Matchday 11 of the Swedish Allsvenskan saw a feisty Gothenburg derby between two sides in vastly different form. Hacken went temporarily second in the league with a 4-0 midweek win over AIK. That result means they had scored 13 goals without reply in their previous three home games.
Goteborg, meanwhile, had only won two league games all season and none in their previous five. This is the 18 times Swedish champions worst start to a league campaign in 10 years. They do, however, have the Swedish Cup final against Malmo to look forward to on Thursday.
This tactical analysis will provide analysis of the tactics of Häcken and Göteborg. Particular attention will be paid to the intensity to which Häcken successfully pressed Göteborg and how Göteborg attacked Häcken in wide areas.
Häcken lined up in a slightly different formation than they have been using this season. Their 4-4-1-1 changed to a 4-4-2. Head coach Andreas Alm also made three personnel changes to the side that won 4-0 midweek. Two of these changes came in attack with Patrik Wålemark (#23) and Jasse Tuominen (#10) coming in to replace Ali Youssef and Ahmed Yasin. Gustav Berggren (#17) replaced Alexander Faltsetas in midfield. Godswill Ekpolo (#5), who captained Barcelona to UEFA Youth League success, started at right-back.
Göteborg started in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation and made two changes from Thursdays draw with Falkenberg. Kristopher Da Graca (#4) returned from injury to make his first start since the end of June. Jakob Johansson, making his first start since returning to the club, lined up beside Da Graca at centre back.
Göteborg is a team that likes to play out from their goalkeeper with controlled possession. Häcken made it extremely difficult for Goteborg to do this from the outset of this match. Through pressing high up the pitch and with a real intensity they disrupted Göteborg’s passing play. This often resulted in Göteborg having to play long insecure passes or handing over possession in their own third.
As the image above shows, Häcken pushed players high for Göteborg’s goal kicks. Their two strikers started at the edge of the box with their midfield pushed up to the edge of Göteborg’s defensive third. Häcken’s left midfielder, just out of shot, is in a symmetrical position to the right midfielder. The other central midfielder is just behind the more advanced central midfielder (circled).
When the goalkeeper plays the first pass the Häcken forward closest to the ball makes his first movement along the edge of the box in relation to the ball. This prevents the centre-back from playing forward. The forward then runs directly at the ball.
As the forward is pressing the ball, Häcken’s right-midfielder steps toward the Göteborg left-back to cut off that passing option. Being quickly pressed and having this wide option cut off forces the centre-back to go back across the box to his goalkeeper.
As the ball is played back to the goalkeeper, the aim now is for the pressing centre forward to cut the field in half. By looping his run between the centre-back who made the pass and the goalkeeper, the forward is forcing the goalkeeper to play to Göteborg’s right. This makes the play more predictable allowing Häcken to shift more players to Göteborg’s right side.
The two Göteborg defensive midfielders, circled in the centre of the pitch, are both covered and unable to receive the ball. The Göteborg right centre-back, who has split to the right side of the box now has pressure from the Häcken left-midfielder. This leaves the goalkeeper no option but to play a long ball.
Having forced Göteborg down one side of the pitch and making the long ball predictable, Häcken can now easily defend it. As the above image shows, three of Häcken’s back four are within 10 yards of each other on their left side of the pitch. This positions them perfectly to deal with the long ball.
On this occasion, the ball was hit towards the Göteborg right forward. The Häcken left-back competed for it in the air and won the header. Had he not won the header, and the ball was flicked on, there is a covering central defender and no Göteborg player causing a threat in behind.
The Häcken central midfielder (circled), is also close enough to pick up any second ball or help his left-back out should the wide forward control the ball. This makes the chances of a positive outcome for Göteborg in this situation very unlikely.
From other situations where Göteborg were able to sustain passing plays, they looked far more dangerous. This may have been what drove Häcken’s decision to press high with such intensity. Häcken’s disruption to Göteborg’s build-up forced them to hit long, and without success, far more than they would have liked.
