Wilder wins the tactical battle at Brighton

Brighton (0) vs Sheffield Utd (1) review, 21-12-19

This was a game of two halves in a tactical sense.

In the first half Brighton expected to play Potter-ball. IE, passing their way up the pitch, with Gross and Trossard as key creators and Maupay a focus for them in our danger area.

That didn’t happen, though.

The Blades took the game to the Seagulls, pressing high when the opportunity arose, and creating chances. Out of possession we often let their CBs have the ball.

Mid block . . . 
The result was an overload in our favour in front of that, from their final 1/3 towards our goal. Often three Brighton CB were trying to pass the ball to seven of their players while 10 of ours marked them or blocked passing lanes.

In effect we clogged up the middle of the pitch and Brighton sent the ball long to bypass the midfield numerous times, to little effect.

You can see that here in the first half passmap for Brighton.


Half time substitutions are not common but Potter made two, taking off Trossard and Gross and replacing them with big frontman Murray and little pacy frontman Connolly.

It felt to this writer like Potter was saying, “We can’t get the ball up the pitch by playing football so we’re going to have to launch it.”

. . . Low block
But, the Blades, a goal to the good, sat back and absorbed it and let Brighton pass it around outside our final third and dealt with anything that came in.

You can see that in the passmap below. And also where Brighton’s subs played (the squares; the top and right ones are Murray and Connolly)


The chart below shows a timeline of passes bucketed into 10 minute periods and clearly shows when we let them have the ball more.


The PPDA (opponent passes per defensive action) chart also shows how we pressed in limited periods, mostly around the start of the halves. McBurnie’s goal came during a period (23 min) in which Blades’ pressure was low, and was in fact assisted by Henderson’s ball from inside his 6yd box.

PPDA needs to be seen as simply showing what happened. Whether a team pressed a lot and allowed fewer passes to the opposition is only a good thing if that’s what they want during part of a game. There are going to be periods for some teams where they want the other side to have the ball, however, and it’s probably fair to say that’s the case for Sheffield United for chunks of the 90 minutes on Saturday.



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