Just like Paul McShane’s ticket to the European championships gives hope to every flailing footballer on the planet, Andy Townsend’s ability to find and maintain employment on national television is nothing short of inspirational.
I hadn’t really considered a career as a pundit but listening to ITV’s analysis on the England-Belgium game, I think I have a lot to offer. Not least because everything Townsend said, was completely off the mark.
First up, his bemusement at Eden Hazard’s apparently underwhelming performance was growing more frustrating with every incisive pass the new Chelsea signing was making. Townsend said that Hazard was on the periphery of the game, despite being the key figure in a team which once again dominated England.
Hazard was a ball magnet (which I’m sure he won’t like to be labelled) and produced a controlling performance which suggested Chelsea have just acquired another maestro to sit alongside Juan Mata. Such was the Belgian superiority, possession-wise, that only six of Hazard’s completed 53 passes were made outside of the opponents’ final third. Belgium pressed and pressed and pressed and Hazard was central to this.
To boast, he completed all of his four dribbles and, of all three corners Hazard delivered, he found a team mate with the cross. But hey, we don’t have to think back that far to recall Townsend commenting that Sergio Busquets “generally isn’t the best in possession” (I can’t let that go, nor should I).
When Lukaku was introduced, the two Chelsea players combined three times, creating two very opportune chances for each other. I think Hazard has taken an immediate stance as the role of villain (including in my own eyes) but I don’t agree that should compromise his judgement as a football player.
Now, man of the match. Where do I start? The thing is, I’m a massive fan of Steven Gerrard despite my all-too-vocal dislike for his club. It was therefore a travesty to see him tied up and chained as one of England’s two defensive midfielders who spent the majority of the evening on the edge of their own box.
Gerrard, fair enough, made nine interceptions for his side which was what that role dictates first and foremost. But, my oh my, how he was wasted playing so deep as the eventual outstanding player of the game (in Townsend’s mind at least) went on to take possession just 23 times in 84 minutes.
The England captain was penned in his own half and every one of his first half passes were played from here. It wasn’t until his 49th minute header went forward to Chamerlain did Stevie G complete a forward pass in this game (his tackle which trickled to Ashley Young was not a pass).
One of the country’s usually most influential players made made just 15 passes throughout the whole game, 11 of which were played to a member of the team’s back four. Defensive midfield is not Gerrard’s position and his buck-passing performance went a long way to emphasising that.
For me, it was another one of those worrying performances where teams from this part of the world are technically outclassed and granted a rude awakening and, with the current set-up, heading into the tournament, Hodgson will be thankful that he doesn’t pride his management on keeping the ball.
This is where the movement of Wellbeck is crucial and why he should start because, seeing scarce possession, England always need to have that ‘out’ and, if they don’t, it is difficult to see where they will threaten from.Posted in Performance Analysis | 2 Comments April 11, 2012
If nobody realised by now, we like a stat or two.
For me, analysis, when used correctly, can keep managers and coaches ahead of the game. They can show exactly the sort of patterns and tendencies that unfold over the course of a match and indeed a season and they can allow people to make reliably informed decisions.
Trying to find value for money, based solely on player statistics, doesn’t work. The difference between football and something like Baseball or American Football is that it is an open, continuous game with so many varying factors. In Baseball, you have a pitcher, a batter, and a catcher. The game is about getting to base or preventing this and it’s as simple as that. Every move has a clear beginning and end. In the NFL, every player bar one is simply running, catching, or blocking. Once the ball hits the ground, the game stops and the team attempt to find another set play to toss the ball across a line.
The simplistic nature of these games make statistics so vital. The fastest person has a place, the most solid blocker, the consistent catcher. But, take Theo Walcott for example. How often have we heard that speed is worth damn all in football if you have nothing else? It is worth a hell of a lot in other sports and, because of that, judging athletes on fundamental statistics has its merited place.
But the saying, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, applies to football because the moves have no set patterns, times, avenues. Scoring a goal can come from so many different places and spawn in so many different forms that using basic statistics to assemble your team is slightly flawed.
A central midfielder can be the absolute heartbeat of a team and can unlock defences without contributing a direct assist or goal. They can break up play without it being counted as a block or a tackle but if he came in last in a 30m sprint test, if he wasn’t as strong, as fit, as aerially dominant as others, would he be overlooked? He probably would be based on the moneyball theory.
Take this season’s stats. Stephen Warnock would make the moneyball team because he has completed the league’s most interceptions this year. Stephen Warnock. Anyone who has watched Villa this year (apologies if you have) will know that the left back is about four years past his sell-by date. He’s saved from being booed off every week purely because there is an ever-so-slightly more hazardous player on the other flank in the form of Alan fuckin’ Hutton.
