Eindhoven won the Cup Final. Roger Schmidt’s team beat Ajax 2-1 in De Koep. The final battle unfolded as a tactical battle between Roger Schmidt and teammate Erich Ten Hag. Where Schmidt and Ten Hag’s plan was essentially spoiled by judging and VAR: VoetbalPrimeur takes a look at the thrilling final battle.
Written by Everett Van Zoolen
Under Ten Hag, Ajax is defending the so-called man-steering in the midfield. Players catch the opponent in their area and form a pair with him. This match is no different. In midfield we see Davey Claassen forming a pair with Ibrahim Sangari and Ryan Gravenberch being Eric Gutierrez’s goalkeeper. So Edson Álvarez is able to take on Mario Götze and support the central defence.
Ajax makes pairs in the midfield. Source: FOX†
However, Schmidt devised a “Fermann plan” to get out of this pressure from Ajax. The people of Eindhoven established a pseudo-right wing with Joy Fermann. This poses problems for Ajax, if he does not have the ball himself. After all, should Daley Blind cover when Firman moves into midfield or just stay in the center? When the blind take cover, there’s room for Mauro Jr. to dive in. If Blind stays put, Veerman could create a surplus in midfield. Arne Slot used the same trick against Ajax earlier in the season, by having Jens Toornstra play as a right winger.
Blind covers when Firman moves towards the midline. Source: FOX.
After 11 minutes of play, this tactical move seems to be paying off. Firman moves and pulls Blind from his position, so that regulation in Ajax is not entirely right on the left. Then Fermann returns to the room to the side and is able to reach Goetze by helicopter. Served by Germany’s Iran Zahavi, who appears to have given PSV Eindhoven the lead. But the referee rejects the goal on the grounds of offside.
For the remainder of the match, PSV will continue to use the same principle, but with little success. This mainly pertains to Veerman’s own game. Volendammer has been shot dangerously many times, but his last passes are impure. This ensures that PSV cannot create any further danger with this tactical move.
Eindhoven defends the usual 4-4-2 method that Schmidt has used since his arrival in Eindhoven. Gotze and Zahavi defend the way through the middle and the midfielders behind them defend from the area.
PSV takes care of Ajax, with four midfielders and duo Zahavi Gotze at the front. Source: FOX.
Ten Hag created the “Gravenbrich Plan” to be able to play football under the PSV. The Amsterdam team chose to let Gravenbrich mostly pick a spot on the left flank. This means that PSV must make its own decisions. As full-back, Mauro Jr already has to deal with Dusan Tadic, while the previously discussed Firman should also be able to pressure Blind in the crowd.
Gravenbrich chooses a wide site on the left and it comes for free. Mauro Jr. should cover Tadic. Fermann stays with the blind. Source: FOX.
When the ball goes to the left, it’s often Gutierrez who comes in for support. Sangaré leans toward the center at those moments so as not to make the distance between him and Gutiérrez too great. This is where the Eindhoven problem always comes into play. The distance between Sangaré and Gutiérrez can still be walked, but the space between Sangaré and Cody Gakpo is always quite large. After all, Gakpo is more set forward, because he should also be able to squeeze in an Ajax build.
We see this phenomenon many times in the game. For example, with the disallowed goal by Nossair Mazraoui before the end of the first half. Ajax builds on the left, after which Sangare and Gutierrez move in that direction. The ball is moved to the center as a large space is created next to the Sangaré.
Target not allowed Mazraoui. As the Gravenberg moves to the left, a large space is created in the center next to the Sangaré. Source: FOX.
Later in the match we see the same pattern in 2-2 that is not allowed. Sangaré and Gutiérrez are pulled to the side, after which Davy Klaassen appears in the space behind Sangaré.
Based on 2-2 is not allowed. Sangaré and Gutiérrez move to the side, allowing Klassen to appear in the space behind Sangaré. Source: FOX.
Gravenbrich’s opening goal also starts with this pattern, although it’s the single player Ajax layer afterwards that allows space to be used. But PSV crawled twice through the eye of the needle, after the “Gravenbrich plan” had already proven effective.
PSV make the difference in the switch
PSV eventually hits through the switch. The moment the PSV Eindhoven players seize the ball, Xavi and Gotze are regularly two against two up front, against the Ajax centre-back. In the first half the space is already there, but at the start of the second, PSV Eindhoven hits after all. In the 47th minute, for example, it is a substitution case from which the free kick follows, which Gutierrez heads. Gakpo hit the spot later, when Lisandro Martinez lost the ball in the crowd.
Space for PSV in the transition, at the stage where Eindhoven residents make the difference. Source: FOX.
In the final stage of the match, Ten Hag brought in an extra striker with Sebastian Haller, after which he takes out Ajax with a 3-3-4 formation. Schmidt brings extra speed to the team with Yorbe Vertessen and Bruma. After all, Ajax leaves more room in the switch. As a result, Eindhoven is largely responsible for the final stage. With Vertisen and Bromma chances, PSV Eindhoven are still close to 3-1.
Schmidt will see this as confirmation of his focus on his transition moments. The retired coach has already filled his cupboard in Austria and China, and is now taking his first serious award in the Netherlands, with his hobby horse as the determining factor.
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