Another area where English football lacks behind German, Spanish and Italian football is tactics. This is surely down to inferior coaching. Here is an example:
Because it wouldn’t be an article about compactness if we didn’t have a laugh at the Premier League’s ‘attempts’.
Whether it be a result of a poor-quality of coaching and management, or simply a factor of teams following suit after one-another in a mess of midfield-passivity and high blocks without ball access, the Premier League is notoriously bad in this tactical aspect.
The best way to observe the stark contrast is when an English team takes to the European stage in search of Champions League glory (ha).
In the above situation, Pellegrini’s side display a poor organisation in terms of compactness, which translates into an uncoordinated press. The vertical and horizontal compactness isn’t exactly good, but it’s not bad either – the issue is their spatial compactness. This is the level of compactness within the block and as shown by the red space here, they lack it severely in midfield. Once Rakitic breaks (can you break something which was never correct?) the line of Milner and Silva, he has a great area to drive into.
The poor organisation overall in this scene can be contributed at least somewhat down to the lack of preparation. In the seconds before the diagram there was no effort to prepare the team to press by any player – the most severe case is perhaps amongst the deeper midfield 3 who have made no attempt to close out the space highlighted in red which would’ve made the press at least partially stable.
These factors result in absolutely zero defensive access as Rakitic cannot be put under any decent pressure for a long period of time, at which point he could have already caused damage to the English defence. This, accompanied by spaces in the defensive block through poor spatial compaction, equates to a very threatening situation for City to deal with – one which results in an unmarked Neymar hitting the post from inside the box.
Other aspects such as the incorrect situational man-marking highlight the poor intelligence which is common in English football, most likely a result of the coaching standard and culture.
You can contrast this easily with teams such as Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus however instead of looking at the champions in their respective leagues (just like Man City), we’ll go to Monaco – a team Arsenal expected to walk over.
In stark contrast to City, Monaco defend with a brilliantly organised compact shape. From this, they have benefits which City didn’t possess – such as strong defensive access to the ball (as they’re in a strong position to press with Berbatov suported by Mouthino and Dirar), whilst they control the centre and force the likes of Sanchez drop away from a dangerous area, as shown above. It is noteworthy that second before this diagram, the midfield and forwards made slight adjustments before pressing again, showing a preparation to increase effectiveness.