Wolves’ Wayne Hennessey has completed the most saves but we shouldn’t be queuing up to sign him simply because he has had ten times the amount of shots anyone else has had directed at them. Victor Moses recorded the most dribbles and runs out of everyone but what use is this if he has no end product, if he is running down blind alleys, or if he is isolated from the team’s system?
John W Henry loved the moneyball philosophy so much that he took the reigns at the Boston Red Socks and adopted it successfully. However, with so much money to burn, I don’t think he abides by its principles strictly enough. The idea is to get the most out of the budget which you do have but Henry overspends.
People argue that Andy Carroll’s performances for Newcastle were befitting of the moneyball ideals and considering how many goals and assists he was contributing at the time, he would’ve had something to offer a team using statistics to find value because they couldn’t compete with the big-spenders. But, at £35m, Liverpool themselves were the big-spenders and, splashing one of the highest transfer fees ever, they could’ve bought almost anyone they pleased and not worried about being out-hustled. Besides, Carroll was a Premier League player for just five months so to judge his statistics over this period doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture.
Stewart Downing is an example of why the idea doesn’t really apply to this sport. I would’ve been one of Downing’s biggest advocates and could definitely see why Liverpool signed him. But assists and goals didn’t translate to a different team because it isn’t all that straightforward in this sport. In fact, in the 2010/11 season, the moneyball theory would have rated Downing higher than Young but Ashley is the better player, he is about to become a league champion, and he was bought for less.
Unless the statistics search was widened in that it took into account more facets of the game, then the philosophy has no place yet in football. Different systems, different climates, and different opposition all affect the performances of players and there is much more to be looking at outside the norms of what we are currently bombarded with.
Maybe someone will get it right soon, but it probably won’t be a baseball man. It will have to be a football man.Posted in Issues | 4 Comments April 7, 2012
Derry City’s 0-0 draw with UCD marked Kevin Deery’s first start and 90 minutes of the 2012 season. Had Barry Molloy not been dismissed late in the previous match against Drogheda United, it is unlikely that Deery, who has not yet attained full match sharpness, would have been called upon to play the whole game.
No doubt Declan Devine will be unhappy that his team were unable to record a fifth consecutive home win, but truth be told, City’s performance lacked intensity and sharpness in the final third. Derry also looked shaky at the back, with Eddie McCallion being forced to play at centre-back as Shane McEleney and Stewart Greacen were absent through injury.
Kevin Deery is a joy to watch because he is one of those players who craves possession and takes great satisfaction in making incisive and cutting passes. Tonight he perhaps didn’t show to receive the ball from the back four as much as he would have done with more games under his belt. That said, his presence, in time, can only complement and enhance City’s performances.
In the early stages, Deery put himself about effectively, winning the ball for Derry twice in the first 5 minutes with two well-timed tackles.
Throughout his career, Deery has often been deemed a set-piece taker, regularly taking free-kicks and corners. Against UCD however, he was in the box, attacking set-pieces at every opportunity – and with good effect. On 7 minutes, when the ball was crossed in from the right-hand side by Patrick McEleney, Deery found himself in space 12 yards out. Unfortunately for City, his header flew just wide of the top right-hand corner.
A notable trend in Deery’s first half performance was how well he linked up with Madden and McEleney who were responsible for much of Derry City’s productivity. 42% of Kevin Deery’s first half passes went to these two players.
Deery misplaced 7 out 31 first half passes, leaving him with an unremarkable passing average of 77.4%. In Deery’s defence however, many of those misplaced passes either came via crosses (3) or through playing high-risk forward passes. On the other hand, sometimes Deery’s passing wasn’t quite patient enough and Derry City as a whole were much too direct for large spells in the game, rarely working the ball across the midfield. This can probably be shown in that Kevin Deery only passed to Ruaidhri Higgins once in the first half!
Deery’s passing caused UCD more problems in the second half, as the Creggan man initiated several attacks and created a number of good opportunities for his teammates as Derry searched in vain for a goal. He was unafraid to mix creativity with industry, as he won 4/4 attempted tackles in this period.
He continued to be a threat from set-pieces, and on 54 minutes he popped up with another header, however this time it was straight at McGinley in the UCD goal.
On 57 minutes, Deery fizzed a terrific ball out to Stephen McLaughlin on the left-wing, with the attack resulting in a Derry City corner.
As the game wore on, Deery’s flashes of creativity became more frequent. After the hour mark, having won possession in midfield, he charged forward before finding space to shoot at McGinley from 25 yards.
