Match Analysis

A League 2020/21: Melbourne City vs Macarthur FC – tactical analysis

Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney

Date & Time: 20 June, 4.05pm

Round No: A-League Semi-Final 2

Attendance: 2283

Melbourne City defeated Macarthur FC 2-0 to make it to the A-League Grand Final for a second consecutive time. It was really good to see youngsters like Stefan Colakovski and Marco Tilio step up and fire City into the Grand Final. City’s remarkable win was sealed by these young guns before the hour mark in the absence of Jamie Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe.

This article is a tactical analysis of the game between Melbourne City and Macarthur FC. I have analyzed the tactics that were used by both teams.


Melbourne City: 1-4-3-3                        Macarthur FC: 1-4-2-3-1

Manager: Patrick Kisnorbo                   Manager: Ante Milicic

City set up in their usual 1-4-3-3 formation in which Andrew Nabbout made way for Nathaniel Atkinson as the right winger.

While Macarthur also lined up in their preferred 1-4-2-3-1 formation and made three changes. Loic Puyo replaced Moudi Najjar, Benat Etxebarria replace James Meredith and Matt Derbyshire led the attack, replacing Michael Ruhs.

Melbourne City’s build-up & attacking play vs Macarthur’s pressing & defensive organisation

Melbourne city used a positional front five versus a four-man defensive line of Macarthur. Macarthur used a four-man defensive line to cover the full width of the field which meant they would conceded more space in the wide channels or the wingers and midfielders had to work harder to cover the gaps by shuffling across.

All players were given different levels of freedom in this structure. The CBs and the lone central defensive midfielder had a fixed position. While the full backs, wingers and attacking midfielders were given the permission to rotate, keeping the shape of a wide triangle on both flanks, provided all these three spaces were always filled. The occupation of these spaces helped in the progression of ball into the middle and final third smoothly and with because of poor positioning of the opposition, it led to easy penetration.

As the players within the triangle were free to rotate, each of them occupied a space more regularly than the others. Marco Tillio (23) and Nathaniel Atkinson (13) were the wide wingers, Scott Galloway (2) and Scott Jamieson (3) operated as inverted fullbacks and Florin Berenguer (10) and Adrian Luna (20) played more as  high “10s” in the half spaces. City favoured the left flank more to perform this wide rotation as 48% of the attacks came from that flank while only 35% of the attacks came from the opposite flank.

City players were always positioned well and ready to do damage throughout the width of the field, as they always looked to attack the spaces left open by the opposition. For the larger proportion of the game, City were attempting to score against a deep and packed defence.

Macarthur pressed in a mid to high block 4-2-3-1 structure. As City looked to play through the flanks to progress into the final third, Macarthur would shift across to overload the flank, forcing City to go back or go long. The Macarthur defensive midfielders (29 & 4) used their shadow to cover the attacking midfielders (20 & 10) of City. Often, Puyo (10) joined the press with Matt Derbyshire (27) to stop the switch of play and used his shadow to cover Aiden O’Neill (8).

Macarthur overloaded the flank pretty well (by shuffling across) through which the attack would be initiated by City but this would also mean City players were left unmarked on the opposite flank, giving an opportunity to switch the play to the underloaded side. City started switching the ball more, which forced Macarthur to sit back rather than pressing high and shuffling from side to side.

City exploited the space between the opposition’s defensive midfielders well. Luna and Berenguer’s movement caused problems for Macarthur in the midfield and would create space for Colakovski to drop in to receive the ball which would force the opposition’s centre-backs to make a decision of whether to step up and press or leave the gap behind open. After realising that the opposing centre-backs were not dropping, Colakovski would stay up high to create space for Luna to drag the opposition midfielder around and receive the ball facing forward.

Macarthur’s build-up & attacking play vs Melbourne City’s pressing & defensive organisation

Ante Milicic deployed a 3-4-2-1 structure while building up from the back because a structure with a back three provides a lot more angles and passing lanes, which increases the variety in which they could build up from the back. Their aim was to achieve numerical superiority in the first phase of play.

Macarthur’s build-up play was slow and patient as they looked to facilitate safe progression from the back. There were usually 7-8 players involved in the build-up play which made it very difficult for opposition to press with equal numbers thus, City had to commit a lot of players high up the pitch to press them.

Franjic (7) would tuck in on the left side next to the centre backs to form a back three. Benat and Martis operated as the double pivot in front of the three centre backs with a staggered positioning while Tommy Oar and Jake McGing provided the width acting as wingbacks. Puyo and M’Mombwa played as inside forwards in between the lines just behind Derbyshire, who led the attack for Macarthur.

To aid in the build-up play, Federici (1) would often step up and position himself next to Susnjar to form a back four. They used Federici as a sweeper keeper to keep the ball moving as he was the free player in the defensive third. This created an overload against City’s first line of press, making it easier to pass the ball forward. It helped in stretching City’s first line of press. Due to width in build-up play, it became harder for City to cover the ground horizontally and increased the distance between the opposition players while pressing. Thus, City could not be compact anymore and passing lanes for Macarthur started to open up.The method of progression they will use depends on the decisions made by the opposition.

In this way the wingbacks were able to pin the City’s full backs by being extremely high and wide due to which Franjic and Milligan enjoyed time and space while in possession. Thus, 70% of the attacks for Macarthur came from the flanks.

City defended in a mid-block 4-4-2 shape, waiting for the opposition on the edge of the middle third. Luna joined the press with Colakovski, positioning centrally to cut off any progression through the centre. Tillio and Atkinson operated in the half-spaces to stop the wide play and were ready to press the opposition if the first line of press was beaten. The aim was always to block the central areas and force Macarthur to play wide. Whenever it happened, City would shuffle across and press aggressively to force a mistake from the opposition.

If Macarthur were able to progress the ball, then City would retreat into a lower block, keeping defensive compactness both horizontally and vertically. City players would be at a very short distance to each other, reducing passing lanes, which gave more opportunities to press the ball carrier aggressively. They applied a space-oriented man-marking scheme which meant that they kept the compactness and players would pressure the opponents if they entered their zone with the ball.

City’s defensive transition vs Macarthur’s offensive transition

During transition from attacking to defending phase, City would look to press on the ball with one or two players while the rest of the team would move into a man-marking scheme to close down any access point the ball carrier might have. City has players who are excellent in challenging for the ball hence they forced the opposition to commit a mistake.

Macarthur always looked for the long escape pass to Derbyshire when they were transitioning from defence to offence. Derbyshire acts as the focal point of attack for Macarthur to control the ball and bring others into play.  Macarthur usually attacked with 3-4 players and the others would step up to condense the space behind them.

City’s offensive transition vs Macarthur’s defensive transition

City were lightning quick on offensive transitions and they got both the goals as a reward for it. They always looked to play the first pass out of pressure to Colakovski, Tillio, Atkinson or Luna who would make runs in behind the opposition’s defence line as they tried to create space for the others to join the attack. City took advantage of the spaces generated in between Macarthur’s defensive structure and looked for verticality. Macarthur always looked to counter press aggressively for a few seconds with one or two players in defensive transitions and the defenders would start dropping off which left big gaps in midfield.

To counter that City attacked with 4-6 players and at a quick pace as they looked to move the ball forward and diagonally. Sometimes they also tried to combine play with short passes in midfield to drag the opposition players in and then play a long pass out to one of the forwards.

Created using: InStat Australia |

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