December 29, 2020In Interdisciplinari11 Minutes

In our official path we will analyze tactical aspects of the various moments of the game, in depth, also taking into account the preferential solutions that will be adopted by the top division teams to impose their own game or to address common problems within a championship .

At the same time, however, we will focus on small situations that from week to week can represent interesting ideas to take into consideration. In this case we will see 2 strategic measures that led Manchester United to goals twice in one week.

The peculiarity of these 2 goals is that they start from an offensive throw-in situation, a situation which in general is not always trained with particular abundance and which, numbers in hand, does not bring great advantages in terms of goals or opportunities created .

Reviewing some data, published by Luigi Nocentini in his book “Throw-in and Kick-Off”, we realize that from this restart situation only 2% of the time a dangerous situation is created and only in 0.50 % you score.

Why train them then? First of all, because the results are probably also the result of not exactly particular care in this situation.

I always like to remember that numbers don’t lie but they don’t say everything either and should only represent a support to better analyze the context. A goal in a decisive match or in a particular moment could certainly be worth all the attention needed to improve this fundamental.

As Clive Woodward, coach of the English national rugby team, writes in his book Winning!:

success can be attributed to how well a team worked together under pressure, how they understood the importance of teamwork and loyalty, and how determined they were to do a hundred things just 1% better

There are several coaches who pay particular attention to this moment of the game. We obviously remember here in Italy the numerous solutions experimented by Maurizio Sarri and then taken up by many other coaches.

In England there is also a very particular case, that of Liverpool, which for some years has made use of a real specialist in the sector. His name is Thomas Gronnemark and his role is precisely to improve the effectiveness of Klopp’s players both in strictly technical terms, i.e. improving the throw range for example, and in strategic terms.

During his career he held this role with teams such as Midtjylland and Brentford, 2 teams linked by common management and which in recent years have been at the forefront when it comes to data analysis.

In a match, an average of 40 lateral fouls are beaten and we go from a success rate of around 70%, understood as maintaining possession after the kick, for teams like Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, to only 50% efficiency for teams like Southampton who however have in the DNA of their coach Ralph Hassenhutt, the recovery of the second ball as one of the key principles of the game.

Gronnemark divides lateral fouls not only by serving area, but also by type.

The 3 categories are:

  • Length (for those over 20 meters)
  • Speed
  • Intelligence

Also in this case in the English championship the teams differ greatly in their choices. For example, Fulham uses the long game almost 40% of the time while Bielsa’s Leeds just over 10%.

What we are going to see are 2 goals that certainly belong to the “clever” category and which are the result of very specific strategic adaptations, especially the one scored against Leeds.


Goal vs Leicester

However, let’s start from the one against Leicester during the boxing day match which gave the red devils the lead after just over twenty minutes.


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This is the classic arrangement that Solskjaer’s team adopts in throw-ins in the offensive zone. In figure 1 we see 2 players, #9 Martial with a black trajectory and #21 James with a red trajectory, who position themselves staggered near the ball and perform opposite movements.

Fig. 1 Initial setup vs Leicester
Fig. 1 Initial disposition

Of fundamental importance is the role played by McTominay (39), and in other matches by Pogba, marked by the yellow circle. He is a support player who however has the task of attracting an opponent towards him and freeing the space in which one of one’s companions will then have to receive, directly or indirectly.

In this case, in fact, Lindelof does not serve James directly with his hands but plays on the feet of Martial who returns the ball to him.

At this point McTominay, statically, and Martial, dynamically, attract 4 opposing players allowing Lindelof to play for James in a very interesting space close to the penalty area.

Fig.2 Double exchange with block and ball for James in space


Our attention shifts to the 2 players in the area who up until now have only been waiting for the action to develop. As James receives the ball, however, Bruno Fernandes (18) breaks away from the area of the penalty spot guarded by the opponents and moves back outside the area to provide a solution to his teammate who, by aiming for the area, is attracting the attention of several Leicester players.

Fig. 3 Clearance Bruno Fernandes


James serves the ball to his teammate who, in a slight counter-time, in a split, manages to find a space between the 2 opposing defenders in the area and directly serve Rashford (10) who had been careful to pull back a little ‘ out to support the rise of the Leicester defense and not end up directly out of play.

Fig. 4 Assist Bruno Fernandes

It will be normal for him to beat the innocent Schmeichel in what may seem like a moving penalty.

Fig. 5 Rashford Goals


Goal vs Leeds

The management and alteration of spaces is also at the center of the other goal we are examining, that is, the one against Leeds in the match on 20 December. Compared to usual, however, some changes have been made, not usually found, probably linked to the all-round man-man attitude that Bielsa’s players adopt in the defensive phase.

For this reason, instead of 2 men, it was decided to bring 3 into the ball area and have them alternate receiving with continuous rotations.

Fig. 6 Initial disposition vs Leeds


Even if with a different alignment we recognize the same idea already seen in the previous situation. There are always players in movement (coordinated and opposed) who want to receive, there is always a support player very far away who attracts an opponent and there is always an area that wants to be freed.

The one to benefit from all this will be McTominay, highlighted in figure 7 by the red light, who will recognize the opportunity to fit into the space created.

While 2 teammates head towards Shaw (23) who is serving and one towards the corner flag, Martial takes advantage of the hole that has been created to attack the space near the edge of the penalty area.

Fig.7 Martial clearing


It is precisely at this point that McTominay starts his run realizing that he can exploit his teammate’s technical skills in a more than favorable situation.

Martial in fact, as well as tamingthe ball attracts 2 players from Bielsa’s rearguard and invites his teammate to slip beyond the defensive line.

Here too we can see how James, marked yellow, prefers to remain distant from the action. However, his position serves to attract a Leeds defender who will therefore be too late following the foul.

Fig.8 McTominay insertion


In fact, in the last image we notice how all the defenders cannot do much when the United midfielder, receiving the ball, finds himself alone in front of the goalkeeper.

Fig.9 McTominay Goal


Two goals in one week are certainly out of statistics but they highlight the care taken in a situation that is very often left to chance. We’ll see if in the rest of the championship Solskjaer’s men will be able to gain further points from this moment of play.



December 29, 2020In Interdisciplinari11 Minutes