Having won possession in midfield again on 73 minutes, Deery played a an incisive through ball to Farren who failed to get his shot away having held onto the ball for too long inside the box.
In the dying embers of the game, Deery once more played an excellent, first time through pass to David McDaid, but the young striker – who would have been presented with a clear scoring opportunity – failed to control the pass.
A Few Observations:
- As Derry chased a winner in the last 25 minutes, UCD opted to pin two strikers up against Derry’s two centre-backs at all times, meaning that Derry were always susceptible to the counter attack. Fortunately for the Candystripes, UCD failed to effectively utilise this scenario.
- Patterson was anonymous for large parts of tonight’s game, but with 15 minutes to go, changing to 4-2-3-1 I would have liked to have seen him stay on the pitch. Simply put, he’s Derry’s most clinical finisher and given a chance he’ll punish the opposition. That said, I questioned Devine’s substitutions once before and I was emphatically wrong. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
- Derry seem to lack a clear identity at the moment. To point any criticism at Declan Devine in this respect would be premature and harsh given the number of injuries Derry have had and that a number of players are still settling in. Nevertheless, it is often unknown what shape Derry will be adopting or who will be starting in key positions.
Feel free to share your thoughts belowPosted in League of Ireland, Performance Analysis | Leave a comment April 6, 2012
It was big news in the world of sport that BBC would not own the full rights for Formula 1 coverage for the 2012 season. Sky Sports have launched a new channel, Sky Sports F1 HD, and have broken the hearts of many a football fan by giving Georgie Thompson a lead presenting slot on the channel. After the first race in Albert Park, Melbourne at the Australian Grand Prix, where Jenson Button raised the chequered flag, I was given some very interesting social media statistics from Socialbakers, a social and digital analytics company. They were able to track the Facebook engagement rates of drivers and teams between 16-19th March and it brought about some interesting conclusions.
Is it often said that success breeds success, so what this analysis allows us to do is see if success in competition has a direct relation to increasing engagement on Facebook (or other social media platforms). Socialbakers defined their engagement rate to be the average number of likes, comments and shares per post on a given day, divided by the total number of fans for a page. This shows the percentage of your fan base that interacts on average with your post.
Needless to say, in Jenson Button’s case, the winner of the first race of the season, success certainly does breed social success as his engagement rate from his 664 fans increased by 28% in the 4 day period. I was shocked myself to hear of Button’s abysmal fan base total on Facebook, especially considering Lewis Hamilton boasts a modest 1.1 million fans. Fernando Alonso had the second highest engagement rate at 4.48%, with 10,152 fans. McLaren are the most popular team on Facebook, echoing their driver Lewis Hamilton’s impressive social figures, with 465k fans. Red Bull are 2nd with a close 463k fans and current champion Sebastian Vettel is also 2nd most popular driver with 827k fans. It’s fair to say that McLaren and Red Bull are dominating Formula 1 with these figures, and with 2 wins of the previous 3 championships, the trend of social media possession looks set to continue.
With strong brand visibility on Facebook, it allows team sponsors like Vodafone and aigo to benefit from their teams successes. It will be interesting to see how Ferrari develops their presence over the coming months, especially after Fernando Alonso won the 2nd Grand Prix in Malaysia on 25th March, and with Alonso having an ever increasing engagement rate with his 10k fans.
Thanks to Socialbakers for their stats that developed the basis for this post.Posted in Digital Sport | Leave a comment March 31, 2012
Stephen Kenny still appears to be searching for a system and a preferred starting eleven as Shamrock Rovers continue to enjoy their early season form. Kenny’s project at Tallaght Stadium is clearly still a work in progress, yet Rovers’ clear superiority over many teams in the league is what has allowed them to emerge from many early season fixtures with preferable results.
Against Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers dominated much of the game’s possession, but were unable to take the lead until the 78th minute courtesy of a terrific goal, engineered by the impressive Ronan Finn and finished majestically by the emphatic Gary Twigg. Rovers then doubled their lead on 93 minutes through Billy Dennehy as Bohemians had left themselves exposed in their search for a late equaliser.
Throughout the game, Shamrock Rovers new boy, Aaron Greene and the exciting Karl Moore were under SC1 Sports’ spotlight.
Shamrock Rovers began the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Aaron Greene, Ronan Finn (who looked much more comfortable in an attacking role in this system) and Billy Dennehy starting on the left, centre and right respectively, of the attacking midfield 3. Whilst it was possible to discern Greene’s role as a left-winger in the opening stages, throughout the game, he switched positions with both Finn and Dennehy, giving Rovers’ attack a sense of fluidity.
