I watched a replay of the great Champions League match between Napoli and Bayern Munich(“BM”). Both are wonderful teams. I think BM balances possession with attacking nicely. I kept notes in the first half and this is what I discovered (please note, if I say they “played short” I mean a short pass and I assume you know they kept possession — if they play short and lose possession immediately, I will note it):
1. Goal Kicks: BM took 3 GKs that I observed and played long each time. They won 1, lost one, and gained territory on the other (out of bounds on Napoli). Napoli had 5 GKs,played 3 short and of the 2 long. Of the 2 long, they won 1 and lost 1.
2. DFKs& IDFKs (BM): BM had 9 free kicks. Of the 9, 6 were in their half. Of those 6, they played short 5 times and long once (near end of half – Napoli gained possession). Two of the remaining 3 free kicks were taken at midfield – BM played short both times – and 1 was within 30 yards for which they played the ball into the goal. They also played back to their keeper 3 times for which he played long every time. Napoli gained possession all three times. The keeper also saved 2 balls – he punted long once (lost possession) and rolled short the other.
3. DFKs& IDFKs (Napoli): Napoli had 5 free kicks. Of the 5,the played short every time. The closest they were to the BM goal was about 50 yards.
I find this interesting. BM is playing some of the best soccer in the world right now, or, as the Brits would say, are in “top form.” So is Napoli. Napoli played with less risk – opting to play short more times than naught and preserving possession without regard to territorial gain on a 50/50 ball. BM, on the other hand, mixed up their set piece strategy.
If you read my review of the Arsenal v Marseille game Aresnal v Marseille Match Review, I thought Arsenal was dreadfully ineffective within 40 yards of goal–too clever with the ball. BM seems to strike a nicer balance, although the percentages of success on their long plays would suggest that the territorial advantage won was not worth it. Giving BM credit for the OOB ball off the GK, they “won” territory 2/8 times or a 1/4 of the time. So, they surrendered 100% possession hoping to keep the ball + territory. Since they had a 25% success rate, seems like the better play would be to play short unless you are within 40 yards or so of the goal. Seems like the risk you are adding to the defense by placing a ball into the box and the potential reward are high enough to justify the risk of losing possession. Just my two cents. Cheers.