Ange Postecoglou: The success behind Yokohama F Marinos[日本語訳]





「Ange Postecoglou: The success behind Yokohama F Marinos」









During this period, the attention of many football fans being placed on the Tourmalet stage of English football and the return of several European leagues after a long winter break. But on the opposite side of the Earth, the first division of the Japanese league, commonly known as the J1 League, saw the 2019 season capped off with a surprising champion. Under the management of Australian manager Ange PostecoglouYokohama F Marinos rose up the table and made the top spot theirs during the last three games of the season.



Before arriving at Japan, Postecoglou already had an impressive record in his home country, helping Brisbane Roar secured a 36 unbeaten matches streak and the first Asian Cup title for the national team. With admirable achievements to his name, he was appointed to the managerial spot of Yokohama F.M. during the 2018 season. It was a tough first season for the manager as his side finished twelfth, but they showed some positive signs as they finished runner-up of the J1 League Cup.



But the introduction of a fascinating tactic helped Yokohama F.M. finished the 2019 season with a six-point gap over FC Tokyo to lift the fourth J1 League title in the club’s history. In this tactical analysis, we will provide an analysis of Postecoglou’s tactics in his second season with Yokohama F Marinos. Meanwhile, using statistics and footage, we will point out the main tactical points Postecoglou implemented in his tactics this season.




For the majority of the season, Postecoglou tended to line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. But on several occasions, typically depending on the opposition and the players that he had, it was possible for him to switch the formation from playing two central midfielders to one and created a 4-1-4-1. At the same time, an attacking variation of that formation in a 4-1-2-3 was also applied during 15% of the matches.

His 4-2-3-1 formation, though, has something special about it with the way that he chose the players’ roles. One of the most noticeable roles that played a crucial part in how Yokohama F.M. played during last season was the inverted wing-backs. Though the two players who occupied that role, left-back Theerathon Bunmathan and right-back Ken Matsubara, played on the side similar to their preferred foot, they still spent more time working inside the half-spaces while leaving the wide spaces for the wingers up front. Thiago Martins and Shinnosuke Hatanaka were also used as two ball-playing defenders as they aimed to distribute the ball forward with their passing abilities. This allowed the team to control possession more often during the build-up process, which showed why they were able to hold an average of 63.28% of possession and registered 5.53 passes per possession.


彼の4-2-3-1のフォーメーションでは、通常とは異なり、各選手の役割は独特のものであった。その中で顕著なものとして昨年はウイングバックとしての役割である。しかし今季はサイドバックとして左サイドバックにティーラトン・ブンマタン、右サイドバックに松原健を擁し、彼らは各々のサイドの利き足で、ウインガーの選手がワイドの高い位置を取る際は彼らが内側のハーフスペースへポジションを取る。チアゴ・マルチンスと畠中慎之輔はボールを足元に優れたセンターバックとして ボールを前へ配給する。このことがビルドアップ時にボールを多く保持出来ることを可能にし、なぜ平均ボール保持率が63.28%でPPPが5.53を記録したのかをも示している。」


~Yokohama F.M.'s 4-2-3-1 formation~


Build-up phase

As mentioned, Yokohama F.M. relied heavily on building their attacks from the back with the involvement of two centre-backs. Alongside them, one of the pivots would also drop deep, either in between Thiago Martins and Hatanaka or moved a bit towards the left side, and created a three-man build-up with them. This allowed the team to have an immediate passing triangle, which proved to be useful against teams who pressed high up the pitch.

By keeping the distance between each other close enough, they maintained a close support range which eliminated the need of making longer passes that had a low accuracy rate. Also, it helped them to link up with the remaining pivot, who would then become the focal point whenever they wanted to progress the ball forward.



~An example of a Yokohama F.M.'s build-up situation~


At times, goalkeeper Park Il-gyu was also involved in the build-up as the team aimed to build from deep. In the role of a sweeper keeper, the Korean goalkeeper had the license to roam inside the box and received the ball more often. There, he had the option to play a direct ball towards the advanced options or keep things short by laying it to either a centre-back or a wing-back.

Another thing to note about their build-up strategy is they were happy to move the ball quite slowly and attempt to find pockets of space where they could send the ball. When playing against a low-block, the pivots would form a midfield line along with the wing-backs and attempted to get one of the opposition’s defensive lines out of their shape. They moved closer towards the ball carrier and, thus, creating a gap in between the lines for the attackers to move into.

In the shot below against Sanfreece Hiroshima, they did just that by inviting one of the lines to move forward and press the build-up. But instead, there was a pocket of space being formed and Thiago Martins was able to make a pass to Marcos Júnior, which started the team’s attack.





~Yokohama F.M.'s midfield line dragged one of Sanfreece's defensive lines out of their position and created space for Marcos Junior to receive the pass~


One thing that can be seen from Marcos Júnior’s involvement during the team’s build-up is that he tended to drop deep to receive the ball. I mean very deep from his position as he was willing to show up inside the team’s half when either one of the centre-backs held the ball. He would then create a passing triangle with them the same way that one of the pivots did. As he attempted to do so, his movement would drag along one of the opposition’s midfielders, which could create space between the players and allowed his teammates to move into.

In addition to Marcos Júnior’s positioning during the phase, it is worth noticing that one of the pivots was willing to position himself right behind the first pressure line. This asks a question of the opposition as he attracts the attention of both the forwards and the midfielders when he’s positioned between their defensive lines. It also allows his teammates in midfield to push higher while still retaining good passing connections with the pivot himself. Furthermore, it means when his defenders find him with a pass they’ve often broken one of the opponent’s defensive lines.


