January 14, 2021In Uncategorized14 Minutes

In this new little analysis we abandon the “stopped ball” situations to see how Schimdt’s PSV managed to score twice against league leaders Ajax coached by Ten Hag, in the top 10 clash January finished 2-2.


Before seeing the goals, however, let’s try to give a bit of context. First of all, it is well known that the clash between these 2 teams is very heartfelt and very important for the rankings. Often the outcome of these matches has determined the victory of the Eredivisie and this year too the 2 teams are battling it out.

Roger Schimdt is at the helm of PSV for the first year, a coach who I have personally always appreciated at least since my days at Salzburg. In general I have a certain predilection for those who have spent part of their career within Red Bull teams such as Salzburg or Leipzig.

We remember among others in Europe Ralph Hasenhuttl with his Southampton revelation in the premier league, Thomas Letsch at the helm of Vitesse who is close to the top 2 in the standings and Marco Rose with Monchengladbach who we also met in the Champions League clashes against Inter.

Returning to Schimdt. His teams are characterized by a strong search for verticality in moments of ball possession and a frantic search for immediate recovery in moments in which the opponents have the ball.

This season the players position themselves in the attack phase with a formation that we could define as a 4-2-2-2 or perhaps even better with a 2-4-2-2 with the 2 full backs they rise on the line of the midfielders and the 2 attacking wingers who centralize and position themselves behind the 2 advanced references. A system already presented in the past, especially in Leverkusen and which Schimdt usually alternates with a 4-3-1-2.

Among the micro-structures that form, we observe in more depth the quadrilateral of offensive players. The numerical superiority in close quarters that is created favors a collaboration made up of quick combinations with two or three players which, as we will see, are effective both in the finishing phase and in the implementation phase.


Fig.1 Field layout

The point however that we find in the 2 goals is the use of a tactical expedient which is conventionally called “third man”. This is, in a simplistic way, a game involving 3 players:

  • The holder of the ball
  • The direct receiver
  • The indirect receiver or third man

Fundamental for the success of the 3-player game is that each player is aware of their role.

The owner must know that the free man i.e. the main beneficiary of the play is a player who he cannot reach directly with his pass.

For this reason he uses a second player, also aware of his role, who has the function of “intermediary”. This role is normally carried out with a play of first intention or at least very quickly so that the third man does not lose the acquired space-time advantage.

In several of his countless conferences, which can be found on the web, Marcelo Bielsa explains the effectiveness of this tool.

“El loco” claims that it is the ball that “informs”. The 21 players not in possession of the ball will always take the position of the ball as a reference and will try to anticipate one of the possible plays. The owner’s teammates will do it and the opponents will do it regardless of whether their reference is the zone or the opponent.

What makes the play with the third man special is that there is a player who will move based on a pass that doesn’t yet exist. He will free himself to receive a pass from a position where the ball has not yet arrived. It is “moving into the future”. This will undoubtedly give him quite the advantage over his opponents who cannot always move on the intention.

As Xavi said: the third man is indefendible.

There are various ways of declining the third man and the ones that interest us in this case are the “vertical” and “dynamic” ones, that is, those in which the third man:

  • will receive a ball to attack the depth (either directly with a ball above the opponents’ line or with a ball on the feet on the opponents’ line who will be overcome by the linerunning ception)
  • will receive the ball on the run


I’ve already gone on too long. Let’s go and see the goals

Minute 2, Zahavi

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The action starts from a recycling of the ball after a lateral foul on the right side of the attacking front near the penalty area. Not finding space, the PSV players opted to return to their central pair positioned in the attacking half of the field.

The attacking players, who until that movement had overloaded the ball area, begin to resume their positions, leaving the central corridor more free.

Fig.2 Action starting again

At this point the attack front is occupied by 6 players: the 2 external defenders who are still very tall, the 2 attacking wingers who are in the half spaces and the 2 most advanced players who are about to switch positions

All these conditions open up the possibilities for the central defender to push the ball into the gap created in the first line of pressure and to play a strong ball vertically onto Malen’s feet.


