to tactically analyse a football match.
How to tactically analyse a football match
However, and especially in live betting, I like to resort to my knowledge about football in general to analyse a match, and this method has been proving to be profitable for me.
Therefore, I’d like to share with you the way I analyse the matches without resorting to statistics. I don’t know if it will definitely help someone generating more profit, but I’d like to share some knowledge that can be useful in the future.
Firstly, I believe that it is important to explain what the Zone 14 in football is. Several people have made research about this topic with special attention, but all of them gave similar responses.
The zone 14, also known as “golden square” is an area of the pitch that when explored effectively becomes the best zone in the pitch to create goalscoring opportunities.
The study actually says that the way the zone 14 is explored within the pitch makes the difference between good and bad teams, because those that explore this zone effectively have a higher chance of scoring goals.
Initially, two teams were the subject of this study to determine the efficiency of this zone, the French national team (98/2000) and Man. United (98/99).
When looking into the French national team that won the World Cup in 98 and the EURO in 2000, we conclude that 81.3% of the goals they’ve scored came from assists from this area.
However, we also need to highlight that to be efficient from this zone, it is necessary to have a player with great technique and that is able to play very quickly, because the key is exploring the zone is less than 2.7 seconds.
In case the team has the possession on this area for more than 8 seconds, they won’t create any kind of goalscoring opportunity, a lot of times being forced to explore the wings or even lose possession.
For those that weren’t aware of this area, are you now able to think about moments where a player has space to make the cross but instead chooses to pass backwards?
It is not really a bad decision, but more likely an instruction from the manager, that prefers to recycle the ball possession to explore an area that gives a higher probability of scoring goals.
In fact, the crosses are in fact very unlikely to create opportunities and they depend on several aspects, which doesn’t mean they can’t result in goals, as we all know.
Extinction of the Number 10
We are clearly talking of a period where the “Number 10s” shined.
Players with technical ability, vision and great passing quality really explored this area well, a lot of times standing out not by the goals they’ve scored but due to their number of assists.
However, a problem appeared. When the managers started understanding that they could exploit this area offensively, consequently they also had to think that this area would have to be defended with special care.
One of the most effective managers in the way he defends this zone is José Mourinho, a manager that won a lot of titles immediately after this study.
It doesn’t take much to understand why Mourinho loves the 4-2-3-1, with two more defensive midfielders protecting the zone 14 but always with a creative one looking to attack the opposing zone.
Mourinho also likes to play on the counterattack because that way his offensive midfielder has more opportunities to find the space when the opposition is unbalanced with players out of position.
After Mourinho, a lot of managers tried to adapt to this new way of defending the zone 14. One of the most successful managers doing that is Conte, with his 3-5-2.
Defensively, the two wingers close out the defence, completing a line of 5-players, allowing the 3 midfielders to close out this space without feeling the need of leaving the position.
We are speaking about a zonal defence, which doesn’t mean that there are unmarked players, but Mourinho spoke about this on an interview to explain how he has beaten Barcelona with Inter.
“When facing a player like Messi, who is very mobile, it is important to understand when the man stops being the responsibility of a defender and starts being the responsibility of a different one”. This defensive organization comes from the notion that each player defends one area.
How Conte’s Chelsea defended Zone 14 against Barcelona (5-3-2)
Managers with a “more defensive” mentality also evolve football. Fixed players on this position have stopped being so effective, and they had to adapt to other positions on the pitch to make a move, creating more difficulties.
Players that had a lot of success in the past weren’t able to adapt to this new reality, maybe because they don’t have characteristics to play on a different zone, such as Ozil, that shined at Real Madrid but was never to replicate that success when playing for Arsenal.
Guardiola revolution and new roles
Guardiola revolutionized football due to the way he explores the Zone 14. In fact, Guardiola adapted the way the pitch is divided, because he not only divides it vertically, he also does it horizontally.
The two fundamental rules of Guardiola’s tactic are: there can’t be more than 3 players on the same horizontal line and more than 2 players on the same vertical line.
That allows the team to create spaces. Just look into the movement of Manchester City’s players when you have the chance, a lot of times you can see the left-back making a movement ahead of the defence, since Guardiola doesn’t even allow a line of 4 players at the back.
With this new way of seeing the pitch, Guardiola also showed that the Zone 14 continues to be effective with the “Half Space”, or “The Hole” as the managers usually call it.
It is a tighter zone, but it’s enough to escape a busy midfield.
Dennis Bergkamp’s magic ball from zone 14 (How to explore the Half Space)
With this evolution in football and the extinction of the “Number 10s”, other roles kept appearing, especially due to players that quickly adapted to other ways of playing.
Defensive midfielder vs “Regista”
Pirlo is probably the best example of a “Regista”. A “Regista” is nothing more than an adapted Number 10, that plays in front of the defence, being responsible for creating the game at an initial stage, being a player with a good passing ability, not only escaping the first line of pressure, but also creating spaces with long passes.
It is even common for the “Regista” to exchange passes with the defence in order to recycle the possession as a way to create conditions to start building a new play.
It is not because a player plays in front of the defence that he is a defensive midfielder. Teams with a “Regista” are normally attacking teams, just compare Casemiro with Pirlo for example.
The characteristics of the two players are very different. Casemiro is taller, has more physique, is less mobile and doesn’t go so far up the pitch or risk long passes. Pirlo is shorter, weak defensively, but has a great passing ability.
The term was said by Thomas Muller when asked about what his role was when playing for Bayern in 2011, and the term is absolutely perfect to describe his role. Raumdeuter means “space interpreter”.
Looking at Muller, he is weak physically, not being very quick and not being known for his shooting, dribbling or passing quality, and he is also not very strong on the aerial game.
Think about it like this: Muller doesn’t even seem to have any physical characteristic to be a top player. However, looking at his statistics, Muller scored 23 goals in 2012/13, 26 goals in 2013/14, 21 goals in 2014/15 and 32 goals in 2015/16.
The characteristics that make Muller a top player is simply his intelligence and anticipation ability.
All of that means that Muller is capable of anticipating empty spaces before they are empty, he is perfect when analysing the game, anticipating passes from players without the ball and movements on the opposing defence.
The best example of a Raumdeuter these days is Dele Alli on Tottenham. Just look at his first goals to understand that he occupies spaces well, and a lot of times he appears alone, or he is simply at the right place. That’s not by chance, he is able to see things sooner than the rest of the players.
Just look at his first 10 goals and understand how he is always able to appear on an empty space, where he doesn’t have to be quick or get into a physical dispute for the ball.
Besides that, he gets into a good position where he can easily score, which means he doesn’t have to be a great finisher.
I couldn’t avoid mentioning the False 9. A player that positions himself as a striker and falls back at the right time to explore spaces on the Zone 14.
It is very rare for a defender to follow this movement, because he knows that he leaves space behind, and in recent years we have seen Messi exploiting this very well.
But not only Messi. These days we have for example Firmino on Liverpool, that manages to perform this movement very well.
Simeone is probably the best manager defending against this right now, positioning his players in what is called a “cage”.
We can see how Messi adapts to the wing, to explore the Zone 14 against Atlético de Madrid.
At a different time, I can complete the analysis with other aspects, but I just wanted to leave you with this notion about the Zone 14. I hope it can be helpful for you, especially when betting in-play.
When you see a team resorting to a lot of crosses, there is a less probability of goals being scored, but when a team causes problems on the Zone 14, there is a higher chance of goals being scored on that encounter.