I envisage that the first part of my career, and, as such, the first few posts will be quite heavy with tactical thoughts as I get used to the game and try and create the ideology that is in my head. I write these blogs in real time and, as such, lots of things are reflection on games that I then take into my next game. It ends in a bit of a conversation with myself but it – hopefully – makes good reading and it certainly holds me to account to develop our tactical style.
My starting point – as always has been – is basic. I’m going to be using a 4-2-3-1 because the double pivot should naturally give me a bit more defensive cover. This is a move away from the 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 diamond that was used before I took over but I feel that it has impact tactically but also suits the squad depth and, most importantly, the squad fitness for the group of players I have taken over. Again, and importantly, the system starts basic. Roles are basic: full backs, centre backs, defensive midfielders, attacking midfielders, wingers/inverted wingers and an advanced forward. Team wise, I instil my own pre-defined methods that form my own playing style, but there is nothing more:
- Play out of defence
- Run at defence
- Mid block
This makes us a team that build progressively but also will retreat when the ball is lost to ensure that we are hard to counter against. Everything else comes from work done around what the opposition lines up like and develops as I learn about my players.
Full match reports can be seen by clicking each thumbnail.
We started with a big derby against Ostersunds. Tactically, their 4-4-2 shape and wing play style meant that we funnelled play inside and stopped crosses, as well as showed all of the defensive players on to their left foot – keeping the ball away from their strongest players: the right winger and playmaker, Erick. I wanted an extra man free at the back, against their two forwards, so went with a IWB(s) – CD(d) – CD(d) – IFB(d) setup across the back line, creating a 3-2-5 in the initial build up phase, opting, this time, for a double pivot given our defensive frailites prior to my takeover.
Our opener – the first goal of my managerial career – came from Navik, who cleverly vacated his central role in order to create a 2v1 against either their centre back or full back. The ball from Salaou was good enough and he crashed it home off the cross bar. With no VAR at hand, their equaliser came via a somewhat soft (I’m always going to say that, though) penalty that Salaou gave away but, for me, the actual issue came with our initial pressing structure, which, for my style, feels far too aggressive. The veteran Hallenius scored our second as we broke with precision. I changed to a 5-4-1 shape to contain a little bit of their pressure but we held out, our playmaker (who also won Player of the Week) beating their playmaker:
As first games go – this is perfect. 0.34 non-Pen xGA is a great start as I look to consolidate defensively whilst not forgetting that I need to sort out our attacking problems, too.
One of my other thoughts is how I’m setting up weekly training based on the coming opposition:
- Angelholms are a weaker team from the lower levels and we face them in the cup. I want to look at how we transition back and forwards as that is going to be key against a team we should be beating.
- There is little time between that and the Trelleborgs tie. We can overtake them with a win and, having not played away from home yet, just want to see how things shape up. I want us feeling fresh and happy, so have scheduled more of the extra-curricular stuff.
- Utkitsens play route one football so I need to ensure we are practicing aerial defending, particularly around that second ball but then also being direct to exploit spaces that they’ll surely leave if they need to push players forward to win these aerial battles.
On to the next one!
A cup game against a weaker team in a competition that the board doesn’t care about is just about perfect for my second game! I was able to observe, through my analyst report, the shape and play contributions that they’d offer, along with their roles. I decided to give a debut to 17-year old Abdulahi Shino, who, despite not being the ideal fit for a striker offers me some pace and directness that my two target-forwards lack.
The only tactical change was to swap the sides for the IWB(s) and IFB(d) – moving Peprah Oppeng to an inverted role, pushing him higher to counter the fact that there’d be space left over from their very defensive left back.
Our early goal was important to me because it showed me that, using a 4-2-3-1 against a defensive 4-2-3-1 gives us so much in terms of attacking options, but a 4-3-3 shape will get more players into areas that could lead to them being in that magical Zone 14. However, I learnt more from their goal – a corner to the edge of the area that was curled in, that I anticipated. More work is needed on set pieces! No clean sheet, but a 4-1 win with a rotated team: including a debut assist for Shino and a debut goal for Torstensson means we leave happy and in the hat for the next round.
