Arsene Wenger – Tactical Mastermind

By Stevie Grieve

Arsenal allow City to attack down the left; tempt Kolarov forward and use his space to counter via Sanchez


Arsenal expects that Man City will use Kolarov down the left, so Alexis Sanchez is not to track back. Instead, Mikel Arteta will shift over and cover the space with Debuchy. When City attack centrally, Arsenal will tease City to playing to the left side when Kolarov is deep, to entice him to get forward and into a crossing position. When the cross is dealt with, Arsenal instantly

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Invite Teams to Pressure You – Then Take Advantage Of It

By Stevie Grieve

Valencia entice pressure to exploit the spaces behind the press.

Valencia came into the Emirates Cup with a new coaching staff, hired from Rio Ave in Portugal. New manager Nuno Espirito Santo and his staff already had the preparation done for this game as his last game in charge of Rio Ave was a Portuguese Cup Final 1-0 defeat to Benfica, where Rio Ave had some good opportunities to score but it wasn’t be a historic day for them.

Going into this game, they knew the spaces they would be able to find if they enticed Benfica to press like they usually do, so set out to pass into areas where Benfica would press, then find a way out to find players in the attacking midfield line between the Benfica defence and midfield line.

They looked for these spaces from the opening minutes, unfortunately losing a daft goal from a pass against a team mate, but from the 2nd half, with the injection of pace from Rodrigo on the left, and Andre Gomes positioning and speed of distribution in central midfield, they looked much more threatening, especially when the Benfica central midfielders were enticed to press in pairs.

Valencia Game Plan

Provoke high pressing from Benfica – Central pressure – release WM between lines

Valencia v Benfica1 (1)

When the ball is passed into a central midfielder, they will hold until

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How Deco Made Counter Attacks Successful

By Stevie Grieve

Jose Mourinho’s Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003 then the UEFA Champions League in 2004. They did this on the basis of having a very strong defence, very organised in midfield with fast attacking transitions.

When I organised possession, they would play direct and often lose possession but look to recover the second ball while the opponent were unorganised and exploit space that they leave to press.

This week, I will look at the counter attacking phase and how Deco was the main attacking outlet in short pass counter attacks with plenty of support running at pace ahead of the ball, knowing Deco was good enough to find most passes in even the tightest of areas.

Deco initiates the counter attack

Mourinho Porto - Deco Playmaker 1

Here, Costinha wins the ball and passes to Maniche, who splits the midfield with a 1st time pass to Deco who is

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Mourinho’s Defensive Tactics

By Stevie Grieve

Since I was young, I have always had an interest in tactics, specifically successful coaches, or coaches who have seemingly come from nowhere. When Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto won the UEFA Cup in 2003 against Celtic, I enjoyed the direct style of play much more than I enjoyed watching Celtic’s direct style of play, mainly because it had some unpredictability, fluidity of movement and the talents of Deco as a number 10 in a midfield diamond.

Costinha’s role was an interesting one; a common thing in all of Mourinho’s teams has been the utilisation of a defensive midfielder who sticks to his position and protects the defence – Costinha, Claude Makelele, Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta, Xabi Alonso, Nemanja Matic – but for me it was interesting because it was a ‘new’ position as I had grown up in Scotland with a 4-4-2 and no set defensive or attacking midfielder, and certainly not within a diamond midfield which is common in Switzerland and Italy.

Mourinho’s Porto were a strong defensive team with pace and efficiency in attack, with a good supporting cast in midfield in the form of Thiago, Nuno Maniche and super-sub Dmitri Alenichev.

Porto’s defensive solidity – Establish a block width, depth and compensation system

Wide area turnover; Porto drop off and form a flat back 4

Mourinho Porto - Solid back 4 - 2.5

As the ball is lost on the side instantly the back 4 drop off and get

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Small-Sided Game For Flank Play

By Keith Scarlett

This activity is a 4 v 4 game plus 2 flank players plus 2 neutral players to regulation goals. Two goals should be set up about 25 metres apart. The field is 30 metres wide. A channel is made along the sidelines 5 metres wide.


Each group puts on the field, one player in their offensive half in the channel and

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How to Defend Against Potent Attacking Teams

By Stevie Grieve

In the Copa Del Rey final, Real Madrid went into the game against Barcelona confident of a win, even without Cristiano Ronaldo who mass missing due to injury, but with Bale and Benzema both capable of defending from the front and causing problems on the counter attack, Ancelotti set his team up to defend against Barcelona’s main attacking areas, and exploit Madrid’s pace on the counter attack.

Madrid counter-pressing in the opening minutes

Art 5 MadridDefvBarca

Here, we can see that Madrid, having just lost possession, are reluctant to simply drop deep and defend, instead they

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