In relation to Greene, many of Rovers’ attacks were instigated from the wing opposite to that which he occupied. As a result, he often used this opportunity to get into the penalty box to provide support to Gary Twigg. This wasn’t to say that Greene never got involved in build-up play himself, because he did, and on 22 minutes he drove a great pass from the left-hand side across the penalty area into the path of Twigg, who smashed the ball passed McNulty in the Bohemians goal. However, the goal was chalked off as the ball struck Twigg’s hand before he got his shot off.
Greene showed a willingness throughout the half contribute defensively in consistently tracking back. Although penetrative Bohemians attacks were few and far between, this willingness was necessary to protect Killian Brennan, who played out of position at left-back.
In the second half more attacks generated down Greene’s flanks, yet he was largely ineffective. This was largely due to the fact that he was dealt with efficiently by Owen Heary, but poor crossing also played a part as Greene completed 0/5 of attempted crosses in the second half.
Karl Moore operated largely on the left-hand side of Bohemians 4-5-1 formation. In the early stages of the game it was noticeable that Moore and Pender, who played on the right-wing, sat very deep in the early stages, essentially allowing Shamrock Rovers to keep possession effortlessly in their own half. A sign of Rovers’ early dominance is that Moore did not attempt a pass or a dribble until the 9th minute.
Moore was very quiet for much of the first half, yet on 23 minutes he delivered a great cross from the left-hand side that was met by Adam Martin who headed over.
Defensively, Moore was quite poor. He was successful in 0/3 tackles in the first half and lacked composure in defensive areas at times. On 24 minutes he lost possession of the ball near the corner flag when he had ample time to deal with it. As a result he was forced to concede a free-kick in a dangerous area.
In the second half, Moore was uninvolved until the 53rd minute, yet when he did become involved in the game he showed himself to be very effective. On 53 minutes, after a good run into the box he managed to get a shot on target from a tight angle. Just one minute later, Moore turned into space 25 yards from goal and found the target with another shot, yet Jansson was equal to it. Moore’s duel with Jansson continued on 58 minutes as the two competed for a 50/50 challenge as Moore attempted to latch onto a long ball. Jansson’s timing needed to be perfect and fortunately for the Swede, it was.
Moore was the architect behind yet another one of Bohemians’ chances on 69 minutes as after running at Kerrea Gilbert down the left-hand side he found Martin with a cross, who again, could only shoot wide.
In the dying minutes of the game, Callaghan switched Moore over to the right wing, but Rovers’ domination of the closing minutes meant that he had little effect in this position. It would have been interesting to see him play a larger spell of the game in this position given how Rovers set up with Brennan and Greene (for the most part) operating down the left flank. In one sense, Callaghan may have considered this too much of a risk given how much of an attacking threat Brennan could have been from left-back, yet similarly, Moore could have seriously exposed Brennan’s defensive insufficiencies.
Insofar that it was Derek Pender (who is a right-back by trade) that was paired up with Killian Brennan, it seems as though Aaron Callaghan didn’t think this was a risk worth taking.
Image courtesy of www.bbc.co.ukPosted in League of Ireland, Performance Analysis | 5 Comments March 30, 2012
Any keen readers here at SC1 Sports will know we love stats. We believe they can paint a true picture that allows us to understand the performance of certain individuals or teams. Slowly but surely, the analysis being done, especially by Conan and Ciaran, is being recognized worldwide. For anyone who didn’t hear it on Thursday, Ciaran was interviewed by an American guy who runs a Real Madrid fan site, and it was great to hear someone acknowledging his work being done. Since starting my internship at adidas out here in Amsterdam, I have become a little bit fascinated with the ‘Interactive Personal Coaching and Training System’ called miCoach. When I was lucky enough to receive a miCoach enabled pair of adiZero f50’s, I decided to go and get myself a miCoach Speed_Cell to test the product, track my fitness and then analyze it.
To explain briefly how the product works, you simply sign up on the website, insert the Speed_Cell into the cavity in the sole of your boots, then after you complete your training session you insert your miCoach USB to your computer, and it connects with your Speed_Cell wirelessly to allow you to sync your data into your profile. There are a number of details supplied by the product and I will explain more later in this post. All in all, a very easy process.
I first used it on Tuesday at my Gaelic Football training session with Amsterdam GAC. The session was a footballing session, rather than fitness based. This means there were a number of game situations, attacking scenarios, backs against forwards and shooting drills. Before I synced my data, I predicted that there would be a short distance covered overall but a high number of sprints, as the session was very stop-start.
