Mumbai City got their chance to play in front on their fans for the first time on October 31 in the Indian Super League. They looked confident after bagging four points out of the available six in their first two away games. Odisha travelled to Mumbai Football Arena in order to recoup some glory after losing both of their first two matches. It was down to the former Barcelona youth-team-coach Josep Gombau to save his side from the third consecutive defeat. In this tactical analysis, we will discuss Odisha’s strategy and game plan to overcome Mumbai’s impressive form. The following analysis will focus on their tactics to understand the final outcome of the game.
Odisha made three changes from their previous match against Northeast United. Martin Perez Guedes gave way to Nandha Kumar Sekar on the wings. Suspended Carlos Delgado was replaced by the Senegalese centre-back Diawandou Diagne. Finally the goalkeeper Francisco Dorronsoro came in for Arshdeep Singh as this was a tactical switch. Gombau stuck to his preferred 4-2-3-1 and made some tweaks in the game as it demanded.
Jorge Costa made three changes for Mumbai City as well. Sèrge Kevyn Aboue came in place of injured Pape Modou Sougou. Rowllin Borges was replaced by Paulo Machado in the midfield. Souvik Chakraborty after getting a red card in the previous game paved way for Mohammed Rafique in the right-back position.
Odisha in possession (Attacking)
The inconspicuous role of Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Sekar was the nucleus of all attacks for Odisha. The two attacking wingers didn’t just provide width but also the depth to the team. Their contribution and tactical play enabled Odisha to successfully execute all the varied approaches of attack.
Odisha used Dorronsoro extensively in the process of progressing the ball. He sought support from the two centre-backs to stretch wide and one of the pivots dropping in front to make a diamond. This could have been assumed as a common playing out from the back strategy but it wasn’t the case here. Dorronsoro preferred going out long and this approach was a disguise to make space. The four players rotated the ball amongst themselves to attract Mumbai’s press. They managed to keep the ball well when Amine Chermiti and Mohamed Larbi pressed as it was an easy 4 v 2 situation. The trap fulfilled its purpose as soon as Mumbai’s third player jumped in.
As Odisha’s wingers stayed higher up the field, they provided depth and made it difficult for Mumbai’s backline to join the press. The third player to the press would either be a winger (Aboue or Diego) or one of the two centre-midfielders (Machado/ Raynier Fernandes). This was the trigger for the keeper to find the now unmarked full-back (Shubham Sarangi or Narayan Das) or Aridane who dropped in the midfield. He played 14 out of the 19 passes outside the defensive third to these three players. This was possible as Odisha’s wingers engaged with Mumbai’s backline higher increasing the space between the lines to play into. This ensured enough time for Sarangi, Das and Aridane to progress the ball further without any pressure.
Aridane dropping in the midfield was pivotal for link-up play. He combined with Hernández and often switched role with him. Both Hernández and Aridane making runs from the deep made it difficult for Mumbai’s midfielders to track their runs. As the defensive line moved back with the wingers, Aridane and Hernández got opportunities to take shots from the cutback passes played by wingers in zone 14. Odisha attempted six of their 16 shots from the outside of the box and Aridane scored the second goal from the outside of the box as Jerry assisted him with a cut-back pass.
The optimum width offered by the wingers in the final third made it easy for players from the back to make a diagonal switch. As Mumbai’s back four stayed compact and the wingers tucked in the centre, Jerry and Sekar had all the time at their disposal. Both the wingers being explosively quick and proficient dribblers loved to challenge Mumbai’s full-backs in a 1 v 1.
The right-back Sarangi made a diagonal switch to Sekar in the 39th minute. Rafique gave him enough time and space to then cut inside and attempt a curler which hit the post. Fortunately, a teammate was on the other end to meet the rebound and score the third goal for the team. Another crucial switch came from the substitute Guedes to Jerry. Jerry came face to face with the young full-back Valpuia who came in place of injured Bose. Jerry didn’t find it difficult to cross the Aridane for his second and Odisha’s fourth goal.
After securing a three-goal lead Odisha didn’t try to keep possession as they did in the first half. Aridane possessing strong aerial ability was the focal point of all long balls. He won nine of the 13 aerial duels contested. As he was habituated to drop in the midfield, the players around him made a run behind him. As a result, Odisha showed their dominance in winning the second balls. Mumbai’s defenders made it easy as on three occasions, two defenders contested for the same ball and still failed to win the first header. This was due to Odisha’s wingers being unmarked on those occasions, which was poor from Mumbai’s defenders because this lack of communication cost them a goal. Hernández scored from winning the second ball as Aridane’s header from a throw-in assisted the goal.
Odisha out of possession (Defending)
Against Mumbai’s build-up
The Juggernauts maintained their 4-2-3-1 formation while defending as well. They stationed four players in the opposition half to defend and the front four placed themselves between Mumbai’s defence line and midfield line. They didn’t press actively as the focus was to maintain shape in the centre. It helped them create a 4 v 3 situation against the two centre-backs and the pivot. However, the progressing full-backs from Mumbai provided an easy escape route for progression.
