Twente 2 – 0 Roda: In-game tweaks win the match for Twente

Posted on 1 April 2012


Twente beat Roda in a must-win game in the tight end-stages of the 2011/12 Eredivisie. Steve McClaren’s team overcame an opponent that lacked any sorts of offensive intentions, but did provide a stubborn defense.

Data for this match report has been provided by Infostrada Sports.


Twente’s 4-3-3

The line-ups. Larger dots represent more passes attempted.

Coming off a disappointing series of only four points in their most recent four Eredivisie matches, this home match was one Twente definitely needed to win in order to keep the pressure on AZ and Ajax, whom they trailed, before the start of this game, by four and three points respectively. The return of Steve McClaren so far failed to produce immediate beneficial effects, but with the top-6 of the Eredivisie within five points, success and failure are never far apart.

Twente featured in their regular 4-3-3 formation that got pressed off the pitch in their last home game, 0-2 against Feyenoord. In comparison to that match, central defender Douglas returned ahead of Röseler, with Roberto Rosales returning as right-back. Captain Peter Wisgerhof missed out. The most important absentee, however, may be striker Luuk de Jong, whose deep-lying striker role proved to be hard to fill in for Glynor Plet, a winter transfer signing from Heracles.


Roda’s 4-4-2 diamond

Roda is a team that has featured on 11tegen11 more regularly than strictly warranted by their performances. This is mainly due to their interesting 4-4-2 diamond formation, which separates them, together with the less successful De Graafschap and Utrecht, from the rest of the Eredivisie teams, playing a form of 4-5-1.

Against Twente, they mainly missed offensive midfielder Mitchell Donald, who is just returning from injury and made a substitute appearance today.

In short, the game wasn’t of high quality throughout, but there were mainly two tactical issues that made it worth watching. Both sides in general had trouble circulating the ball and possession was often interrupted by small fouls and misplaced passes.


The first tactical issue

Initially, as shown by the passing charts further below, Roda seemed to take a leaf out of Feyenoord’s book, aiming to press Twente early on. After this hopeful start, however, they never reached this frequency of completed passes again.

first tactical issue worth explaining was the obvious 4 v 3 dominance that Roda’s formation earned them in midfield. Their four men diamond often gives them the advantage in personal terms in this part of the pitch. Against Twente, they effectively frustrated their opponents in midfield both literally and figuratively speaking, with all three of Twente’s midfielders getting booked before half time.

A crucial figure in this 4v3 battle was Twente’s right-back, Roberto Rosales. He was left acres of free space, due to Roda’s narrow midfield. Twente took advantage by advancing Rosales onto Roda’s left midfielder Adil Ramzi, thereby compensating for the original shortage in midfield. To say Twente played a formal 3-4-3, like Ajax did in their three encounters with Roda this season, goes too far, but Rosales thrived in his preferred wing back role. The switch to play Chadli as an inside winger on the left and Ola John outside on the right, as opposed to their starting flanks, can also be seen in this light, as the inside forward role that Chadli prefers opens up more space for Rosales. As shown in the line-ups, where larger dots represent more pass attempts, Rosales saw most of that ball, but among the offense, Chadli’s performance really sticks out.

Roda’s numerical midfield dominance came at a price though. Their midfield was narrow, even for 4-4-2 diamond terms, giving them a lot of trouble in possession. As can be seen from the passing chart, they consequently passed less than Twente did, which is a sign of their poor ball retention. A confronting stat is that Roda only produced a single goal scoring attempt (off target) in the entire match. In passing terms, the dotted line-up diagram shows the anonymous games that midfielders De Beule and Delorge had, as well as the trouble Roda had to get their strikers involved. All four of these players attempted less passes than any of Twente’s outfield players, bar striker Glynor Plet.


The second tactical issue

Besides their 4-4-2 diamond inducing a numerical midfield dominance, it’s also the opponent’s response to this issue that Roda is looking for.

Roda’s game is partly based on their midfield advantage, but in offensive terms they mainly look to exploit the weaknesses induced by the opponent’s adaptations to their unusual formation. With Rosales advancing, this should have been either a striker or the advanced midfielder drifting into the left wing space. However, it took until the introduction of Mitchell Donald for the anonymous Davy de Beule, before Roda started exploiting this area of the pitch. By that time, Roda had already conceded the opening goal, as central defender Douglas (1.92m) easily towered above Davy de Beule (1.80m) to head the ball home.

The passing chart shows that Twente dominated the first half, after the opening five minutes. In the second half, Roda only had an offensive surge after the introduction of Mitchell Donald in the 61st minute, lasting until Twente's second goal, after which the game was clearly over.

The final 30 minutes

With the introduction of Mitchell Donald, Roda looked more lively, and the phase from Donald’s introduction to conceding the second goal marked the only part of the match where Roda outpassed Twente. However, Donald suffered an injury from a nasty tackle from behind that could easily have been a second yellow card for Twente midfielder Willem Janssen. Arnoud Sutchuin Djoum replaced Roda and they lost that spark that gave them some offensive options right away. After conceding the second goal in the 83rd minute, when Verhoek finished from an Ola John cross, the game was over. Ola John crowned a lively game with two assists, but his own goal scoring attempts were mainly speculative long range attempts.


In the end

All in all, Twente overcame a Roda side that was more concerned with blocking their opponent’s options than with exploiting their own. With a crowded midfield, a resulting low midfield pass completion and a relatively large number of fouls, this game wasn’t one of the best to watch. It were the tactical developments that kept it interesting, in addition to Twente’s failure to create quality goal scoring chances, and the score line remaining close for most of the game.


This post could never have been produced without the support of Infostrada Sports, who’ve courteously provided the data for the analysis.


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Posted in: Eredivisie