It was an exciting process syncing my data and seeing how hard I actually worked in the session, and I was pleasantly surprised by my results. Rather than talk about my results alone, it is best to have something to compare to. I was shown these results from Barcelona’s Brazilian right back (is his position still called right back?), Dani Alves when he played against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey at the end of January. So comparing my training session to Dani Alves’ performance in a full football match, I was shocked to see I covered a similar distance overall, but I ran longer at high-intensity, and actually had a greater max speed. I also ran one extra sprint. This was a really useful piece of knowledge and it has set my own benchmark that I can now go and improve upon.
On Thursday 29th, I found myself motivated to try and break my personal max speed that I set in the training session on Tuesday. I set out a little sprinting session outside my house and worked for a total of 52mins. I think it was realistic to expect a new personal best for max speed as in the training session on Tuesday I was sometimes running with the ball, and I think your speed is obviously faster without. I did 4 different sprinting drills, focusing on short and sharp bursts, and then a final 10 x 50 meter sprint to really stretch the legs.
I couldn’t get into the house quick enough to see if the 52mins was worthwhile and that I set a new record. You can see the breakdown of the session through the line graph, where I peaked in speed. As my results show below, I improved from 29.59km/h to 32.4km/h. Usain Bolt can run 100m in a speed of 37.15km/h.
The tagline for miCoach is ‘Compete, Share, Compare’. There is a heavy social emphasis, advertising the adiZero f50 as the smartest football boot that just got a brain. I shared my results with the guys at the Amsterdam Gaelic Club, some of whom were curious as to my results from the session. I hope in the future they will get themselves hooked up with miCoach, as it would be great to get home after a session and compare our work rate and stats, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter or the group email. It adds that extra bit of competitiveness between teammates, and of course it’s good banter. I wonder if we could even get to the stage where the manager collects our data, and rewards good trainers that week, and punished poor trainers. I mean, we are all driven by intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation. A simple text from a coach saying ‘good job in training tonight, I notice you covered more grass, keep up the hard work’. These messages can be really encouraging for players. Even a ‘kick up the arse’ for some players who slacked that session, basically there would be no hiding place. It would also be a great tool for rehabilitation, in seeing how you can progress your stats to regain fitness.
It would be great if more professional footballers could make their stats public, it would allow us all to compare ourselves with the greatest in the game, and gives us something to aim towards. So far I’m thoroughly enjoying using the product and am finding it extremely useful. This weekend I’m playing a tournament and I’m very curious to see how my efforts will change in a day of activity. Has anyone reading this been using miCoach? I would love to hear your thoughts on the tool, and also how you are using it.Posted in Digital Sport | 3 Comments March 29, 2012
“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline…”
Is it possible to overuse Vince Lombardi?
I remember, not even two years ago, listening to my name being called from the PA system as I was withdrawn after 20 minutes of championship final action. The anti-climax alone is enough to sicken you but I also recall the days proceeding that affair when I genuinely considered my sporting future. It seemed that it was all give and no take and I was having flashbacks of similar twists of fate throughout my career. What was the point?
But after a few sleepless nights and some pitiful days of feeling sorry for yourself, you get over it and decide to give it another rattle. Sport, like life, throws you knockback after knockback and, if you’re not willing to pick yourself up and go again, then you’re not really living are you? The test of a man is how he responds to a challenge and, if you don’t want to live an ordinary life, then you have to do extraordinary things.
Too many people walk away from the game because they don’t have insight enough to look at the whole picture. A nagging doubt, a confrontation, another ask – the tiniest things can tip someone over the edge if they are too short-sighted to see what they are doing it for. Granted, we all get itchy feet. We all get sick of commitments from time to time but to simply give up is the biggest shame because you really don’t know how much you actually need the sport.
Only when you’re away from the thick of the action that you realise how badly you miss it. For me, having never had a muscle injury (I simply break bones), when I’m injured it’s usually a lengthy one and it is then when it hits you hardest. Watching on from the sidelines as someone doesn’t make the run that you’d love to make, as someone else steals the limelight, or as the grass entices you with every blade, you begin to understand that your calling is on the battle field.
Of course, it’s not always good. Sometimes it’s thankless, sometimes it’s cruel, and sometimes it is a right, royal pain in the backside. Sport is like anything really: you’ll have bad times but they will always wake you up to the good stuff that you’ve been missing out on.
Physiologically, we also need it. One of the most prevalent causes of heart disease in this era, is down to how quickly the human race has advanced in such a short space of time. In such a tiny fraction of our existence, we have gone from hunter-gatherers to sitting in an office all day. When all our ancestors made the decision of fight or flight, we’ve had to swiftly get used to simply accepting confrontation and doing absolutely nothing about it. Sport, allows us to harness that aggression and control our anger. Physically and mentally, it is something that such a competitive race cannot do without.
