Pressing : Third part with Roger Schmidt

This third and last part about pressing in football is dedicated to Roger Schmidt. If you don’t know that young german coach yet, he managed Redbull Salzburg (Austria) after a good season at Paderborn in Bundesliga 2.
After 2 years in Salzburg, he came back to Germany this summer (2014) at Bayer Leverkusen.

Pressing-Schmidt
Roger Schmidt in his previous club, Redbull Salzburg.

Ok … but why Roger Schmidt to talk about pressing?

I admit easily that Roger Schmidt is far less known that coaches in previous articles as Bielsa, Klopp or Rodgers. However I’m pretty sure that he’ll be as known as these coaches in a few years because he’s today certainly the coach with the craziest pressing work in Western Europe.
I gave him that title personally and it may generate some debates. But if you don’t want to believe me (you don’t have to!), I suggest you to read that excellent paper about tactical used by Roger Schmidt at Redbull Salzburg. I’m pretty sure that you’ll come back to see the theory in practice through the following video.

Well, and what about the theoretical pressing set up by Roger Schmidt?

The main idea in that pressing is the trap. We spoke about that briefly in the previous paper (in French) while I pointed that Athletic Bilbao tried to set up some traps to get back the ball as soon as possible. But with Roger Schmidt the trap is the keystone of the pressing.
To trap the opponent you have to make him playing into specific areas where you’ll block him, not by running like a madman (as Bielsa’s players did at Bilbao) but by making trained movements.

In order to set-up these traps Roger Schmidt never deviates from his 4-2-4 (or 4-2-2-2) which he used at Salzburg and use today at Bayer Leverkusen.

Schmidt

You see these crazy traps? That’s awesome isn’t it? No? 🙁
Ok ok, I admit there’s nothing that look like a trap on that -nice- layout. But it was important to show you that picture since the tactical layout has a leading role (especially the four strikers) into the trap setting-up. And by this way you may recognize players in the following video.

Once the coach has decided to set-up some traps on the field (after Giggs the player-coach, beware to the hunter-coach!), he has to answer to 3 questions :

  • Where?
  • In what situation?
  • How?

The only way to make an efficient trap is to answer to these 3 questions together.

Hey guy, you forget the answers!

Don’t worry, you’ll have the promised answers. However I’ll not provide mine but Schmidt’s ones. Unfortunately there’s not, to my knowledge, interviews of the new coach of Bayer Leverkusen about his pressing traps. Then I’ll have to make pictures speaking to detail the tactical way to set-up the traps. Moreover by using images I’m sure that even the most skeptical among you will see that traps work as well in reality as on theoretical blackboard.
As I said previously you cannot answer to each question separately because in the reality there are linked. Indeed you can’t say : « We gonna make the opponent playing in this area » without thinking on the way to make him play as you wish.
However when you want to detect a trap you have to think step by step. Firstly you’ve to find the trap zone. Then it’s necessary to check if that area is linked with a precise situation (for example goalkeeper with the ball). And finally you’ve to check that the trapping team take advantage in that zone by a collective work. If these 3 points are checked you can assert undoubtedly that you discover a prepared trap!

If you want to discover traps through game pictures, skip the following and play the video because I’ll spoil the foundations of Schmidt’s traps. Don’t worry it will be short because it’s quit understandable in the video but I think that it will be more obvious if you know since the beginning what to see. Here are Schmidt’s answers to the 3 previous questions :

  • Where? : 1: On the full-back /// 2: Between four strikers and 2 midfielders.
  • In what situation? : When the opponent is trying to build-up from the back (goalkeeper or center back)
  • How? : By letting the opponent free in one of the 2 areas mentioned previously in order to make him playing in that zone. The trap starts then through a collective work that you’ll see in the video.

Congratulations if you’re still there (and thanks!), your patience will be rewarded by the video demonstration!

If you’ve been watchful, all examples come from european matches and more precisely 3 matches in Europa League against teams that are known for their ability and ambition in the build-up.
The most efficient trap is the one set-up on the full-back, it has been especially amazing against Ajax Amsterdam since they blocked dutch in their own half of the field … and this at Amsterdam Arena!!
And if Roger Schmidt have chosen that zone to set-up this particular trap it is because his team is then helped by the best defender in the world … the touchline. It sounds like a crazy assert? Yet it’s not mine but Guardiola’s one :

“The touchline is the best defender in the world”

Indeed a player with the ball along the touchline can play only on side of the field since he has the touchline on the other : that’s a massive restriction. When you pressure a player in the center of the field, he can dribble you on the left or on the right then he can avoid the pressure by moving away from the pressing player. Next to the touchline that’s not possible anymore, there’s only one solution for the ball carrier … and one solution that’s not enough when the opponent is anticipating.

Moreover a virtue when you block the opponent build-up since the beginning is that you don’t have to imagine dozens and dozens traps to fit every situation that can be faced during a match (in order to answer to all « Where? » and to all « In what situation? »). Obviously this isn’t a silver bullet, if the trap fails then the whole team may be in critical situation.
While he was on the bench at Redbull Salzburg, Roger Schmidt relied on the aggressiveness of his defensive players to immediately stop actions that avoid the trap. I’m pretty sure that the same solution will be used at Bayer Leverkusen since Schmidt has 2 center-backs who are excellent in intense take-ons.

That paper on the barely known Roger Schmidt sign the end of the trilogy about the pressing. I’m sorry for non-french speakers but I don’t think that I’ll translate 2 previous papers (about Bielsa and about Klopp) and I’m aware about the poor quality of automatic translations.
I hope you enjoyed these articles and that you became a specialist about the pretty exciting Roger Schmidt.

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