そのフェーズではマルコス・ジュニオールのポジショニングに加え、注目すべき点としてピボットの選手の内の1人が 彼の右手でファーストプレッシャーラインの背後にポジショニングを取る。これにより対戦相手はフォワードの選手と中盤の選手でどちらがいくか迷わせることが出来る。また、それはチームメイトが高い位置でのピボットとの良いパスコースを維持することにも繋がっている。さらに、ピボットの選手を見つけパスを行うことは、ファーストプレッシャーラインを突破することを意味する。」


~One of the pivots positioned himself behind the first line of pressure, which allowed the defenders to connect with him and progress the ball forward~


This strategy also came with a disadvantage, as they tended to be victimized quite easily by the high and aggressive pressing teams, as shown in Kashima Antlers’ first goal in their match against Postecoglou’s side. Just a few seconds into the match, the home side immediately launched a press towards Yokohama F.M.’s build-up that saw four attackers attempting to recover possession for their side.

This, however, followed up with them suffocating Theerathon and cutting down the possible passing lanes around him, forcing him to take a heavy touch and lose the ball. Serginho took the opportunity well with a curl into the far post, leaving Park with no chance to save the shot.

From this situation, it is clear to see how easily Yokohama F.M. players mismanaged pressure when they held the ball for too long inside their defensive half. This could result in them losing possession and allowing the opposition to create a dangerous counter-attack towards goal. In fact, there were some matches where they registered a high number of losses inside their defensive third. This includes their 2-0 victory against Vissel Kobe that saw 36% of their losses take place in the defensive third.





~Kashima's press at the start of the match suffocated Theerathon and forced him to give the ball away, which was converted into the opening goal by Serginho later on~


Attacking Strategies

As they progressed the ball into the opposition’s half, the main principle that allowed the players to continue the team’s attack was intelligent movements to either create or take advantage of space. Amid the fact that they tended to circulate the ball quite slow, this helped the ball carrier to have a quick scan of the field and, therefore, pick out the teammate who was in a good position to pick up possession.

In the shot below, it can be seen that one of Yokohama F.M.’s players noticed the narrow pressing structure of FC Tokyo and immediately picked out a gap out wide. As he moved into that gap, he also received the through ball from the defender that allowed him to play up the pitch for Teruhito Nagakawa, which allowed the right-winger to continue his run up the wing.




~Intelligent movements allowed one of the team's midfielder to receive the ball from his teammate in free space~


Immediately, there is one thing that can be picked out from both the situation above and below from the same match. No matter if the opposition’s defensive line intended to stay narrow or not, striker Edigar Junio and both wingers would attempt to position themselves as high as possible with the intention of pinning the defensive line down.

As shown in the scenario below, which was taken from the same match, the attackers formed a line and positioned themselves just before Tokyo’s defensive line to keep themselves from being caught in the offside trap. Their positions, though, still allowed them to sit on the shoulder of defenders and turn up at the end of their teammates’ through balls.

Another intention of this strategy is, again, creating space between the opposition’s defensive lines. Along with their teammates’ movements, the attackers’ positioning would force the defenders to drag back and leave a gap between the lines. This allowed the likes of attacking midfielder Marcos Júnior or central midfielder Takuya Kida to enter the gap and became viable passing options in order to help the team progressed the ball up the pitch.





~A Situation happened in the match against FC Tokyo, which saw the team's attacking line pinned down the opposition 's defensive line~


The positioning of both wingers had something fascinating about it. They were happy to be in an offside position as they attempted to drag the defensive line further back. This ties back to their tactic of bursting forward on-the-ball. In the first situation against FC Tokyo, it is possible to see Nagakawa and Endo’s positioning in behind their defensive line.

As mentioned earlier, Yokohama F.M.’s tactic had a heavy reliance on the involvement of the inverted wing-backs. In Theerathon and Matsubara, Postecoglou has two natural wing-backs to overlap up the pitch and join the attack while also tracking back to form the back-four defensive line. They tended to stay quite narrow either on or off-the-ball and positioned themselves in the half-spaces more often.

This allowed the wingers to stretch wide and occupy the wide spaces, which would stretch the opposition’s defensive line. With them being wing-oriented the majority of the time, their involvement in the attack played a crucial role in overloading both wings to give either the winger or wing-back a solid option to lay off the ball.

Also, they had the tendency of making many crosses into the box, which mainly came from the left-hand side of Theerathon and Endo. On average, the team registered 17.9 crosses per game, almost five more compared to their opponent’s average of 13.02. In terms of individuals, Theerathon registered 2.05 crosses per game and Endo had a higher average crossing rate, as compared to the Thailand international, with 3.93 crosses per game. This showed how heavily they attacked down the left-hand side but, at the same time, were still able to distribute the ball towards the right-wing.





~Theerathon and Matsubara's positioned narrowly and allowed both wingers to attack the wide space~


Against low-blocks, the strategy of making early crosses into the box benefitted the side as they attempted to get the ball into the box. With both wingers still positioned on the shoulder of defenders, they could turn up at the end of crosses by beating their marker and entering the 6-yard box to make a close-range shot.

This tactic was only used when they found themselves on the back foot when playing against teams who deployed a low-block, which meant it was not implemented too often. Their preferred way of getting the ball into the box was still through the movements and positional interchanging of the wing-backs and wingers, which allowed them to bring the ball along with them to find the advanced options in the box.




~Early crosses being implemented to break down low-block reams~