Fig.3 The vertical ball for the direct receiver

In figure 4 we pay more attention to Zahavi, the player “projected into the future”. Ajax’s number 7, a few moments before the ball reaches his teammate, has already changed his posture and is ready to move away for the future pass. As previously mentioned, this is precisely the strength of the third man. The 2 central defenders are still with their gaze and body towards the ball while the 2 external defenders are now too far away to provide adequate coverage.

Fig.4 The passage to the third man

In the fifth image we unfortunately lose the technical magic of Malen who with an effective first touch overcomes the opposition of the opposing central pair. However, we can see the result very well and it is that of having eliminated the entire last line of pressure from the opponents and having sent a teammate straight into the goal.

Fig. 5 Malen’s touch bypasses the opposing defense

At this point Zahavi can’t help but give his team the lead after less than 2 minutes of play.


Fig. 6 Zahavi’s first goal

21st minute, Zahavi, 2-0

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For the second goal we take it a little further away to appreciate not only the play that we wanted to highlight but also other characteristics of PSV that we have already anticipated.

This time the action starts from a recovery that Schimdt’s men obtain after provoking the opposing team’s choices. In this image we see how the 6 most advanced players create a fairly compact central block and induce the opponents not to choose to reach with a pass the 2 teammates who we have highlighted are inside but to move the maneuver towards the outside .

Fig.7 The central block of the PSV

Following this dissuasive maneuver, the trigger that starts the pressure is the pass towards the advanced player (Antony) who receives from behind near the lateral foul line.

The Ajax talent is immediately surrounded by 4 players who restrict the field and do not allow him to find individual solutionsiduals or to get help from his teammates, effectively forcing him to surrender and consequently lose the ball.

Fig.8 Antony surrounded by opposing pressure

Once we have recovered the ball we see how the closest players immediately take action to look for depth, in particular a player further out and Malen who will now become our third man. In fact, the attacker knows that he is too close to his teammate with the ball and that therefore in that position his usefulness will be limited, he therefore decides to immediately attack the space in front of him to exploit the moment of disorder following the loss of the opposing rearguard. < /P>

Zahavi, on the other hand, in a more advanced position, does not have the same posture as his teammate because after realizing that he will not be able to directly receive the ball in depth, he is transforming into the second man.

Fig.9 The attack of space on ball recovery

We therefore return to the situation of the previous goal but with reversed roles. In fact, it is Zahavi who attracts the attention of the last defender who tries to intervene when the attacker is about to receive the ball. This however, again with a first touch, overcomes the entire Ajax defensive line and projects Malen towards the goal.

Fig.10 The passage to the third man

Compared to before, however, we find an additional variant in conclusion present in many of the almost 60 goals scored in all competitions this year: the backward pass from the half space.

Malen, reached by his opponents, passes the ball back, effectively closing a long one-two with his teammate, again to the benefit of Zahavi who at this point scores a penalty on the move.

Another typical play from the Dutch team that perhaps we will analyze in more detail another time.

Fig. 11 The passage for the companion “in tow”

Fig.12 Zahavi’s 2-0

This season PSV hasn’t scored many times in this way and hasn’t particularly looked for this tight play between the central players either. The reason is mainly to be found in the type of matches played. In the championship the Dutch team often finds itself having to face low blocks in which the combination, however rapid, struggles to be practiced.

For the same reason, solutions such as the direct attack are preferred, when the opponents find themselves unprepared, the cross or the shot from outside the area.

However, in Europa League matches, therefore in different types of matches with opponents of different value, we find these solutions. Proof of this, for example, is the goal against Paok in Thessaloniki or the incredible missed goal opportunity against Granada.

Fig.13 Goal opportunity against Granada

Fig.14 Goal against Paok











January 14, 2021In Uncategorized14 Minutes