Brisbane Roar had a comfortable start to their FFA cup campaign, winning 3-0 against Peninsula Power, who currently sit first in the NPL Queensland division.
While a routine win, head coach Warren Moon showed tactical flexibility, with indications of how Brisbane will look to line up in the forthcoming A-League campaign.
New players shone, while old ones starred in different positions. The system was similar to the one of last season, but with a few tactical quirks.
Throughout the match, Brisbane Roar showed a new level of counter-pressing, which is something that could be seen in this impending campaign.
It’s important to outline the difference between counter-pressing and pressing, however.
Pressing is having your side push up the field to control the game by forcing opposition backwards, or into tight areas, before trapping them and pushing to win the ball back and move forwards.
Counter-pressing is of a similar ilk, but the aim is different.
Jurgen Klopp believes a different theory whereby when a team wins back possession, that’s when they are at their most vulnerable due to the release of concentration, from an attacking point of view.
Klopp himself is one of the managers that personifies the philosophy of counter-pressing, which in German translates to gegenpressing.
He views it as the opponent being vulnerable when first winning back the ball, has expended energy in the tackle or interception and may not know where his teammates are positioned.
However, from a defensive point of view, it consists of an aim of pressing to stop a counterattack, rather than backtracking and allowing the opposition to run at you.
It can mean pressuring to win the ball back or pressuring the opposition into a less dangerous area of the field, where they can’t spring an immediate counterattack, although these things often go hand in hand.
However, Warren Moon executed it to perfection, not allowing Peninsula any space to advance immediately after losing the ball, and often winning it in the middle or attacking third of the field.
However, after those three to six seconds of intense pressure to force their opponents backwards, Brisbane would often sit off and lower their line of engagement significantly.
This meant they could control the game while conserving energy in a lower defensive block.
They would shift from side to side, not allowing space in between the lines with the due of Jesse Daley and Matti Steinmann remaining close together.
But once one player instigated pressure, they would press intensely, particularly in the wide areas to force backtrack the NPL leaders.
Matti Steinmann, joining Brisbane Roar after leaving Wellington Phoenix a couple of years ago, impressed on debut and will likely form a fantastic combination with Jay O’Shea in the heart of midfield.
Their strengths complement each other – Steinmann is a tidy central midfielder who presses well as an individual and is adaptable in his movement and positioning to make way for the other central midfielder.
O’Shea can offer that extra level of creativity – last season where he was in the 99th percentile for progressive passes and in the 94th for passes into the box, when rated against players in his position.
Steinmann has the ability to play short vertical passes in between the lines in possession and has fantastic ball control to keep possession under pressure, as represented in a wonderful piece of skill in the 70th minute.
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Meanwhile, O’Shea has the technique to play long passes both vertically and horizontally to open up the field of play for his side.
The two will likely form a fantastic combination as the season progresses, and it is something to keep an eye on over the first few game weeks.
Akbari playing an advanced role
The partnership of O’Shea and Steinmann could see Rahmat Akbari moved further forwards into the number ten role, where he looked impressive in the FFA cup match.
Akbari is tidy on the ball and is able to manipulate his way out of tight spaces with clever short passes and feints.
With creativity behind him, he will be able to adapt to this role, while offering significant contributions in defence – he was in the 77th and 81st percentile respectively for interceptions and defensive duels last campaign.
His shooting needs work, but his combination of movement and energy will be a good addition for Brisbane higher up the field, and he is one to watch as he grows into the role of an attacking midfielder.
Trewin to break into the starting lineup
Kai Trewin, another twenty-year-old prospect, could also interject himself into the defensive line this season.
Trewin was outstanding when called upon last season, but remained behind the pecking order of Scott Neville, Tom Aldred and Macaulay Gillesphey, likely due to experience.
However, with the latter gone, Trewin has a great chance to establish himself as a lynchpin in this Brisbane side this campaign and will impress with his versatility and ability to play anywhere within the back three.
Overall, Brisbane Roar is building a sustainable, tactically intelligent team under Warren Moon.
They may be one forward away from pushing for a position in the top six, but with the youth set to feature again, Steinmann looking comfortable in the side and their counter-pressing and low block to take centre stage, Brisbane could be the team that surprises us all in the 2021/22 A-League season.
Percentile stats sourced from Jack Stewart’s A-League stats guide.
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