Two tactically tuned formations played out an interesting match, where Roda countered their way towards beating their opponents in the second half. Twente manager Co Adriaanse deliberately left his right wing vacated and ultimately paid the price as Roda, one of only four teams that Twente failed to beat both home and away last year, exploited the opportunities that Twente’s unusual shape offered them.
Roda’s change of formation
One of only two Eredivisie teams to consequently play a two striker formation with a diamond midfield, Roda showed up rather differently for their home match against favorites Twente. Manager Van Veldhoven, always a guarantee for interesting tactical moves, sacrificed the second striker that generally plays off Mads Junker, a role played by Pluim in three of this season’s four matches so far, to install a five men midfield and go for a genuine 4-5-1 formation.
In addition to a different formation, Roda’s playing style was also quite different from what the home crowd will be used to. They sat very deep, particularly during the first twenty minutes, and absorbed the expected pressure their superior opponents gave them. Both wide midfielders mainly provided defensive contributions during that early phase and consequently Mitchell Donald, playing ‘in the hole’, intitially had a tough time connecting passes to lone striker Junker.
Twente’s unusual shape
One of the key questions in listing the starting names on the team sheet should be whether to adapt the names to a certain playing style and formation or the adapt the style and formation to the names available. And in this case, Adriaanse clearly went for the latter option. In the absence of the injured Chadli and Bajarami, and of course departed superstar Bryan Ruiz, he could have featured youngster Steven Berghuis on the right wing, but instead opted for a change of formation.
In an attempt to fit in new acquisition Fer in central midfield without forcing either top scorer Janko or the talented Luuk de Jong to the bench, Adriaanse vacated the right wing position. This move proved crucial in determining the fate of the game, as Roda took just over twenty minutes to figure out the countering options Twente provided them with.
The first phase
During the first twenty minutes of the match, Twente’s pressing, combined with their compact axis formation took Roda by surprise and the away side dominated the game. Roda sat too deep and invited pressure from their opponents, while allowing too much space in front of their defense even for the five men midfield to cover. Throughout the game Roda consequently played for offside, probably in an attempt to keep tall strikers Janko and De Jong away from the danger zone, but the lack of pressing exerted by the midfield still allowed the odd ball to come through for the overlapping runs of Fer and Janssen.
Roda’s deep wide midfielders added to the problem in that phase, inviting their opponents, Twente’s full-backs, to step into the midfield and provide some width in that department, further stretching the area to be covered here.
The second phase
Things changes a bit around the twenty minute mark. Roda took a less deep stance and thereby reduced the area in front of their defensive line. Suddenly the five men midfield proved more than capable of pressing the, now reduced, zone where Twente’s midfield had to operate and a reduction in the number of through balls was the result.
Twente’s game plan from that phase on consisted of mostly early left wing crosses through Ola John, launching high balls for Janko and De Jong to try and connect with. However, it was the odd through ball that seemingly settled the case in the 35th minute, as Roda’s midfield pressure slipped up just for a moment and Twente played Janssen in behind the, now slightly advanced, defensive line of Roda. Janssen’s shot was saved by Roda keeper Kieszek, but he gave up a rather cheap rebound for Janko to finish. With that, the tall Austrian striker scored his sixth goal of the season, now having scored in each of the first five matches.
As quickly as it was unexpected, Roda replied instantly. With his first arrival in the opposing box, holding midfielder Ruud Vormer finished after a nice one-two with Donald.
The second half
Only two minutes into the second half, Roda scored a second goal. It seems like Van Veldhoven instructed his team to exploit the defensive weakness that Twente imposed on themselves by vacating the right wing spot. The ball was quickly circulated to that area, where left full back Jimmy Hempte made an unopposed run forward. His pass found Donald in glaring space in Twente’s central defense and Donald, who played such a tough opening phase of the match when support was lacking, fired home from the edge of the area.
Adriaanse replied by correcting his formation, finally introducing a right winger, Steven Berghuis. Remarkably, it was captain and central defender Wisgerhof who was sacrificed. This led to a 3-3-4 formation, and with that to a clear picture for the remaining half hour to be played. Twente desperately fired ball forward while Roda was provided more and more space for their quick counters.
Twente’s midfield still consisted of three central midfielder that do not share the highest amount of creativity among them: Brama, Willem Janssen and Fer. It was in this difficult phase for them that the absence of Bryan Ruiz was most visible. On top of that, Roda’s packed five men midfield made things difficult for the away side, who found themselves with too many men in front of the ball.
The result was a closing phase where Roda’s counters provided more goal scoring threat than Twente’s attempts to find striker Janko and De Jong, but no more goals were scored.
In the end
This was a strange match in the sense that both teams played in a different shape than they usually do. But they did so with different incentives. Roda’s formation was defensively tuned from a 4-4-2 diamond to a genuine flat midfield 4-5-1 in order to deal with their opponent’s midfield strength. Furthermore, their defense, playing a medium high line and aiming for offside, was clearly aimed at reducing the threat of tall strikers Janko and De Jong.
Twente’s formation, on the contrary, was defensively tuned to fit in the presumed starting eleven names, rather than to beat the game plan of their opponent. Admittedly, Adriaanse missed the star qualities of Bryan Ruiz, who was sold to Fulham and the flair that could have been offered by the injured Nacer Chadli. But in this match he seemed to have based his vacated right winger formation around the preference to both add new acquisition Leroy Fer to the central midfield, and leave the Janko – De Jong striker partnership intact.
In the end, the team that adapted it’s starting eleven to their game plan beat the team that adapted their game plan to their starting eleven.