Richard Bredice enjoyed six successful years as First-Team Opposition Analysis at Manchester City before joining Belgian side Anderlecht in the summer of 2019. Here he gives five basic tips on analysing second phase defending from corners.
Where second phase from a corner begins is such a subjective thing. I’ve had this discussion so many times in the office with many different answers.
I personally base it on the defending team. So as soon as they clear out the box, that is the moment I consider to be the start point for analysing second phase.
If the ball is bouncing around in the box and there are two or three shots, I consider that to still be within the first phase.
You can set it as a marker on the pitch (say 25yards from goal), or you might base it on whether the defending team has players on the post, so once those players move off the posts then that can be considered second phase. You can look at the attacking team and if they have kept their centre-halves forward it is still second and can continue to what some teams are now looking at as third phase. It is a subjective thing. The main point is you remain consistent in how you define it.
Once I have identified what I define as second phase, for me, it is about how much they lose their structure in that second phase. A lot of defending team’s players switch off once that first header clear happens and they think ‘right I don’t have to mark that man any more’.
So if they were man-to-man marking from a corner, are they still doing that or have all of a sudden players become free.
With zonal marking, I will again look to where the free men are. A lot of teams when they are defending second phase don’t defend the back post very well and normally get outnumbered in that position. All of a sudden, there may be a 3v1 at the back post. Those are the things I look for, basically identifying the space and the players that are switching off. The key underlying message is: Where is the space?
Again following the principles of looking for where the space is, I look at how quickly the defending team get out of the box, especially if they have players on the posts. You want to know how quickly they get out because if somebody stays deeper they play everyone onside. So we know that if we can get the second ball in quickly we will have a good chance because our players in the box will still be onside. There were a few teams, (I think Benfica was one), that as soon as the ball went over each players head they had to squeeze out – Bayern Munich scored a great corner against them in the Champions League that was able to exploit this defensive tactic. There are certain teams that are quick and want to get out in the second phase. If they are quick coming out it means there will be space in behind, and you can use a runner from deep or from the second line. No matter what a team is doing there is always something that can be done to counteract that.
Now having looked at how the players in the box are reacting, I look at what the players on the edge of the box are doing and also those left higher up the pitch, (usually the forwards and wingers) and how they react. Are they starting to think more about attacking and the transition, than looking to close down players in possession or defending? Have they completely switched off their defensive duties? This is important not only in terms of how you may be able to hurt the opposition from the second phase but how they can exploit you in transition.
It is also important to look at the goalkeeper. That will start with the first ball in terms of whether he is looking to come out and catch or punch the first cross, how he reacts to having players on his toes and eyeline. Then looking at the second phase you want to see how aggressive is his starting position in terms of whether he is deep or has he got a high starting position so he is ready to come and attack that second ball into the box.