Don’t get me wrong, there is without doubt much, much more to life and sometimes you simply can’t make the commitment. But that is all the more reason to make the most of the unique platform we are provided whilst we can – there are too many people, too much talent, lying around going to waste.
In such a short life, we get few opportunities to mark our time here and, for some people, their sporting achievements will be the inspiration that they leave behind. Of course, we all have different roles to play and various abilities to offer, but to be directly involved with all that your sport has to bargain can be the most rewarding thing. With so many different games, standards, levels, it is plainly clear that no one exactly fails in sport – everyone purely finds their level. But it is then about making the most out of that and driving forward. The chance to leave a legacy and inspire someone else’s life doing something that you love is much too blessed to overlook. The most symbolic thing about sport in its purest form is watching athletes, teams, coaches, rise above themselves and touch greatness and, in doing so, reminding us all that we have greatness inside of us.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me and maybe most don’t see the romantic side of it. But I know that there are few greater feelings than surging into possession, or taking control, or having that feeling inside your body when you step up to another gear and know that your engine has the capacity to cope with it.
I think, like anything, people turn their back on sport without considering what it is that they are deeply yearning for.
And I think that people who walk away from the opportunity which sport – professional or amateur, high or low level – offers them, will really look back one day and regret it.
What I will say is, personally, if I’m ever devoid of inspiration, I know exactly where I’m looking first. Sport: The greatest drug on the planet.Posted in Issues | Leave a comment March 24, 2012
Derry City maintained their 100% home record in 2012 with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Cork City. A double salvo from Mark Farren and Stephen McLaughlin early in the second proved to be enough for Derry to seal all three points. After falling two goals behind, Cork never looked like responding.
In relation to the performance of Patrick McEleney, there can be no doubt that he will have been both frustrated and disappointed with his display. However at this point it is worth noting that McEleney is still only 19 years old and he is a player on whom many place an extremely high level of expectation. Whilst this expectation is testament to the wealth of ability that this young man possesses, his age and inexperience should be borne in mind on occasions when he doesn’t set the world alight.
McEleney began the match on the right wing for Derry as they lined out in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Whilst McEleney has been frequently the central attacking midfielder when Derry have adopted this formation, tonight that role belong to Owen Morrison.
In the early stages, McEleney’s work rate was notable. Whenever Cork attacked he covered significant ground, pressing and tackling with effort, but rarely with success.
As Derry’s attacks developed a notable trend in McEleney’s approach was that he would often come narrow in order to create space for the overlapping Madden, who again worked tirelessly as he proves to be Declan Devine’s best signing.
McEleney failed to create anything of note whilst playing on the right, however in his defence Madden and Morrison failed to pick him out on a number of occasions despite finding space in good, attacking areas.
Upon swapping positions with Owen Morrison on 28 minutes he immediately played a penetrating forward pass to Stephen McLaughlin on the left flank, where the Donegal man was fouled before entering the penalty area.
On 34 minutes, again, from a central position McEleney linked up excellently with Morrsion and Madden before beating a number of Cork City defenders as he managed to dribble the balli into the penalty area. However, he was dispossessed before he could get a shot off.
In the second half, McEleney looked rather lethargic and attempted only 7 passes in before being subbed on 76 minutes. The most positive aspect of his second half display was a free-kick that he hit from 35 yards, on the 51st minute, with a technique not that dissimilar to that adopted by Cristiano Ronaldo!
A few tactical insights:
- Derry City regularly played the ball out from the back in this game. At times they made mistakes as a result of this tactic, but for the large part it complemented Derry’s free flow attacking play, and it brought Madden in particular into play early in Derry’s attacks. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come from Declan Devine’s men.
- After heavily criticising his performance on Tuesday night, Dermot McCaffrey was better tonight. He seemed to be more comfortable at left-back than he has been of late. He pulled out to make space when playing out from the back, used the ball much more efficiently than before and even made a few overlapping runs! Nevertheless, the jury is still out and it feels a bit cheap to compliment him too heavily on being able to execute the basic role of a left-back.
- Stephen McLaughlin is a colossus in the air. Already this season he has scored or created two goals with his head, but against Cork he caused more problems in the air as he had a fine headed goal disallowed as well as also forcing McNulty into a number of saves via these means.
- Dan Murray must hate playing against Mark Farren. Farren has left Murray for dead on a number of occasions in the past and throughout this game he broke away from the Cork defence on a number of occasions, and got himself on the scoresheet on 49 minutes as he latched onto an exquisite Barry Molloy pass.