I did my homework on their shape, after watching them in their previous game. Their roles and shape are not something that I’m hugely experienced with facing but, based on their desires to get the ball wide with two very aggressive wing backs, I moved my wingers back into the midfield spaces. I am really reluctant to create asymmetric tactics or create shapes that the AI does not use as I feel that this gives me an unfair advantage but I’m fairly confident that this is a shape that can be created: 4-4-1-1 2DM or something similar…
My plans were to not press their back three and funnel the wide men all inside to where I had players waiting. I wanted to start our build up wider, moving around their box in midfield and isolating their wing backs, which we managed to do quite well in transition from the keeper. It was that lack of pressure on their defenders that led to Shino’s first goal as we stepped off, reduced space for their forward three and wing backs but aggressively pressed their DMs when the ball went near them – with the idea that we would cut off the Volante’s supply route from defence to midfield. Here, the youngster slipped in, won the ball, beat two men before drilling home and beating the keeper at the near post.
The most complete performance of my time here so far. Yet – ever the perfectionist – my thoughts turn to the spells just after we score, where we then concede more pressure. I need to see whether this is something that is happening because of complacency, me being unable to motivate my team or just being unable to counter the oppositions sudden intent.
I HATE conceding goals! But this one was a bit of a classic…
Another interesting shape to adapt to; my plan was to shift the roles slightly to a IWB(d) and DM(s) forming the base of the box with a VOL(a)-AM(s) forming the top. It didn’t quite work out but we created a nice trapezium shape in the middle, with the idea to have four attacking players against their three and utilising the physicality (and, less so, his work rate) to keep the three centre backs company. In this example, you can see Lundstrom and Salaou slightly staggered with Pichkah and Navik quite wide – I’d love to have a forward that could drop to occupy that space just above where the referee is stood!
The game itself saw two teams really overperform their xG – Utsiktens’ first was from a lovely cutback and curling shot and their second and third, likewise, carried low xG totals. We could, and should, have won it at the death as we had a five vs two chance to counter from a corner but were unable to make it count.
Points dropped? Always going to happen. Three goals conceded? Can happen. The way we conceded them? A little more concerning, for me.
Five games in, it’s a good time to reflect on where we are tactically:
Oscar Jonsson – the man between the sticks – currently has a 72% save ratio but a 90% expected save ratio – showing that he is signifcantly underperforming. Also, in the three league games he’s played – he’s conceded four goals from 3.08xGA, not a huge underperformance but a worry for us defensively, though the three long shots have combined to a total of 0.17xGA of that amount – some 5.5% of the total.
Against each league opponent, he has the following breakdown for saves:
- Utsiktens: 43% held, 29% parried, 29% tipped
- Trelleborgs: 20% held, 80% tipped
- Ostersunds: 67% held, 33% tipped
However, the buck must stop somewhere. I wonder if that stops at the 43% the defensive phases that we’ve had coming through the middle. This is a difficult one to actually evaluate as, for the majority of the games, I’ve forced the opponents into the middle so that we can mitigate their ability to cross the ball to big men in the middle. This has, obviously worked well for us but, with Jonsson already announcing that he’s likely to leave at the end of the season – I’m somewhat loathed to spend hours and hours working to find a solution that may only be short term.
Things to ponder…
Back to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 shape meant that I went with my 4-3-3 shape, trying to gain a numerical advantage with the box in midfield. I’ve started paying more attention to the match prep area, as seen below, as we try to prepare in the best way possible.
This screenshot is a perfect example of the learning that I have to continue doing within the games. We’ve made a midfield box – Lundstrom: IWB(s), Shino: DM(d), Pichkah: CAR(s) and Navik: AM(s) – but, to counter that, Gefle have pulled back a striker to make it 4v4 in the middle. What this has then done, however, is left the CD(d) – CD(d) – IFB(d) trio spare, as it were. We had 60% of possession, completing 459 passes – yet the three defenders (67, 58, 49 respectively) were the highest three in the team. Of the forward passes, I’d argue that few were genuinely progressive in nature. I think that this is where changing an IFB(d) to a FB(s), especially with a DM(d) ahead of him, may be the ideal ploy here to ensure that we can still have outlets in the transitional and attacking phase, without giving any more away than we already do defensively.
Still, a win over bottom of the table is important. Even if we’re still not really where I want us to be in terms of our tactical style.
Their shape and the indication that Daniel Paulson was probably their most dangerous player led me to try something a little different tactically. We still created the back three: CD(d) – CD(d) – IFB(d) due to their striker and Paulson but played with two shielding DMs ahead, pushing the full back on a lot more to take advantage of Dahlqvist’s lack of defensive contribution and creating a very different attacking shape.
