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How to Stifle De Zerbi Ball ft. David Moyes

This was the Graphic that Sky Sports were showing prior to Brighton taking on West Ham. Most Coaches would have fazed at those numbers, and with Brighton making some scintillating start to the season you could say they deserved all the praise. But Moyes was prepared, armored with arrivals like Edson Alvarez and James Ward Prowse – it would have been naive to underestimate them too soon. He perhaps devised a plan that is bound to be seen adapted by various coaches when they play Brighton.

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The Recipe: Focus on how NOT to Press Brighton

Teams prepare on how to put pressure on Brighton, Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola were 2 such coaches whose option oriented systems were able to stifle Roberto De Zerbi. But Moyes prepared on the opposite, how not to press, instead force Brighton to keep and recycle the ball and devise all the ways to break West Ham down.

Pic 2 The Pendulum movement of marking the players in the box midfield of Brighton

Moyes’ focus was dealing with Brighton’s 1st and 2nd phase structure with a 4-3-2-1 shape that had alternating markers-like a pendulum swinging back and forth modeled on Brighton’s CB’s and who leaps the ball with Paqueta-Bowen alternate with Edson Alvarez in marking Welbeck and Evan Ferguson while maintaining a complete narrow structure.

This forced Brighton to play balls long to the wide men like Mitoma-March or make use of wide combinations upon which West Ham would execute some great wide traps.

Pic 3 West Hams Plan Pin the RCB with Antonios holdup to either win 2nd balls or run into space behind the Brightons high line

West Ham’s plan when they had the ball more often was to go long, using Antonio’s strength and speed in the final 3rd to test Brighton’s 4-2 rest defence like seen in the pic, with likes of Paqueta or Bowen most of the times positioned to win 2nd balls, a way to attract fullbacks onto them and use space behind them for Antonio to run into.

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Pic 4 (above): West Ham’s 4-1-4-1 / 5-4-1 hybrid

In Brighton’s final phases, as they pushed players between lines, West ham stuck to the principles of blocking central lanes and ensure numerical advantage in to keep things tight. And in this regard Edson Alvarez’s role became very crucial in stepping in and out keep this balance in the 4-1-4-1/5-4-1 structure, further force Brighton onto wide areas, the area West Ham specifically wanted to win the ball.

The Outcome: A Simple Match Report using Data 


A Match report using some data supports the same view: Lot of Final 3rd Entries for Brighton, surrounded around the Half and Wide spaces (look at final 3rd carries in the above pic), but barely any progressive entries into or around box. West Ham on other hand, more Box entries, resulting in subsequently more Expected Goals, and being clinical turns them into goals.

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The Pass Network tells the same story too, Lucas Paqueta and Antonio – the contact points for anything in phase 3 and 4, Antonio receives the ball making diagonal runs to disrupt Brighton’s backline (like pointed in pic 3 showing a long ball to Antonio complemented by where Paqueta is positioned to win those second balls). The diagonals to Bowen could also be noticed in the passing, which comes through to spreading play and Bowen using the space while Paqueta and Antonio runs in behind taking players with them.

WATCH: Extended Highlights – Hammers Blow Away Brighton! | Brighton 1 – 3 West Ham

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