- On both occasions that I have seen Cork City this season (against Shamrock Rovers and Derry City) they sat very deep early in the game. Through doing this they effectively managed to nullify the other teams attack. They are extremely well organised as they line-up with two tight-knit banks of four, and their strategy often sees their two forwards (Vinny Sullivan and Davin O’Neill) drop well into their own halves as they play with 11 men behind the ball at all times.
- Playing like this does give Cork City the opportunity for a quick, concise counter attack. During one of these breaks against Derry, Daryl Horgan smashed a left-footed strike against the Derry City crossbar. Whilst they threatened on a few other occasions, this was as good as it got. With players like Davin O’Neill, Shane O’Connor and Daryl Horgan Cork have the creative nous necessary to cause problems for teams in this league, however they lacked the luck that they needed at crucial points in this game. Cork have been underdogs in both of the games that I have seen them in this season. I would be tactically intrigued to monitor their approach against a team in which they are favourites.
Image courtesy of Margaret McLaughlinPosted in League of Ireland, Performance Analysis | 8 Comments March 21, 2012
Analysing the performances of the three players that played in the full-back positions for Derry City during the Candystripes’ 3-1 win over Linfield provided for a number of intriguing tactical insights. Dermot McCaffrey and Eddie McCallion began the match at left-back and right-back respectively, before Declan Devine substituted McCallion at half-time, moving Simon Madden (who had begun the game at right-midfield) into the right back position.
After analysing the first half performances of McCaffrey and McCallion, I felt that a half time change was obligatory. However I was initially critical of Devine’s decision to substitute McCallion. Rather, I thought he should have replaced Dermot McCaffrey with Patrick McEleney, switching Madden from right-midfield to left-back (as Madden is comfortable with both feet). With the benefit of hindsight, I can admit that I was wrong and Declan Devine made a match-winning and effectively game changing decision (it also contributed to the downfall of Linfield’s wingers).
Madden has been fantastic from right-back so far this season and looking at Linfield’s XI, Damien Curran is liable to being exposed for pace. In addition, there would have been no guarantee that Madden would have been able to replicate his impressive early season form the left-hand side. At the same time, in substituting Eddie McCallion, Devine left a weaker player in McCaffrey, on the pitch. Such a decision was fearless, calculated and admirable.
Devine clearly instructed the full-backs to take up a more advanced position as demonstrated by the fact that Simon Madden only came into possession on three occasions in his own half of the pitch during the second half (see diagram below)
It what was a frantic and scrappy first half, Eddie McCallion showed tenacity and a fierce competitive edge. In the first few minutes of the game, Michael Carvill’s movement looked like it might pose McCallion some problems. It seemed as though McCallion was looking to get tight to him early in Linfield’s attacks. However, as Carvill looked to drop deep at times to pick up possession it posed McCallion a conundrum on whether or not to follow him. McCallion didn’t want to allow Carvill the opportunity to run at him, yet he didn’t want to be caught out of position at the same time. Despite looking threatening in the early stages, Linfield didn’t get the ball to Carvill in wide areas often enough. As a result, McCallion was left with little to worry about in this respect for the rest of the half.
When Derry attacked, McCallion often looked to overlap Simon Madden. Derry struggled to find rhythm in the first half, but McCallion’s attacking enthusiasm was one of the brighter aspects in a dismal first half for Derry City. Furthrmore, McCallion won 100% of the headers and tackles that he contested, including a fantastic challenge on 33 minutes to break up a Linfield counter attack.
However, McCallion will have been disappointed in his part in the Linfield goal. After a poor headed clearance, the ball was knocked back to to Carvill who ghosted inside McCallion before playing a ball through to Lowry who made no mistake from a one-on-one situation with Gerard Doherty.
McCaffrey’s performances since joining Derry City have been worrying. Many aspects of his performance suggest that he is not a natural full-back. He doesn’t look comfortable in possession of the ball, he will never aid in overloading attacks, he rarely makes use of the space ahead of him in general play and when he receives the ball to his feet he rarely opens his body up to bring the left-midfielder into play. Even when Gerard Doherty is in possession of the ball, in the first half especially, McCaffrey never looked to pull out as far as the touchline in order to stretch the play and/or receive the ball from a short pass.
A startling statistic from McCaffrey’s performance from this evening’s first half is that it took until the 25th minute for him to make a successful pass to a man other than Gerard Doherty. He was also beaten continuously in the air by Lowry who experienced much joy on the right hand side during the first half.
There were some positive aspects to McCaffrey’s performance. His throw-ins in the attacking third posed Linfield problems as he put Stephen McLaughlin into good attacking positions on a number of occasions.
