Match Analysis Team Analysis

A-League 2020/21: Sydney FC – tactical analysis vs Western United

Venue: Mars Stadium, Ballarat

Date & Time: 15 May, 2.35pm

Round No.: 21

Sydney FC dominated and created plenty of chances throughout the whole match against United in the Hyundai A-League. It remained 0-0 till the half-time break although they took 16 shots on goal to United’s two, but the opposition goal-keeper Ryan Scott kept them in the game by pulling off several top-quality saves.

In this tactical analysis, I will analyze Sydney FC’s build-up and attacking play tactics in the first half against Western United.


Western United: 1-3-4-2-1                   Sydney FC: 1-4-2-2-2

Manager: Mark Rudan                       Manager: Steve Corica

Western United lined up in a 1-3-4-2-1 formation in which Brendan Hamill and Iker Guarrotxena made their way into the starting line-up. In possession, United set up in a 1-3-4-2-1 structure. Tomislav Uskok operated as a single pivot in front of the three centre-backs. Dylan Pierias and Connor Pain played as wingbacks providing the width for United. Victor Sanchez, Alessandro Diamanti, Guarrotxena and Uskok played in a 4-men diamond midfield while Lachlan Wales played as a single striker up top. While being out of possession, United defended in a mid-block 4-4-2 or 5-4-1 structure depending on the number of players Sydney used in their build-up play.

Sydney FC lined up in a 4-2-2-2 formation in which Luke Brattan and Trent Buhagiar made their way into the starting line-up. In possession, Sydney set up in a 1-3-1-4-2 structure while without the ball they defended in a 1-4-4-2 structure with the wide midfielders tucked in, forming a narrow 1-4-2-2-2 shape.

Sydney FC’s build-up & attacking play

The Sky Blues like to play out from the back and maintain a very narrow structure while in possession, hence keeping 55.8% possession. Their 4-2-2-2 shape is very fluid and changes according to the opposition. It helps all players to play different roles comfortably. This shape in possession increases the number of combination plays in the centre due to the high number of players operating in between the lines. Sydney adopts a very slow and patient build-up play and spends most of their time in the middle third. To get into the final third they like to penetrate through the central lanes by quick combination play or through long balls hit over the top of the opposition full back into the wide channels.

Rotations in defence

Sydney moved the ball around in defence between the two centre-backs, Ryan McGowan and Alex Wilkinson with the two men in front of them, Luke Brattan and Anthony Caceres, before finding the right angles to progress the ball further up the field.

Brattan or Caceres would often drop in between or next to the centre-backs, to form a back three when building up from the back while the other would remain in front as a single pivot which would also allow the fullbacks to push higher and provide the width. This would allow Brattan or Caceres to receive the ball facing forward. The width provided by the fullbacks’ forces opposition to decide on whether – 1. To leave the fullbacks free on each side and cover the middle, 2. To cover space horizontally and leave the central passing lanes open to the players operating in between the lines, that is when Sydney decides on how to progress the ball into the final third.

United found it difficult to press Sydney high up the pitch because the opposition always had numbers around the ball, providing passing options. The Sky Blues always had a numerical superiority in their defensive and middle third, which helped them in progressing the ball forward easily. Thus, United sat back in a compact defensive block and hit the opposition on the counter with the help of their veteran playmaker Diamanti.

Direct Play

Sydney also adopts a direct playing style approach, which means moving the ball forward at a quick pace. Because of a compact structure while defending they were able to recover a lot of balls via their midfielders which would cause in many chances for an offensive transition through direct play. It proved quite effective for them as they have two strikers who can be a direct outlet for the defenders and midfielders. The transition via direct passes allows strikers to receive the ball into the feet, in behind the opposition defence or hold up play to allow others to join the attack, which gives them a big advantage over their opposition.

Whenever United tried to press high, Sydney would switch to direct play, allowing them to gain territory over the opposition and also relieve pressure by finding the strikers immediately. Thus, it would act as a trigger for others to move up the pitch and join the attack to overload in the final third. United always left their 3 centre-backs at the back and Sydney would keep their two strikers and Barbarouses along with them to keep the opposition back line engaged. Hence, Sydney created plenty of opportunities because of the amount of space behind United’s defence.

Playing in between the lines

Sydney has a very narrow approach in attack which is complimented by the structure the operate in. The biggest advantage of this approach is the presence of players in between the lines which makes it really hard for the opposition to defend against. The Sky Blues like to overload the midfield which gives their playmakers passing options and help the team in progressing forward from the middle to final third frequently augmented by their combination play in between the lines. They also like to deliver crosses to create chances from the wide areas as well when they cannot penetrate through the middle.

The Sky Blues were up against a resolute Western United defence who tried to block Sydney’s central progression and force them towards the wide areas. Sydney was not afraid to commit men forward. The Sky Blues possess players like Ninkovic and Barbarouses who are capable of playing in between the lines. The constant movement of drifting in and out from these players and their link-up play with Bobo and Buhagiar helped in disorganizing the opposition.

Created using: Once Video Analyzer Pro |

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