When Penny entered the conference room, she was pushing a little cart with fruits, water and coffee on it. She saw that Max, her dedicated game analyst was already there. “Hey, minimax!” The man smiled.
“Hey, Penny! You brought something to eat I see!”
“Yeah… The breakfast just wasn’t enough today… Feel like I’m pregnant again!” He laughed.
Max Gunn and Penny Stiles knew each other for thirteen years now. He accepted to join her analysts’ team when she was with Aston Villa. She was already breaking everything over there when he arrived. Even today, he still regretted not having picked up the phone when she called the first time … Since then, after Villa, he followed her to the Three Lions and was now with her at Arsenal. He got up and started to put the fruits and coffee pot on the table while Penny was getting her stuff out of her bag for the meeting. It’s exactly when he started pouring the coffee in the cups that Jon Stead, Penny’s Assistant Manager, arrived.
“Damn! Max is the maid again!” Penny laughed and the target of the quip showed Jon a middle finger.
As opposed to Max, Jon Stead accepted the call when Penny arrived at Villa, over fifteen years ago. As he said many times over the years, it was the best move he ever did! With her, he developed a relationship that was considered, by many, to be one of the most prolific duos in English football!
Today, it was the regular pre-game meeting between those three people for the second leg of the most important derby of Arsenal: Spurs was coming to Emirates in six days!
“So Max, does Spurs know anything but a 4-2-3-1 with inside forwards on both sides?” asked Penny, to open up the meeting. She never was someone who liked to beat around bushes when ploughing into them was a viable option.
“Nope boss! Not now, not ever. In the last ten games, they played the same formation every time. Tactically, the only difference comes in when they put their main playmaker in an AMC position instead of putting him in midfield. Since Daniel Aliyu is injured and shouldn’t be available for the match, the playmaker should be Josh Potts, as an AMC. The rest of the squad is healthy so they should put their main XI on the pitch, minus Aliyu of course.”
“Who do you think will take his place?” asked Jon. “Hewson?”
Max nodded. “That’s their usual fallback position. Dom Hewson is a very solid box-to-box and he plays well in defence.”
Penny was scribbling notes. “He’s the great bull of a tackler that has the monster acceleration… right?”
“Yes…” answered Max. “In the last ten games, he averaged 4.5 tackles per game with a success rate of 100%. The thing with him though is that he is often out of position when they are on the attack for more than forty seconds. He tends to go into the box, becoming a great crossing target.” He changed the slide on the secondary telly. “As you can see here, when in long possession in the opponent’s territory, Hewson usually comes very very high. This creates some space where an overload could be possible on a counter but since they always have someone staying deep in midfield, space is not that big in the middle. Usually, they will use Jonathan Watts as a left-back and he will routinely come and help to fill the space, like an inverted fullback. He’s fast but very small. The impact is somewhat limited though since Hewson usually is on the right side of their formation but there still is someone in midfield for early defensive transitions.” He put another sequence on the telly.
“As you can see in that sequence, you can see Hewson go upfront, to put pressure in the box, and see Watts sliding, roughly, in his spot…”, said the analyst as he was showing a game sequence on the main telly. “I have about fifty of those… The point is that since they usually play the overload on their right flank, especially with Shigeyishy Sawada as a right wingback, they’ll tend to leave space for counters beyond the midfield line.” He showed another sequence. “As you can see here when Sawada goes high, the central defenders spread a little to cover more space but they can’t cover everything being only two at the back because Watts has to slip in midfield…” Penny and Jon were scribbling notes.
“Their main trusts usually are on their right flank you said… They tend to stay there too?” asked Penny.
“Yes but usually in the half-space. They tend to stay confined on their right flank because this is their strong side, especially on passing and crossing; most are mainly right-footed, if not exclusively right-footed like Hewson. Their right interior forward, Jason Chambers, is a natural righty that can play ok from his left.” Max typed in some commands on his laptop and another sequence appeared. “You can see here, the Interior forward. He usually cuts very early in the half-space, leaving the right corridor open for Sawata. Potts, who is exclusively right-footed, will often make short lateral passes with Chambers, waiting to see if space will be created by the others.”
“Gary Price, as a striker, is mainly a poacher anyway… but he is very mobile!” added Jon.
“Yep!” Max said as he brought a stats screen on the secondary telly. “But he has difficulties with his first touch. This often leads to lost balls inside the box. I think that’s why Hewson tends to go so high in the box at times. I can show you tons of sequences where a battle for the ball ensues inside the box because of that deficient first touch. Hewson being very physical, as you already know, he often becomes a safety valve… since the interior forwards don’t seem to enjoy physical contacts…” Penny took some more notes.
“As for the goals?” she asked.
Max got a new stats panel on the secondary telly. “As you can see, in the last ten games, they scored eight times. Three times, it was from through balls coming from their AMC. Once, it was a cross coming from their left flank. Four times, it was a small cross from their right flank during an overload. The other was a free-kick. A lucky one at that… two deflections… They don’t score on counter, or so little since they almost always try to get the ball out from the back.” Max brought another stats window but this time, on the main telly. “The thing is though; they have a very low percentage in passing success when it comes down to the defenders. They are slow, except for one, and most of the time, they seem overwhelmed when pressed hard. What saves them is their goalkeeper, Yves Mulumba. He’s got over 90% rate on short passes and about 45% on medium/long-range passes. He’s fast and mobile and handles the pressure very well…”
There was a small lull since Penny started looking in her tablet for some data while Jon was scribbling more and more. “They still play possession like last time then?” asked Penny as she was looking at some notes she had in her tablet. “They got 54% last game and they tended to make lots of lateral passes…”
Max nodded while pulling his own data from his computer to put them on the telly. “Yes. In the last ten games, 30% of their passes were lateral ones… when they played against us, it was 35%. The only difference is that lately, most games were against bottom table teams… They played against two teams who are now in the relegation zone and five other teams that are below tenth place. I think it screws the data a little since they were able to attack more… but even then, they still only got eight goals plus an own goal in their advantage against West Brom two weeks ago. Their possession though is above 54%.”
Jon decided to come back to the central defenders. “Max, their central defenders, they’re good jumpers, right?
“They have one excellent jumper, and he is also extremely mobile, Mark Lyon.” He brought the player card on the secondary telly. “As you can see, his heading ratio is over 95%…” He brought a stats panel on the main telly. “If the others aren’t as good as him, as you can see, inside their box, on defence, they still have a combined success ratio of 79%. This makes them in the top five in the league at the moment… Outside of Lyon, none of them is particularly fast…”
Afterwards, the trio talked about the defensive positioning of Tottenham and when the meeting ended, about an hour had gone by. Penny and Jon had a great amount of stats to look at. Max knew that they both liked to look at them in private. “Great job Max!” said Penny. “As usual!” she added with a wink.
“Then bring some pastries next time you fruit Nazi!” All laughed!
You can follow my stories here: https://community.sigames.com/forum/23-fm-stories/ . I use the same name over there: Rien102. New material will come with FM20!