Mihail’s Tactical Q & A with LFC India

Mihail’s Tactical Q & A with LFC India
September 11, 2013 Mihail Vladimirov

By Mihail Vladimirov and LFC India.

We all know that the Premier League is hugely popular across the world, but how many of us knew that more than 500 fans got together in India, across nine cities, to watch specialist screenings of Liverpool’s opening home game of the season against Stoke? Not only that, but the LFC India Facebook page is also growing in numbers, and with their keen focus on tactics and the desire to increase the visibility of The Tomkins Times, we’ve decided to let the supporters page in India pose a few questions to Mihail Vladimirov, our own tactical analyst.

Below you will find the questions submitted by the users of the Facebook page (final selection was by the administrators) and, of course, Mihail’s incredibly detailed answers:

Q. How will it affect our game (for good or bad) if we pair Sakho with Agger at the heart of our defence? Will it be ideal to play two left-footed centre-backs?

Mihail Vladimirov: I’ve always thought footedness is a crucial aspect only for the centre-backs. The other position that is hugely influenced by footedness is that of the wide players. A left-footed player playing on the left flank would be naturally more comfortable to go on the outside than cut infield. This is especially true if he is with the ball and his path is blocked by an opponent trying to engage him in some way (be it showing him wide or trying to tackle him or the ball).

In regard to the centre-backs, in my view, it’s all about body positioning and being able to play on the side of your strong foot. It’ll be hard to play on your ‘wrong’ foot and still be capable to properly engage your opponents. A ‘wrong’ footed centre-back (i.e. playing on the opposite side of his strong foot) could lead to some awkward body positioning and pure physical inability to set your footwork as well as possible. For example, you could see Lescott’s performance as the right-sided centre-back against Hull this season.

Another consideration should be that in modern football, and especially in a possession-oriented team (Liverpool under Rodgers), the centre-backs are often required to pull wide in and out of possession. When the team is trying to build from the back, the centre-backs would be encouraged to drift wide to allow the full-backs to push up. It would be harder for any of the central defenders to control and pass the ball well if he is ‘inverted’.  It would surely lead to him needing extra time and space to properly do so – meaning he might be targeted as the weak link by the opposition who could press him aggressively (something Vidic is often being subject to, as he is a right-footed left-sided centre-back). Then given the defender is wrong-footed he wouldn’t be able to control the ball as calmly and even attempt to dribble past the opposition who is closing him down in order to bail himself out of such a situation.

The only positive for having ‘inverted’ centre-backs (or at least one of them playing on his ‘wrong’ side) is if the opposition is using inverted wingers or forwards who are either two-footed or playing on their wrong foot too. This would lead to the inverted centre-back being naturally more adept to engage these particular players. But the risk against other players and when the team is in possession would be still high enough to be labelled as a gamble.

For what I know and read about Sakho he is similarly left-footed as Agger – meaning they are both rather uncomfortable with their right feet. If they are paired, one of them would be playing on his weaker foot, which, for me, would be a serious risk with a high probability of inflicting serious damage. As hinted above, the only way for this not to happen is if the opponents always give plenty of time and space for Liverpool’s centre-backs, something that – especially in the Premier League – is far from being a guarantee.  Or alternatively – have centre-backs that are comfortable with both of their feet.

Q. Do you, tactically, see Joe Allen bringing in a specific set of footballing skills that can enhance Liverpool’s game or is it just a case of keeping a mistake longer, like in the case of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing?

MV: What Allen has, and is often misunderstood or not acknowledged at all, is that subtle ability to dictate the team’s passing rhythm.

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