ISL 2019 | Tactical Analysis : Eelco Schattorie outwits Phil Brown despite sharing the spoils

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ISL 2019 | Tactical Analysis : Eelco Schattorie outwits Phil Brown despite sharing the spoils

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Subhayan Dutta


Though NorthEast United failed to seal a qualification into the playoffs after playing out a 1-1 stalemate against an in-form FC Pune City, Eelco Schattorie’s men showed tremendous tactical astuteness. Pune, despite their form, are sitting in a time bomb waiting to explode.

NorthEast show Pune how a five-man midfield is operated

The biggest advantage of both 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-3 formations has been the seamless transition both the setup provide to the structure. Whether adding a man on the defensive or pushing two more during a counter, both the setups could prove to be lethal if used meticulously. Phil Brown’s arrival had already meant that Pune would see a heavier midfield compared to what Pradyum Reddy was fielding prior to the international break. However, while a change in personnel in that area has brought a balance to Pune’s squad, it would be incorrect to state that the Stallions have benefitted massively from it, in terms of dictating the play.

NEUFC’s, on the other hand, was a perfect example of how a five-man midfield could operate. There are few teams in ISL where one could point out players who understand their roles to the very letter, and Eelco Schattorie’s men are among them. Contrary to Brown’s midfield, who held their positions and focused on winning the ball to go on the counter as quickly as possible, NorthEast’s fluidity helped them to mark spaces and exchange roles. Hence, apart from Ogbeche, the likes of Federico Gallego, Panagiotis Triadis, and Rowlin Borges kept changing roles according to the situation – something upon which NorthEast’s dominance largely depends. None of the three has been limited to their roles as Ogbeche, Puitea, or Jose Luedo have been.

Federico Gallego – the key to NorthEast’s historical season

While Schattorie should be really credited for the discipline and understanding he has brought in his players – the two main pillars of NorthEast’s success this season, one cannot discredit the fact that Federico Gallego has been their lynchpin. The Uruguayan midfielder was everywhere yesterday and with unparalleled stamina. Starting as a playmaker in the number 10 role, he was more of a box-to-box midfielder and his movements looked closest to perfection. Even Triadis, for most of his time on the field, stuck to the left flank trying to outpace Diego Carlos and Sarthak Golui and only Gallego was given a free role, something which is hard to imagine from a hard taskmaster like Schattorie.

 Federico Gallego runs deep down in the defensive third and wins the ball to bring it out upfield.

But, he cannot help but marvel at the 28-year-old midfielder, who is definitely in his prime. Playing at the heart of the field, where he was under the most of pressure, Gallego came off with a 74% passing accuracy and 78 touches. He could put in as many as five crosses starting from the midfield, which shows how much he kept drifting to the margins throughout the match. NorthEast also relied on him to win balls at the back and he had three interceptions apart from doing his defensive duties with two successful tackles as well. As a dead ball specialist, Gallego didn’t have an average game as well and had NEUFC players not be blatantly ineffective aerially he could have had assists to his name. He has been directly involved in nine goals for NEUFC in 17 matches.

 Gallego takes the ball from the centre-halves before passing it up.

FC Pune City’s defence is waiting to be burned down

Neither Phil Brown nor FC Pune City had anything to lose when the manager took up the job. Hence, he had all the freedom in the world to experiment with the setup. And while the side has done fairly well with a managerial change, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the setup is the perfect one. The use of wingbacks demand one thing, the full backs bring a balance between defensive and offensive duties and both Ashique Kuruniyan and Diego Carlos failed in that. The Asian Cup debutant was a ghost on the field yesterday with hardly there being any source of attack from the left flank. He had four tackles and three blocks defensively but could provide zero crosses up-field. Despite his sole focus on defence, the likes of Puitea and Reagan Singh were able to put in four crosses.

 The amount of space Triadis has with no one chasing him, says it all about Pune's defence. Had Ogbeche given the ball behind, this was a sure goal.

Pune’s maximum attack came through Diego Carlos who was a menace on the right flank throughout the entire game. He could put as many as seven crosses and was too good for Keegan Pereira to handle, which was evident from the first minute. He eventually managed the assist as Adil Khan scored from the set-piece. But at cost? Panagiotis Triadis was always a thorn for Pune from the left in the 69 minutes he played and although Adil managed to stop him with a lot of help from the referee, it left Keegan to engulf the entire channel. The left back managed five crosses, some of which were lethal, and had Ogbeche not having an off day, NUEFC could have scored more, The vulnerability on the flanks has been a constant phenomenon for Pune with the likes of Jayesh Rane, during ATK’s match, Farukh Choudhary and Carlos Calvo, during the Jamshedpur clash, and Triadis and Gallego yesterday all exploiting at will. The three-man defence can only hold for so long.

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