Thursday, February 21, 2013

Full-back covering.

Dani Alves has recived a lot of (unfair) criticism defensivly this season with his positioning. It's been said that too often he goes to cover and help his center backs and leave his man unmark down the flank. Like the goals vs Granada & AC Milan recently. So is he right doing this or not? For me what he does is clearly right, it's football ABC, but lets analyse these situations.

First of all, I want you too check this video.

This is the basics and footballs ABC.
You can see the basics there how the back 4 or back 3 needs to move collectivly and how close the need to be each other to make it compact. Full backs can't go too far from CB's to mark the wingers because it would leave too big gaps between them to exploit. Only when the ball goes to winger, the full back quickly need to go and mark him, not vice versa, that he first covers the winger and leave the distance between CB's too big.

 As you can see here how Everton conceded because the gap between full back and CB was too big and thus couldn't help the defense to cover and they conceded the first goal because of that. This once again proves that defense need to be compact. Football is the game of spaces - finding them and cover them.

Now lets get to the Milan's second goal where people said it was Dani's fault and his positioning was bad. Lets see the goal first.

Milan did a great pressure to win the ball back from Barca's throw in, that were it all started. Because Alba took the throw in, he was out of the play and Barca had 3 defender in line, Puyol, Pique and Alves and the had 2 players to cover, Puyol took Niang, Pique sweeped and Alves had El Shaarawy. Everything is right at the moment. The problem is that the goalscorer was Muntari who made a deep run from midfield and nobody covered him.

As I said, the problem was in midfield, not defence in this situation.  Defence had it covered, it's 3vs2. But the proble is that Muntari made a deep run into box and it should've been Xavi who had to mark him there.

Dani Alves has only one option here and its to mark El Shaarawy, because he is the closest man to him and he needs to mark him, there is simply no other choice. He did the right thing. If he'd left El Shaarawy and went to mark Muntari he would've left him completely alone to make a shot there but he prevented it.

Here you can see that Dani is covering him well, he prevented El Shaarawy to shoot, but he still manages to make a pass there with individual skill. As I showed easlier, Xavi was closest to Muntari in midfield when the attack started and he didn't cover Muntari, which he should've done.

If Xavi would've covered Muntari's deep run from midfield, he would've been covered and El Shaarawy couldn't found the pass there.  The goal probably wouldn't have stood. As I said easlier, it's the game of spaces. Munatri found the space, whereas Xavi didn't prevent him to find it and didn't cover it. Small thing, but it probably cost the goal.

Now lets take the Granada game and first lets see the goal.

goal granada by allasfcb It all started when Barcelona missed from the other side and Granada build a quick counter attack down the Barca's left flank.

This goal has the same basic problem that the Muntari's goal earlier. Barcelona don't pick up the runners from midfield. Adriano was played out of position with some nice football and granada had a man wide to put a cross inside. But the spare man in midfield, that Busquets didn't pick up, creates a huge mess in the box only with his presence.

Alves has a look over his shoulder to look where Nolito is on the far post, thats his main now to cover in tis situation. Pique and Mascherano takes Ighalo. Busquets had Torje from midfield but the didn't cover him.

Now that Torje made a run inside the box, somebody had to cover him. Alves makes couple of steps inside, he leaves Nolito behind him to cover Torje, because he is more dangerous now because he is closer to the goal.
Now here Alves closed the gap between CB's he left Nolito open on the far post. In this situation in was still the right thing to do because he had to cover Torje, beause Busquets left him free there. The cross goes over his head, Although Nolito is in tough angle there, he still manages to put the cross in front of goal for Ighalo to head in.

Perhaps Mascherano should've done here better to cover Ighalo and prevent him scroing.

What Barcelona could've done here is that Busquets had to be between Pique and Alves. First to close the gap between then and second to cover Torje, then Alves would've had Nolito, who was his pririty, but then later had to come inside to cover Torje. Then Alves would've probably prevent the goal, at least the free cross inside. Once again, it's really easy to blame Dani Alves firstly in these situations but in a longer look you can clearly see what he does and thinks there. And he does everything right. Just the support from midfield has been poor. (Xavi in Muntari's goal and Busquets in Ighalo's goal)

I'm gonna show you now the other side of the coin. The last minute of Granada's game when Barcelona were an immense pressure and had to defend very deep. This shows you how important for a full back is to be close to CB, make defence compact and leave the space open.

Have a close look on Alves in these last minutes. When the ball is on the other side, he always come deep to help CB's. He leaves the wide man and when Granada plays the ball to him, this is when Alves makes a run towards him to close him down. He prevents 3 goalscoring opportunites with his movemtns, to close the gap between CB's and leave in open in the flanks. If he would've gone to cover the wide man in the last attack, Granada would've scored there, but he did the right thing and stayed inside there, he read the game so well and saved his team in these last minutes. I don't quite know why people don't rate him as a defender, he is a top class defender who can defend in every third of the pitch, something that only a handful of defenders can do in the world.

Alves granada last minutes by allasfcb


  1. This is just absolutely fantastic. Brilliant analysis. Just absolutely brilliant, that's all I can say. Keep it up!

  2. Good one Allas.

    I was thinking yesterday that, earlier we used to be so compact, very litle space between the defenders, mfielders and the forwards. That is not the case now. This is not helping us and of course helping the opposition.

  3. "he is a top class defender who can't defend in every third of the pitch, something that only a handful of defenders can do in the world."

    I completely disagree! Mainly because I think you meant to write can and not can't because then it would be completely against your whole thesis. "...who CAN defend in every..."

    1. Thanks for noticing this 'little' mistake. Thank God theres somebody who actyally still reads those articles with full attention : )


  4. Thank you for this very insightful article! :)

  5. Xavi and Iniesta are our best defenders with the ball, but a very big leak without the ball. I think that is why Del Bosque plays with Busquets and Alonso. When we lose a ball in the middle, is almost always a chance to score for the other team, as we usually have a wing back out of position (attacking) and only Busquets runs back. That's the way Chelsea, Madrid and Milan has killed us lately.

    We can't have it all, but maybe in this important matches we should be more careful behind, more solid defensively. We don't need to go to Milan and win 0-3. 0-1 or even 1-1 is a very good result. I'm not saying to play with Busquets and Song, but maybe Cesc could play more close to Busquets, and cover Xavi-Iniesta's back. And Alves and Alba more focused on defense than on attack. Plus, I miss Abidal so much.

  6. Great article, thanks. I've been criticizing Dani Alves a lot because of this. I now realize it may be at least partly unfounded.

    But still, check out for example Real Sociedad's 1-2 goal ( at 2:50). What do you think about the defenders' positioning here? And this pattern has repeated A LOT, some opposition attackers just haven't been skillful enough to exploit it.

    1. No, that's not Alves error, he is covering Carlos Vela, because Piqué and Puyol are out of place. Vela could turn around and shout, without opposition from a Barcelona's defender... Alves, again, was covering their teammates...

    2. It's not Dani Alves mistake. It's Puyol's. Because Puyol was not covering anyone, Pique as usual playing the sweeper, Dani had to cover the Puyol's man. So that in the center of the defense it's always 2 vs 1 or 3 vs 2. In this case Dani Alves + Pique against the attacker playing in the center, but the left winger was left alone. The only thing you can complain about is that Dani Alves didn't run towards the winger fast enough, lacking a bit of reactivity. But strategically speaking, he's doing the job.