Matchday six of the Swedish Allsvenskan saw Goteborg travel to high flying Norrkoping. Norrköping had scored a whopping 14 goals in the five games prior to this one, including three without reply against current champions Djurgården. Göteborg have had a mixed start to the season results-wise but do find themselves in the semi-final of the Swedish Cup.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at the tactics of Norrköping and how manager Jens Gustafsson adapted during the game to continue Norrköping’s unbeaten start to the season. Our analysis will also feature what Goteborg head coach, Poya Asbaghi, did in attempting to break down Norrköping’s organised defence.
Norrköping reverted to the 4-1-4-1 formation they have used in all but one of their games this season. That game being last week’s 1-1 draw with Elfsborg in which they dropped their first points of the campaign. Gustafsson made just one player change from that game. 20-year-old Carl Björk (#15) came in to replace Andreas Blomqvist in midfield. The same formidable goalkeeper and back four made their sixth appearance of the season. Nyman (#5), scorer of four goals in five games started as central forward.
Göteborg made 5 changes from their 1-0 win against AIK last week. Emil Holm (#23) came in at right-back, replacing Wernersson who dropped to the bench. This change meant Alexander Jallow (#5) switched from right-back to left-back. Tolinsson (#2) was a straight replacement for Bjärsmyr at centre back. Sana, Aiesh and Kharaishvili, were replaced by wide midfielders Abraham (#16) and Alexandersson (#21), and forward Farnerud (#17). This may have been a way to freshen up a team that has now played seven games in three weeks. Poya Asbaghi may also have had one eye on Thursday’s upcoming Swedish Cupe Semi-final Vs Elfsborg.
Göteborg’s shape and attacking patterns
The above image shows the typical shape Göteborg (dark blue) adopted when in possession of the ball. The back four spread themselves across the entire width of the pitch with the full-backs playing high and wide. This allowed Göteborg’s back four to comfortably swing the ball from side to side. Göteborg tried to do this quickly enough to either play down the sides of Norrköping or to create forward passing lanes between Norrköping’s midfielders.
Göteborg’s defensive midfielder, Erlingmark (#19), dropped deep and central to try and pick the ball up from the centre-backs. The two central midfielders occupied the half-spaces behind (and outside the vision) of Norrköping’s midfield line. Göteborg’s three forward players played very narrow and high to occupy the centre backs. Notice how the Norrköping central forward and near sided wide forward are pressing the ball in a 4-4-2 shape. The next section will cover how Norrköping changed their defensive strategy to adapt to Göteborg’s movements.
Here we see Göteborg’s right-sided central midfielder receiving the ball from his centre back. His advanced position, just beyond Norrköping’s midfield line, means he attracts both Norrköping’s widest midfield player, at that moment (#15), and their right-back. This leaves Göteborg’s left-back (#5) unmarked with space ahead of him to run into.
When the Göteborg midfielder receives the pass, he lays the ball back first time to his defensive midfielder. This backward pass is the trigger for the left-back to make a forward run. The left forward also makes a slight forward movement across the Norrköping centre back. As well as this movement making him an option to receive the ball, it also pins the centre back. The centre back, now physically blocked by the forward, cannot get across to cover the space the left-back is running into.
When the defensive midfielder receives the ball, he tries to play a quick diagonal ball into the space ahead of his left-back. Unfortunately for Göteborg, as was too often the case, this pass was not played with enough power. This meant the left-back had to retreat slightly to receive it, giving Norrköping the chance to regain their defensive shape.
This image shows Göteborg making similar movements from the first example but with a slight variation. Instead of the left or right-sided central midfielders receiving the ball first, this time the Göteborg centre back plays directly into the defensive midfielder. The defensive midfielder receives the ball in the left half-space which draws Norrköping’s nearest wide midfielder to a more central position.
The defensive midfielder, having received the ball on the half-turn, is able to play a quick pass to his left-back. This time the left-back receives the ball at his feet. He takes a forward first touch which draws the Norrköping right-back towards him. This allows the left forward to make a run across the near sided centre back. The left-back then plays a pass in behind the pressing right-back for his left-forward to run onto.
It is through this approach (albeit with a huge slice of luck), that Göteborg got their equalising goal. This, again, is a slight variation on the first movements explained in this section. The image above shows the moments after Göteborg’s centre back has played the ball forward. This time missing out the midfield and passing into his strikers’ feet. The striker is attempting to lay the ball back first time to his midfielder who is occupying the right half-space. This pass is designed to draw the left-back out of his position- which it does.
Norrköping at this point have changed their defensive strategy (covered in next section) so are compact and able to remain in a solid defensive shape. Whilst the pass from the striker to central midfielder does provoke the left-back to step forward, his starting position means he should be able to intercept the ball. The midfielder receiving the ball is also under significant pressure. However, the left-back and two other Norrköping players run into each other resulting in the left-back falling to the ground. The ball bounces fortunately for Göteborg’s midfielder who plays his right back in behind. The right-back advances with the ball and then crosses to set up Goteborg’s Lagemyr (#10) to score.
