THE VALUE OF OPPOSITE RUNS
A CASE STUDY ON PLAYER MOVEMENT
Here is a Twitter thread I wrote on a facet of player movement: opposite movements and channel interchanges from forwards, Particularly during 3-man attacks.
The expert box players are players who use such movement and score a multitude of goals and get even more chances
This week, Dan James scored his first goal for Leeds United vs Burnley, doing so with movement that at first glance seemed top-notch.
He peels away, gets on the blindside and gets on top of his header, keeping it down with great power. Great right?
However, there is a difference between how the top strikers cause problems and DJ’s goal.
That difference is:
A. creating multiple simple passing options
B. Confusing opposition marking
The top strikers Usually do so via opposite movements.
Let’s take a look
[for analysis, I will assume arbitrary “channels of attack”. they are to illustrate the vertical areas that a player is operating in]
1. LUIS SUAREZ’s Goal vs Rayo Vallecano in 15/16
Suarez’s goal vs Rayo Vallecano is infamous for instructing Roberto, But not why.
He instructs Roberto to run across his man resulting in Roberto attacking the space at the near post.
It also in Suarez attacking the space at the back post as Both players have interchanged channels of attack and messed with the defenders.
2. ROMELU LUKAKU vs Aston Villa
Here, Lukaku does the same thing, instructing Werner to make a run across to the near post as he peels away.
That results in opposite movements with both interchanging channels while being viable, simple passes for Azpi.
If they followed Leeds’ example, the pass would require more accuracy as defenders usually expect those runs.
3. DECLAN RICE’s Assist To Manuel Lanzini vs Crystal Palace
Rice’s assist here is the product of a similar piece of play, this time by Antonio.
Here, he makes the run across from the far side, taking Guehi along with him. The Value of opposites is perhaps most perfectly shown here, as Antonio’s run makes him a viable, Simple pass.
4. SADIO MANE’s Goal vs Manchester City
Sadio Mane shows Dan James the correct run here: as he is the beneficiary of running across instead of spinning away, ready to receive a deadly yet simple slide-rule pass.
Jota also is available as an alternate option and is in space for an easy ball from Salah.
5. EDINSON CAVANI’S Offside Chance vs Burnley
Edinson Cavani is one of the most intelligent players in the 18 Yard Box in the 21st Century.
He shows his understanding of opposite movements in the box in this offside chance vs Burnley.
He is on the far side (akin to James) and makes the run into the space inside his marker rather than the spin wide that James went did.
This move creates space for Cristiano Ronaldo to become a viable box threat.
Cavani’s run thus creates an alternate passing option that wasn’t available before.
What he also does is that he becomes an option in the second phase.
This kind of interplay inside the box for Cavani to get a chance from so close (offside was very debatable) wouldn’t be possible if he’d spun out wide.
The interesting thing here is the implication of the other players in a 3 man attack.
The movements of runners greatly dictate the threat of the ball carrier and the attack in general.
Using Channel switches and Opposing runs, they can give the ball carrier 2 passes into space which are easier to execute.
Maintaining channels can be relatively sub-standard as the best it can do is possibly create the option for a shot for the ball carrier, not much more.
6. ARSENAL’s Moves vs Man City (Build Up and Box Work)
Arsenal were great exponents of opposite movements and players interchanging vs Man city.
Here, Odegaard moves out to the wing while Saka moves inside his full-back: ergo, Tomiyasu can play to Lacazette, Saka or Odegaard.
After Tomiyasu plays into Lacazette, He again has 2 options to progress through.
Here in the goal, we can see the danger of opposite movements in the box.
As Tierney advances, Lacazette scans and sees the space behind Laporte and Ake for a back-post cross. He calls for one and makes a run, in the process pinning them back for Saka to move opposite of Lacazette and hence be alone in the box to finish.
Where did James, Klich and Gelhardt go wrong?
These examples show the difference in sophistication, ruthlessness and efficiency of opposite movements, especially for 3-man attacking moves.
Particularly in & around the box, but also can be exceedingly valuable in the build-up.
Now we have seen the difference in the standard:
Where did James and Klich go wrong?
The first mistake is when Klich breaks with the ball.
James gets drawn towards the ball rather than spinning away.
He does well to spin away to the blindside of his man but moves too far out wide, taking an opp. movement with Klich out of the picture.
Dan James showed some solid movement for his goal. Despite this, there is clear scope for improvement in his operation around the box.
The best strikers have a knack for messing opp. marking in the best way possible, which means they can score goals consistently.
Opp. Movements are Crucial, as the efficacy confuses opposite defending far more than players maintaining their Channel of attack.
It also often results in players attacking space, which improves the margin for error for the player on the ball