Moving away from the usual style of Leopold Method’s post-match analyses, we are going to specifically look at how the Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets both changed their formations in the second half and what the consequences of such changes were.
The match began with Central Coast utilising their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Their style has been discussed at length, and there have been slight changes – with Storm Roux and Marcos Flores fitting nicely into an effective and efficient, well-drilled system. Newcastle again played with a 4-3-3 formation, with Kantarovski playing at the base of the midfield trio. As previously mentioned, when two teams go up against each other in a 4-2-3-1 vs 4-3-3 battle, the outcome can be fascinating. As shown below, the two formations matched up nicely:
But of course, formations are not static. One of Central Coast’s key weapons is the fluidity of their wide forwards – in this match, Nick Fitzgerald and Michael McGlinchey – who look to move inside to open up space for the overlapping fullbacks.
“In the first half, McGlinchey was coming right in, but we looked to go inside with Neville and when we did that then we were able to close the game down a little bit better and obviously [Hoole] was running with [Rose] on the right hand side.”
- Gary van Egmond
“Neville was tracking McGlinchey inside the whole time and Hoole was ending up at right back”
- Graham Arnold
As both managers duly pointed out post-match, Newcastle Jets’ fullbacks effectively man-marked both wide forwards, making it difficult for them to make an impact in attacking areas. In order to nullify the fullbacks of Central Coast, Nathan Burns and Andrew Hoole covered great distances to track their forward bursts.
Central Coast’s Second Half Changes
After conceding two goals – one from a rehearsed free kick (albeit a fortunate one) and one from a goalkeeping error (although credit must go to Adam Taggart for his enthusiastic pressing) – Graham Arnold made two substitutions which brought the game to life in a tactical sense. Nick Montgomery, and the ineffective Fitzgeral made way for Matt Simon and Mile Sterjovski, and Central Coast moved to a 4-4-2 diamond, a formation which they used during Arnold’s first season in charge. Had Newcastle and Gary van Egmond not reacted to the switch to a 4-4-2 diamond, the previously matched up shapes would have looked like as below:
- Central Coast would be able to maintain a 2 v 1 numerical advantage in the centre of defence
- Central Coast’s four-man midfield would allow them to have more numbers in midfield
- Had Newcastle’s fullbacks continued to step forward to mark the wide players of the Mariners, they would have been left with a 2 v 2 battle at the back – a dangerous proposition when playing against two physical strikers in Mitchell Duke and Matt Simon.
Graham Arnold made his move in the 58th minute, almost immediately after going down 2-nil. Gary van Egmond responded shortly after. Van Egmond looked to move to a 3-4-3 formation, which like the 4-3-3 vs 4-2-3-1 battle, matched up with Central Coast’s 4-4-2 diamond.
Theoretically, the switch allowed Newcastle to again maintain one extra man in the centre of defence, whilst also matching up in 1-v-1 battles elsewhere on the pitch. However, van Egmond’s changes resulted in a spell of confusion, during which, Central Coast pulled one goal back. Below is a video taking a look at the confusion.
“We won all one-on-one-situations, that’s why we won the match.”
- Sir Alex Ferguson
In modern football, almost always, the team that wins the most one-on-one situations in key areas (final third, both defensively and offensively) wins the match, and this was a key factor in Central Coast’s revival. Newcastle’s tactic, both in the 4-3-3 and 3-4-3, revolved around matching up against Central Coast’s players. Bar in central defence, every player had a direct opponent and a clear defensive role which required them to get the better of their opponent (e.g. Scott Neville vs. Michael McGlinchey). However, both goals conceded were as a result of Central Coast players winning out in the 1-v-1 battles against their opponents. Confusion at the change to three at the back, and an injury to Kew Jaliens were also contributory factors.
The F3 Derby, whilst perhaps lacking the technical quality of other matches, was an interesting tactical battle. Both teams switched formations, Central Coast in search of more attacking penetration and Newcastle in response to Central Coast’s changes. It was also a nice change to hear both coaches, as opposed to discussing contentious decisions and other talking points, discuss the tactical changes in their post-match interviews with Fox Sports.
“I always practice a ‘plan b’ at training, in case ['plan a'] is not working”
- Graham Arnold
“In the second half we moved to a 3-4-3 and we were very comfortable”
- Gary van Egmond
Newcastle finally scored a goal, but perhaps their reactive play resulted in Central Coast’s resurgence. Whilst the changes were made to match up against Central Coast, two slight lapses resulted in goals – such is the problem with creating a match tactic based on 1-v-1 battles against one of (if not) the best teams in the league.
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