Whilst this goal came from a deliberate strategy by Göteborg, three Norrköping players could and should have intercepted the ball. This shows the effectiveness of the defensive adaptation’s Norrköping made which we will cover next.
Norrköping adapt and counter
As mentioned in the above section, Norrköping changed their defensive shape in response to Goteborg’s attacking play. As can be seen in the above image, Norrköping have dropped into a mid-block in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Central forward, Nyman (#5), has dropped off the centre backs, who are in possession of the ball. There is now far less space between the lines than when they were defending in a 4-4-2. The 4 midfielders are also far more compact having shifted across the field to cut off passing lanes. This means Göteborg’s centre back has no forward passing options. This results in the centre back having to bring the ball forward himself- which, it would appear, is exactly what Norrköping want.
As the centre back progresses up the pitch, Norrköping’s left midfielder cuts of the pass wide to Göteborg’s right-back. This allows Norrköping’s left-back to hold his ground and his positioning means he is able to see both Göteborg’s right-back and the Göteborg forward, who has dropped deep to receive the ball. Norrköping’s Smith (#6), has deepened so he can also press the deep Goteborg forward should he receive the ball.
This defensive structure limits the centre back on the balls options and he is forced to play a straight pass which he hopes his forward will run onto. The pass, which is straight in front of Norrköping’s left-back, is read easily and intercepted.
The image on the left shows the moment Göteborg’s left-back intercepted the ball. He quickly played a pass into his defensive midfielder. The defensive midfielder then played a quick forward pass wide. As soon as possession was won, Norrköping’s forward players (circled) made direct, full-speed runs towards the Göteborg goal. Notice, in particular, the starting position of Jóhannesson (#27), circled in the centre of the pitch.
After three quick forward passes Jóhannesson, who started the move in line with the ball, is put through on goal. Whilst he has supporting runners, he takes on the shot himself and finishes clinically into the roof of the net to put Norrköping 1-0 up. Norrköping set up their trap well to win the ball then countered with devastating speed.
Norrköping implemented well-rehearsed corner kicks in this match. Although they did not ultimately score from any of these, they created chances and looked dangerous from each one. This section will analyse the three routines Norrköping tried. All three had a similar set up followed by different movements and delivery styles.
The above routine began with Norrköping having seven players in the box. One player, on the front corner of the six-yard box, made a run out of the box to show for the ball. The other six lined up in a straight line between the penalty spot and the goal line.
Four of these players would make runs towards the front of the six-yard box (shaded white). The other two made initial steps forward then peeled off away from the other four.
As this image shows, the player who made the run towards the ball has enough space that he could comfortably receive the ball. Whilst sometimes this player did receive the ball, as we will see next, him not receiving it here suggests the run was made predominantly to try and move one of the three defending Göteborg players in the front area.
The ball is delivered with pace to this front area and all four of the charging Norrköping attempt to attack the ball. From the corners in which an attacking player manages to make contact with the ball, the head it towards the goal. This front area of the six-yard box is chaotic with eight players tightly packed. The two Norrköping players that have peeled off, look to pick up any scraps either from a deflected ball or a rebound coming off the goalkeeper.
This variation on the first corner kick has all the attacking players making the same initial movements. This time, however, the corner is played short. Upon this pass, the players in the box reverse their movements.
The players that were heading for the front of the six-yard box peel of to the back post and try to lose their markers. The ball is then delivered high to the back-post area for them to attack.
This corner, taken from the right, again has the Norrköping players lined up between the penalty spot and the goal line. This time though they all peel off away from the ball as the corner is taken short. As the player who received the ball from the corner takes his first touch, the player at the edge of the box makes a five-yard movement towards him. The ball is then played into the man at the edge of the box.
This pass is weighted so he can deliver it first time. As the Göteborg players try to step up to clear the area in front of their goal, the Norrköping player delivers the ball. The delivery is curled over the advancing Göteborg players’ heads to the back-post area for the onrushing Norrköping players to attack.
Göteborg applied themselves well against the in-form Norrköping and were very much in the game until the end. They entered the game with a clear, well thought out, game plan but came up against a clinical Norrköping side.
Norrköping now find themselves five points clear at the top of the league. They have won five of their first six matches and amassed a goal difference of +11. They could not have dreamt of a better start and, whilst it is very early in the season, they may just have their sights set on a place in next season’s Champions League. Their attractive playing style, defensive organisation, and their ability to adapt in-game, make them the current team to beat in the Allsvenskan. Manager Gustafsson will also be excited about the young Ísak Bergmann Jóhannesson (#27). The son of former La Liga and English Premier League player, Joey Guðjónsson, brilliantly finished Norrköping’s first and assisted their second goal. Based on this performance, the Icelandic 17-year old looks like an exciting prospect.