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Lessons from Guardiola: This is how Feyenoord advances to the semi-finals

Lessons from Guardiola: This is how Feyenoord advances to the semi-finals

It will be win or break for Feyenoord: The Arne Slot will play the second leg of the Conference League against Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic on Thursday night. This is how Feyenoord – a week after the 3-3 match in Rotterdam – can win this time.

Written by Everett Van Zoolen

Slavia Prague Mourinho’s style
Slavia Prague showed a clear defensive structure at Koep last week. Head coach Jindrich Trpisovsky’s side returned to the midfield to keep spaces small. Then couples grew up all over the field. Slavia defended their direct opponents from human thrusts and decided Gernot Trauner was the least dangerous builder in Feyenoord, so the Austrian had plenty of ball.


Slavia Prague launches Trauner into the crowd. Marcus Senesi, Marcus Pedersen, Orkun Kokjo and Frederic Orsens covered. Source: Veronica

This organization is very similar to how Jose Mourinho has been defending his teams in the best games for a long time. One construction worker is released and the rest of the field is defended from human tendencies. Davinson Sanchez, for example, was always the free builder in the 2017 Europa League final. Daniel van Buyten can talk about that. In the 2010 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, the Belgian was constantly fired up in preparation.


In the 2017 Europa League Final, Sanchez is always released. The rest of the model pairs. Source: FOX Sports.

It’s a defensive method that won’t be unfamiliar to the majority of Feyenoord’s players, as it’s also the way Dick Advocaat regularly sends his teams onto the field.

Solution 1: Aursnes retreat
Since Trpisovsky put Slavia on Mourinho, we can see what coaches like Pep Guardiola are doing to get around this Mourinho tactic. The first step that Feyenoord can take: landing one of the midfielders between or alongside the central defenders. Guardiola uses this movement frequently. At FC Barcelona, ​​he often chose slouch Sergio Busquets. After a few years in Manchester, it was Fernandinho who fell to United under Mourinho.


Fernandinho lowers himself to create a three-for-two in the front line. Source: Sky Sports.

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Because the opponent plays from the man’s thrusts, the midfielder’s slouch ensures that his direct opponent moves with him. This creates a space in the center. The opponent is drawn from the 4-3-3 formation in the 4-4-2 formation. So there are now only two players in the center of the midfield instead of three, which leaves more room for dribbling or exiting.


Aursnes slips and drags his direct opponent with him. This opens up a lot of space in the center. Source: Veronica

Solution 2: Let Trauner dodge and get to the third man via the attacker
Slavia Prague last week chose to release Trauner into her mob. However, when the Austrian begins to dribble forward, the Slavia player has to let go of his immediate opponent to press. After all, Trauner could go straight into goal if the Czechs didn’t.

It is important for Feyenoord to reach the released player in those moments. The Slavia midfielders continued to get close to Trauner in some way last week, so that the pass line to Feyenoord was covered as well. Direct swipe is often not possible. The ideal way to reach your fellow players is through the attacker.

Guardiola said it countless times in his press conferences: When the opponent plays with the guidance of a man, you have to play especially from the striker. When the attacker plays from the back, the opposing midfielders must turn with the ball. As a result, they briefly lose eye contact with their immediate opponent, after which they can be released.

In the first leg, this space was regularly available, but Feyenoord was unable to make use of it.


Trainer dodges inside and is under pressure. As a result, Guus Til is released. If Bryan Linssen presents himself now, the ball can go to Til through him. However, Linssen chose to go deeper. Source: Veronica

Dealing with this alternative could be a reason to choose Cyriel Dessers as the attacking point. The Belgian player has more of a sense of the complex game than Linsen, who is basically depth. It was also Desires who fell into the free space in the center in last Thursday’s 2-2 run-up.

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Dessers fall into the open space in the middle of the field to receive the ball. Moments later, Senese made the score 2-2. Source: Veronica

Solution 3: Get a surplus in the midfield
It is no coincidence that Guardiola chose a false striker for years when he had to face Mourinho. In the matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid, he often put Lionel Messi in the center, so that the Argentine could return to the midfield. At Manchester City, Guardiola repeated this trick several times with players like Raheem Sterling.


Sterling drops off the striker to create a three-on-two situation in midfield. Source: Sky Sports

The goal: to create a surplus in the midfield. After all, opponent midfielders cover their direct opponent. When an extra opponent moves into the midfield, they won’t be able to take over. So the defenders face choices: should they follow through so that the midfielders don’t get into trouble or stay put? If they walk along, they leave behind large spaces. If they remain standing, there is a four-by-three position in the center.

Feyenoord does not have a typical false striker with Linsen and Desires. However, this surplus can also be achieved with a wing. Hence, Slot may choose Jens Toornstra as right wing. Toornstra often moves from this center towards the center line to make a square there. If the left back of Slavia Prague covers, Rotterdam has a right-back with Marcus Pedersen who can use the space that opens immediately.

All in all, it will be interesting to see what Slot puts up against Slavia Prague’s tactics. It is hoped for Feyenoord and Dutch football that Rotterdam will win, because the first European final since 2002 will be very close.

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