Göteborg movement in wide areas
This section is going to analyse how Göteborg attacked down the sides of Häcken. This will be done by highlighting the relationship between the wide forwards and full-backs. Whenever Göteborg were able to sustain any type of possession outside of their own third they looked to produce movements that would move Häcken’s full-backs and allow them to attack down the sides of the centre-backs. This section will analyse three movements they used.
This image shows Göteborg’s left-sided central midfield player in possession of the ball in the half-space. Ahead of him, he has his left-forward, who is occupying the Häcken left-back, and his left-back who is on the touchline out of shot.
The left-forward has just made a movement inside the pitch to take the right-back with him. This meant the Häcken right-midfielder (circled) had to drop back with the Göteborg left-back. This freed up space for the Göteborg central midfielder to occupy the half-space and get on the ball. This positioning causes a problem for the Häcken right midfielder who is now forced to engage the ball.
When the right-midfielder goes to press the ball, the Goteborg left-forward makes a movement in front of the Häcken left-back. The central midfielder gives him the ball and he plays an around the corner pass to his advanced left-back. His left-back is now beyond the Häcken back-line and in a good position to deliver the ball into the box.
This image shows the moments after Göteborg have won the ball back deep in their own half and are about to switch it. The aim of the Göteborg left-back and left-forward is the same as in the first example – move the right-back to create space in the wide area.
As the attacking midfielder (#10) is about to receive the ball, the Göteborg left-forward first runs towards the Häcken right-back then diagonally across him. This forces the right-back to follow him. When the attacking midfielder sees the run being tracked, he switches a long diagonal pass to his onrushing left-back.
As with the first example, this again puts the left-back beyond the Häcken back-line and in a good position to create a goalscoring opportunity
To become less vulnerable to the movements described above, Häcken’s wide midfielders began dropping deeper during sustained Göteborg attacks and tracked Göteborg’s advanced full-backs. This allowed the Häcken full-backs to follow the wide-forwards, should they make the same movements as in the first two examples, without leaving a big gap for the Göteborg full-backs to run into.
This meant that for these movements to continue being effective, Göteborg had to carry them out from deeper positions whilst Häcken were still in their 4-4-2 shape. The image above shows the ball being played long by a Göteborg centre-back
The Göteborg right-forward has made an inside run and is being tracked by the Häcken left-back. This leaves space for the Göteborg right back to run into. As the ball was played early by the centre-back, it has taken the Häcken left-midfielder (circled) by surprise. The ball misses out the Häcken midfield and the right-back is free to run onto the ball.
Unfortunately for Göteborg, these long balls were largely unsuccessful. The ball usually skipped off the wet plastic pitch and out for a goal kick.
Göteborg were creative with their corner kick delivery in this match. Particularly from their right side, they preferred to play short before crossing the ball from a deeper position to the back-post area.
This image shows a corner being played short to a man on the touchline 10-yards from the goal line. The receiving player is going to pass it back deeper still to a supporting player 30-yards from goal in the right wide area. Göteborg’s main aerial threat, centre-back Johansson (#15) (circled), is being tightly marked on the penalty spot. Göteborg have two players between the penalty spot and 6-yard box and a further two in the six-yard box in front of the goalkeeper.
As the ball is played backwards to Jallow (#5), who is about to deliver the cross, the Häcken players push up out of their six-yard box. Whilst trying to clear the six-yard box and focusing on the ball, the defending players do not notice Johansson’s back-post run.
Johansson breaks away from his marker and is free at the back-post area. Jallow aims a high looping cross to this area hoping Johansson will get on the end of it.
Head coach Andreas Alm must be pleased with how his Häcken side pressed the ball- similar in intensity to how Jürgen Klopp has had his Liverpool and Dortmund teams play. This made it next to impossible for Göteborg to launch controlled attacks from their own third.
Göteborg have now only been in a winning position in three of their 11 league games this season and it must be of concern to their manager Poya Asbaghi. He may need to think about how his side can mix their game up and get the ball in advanced areas by different methods. At the moment, teams know they can press them high from goal kicks and there will be no threat in behind.