Urawa Reds vs Kashiwa Reysol Tactical Analysis
Against Urawa Reds, Kashiwa Reysol opted for 4-4-1-1. The defensive line consists of Hiromu Mitsumaru, Takuma Ominami, Shunki Takahashi, Taiyo Koga. Ahead of the four man defensive line consists of: Richardson dos Santos, Hidekazu Otani, Yuta Kamiya, Hayato Nakama. Ataru Esaka locates himself just behind Olunga who led the line.
In contrast, the sixth place Urawa Reds lined up in a traditional 4-4-2. The four man defensive line consisted of Ryosuke Yamanaka, Takuya Iwanami, Mauricio Antonio and Daiki Hashioka. In front of the defensive line, the midfield line consisted of Fabricio dos Santos, Kai Shibato, Ewerton and Takahiro Sekine. The front two consisted of Leonardo de Souza and Yuki Muto.
Usage of pocket between defensive and midfield line
Against Reysol, Urawa utilized the space in between the defensive and midfield line, as Reysol consistently left a massive amount of space between the lines during transition. Muto uses his spatial recognition ability to locate himself between the line, as Leonardo continues to make runs in behind in order to stretch the defensive line backwards, which consequently increases the gap between the defensive and midfield line.
Urawa utilized this movement well in the final third as well by committing numbers in between the lines in order to create shooting opportunities. In the image below, Urawa Reds does an excellent job of placing five players in between the lines create overload in zone 14, where Urawa quickly passes the from right to left in order to shift the defensive line, and finally passes the ball into space in behind the Kashiwa backline where they had a shot on goal.
In addition to placing numbers in between the lines, Urawa Reds were successful in breaking down Kashiwa in the channels by the movement of fullbacks and winger interchanging positions in order to produce crossing chances with high numbers in the box. In the images below, Hashioka passes the ball to Sekine and the two players interchange positions in order to create confusion in defense for Kashiwa. In addition, the two players interchange positions for the second time as Sekine runs into space in the channels behind the defensive line in order to receive the ball from Hashioka, who successfully attracts the opposition left back who stretches too far from his defensive line.
Be your own worst enemy
Although having success in creating overload in zone 14 and taking control of channels, Urawa Reds were terrible with converting their chances. Against Kashiwa Reysol, Urawa Reds had expected goal rate (xG) of 2.03, while Kashiwa Reysol had 0.85 even though Kashiwa Reysol beat Urawa Reds 4-0. Urawa Reds had 16 shots in total, with nine shots inside the box and six on target.
The poor conversion rate from Urawa Reds could be explained by Kashiwa Reysol goalkeeper, Kosuke Nakamura, as he had an excellent game against the Reds. In total, Nakamura had six saves, four of them being saves within his own box. However, the brilliant display of Nakamura still does not justify that a team with this many chances fails to score. The lack of successful finishing certainly hurt Urawa Reds the most, as Kashiwa Reysol, who significantly had less chances successfully convert their chances to win the game 4-0
The importance of defensive structure in transition
Against Kashiwa Reysol, Urawa Reds displayed 5-3-2 deep defensive block in their own half, as they did an excellent job of eliminating possession in the midfield to eradicate chances to play in behind. The three man midfield also did an excellent job as they shifted swiftly from side to side, and forced the opposition to cross the ball from outside of the box, which ultimately lowered the xG to 2.03, which is still pretty high.
However, the main problem for Urawa Reds was their lack of will to track back during transition and poor recognition of space. After loss of possession, Urawa Reds midfielders tend to lack the will to return and help their defensive line, as the defensive line (who only has two players due to the fact that both fullbacks push up to the midfield line) struggles to defend.
In the example below, Urawa Reds lost possession in the midfield as Reysol brings the ball forward in the channel, Urawa Reds fail to recognize two opposition players located near zone 14. In the second picture, Urawa Reds midfielders still fail to track back, leaving two Reysol players in the box with only one Urawa defender. Two versus one situation is extremely dangerous for any team, as Reysol capitalized on their chance, making it 3-0.