In terms of minutiae, I asked Forsberg to man mark Paulson and pulled Bengtsson back to mark the space that a MR would create, to stop any doubling up down their right. Likewise, Carstrom was instructed to sit much narrower in the AML spot, holding his positioning so that we could overlap – as we would focus play down the left for, at least, the start of the game. Normal defensive pressing instructions were applied, not marking them tightly but showing them onto their right hand side – meaning they’d need the technique and vision to pull out a much harder crossfield ball to Paulson, wide and high on the left, not being able to use the middle-men as I went tight on their midfield trio.
In game, the shape I created felt like a little step up on the Gefle tie, in particularly with the rest defence. I also loved some of our chances as my obsession with positional play seemed to pay off. We’d been out on the left where we already had a numerical advantage but worked it back to the false-back three. This quick transition had forced Ogryte to press a bit more aggressively than before as their three forwards had come towards the ball, leaving Salaou in between the lines but with Engblom and Durmaz occupying their defenders. Whilst the driving run was great, the finish was not; however, I do feel that we engineered the chance through the exact moves I’ve been trying to build.
Torbjorn Olofsson’s Remarkable Start at GIF Sundsvall: A Meteoric Rise in the League Standings
Date: September 26, 2023
Jakob Svensson, Swedish Football Express.
SUNDSVALL, Sweden – Torbjörn Olofsson’s arrival at GIF Sundsvall has sparked a footballing revolution in the quaint town of Sundsvall. The up and coming coach, who took over the reins at the club just five games ago, has already left an indelible mark on the Superettan league, guiding his side to three impressive victories and elevating them from the brink of relegation to a commendable ninth-place position.
Olofsson took over with GIF in 13th place, struggling to find their footing and maintain consistency on the pitch. However, Olofsson’s leadership and tactical acumen have seen the team execute a stunning turnaround, and they now find themselves among the top half the league. The statistics speak for themselves: under Olofsson’s guidance, Sundsvall has secured victory in three out of their last five league games, a remarkable feat that has sent shockwaves throughout the Superettan. What’s more, these victories weren’t just hard-fought; they were also goal-laden spectacles, with Sundsvall netting a 11 times in just five games. This newfound attacking prowess has made them a team to be reckoned with in the league.
Olofsson’s tactical innovations and player motivation have been crucial to GIF Sundsvall’s resurgence. The promising coach has instilled a sense of belief and unity within the squad, which is now performing cohesively and efficiently on the field. Additionally, Olofsson’s strategies have allowed the team to play with more freedom, leading to their impressive goal tally. The supporters of GIF Sundsvall, who were initially concerned about the club’s league position, have quickly become believers in Olofsson’s vision. The club’s home matches have witnessed an upsurge in attendance, with fans eager to witness their newfound success. The excitement in Sundsvall is palpable, and it’s a testament to the transformative effect Olofsson has had on the team and the community.
With the season nearing it’s close, Torbjörn Olofsson has undoubtedly breathed new life into GIF Sundsvall, turning them from relegation candidates into a formidable force in the Superettan. The coming weeks will be crucial, and Sundsvall’s competitors will surely be watching with great interest. For now, though, the Sundsvall faithful can bask in the glory of their team’s stunning resurgence, with Olofsson leading the way to a brighter future.
This has been some turnaround! Only five games in but we’ve moved ourselves from out of the relegation playoff zones to a comfortable spot in the middle of the table. We’re far too far away from thinking about promotion but that is fine. In the five league games, we’ve taken the most points – 2.20 per game for the entire season would have us top of the table, which shows the ability we have. Likewise, we’ve scored the joint most goals, level with Utsiktens, who scored three of theirs against us. Defensively, we’re getting better – with five conceded making us pretty much the best team, as I wouldn’t consider Vasteras’ approach – with two goals scored – to be one that can be continued. In terms of our run in – we play Brage, horribly out of form next and then also welcome Skovde, Eskilstuna and Vasteras to our ground, whilst visiting Orebro and Helsingborgs, too. There is also one game against GAIS – third in the league – which, at this point, is just a learning experience rather than a game I’m really focussed on in terms of our end goals.
Next season – I genuinely have no idea what kind of squad I’ll have left/at my disposal so I’m not even in the headspace to think about that yet. There are seven league games left in which I want to consolidate the tactical approach(es) I’m taking and then go from there!