In the opening matches of the 2020 J1 League season, prior to the suspension of play, neither Yokohama FC nor Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo were able to pick up three points.
Takahiro Shimotaira’s Fulie side fared the better of the two, though, as they drew 1-1 with Vissel Kobe. Mihailo Petrović’s Consa suffered a disappointing 4-2 defeat at the hands of Kashiwa Reysol.
So, it seems likely that both managers would have had high hopes of three points going into the clash.
However, it was Consadole Sapporo that were able to pick up a win away from home with a 2-1 victory over the hosts.
This tactical analysis will highlight key tactics which were used by both sides in the match and use analysis to explain how they resulted in the match’s outcome.
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Shimotaira lined the hosts up in a 5-3-2 starting formation with the two wide defenders playing as wing-backs. In the midfield three, Kensuke Sato played slightly deeper than the other two as he performed a pivot role – which will be discussed later in this piece. In the latter stages of the game when Fulie were a goal down, the 5-3-2 was ditched for a 3-4-3 formation.
In the away dugout, Petrović opted for a 3-4-3 starting formation with emphasis on their wing play – which will also be discussed later in this piece. After Consadole bagged their second goal of the game to put themselves back in front, the 3-4-3 formation was ditched for a more defensive 5-4-1 system.
The pivotal pivot
While Shimotaira will doubtlessly be disappointed that Yokohama FC fell to a 2-1 defeat at the NHK Spring Mitsuzawa Football Stadium, a source of some consolation may have been the imperious performance of Sato in the pivot role. While his side was ultimately defeated, the midfielder performed his role admirably and was vital in both his defensive play and building attacks from the back.
As can be seen here, the Japanese middleman has dropped much deeper than the other two central midfielders – Tatsuki Seko and Takuya Matsuura – to perform one of the main roles of a pivot. Yokohama looked to play out of the back where possible, which partly led to the team completing 531 passes in the match, far more than Consadole’s 380 passes. Sato aided this by dropping deep to support the defence and pick up possession, as can be seen here.
As can be seen in Yokohama FC’s passing map for the match, Sato (8) was essentially the central figure to the side’s passing play and this is evidence of how vital he was in building attacks. The midfielder completed a whopping 100 passes during the match, which he had done so with 93% accuracy. Not only that, but Sato also won 86% of his defensive duels (6/7), which is a further example of his key role for Fulie.
Losing in defence what they gained in attack
Having deployed 5-3-2 formation with wing-backs, Shimotaira charged his wide defenders with getting as high up the pitch and as wide as possible when his side was in possession. While this gave Yokohama FC added strength in attack, it also left the three centre-backs liable to a counterattack, which is something which the away side recognised and looked to exploit – which was essentially where the match was won and lost.
As can be seen here, when Fulie were out of possession, their defensive line of five had a solid look about it as both wing-backs – Maguinho and Takaaki Shichi – would be deep and cover the wider areas of the pitch. However, when the side were in possession the wing-backs would be much more offensive.
As can be seen here, with possession just lost to Consadole, the wing-backs are still high up the pitch and wide. The positive of this tactic was that with the narrow midfield three and front two, the wing-backs would provide width and make the pitch big. However, this transpired to be detrimental for the home side as they were twice caught out by a counterattack.
Stretching the back three
As mentioned, Petrović recognised this weakness in the home side’s formation and one way which he looked to exploit it was through their wing play. When countering the two wingers in the 3-4-3 formation – Chanathip Songkrasin and Musashi Suzuki – would look to get wide and stretch the three centre-backs as much as possible.
As can be seen in this annotation early in the first half, with the away side breaking on a counterattack, the two wingers look to keep as much width as possible to stretch the three isolated central defenders. This would then give the central striker – Jay Bothroyd – more room to operate in. At this point in the game, Consa had already used this tactic to impressive effect.
Here, within the first few minutes of the game, Consadole made their intentions clear as their wingers stay wide and look to cause the central three defenders problems. In this instance, the ball is played out to Songkrasin on the left-hand side and he dribbled with the ball into the box. This then dragged the right-sided centre-back across and shifts the back three to the right. Suzuki then comes in from the right-wing and is afforded enough space to open the scoring after the ball is played across to him.
Consadole’s piercing play
Alongside making the pitch as wide as possible to stretch the central three defenders on the counterattack, Petrović’s forwards also looked to play through balls where possible to split the defence open and give their forwards a clear run at goal. This is how Consa bagged their second goal of the match and ultimately the three points.
Here, Consadole again let their attacking intentions be known early on as when the opportunity arose, the side attempts to set an attacker through on goal with a through ball. During their 2-1 victory, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo attempted a whopping 17 through balls, which dwarfs the six which were attempted by the home side.
Seconds on from this annotation, the away side claimed their second of the game and with it sealed the three points after seeing the game out by switching to a 5-4-1 system. Here, with the large gap having opened up in the defence between the left-sided centre-back and the left wing-back, a through ball splits the gap and Suzuki has a clear run at goal before he fires low, past the ‘keeper to seal the win.
While it could be argued that the home side certainly had the best of the game and could have perhaps deserved more, it was their transition between their in possession structure to their out of possession one which badly let them down as the away side looked to exploit and expose the central defenders.
Had the wide defenders perhaps used more caution, the defeat may have been avoidable. It will certainly be one for Shimotaira to think about before Yokohama FC’s next outing.
This tactical analysis has dissected key tactics from Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 2-1 victory over Yokohama FC and analysis has been used to highlight how those tactics impacted the result of the match.