Football “Spartak” in the first half of the match in Yekaterinburg left a very strong impression. This may have been the best game of Paolo Vanoli’s team all spring. There was no bulk and confusion in it, there were meaningful draws, the ball was consistently delivered to dangerous zones. As a result, the red-and-whites scored three goals (albeit one from the standard), and it seemed that if they wanted to and continued in the same spirit, they would easily throw Ural the same amount.

Many associated the quality game of Spartak with the new scheme. The coaching staff was so pleased with the second half of the match against Krylya Sovetov, in which the team went 4-4-2 with two impressive forwards, that this time they decided to try the same structure from the first minutes. Vanoli was not embarrassed even by personnel losses – central defenders Jikia and Zhigo, as well as defensive midfielder Martins, dropped out at the same time.

“Spartak” smashed “Ural” in the first half. And then I stopped playing

Features of the 4-4-2 game model of Spartak

Vanoli put up a unique line of defense, which many were simply afraid to look at on paper: Chernov and Kofrie in the center, Litvinov as a left back, Khlusevich as a right back. In the middle line and in the attack, everything was more logical: Prutsev and Zobnin were a pair of defensive midfielders, Moses and Promes were on the flanks, Nicholson and Sobolev were ahead.

But even with all the external vulnerability of the formation, with its obvious bias in the attack and imbalance, Spartak turned out to be terribly good before the break. Here are the key characteristics of his game.

  • There was a bet on a meaningful exit from the defense. Goal kicks were either played or knocked out in an open team form (that is, sighted at the forwards for reset). The share of long passes in the first half was only 5% (super!), The overall accuracy was 82% (above average).
  • The increase in the combination component was facilitated by the absence of Martins in the middle (Prutsev looks stronger than the Luxembourger in such a game) and the disqualification of Jikia. Georgiy is one of Spartak’s “leaders” in terms of taking forward at the first sign of pressure. Chernov and even Kofrie played more calmly.
  • Left-back Litvinov was minimally involved in attacking actions. He was responsible for the balance, supported attacks from the depths, and in defense he tried to control Zheleznov. Why didn’t Vanoli put in Klassen? Leon’s level is still incomprehensible, a decent game with CSKA fell on a weak one with Rostov. In addition, the coaching staff probably kept in mind the transition to a scheme with three central defenders during the match. With Litvinov on the field, it could have been made even without substitutions.
  • Spartak left the wide flank game. The new scheme meant shorter connections, the players were closer to each other. Therefore, the share of long passes was lower.
  • Promes and (especially!) Moses became the most important figures for taking the ball through the middle. They moved towards the center, creating a numerical advantage there, pulling out the defensive midfielders. And given that Ural tried to press even one-on-one, while the central defenders were pinned down by two forwards who did not go deep enough (so as not to bring anyone behind them), the center of the field was opened steadily. Moses dispersed attacks through him in the first half at least four times, made seven successful strokes (all in the area of ​​​​the central axis of the field), struck five blows.

The second goal is a perfect demonstration of Spartak’s changed attacking accents. There, after the turn of Moses in the center, the middle was not insured at all.

Promes also tried to open in the center between the lines, but he did it not so systematically. Often he kept the width and made up for Litvinov’s low position.

The result – it turned out that “Spartak” can not only load the ball on the forwards and fight for the rebound. Short and medium passes, Moses’ mid-turns, the interaction of a pair of forwards – all this gave an excellent result. In the first half, Spartak scored 12 shots (8 on target). “Ural” could not figure out the scheme and simply swam.

Top RPL coaches who may be out of work.  Their fate will be decided in the final rounds
Top RPL coaches who may be out of work. Their fate will be decided in the final rounds

Weaknesses showed up in the second half. The problems were very painful.

In fact, weaknesses became noticeable even before the break, it’s just that Ural did not convert their chances, and the score 0:3 allowed them to turn a blind eye to errors.

“Spartak” tried to press at the top of the 4-4-2 structure, where one forward advanced to the defender, and the other narrowed the position on the defensive midfielder. At first, the pressing structure worked perfectly, Ural got lost and made mistakes. Or just strayed into takeaways.

But when the intensity of the pressure decreased, and the opponent nevertheless began to bring the ball forward, defense problems in the low block came out. The default 4-4-2 formation is vulnerable on the flanks – there is no control over the width of the field during turns, playing defensively against flank midfielders is extremely important. If they don’t keep up, full-backs are forced to play against two opponents and without a safety net.

In the case of Spartak, the vulnerability has become too large:

  • Moses and Promes are so-so working on a return, delayed in attack, losing concentration. And sometimes they are simply lazy and openly score on defensive functions;
  • Litvinov and Khlusevich are not pure flank defenders. The same Khlusevich lacks defensive skills, he tends to throw himself too sharply and leave the zone, loses his position;
  • Prutsev is not explosive and tenacious enough for quality work on safety net.

For example, in the first half, Ural created such a moment. Spartak failed to put real pressure on their right flank, the opponent cleared the ball and got an excellent opportunity to turn around. Litvinov accompanied Zheleznov, only at the last moment he noticed the jerk of the right-back Yegorychev behind his back. Promes fell asleep, he did not participate in the episode.

There was a cast, and then a discount for the second pace. Where also there was not enough Promes or at least Zobnin. “Ural” had to score. And the score was only 2-0 in favor of the red-whites.

In the second half, Ural still scored – and, of course, the goal came from the flank. There was a transfer to the flank from the middle. “Spartak” did not have time to rebuild, Moses did not return, he remained in the center circle.

Left-back Goglichidze joined the attack, a 2-on-1 situation formed on the flank. Bikfalvi made a dash towards the target. Prutsev absolutely correctly did not react to him – he was preparing to help Khlusevich. The distribution of roles should have happened immediately: Prutsev insures the shift to the center, Khlusevich finishes the game by running in to the front, it would be rational.

The initial position of Khlusevich’s body made it possible to react to Goglichidze’s running in – he was “half-sided”, could accelerate after the transfer and stay in the game.

But then Khlusevich suddenly turned the body around. In this position, he could only insure the middle. It is no longer possible to turn around and react to the running of the left defender. The right-back turned himself off from the episode.

Prutsev was not supposed to insure this direction, he did not have time, he was preparing to close the center. In the end, he did not have enough breakthrough, the position was initially losing.

Ural began to clearly put pressure on problem areas, so Vanoli changed to a scheme with five defenders, still on time. Let someone this and seemed cowardly. Otherwise, the match could end quite sadly.

Whose pupils are cooler: Zenit, Spartak or Chertanovo?  Salikhova raised an important topic
Whose pupils are cooler: Zenit, Spartak or Chertanovo? Salikhova raised an important topic


Now Vanoli has a dilemma – according to what scheme to play against Enisey in the Russian Cup? On the one hand, there is a powerful attack in the first half, very nice short interactions, great work from Moses in the middle. On the other hand, the defensive structure cracked as soon as the intensity of the pressure dropped, the second half poured a huge portion of skepticism.

Perhaps the return of Jikia and Zhigo to the center, as well as Martins to the support zone, will add balance – and with them, even with 4-4-2, Spartak will experience fewer problems. Although flank issues are not going anywhere. The red-whites initially did not have a clean right-back, and there was no left-back after Ayrton’s departure.

Therefore, I think Vanoli still will not take risks in such an important match for him and will play easier.


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