An eye for an eye
In offense, Kashiwa Reysol deployed 2-4-4 formation in order to create numerical superiority in forward positions. In addition, Kashiwa did a great job of using their fullbacks in order to counter against the highly mobile Urawa defense in their own half. In the image below, Urawa forms 4-4-2 as they block the central area of the field.
In contrast, Kashiwa Reysol lines up with four in the front, with three midfielders on the field, attracting the attention of the Urawa midfielders. However, RB Koga pushes up from his defensive line towards the open space in order to receive the ball in a dangerous position. Reysol displayed these tactics when Urawa midfielders were successfully defending the central area of the field and had to move the ball into space near the sides.
This trend can be shown in data as well. In the image below, Kashiwa Reysol had the majority of the possession near the halfway line. The graph shows the high consistency between center-back and full-backs, as the full-backs push up in the midfield line to create a four man midfield. However, Kashiwa Reysol seemed to struggle to move past the halfway line, as Urawa Reds did a great job with shifting side to side even though having one less player in the midfield line.
Although having less possession rate than Urawa Reds, Kashiwa Reysol was excellent during counter attacks, as they continuously allocated high numbers during transitions in the final third. In the image below, Kashiwa Reysol obtains possession in the middle of the field and quickly looks to counter attack using Olunga, Nakama, and Esaka to run behind the numerically displaced defensive backline. In the second picture, the midfielders and defenders for Urawa Reds are still not in place with their defensive position, as Reysol creates three versus one situation in zone 14. Because of the lack of defenders, Reysol has a good shot on goal.
The trend in counter attacks can be explained by data as well. Against Urawa Reds, 14% of total passes for Kashiwa Reysol were long passes, while Urawa Reds were 6%, as Urawa focused more intricate passes in the midfield. The reason for the lack of cover during transition could be explained by the point above, where Reysol continued to shift the Urawa midfielders. The constant shifting and covering vacant spaces could tire out the midfielders too much, where they were unable to return to their defensive position during position. The lack of practice and game time during the COVID crisis can possibly explain this, as the team had less time to work on their fitness. If this is the case, however, Urawa Reds manager, Tsuyoshi Otsuki did a poor job of game management.
Staying true to basics
As explained above during the attacking phase of Urawa Reds, Reysol tends to leave space in between defensive and midfield lines. However, Reysol does a great job of being consistent with organization in the midfield, as they solidify the middle of the field by making the midfielder’s positioning compact, and force the opposition to attack the sides. Once in the sides, the fullbacks and the winger will apply immediate pressure to win the ball back.
The same level of intensity was seen during defense in the offensive third. As Urawa Reds prepared for goal kicks, the front six players man mark their opposition and apply immediate pressure as soon as Urawa Reds tries to play from the back. As a result of hard work and staying true to basics of defense, Kashiwa Reysol won the ball on numbers of occasions in the opposition third. Once in possession in the opposition third, Olunga was not afraid to take shots from outside of the box, as shown below.
The intensity of duels and their high win percentages for Kashiwa Reysol is illustrated in data as well. As two of their goals resulted in turnovers in the opposition half caused by one vs one defending and duels, 57% of duels were won by Kashiwa as shown below.
Against Kashiwa Reysol, Urawa Reds struggled with their tight defense in midfield, as Kashiwa did an excellent job of utilizing both fullbacks and winger’s support to pin the opposition at the sides. In contrast, Urawa did a great job of advancing towards the box and having shots on target. But the main factor that Urawa Reds struggled the most was the finishing, as they consistently failed to convert any chances even from inside the box on a number of occasions.
In addition, the poor game management from the Urawa Reds seemed to be detrimental as the midfield four became too fatigued in the second half. As a result, Kashiwa Reysol utilized their forwards to commit numbers during counter attacks and converted their chances. It will be interesting to see whether or not Kashiwa can maintain their momentum going forward like they did when they were on top of the Asian football world during the 2011 Club World Cup. In addition, it will be interesting to see whether or not Urawa Reds can solve their problem of fatigue in the future.