The higher stance of the wingers which ignored the movement of the full-backs could have been menacing. When the ball progressed though the full-backs, Odisha’s centre-midfielders Marcos Tébar, formerly of Real Madrid, and Vinit Rai had to cover the space on the flanks. This put them in a difficult 2 v 1 situation until the wingers recovered.
Odisha was aware of the threat Mumbai possessed from crosses. 35% of the goals of Mumbai came from crosses since the start of last season. When the Mumbai players delivered a cross, Odisha defended deep in their box and tried to have at least four players. The full-backs stayed on their feet when the wingers had the ball. Their only attempt was to block the crosses getting into dangerous areas. As one of the full-backs moved out of the box to block the cross, one centre-midfielder dropped deeper to support in defence. Tébar and Rai guarded the space ahead of the last line of defence to make sure no one converted from the cut-backs. The deep and compact defensive structure just outside the six-yard box helped them deal with crosses.
Mumbai could have done a lot more damage had they played early crosses. Since the full-backs had a lot more time and space to deliver a ball, the end result could have been different. But Mumbai instead relied heavily on the wingers Diego (12 crosses), substitute Bipin Singh (6 crosses), and Aboue (5 crosses). Mumbai played 35 crosses compared to Odisha’s five.
The scoreline at half-time forced Mumbai to change their plan. The 3-0 deficit called for more midfield cover in the centre. Machado dropped deeper into the CDM role and Larbi moved as an LCM from CAM. The 4-2-3-1 changed to 4-3-3 to save them from further embarrassment. Soon after the fourth goal, Odisha moved to a 4-1-4-1 shape in the last 15 minutes of the game.
Dorronsoro loved striking the superman pose to deal with crosses – he was always eager to come off his line and punch or catch the ball. This seemed like a tactical duty given by Gombau rather than his style of play. There were obvious risks involved in this system and unfortunately the keeper had to pay the price of it. He conceded a penalty after rushing out of his line in the early minutes of the second half. And then in the 94th minute of the game, he conceded a near-post goal from a mishit cross. It is understandable that this role demands the player to anticipate and make an early move to deal with the cross. Hence why this goal should be qualified as a psychological error rather than a positional or technical mistake from the player.
Defence to attack
Odisha had to deploy their centre-midfielders in the box to defend crosses. The only options outside were the front four. Aridane worked hard to drop in the midfield and his strong hold-up play made him a natural target for transitions. As he dropped in the middle, the wingers took the opportunity to surge forward. The forward used his wingers to play the ball and shift the focus on the flanks.
Attack to defence
Mumbai didn’t waste time in switching the ball wide once they gained possession. It was imperative for Odisha’s back four to align as quickly as possible. This was why the players didn’t try to press but rather focused on getting back to shape. The midfielders too had the responsibility to support the defence. They either infracted the progressive movement from the centre or dropped off to get compact.
The Spanish midfielder Hernández took 5 corners for Odisha. He delivered three from the right corner and left from the left corner. Odisha had their forward Aridane, defenders Rana Gharami and Diagne, midfielder Tébar, and winger Sekar in the box for all corners. They placed Jerry and Rai outside the box to stop the counters and to hit the volleys. Either of the full-backs supported Hernández for a short corner but the primary purpose seemed to take out a man from the box as they would mark them.
While the players inside and outside the box remained the same, the movement and positions differed. When Hernández took a corner from left, he delivered an outswinger with his left foot. The five players, in this case, moved towards the goal from the 18-yard line to head the ball. However, when Hernández took a corner from the right, he delivered an inswinger with his left foot. In this case, the players started off at goal line as the ball was played and moved away from the goal. This contrasting movement from the Odisha players to the movement of the ball made it difficult for the Mumbai players to judge the situation.
While defending corners, Odisha players followed a stern man-to-man marking policy. They deployed one player on the near post and just one player on the 6-yard-line to zonally mark the central area. The keeper was aware of the danger and yet again came off the line to punch the ball. He made some decisive clearances due to which Mumbai started blocking his movements in corners as the game progressed.
Odisha did their homework and was sure of Mumbai’s set-piece routine. The away team conceded a direct free-kick in the 44th minute, in which they then changed their two men wall to one. It is unusual to see teams in such situations with any wall less than three players – they sensed more threat from the delivery of the ball into the box than a direct shot. Mumbai could have taken advantage of this situation but Odisha’s risk paid off. Neither of the teams attempted their direct free-kicks on the goal.
Odisha were finally able to secure three points for the first time in the campaign. Their performance showed positive signs for what lies ahead. Odisha’s backline challenged Mumbai’s over-reliance on crosses effectively. The individual brilliance of attackers and smartly worked moves settled the game in the first half itself. Mumbai played for their pride in the second half and was forced to make changes in their tactical system.