Adelaide United attempt to play out past Newcastle Jets’ pressing

Adelaide played out an entertaining draw with Newcastle Jets in the second round of the new A-League season.

Adelaide played out an entertaining draw with Newcastle Jets in the second round of the new A-League season. An intriguing feature of the game was the battle between Adelaide’s build up, and Newcastle’s pressing.

Adelaide were keen to try and play out from deep positions, with the back four and goalkeeper Paul Izzo moving the ball patiently across the back third. It seemed they wanted to draw the Jets up the pitch, and try to create space in behind Newcastle’s back four for the speedy front three to run into.

The Jets did press, with the front four moving high and close to their direct opponents. Central midfielders Matthew Ridenton and Steven Ugarkovic moved forward, going man to man on Vince Lia and Isaias. The Jets back four stayed in shape, meaning Adelaide’s no.10, Ken Ilso, was sometimes free at the back of the Jets midfield. Although Isaias was shown on TV gesturing to Izzo to chip passes to Ilso, the free player, the goalkeeper was obviously not keen to attempt these balls.

General positions when Adelaide when playing out from the back. The free player was Ken Ilso, Adelaide’s 10, as the Jets centre-backs did not step forward to pick him up

Rather, as the Jets were making it difficult for Adelaide to play forward passes from deep positions, Izzo was often forced to play long, hopeful balls towards the front three. Ben Halloran, as the commentators noted, was not ideal for contesting these long balls and struggled in the air against the Jets strong centre-back duo of Nigel Boogaard and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Why this tactical battle was particularly intriguing, however, was because on the few occasions when Adelaide did win one of these long balls, they were able to cause the Jets problems. One such moment was when Goodwin flicked it down to Ken Ilso, who drove powerfully into space and shot along the ground across the face of goal.

Boogaard and Topor-Stanley knew there was danger when Adelaide attackers got free in front or behind the last line – Boogaard’s yellow card for a cynical grab from behind summed up their desire to stop these attacks, however possible.

The goals in this game did not originate from this tactical battle, but it did affect the flow of the game. The Jets were able to control much of the first half in Adelaide’s half of the pitch, and looked most dangerous in attack when counter-attacking quickly from winning the ball high, as they did for Vargas’s well-taken opener.

Adelaide got back in the game quickly. After going behind, coach Marco Kurz immediately brought on George Blackwood, moving Halloran to the right. The key, though, was the purposeful overlapping of Michael Marrone from full-back. He constantly burst energetically beyond the half-hearted tracking of Jets left-winger Jair, and after a few warning crosses, eventually swung in a fine delivery for Craig Goodwin’s cracking header.

Adelaide goal v Newcastle

Even the substitution of Mitch Austin on for Jair didn’t stop Marrone’s influence, as he whipped the cross in that lead to the on-field scuffle after Glen Moss took out Blackwood.

For Adelaide, the key tactical takeaway is learning how to play through high pressure more effectively, possibly by Izzo learning how to find the free player in midfield if the opponent goes man-to-man (and the centre-backs don’t step forward to pick up the free player).

Newcastle, meanwhile, will be pleased with how they were able to force Adelaide to play long, direct balls. They may now look to create traps when pressing to try and win the ball in the front third more regularly – so rather than the opposition playing long, they are ‘invited’ to play dangerous short passes from which the Jets can win the ball and counter more quickly and more regularly. 

By Tim Palmer

Tim is a football coach, writer, analyst and sports scientist. He is currently Assistant Technical Director, Head of Player Development & Video and a coach at NWSF Spirit, as well as working with the Pararoos. Previously, he has worked as an analyst with the Socceroos, and in the A-League.

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