McCaffrey’s performance improved in the second half as he adopted a more expansive approach to his game as Derry went in search of an equaliser. In spite of placing himself in more positive, advanced positions, he never really was the outlet that Derry City needed on the left-hand side.
Simply put, Simon Madden move from right-midfield to right-back changed the game for Derry City. At right-back, Madden always looked to be an outlet for Derry City. At the start of the second half, the centre-backs looked to get on the ball more often and were able to work the ball to the central midfielders or to the advanced full-backs.
An interesting statistic from Madden’s second half performance was that for the first 10 minutes of the half, Madden did not come into possession in his own half of the pitch, such was his attacking nature. Madden caused Linfield all sorts of problems from right back as he linked up well with McEleney and Morrison in particular.
On 66 minutes, Madden did well to latch onto pass from Owen Morrison. From an area wide on the right-hand side, Madden was able to find Barry Molloy with a superlative cross, before the Derry City captain headed powerfully past Alan Blayney.
When Derry City went 2-1 ahead, Madden held his position more often so that Derry were never left exposed.
To cap off what was a wonderful 2nd half performance from Madden, Owen Morrison played him through on goal on 93 minutes during a Derry counter attack. Madden made absolutely no mistake as he slotted past Blayney from a tight-angle.League of Ireland, Performance Analysis | 3 Comments March 21, 2012
Yes, to say this game with Derry City was one of two halves is perhaps a tired cliché but the changes in which home manager, Declan Devine, made at the break really did make the difference between both periods as opposing as Emile Heskey’s feet when his brain asks him to shoot.
In the first 45 minutes, Derry were dominated. The Irish League champions had all the possession and all the territory and wingers, Michael Carvill and Philip Lowry were causing the Candystripes defence all sorts of bother – not least when they combined for the first goal of the game. But the change in impact at the restart correlated directly with a poor Linfield second half.
As Derry brought in a new face to the right back slot and the two full backs were instructed to push forward and hold a much higher line (as this post shows), Linfield found that their wide men were penned in their own half for the whole second half and they couldn’t get out to influence the game.
Looking at the difference of how many times Lowry competed for a header was telling. In the first half, 50% of his touches were with his head but he managed to just be there to contest two headers throughout the second 45 minutes. Linfield played very direct and they did so for the entire game, but when Lowry was finding himself on the backfoot, this direct ball to their number 8 wasn’t on and the Blues consequently didn’t have the ‘out’ which they were afforded in the first half.
When the ball was hoisted down the right wing, Philip Lowry was destroying Dermot McCaffrey in the air and this direct ball was paramount to Linfield’s control. But when he was asked to play from deeper, David Jeffrey couldn’t find a plan B and Linfield surrendered far too much possession in the second period.
Moreover, although this type of pass suited Lowry’s considerable presence, it was, at times, hindering the performance of Michael Carvill who, as we all know, can terrorise any full back when he gets the ball at his feet. And when Carvill was used to his potential, he was causing McCallion all sorts of problems and Devine had to make a substitution in this area by half time.
When Carvill gets turned, he is a joy to watch and not much can stop him. And when Linfield were playing balls to his feet, they looked at their most dangerous and this seemingly brought out the best in Lowry as well who made the most of his teammates wizardry by darting across the Derry defence to pick up an inch-perfect through ball from Carvill and apply a terrific finish.
Lowry, unfortunately, only got running at the backline twice as Linfield opted to go from A to B too quickly too often. And, probably frustratingly for the travelling support, when Lowry built up a head of steam, he drove through the heart of the Derry defence twice. Luckily for the home side, this avenue wasn’t explored more often.
Lowry is an extremely positive player who was always looking to keep things moving forward and was proving his team’s most consistent attacking threat. A lot of his forward passes came from headed flick ons – but, in the first half, they were working an absolute treat as City were stuck deep in their own side of the field.
Philip was finding Peter Thompson with the majority of his passes and to do this when there is one striker being deployed is absolutely crucial. His ability to bring his forward into the game and find the ever-advancing Mulgrew as well should not be downplayed. However, as Lowry found the ball at his feet just 6 times in the second half, this attacking threat was wiped and Thompson soon found his number being called to the sidelines.
Carvill, likewise was positive and dangerous and bringing the right playmakers into the game when he himself was brought into the game.
The changes enforced by Declan Devine were absolutely crucial in nullifying the very real threat that Lowry and Carvill were posing. Similarly, Jeffrey’s failure to act and change the system was, in the end, crippling to the Blues’ Setanta hopes as the team failed to use their wide men optimally, and then eventually failed to use them at all.Posted in League of Ireland, Performance Analysis | 1 Comment ← Older posts