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India made light work of an amateurish Taipei side yesterday at the Mumbai Arena, emerging 5-0 winners. This was closer to a practice match with a local team than an international standard match with the Blue Tigers thoroughly outclassing their opponents on every front. There were some interesting tactical tidbits that I noticed and think are worth keeping an eye out for in the next game.
Jeje + Chhetri = Goals
The two Indian front men showed us what a strong relationship they have as both players dropped into the hole or used intelligent movement to create space for each other. Contrary to popular perception before yesterday, Jeje looked more dangerous dropping off into the #10 role while the skipper tried to break the offside trap. Jeje's movement would drag a centre-back out of position and he would then use his upper body strength to shield the ball and find layoff opportunities while Udanta, Narzary and Chhetri tried to attack the space created.
To be honest, Jeje did not deviate from his natural game last night but looked so much more effective because the midfield and Chhetri would get close to him, combine and then run on into the space behind the defence, enabling his one touch-passing game - I've written about how Chennaiyin's lack of a #10 hurts their play, could Jeje paired with a hard-runner be the answer?
Third man running
"The third man is the main concept to create superiorities in the Positional game" - Pep Guardiola
Jeje's (and Chhetri's) incredible movement described above created space for midfield players to run into and that is exactly what we saw for the third goal. Chhetri, this time, drops into a midfield position to get on the ball. A Taipei centre-half leaves his position to pressure Chhetri, Jeje immediately makes a dart into the space created and Thapa pushes up to create a short passing option.
Chhetri plays the short pass, gets on his bike and is able to sneak around the Taipei defence while they are focused on the 1-2 between Thapa and Jeje. Scintillating football, impossible to stop. The goal is identical to a Patrick Vieira goal against Liverpool, one of my all time favorites.
Playing Out of the Back
A potential concern for India is the poor decision making from the Indian defence, specifically, Jhingan and Anas. Today was a good opportunity for them to get plenty of touches on the ball and work on progressing it into the midfield - Anirudh Thapa and Pronay Halder were in excellent form and instead of giving it to them, the two centre backs would launch high hopeful balls towards our rather small front line.
Playing forward passes is a good thing but Anas and Jhingan need to take a leaf out of Pritam and Subhashish's book. The two full-backs were excellent in finding sharp, angled balls from out wide into the feet of the forwards which enabled their pass-and-go style of play. The centre-halves need to show more patience, even if it means hitting 10 passes in a row between each other and wait for an opposing to defender to commit and open the space. I have started collecting "second assist" as a stat and Pritam & Subhashish should have had 2 each.
Chinese Taipei's Blunders
The Chinese Taipei team played a high line, hoping it would be good enough to catch the Indian forwards out. They however, failed to work on keeping their structure vertically compact. The wide midfielders and forwards did not tuck in and create a line in front of the central midfielders. This meant there was more running for the CMs to do and with the Indian forwards dropping deep to create a 3v2 superiority, the Taipei CMs could not provide enough pressure on the ball. This allowed the likes of Thapa to get on the ball and spray through passes for Chhetri and Udanta to run onto.
And finally, Erik Paartalu quoted an Albert Roca stat on commentary - 33% of all goals come from set pieces. India, yesterday, had an expected goals (xG) figure of 3.19. Their set play xG - 1.2 - just above 33%.
Sunil Chhetri's hat-trick goal came from an excellent set piece where Udanta, Thapa and the man himself worked out an amazing short corner routine that ended up being the best chance of the game with an 84% chance of being a goal.
Got questions? Find me on Twitter - @sgtsaltnpeppa