With a second place and top runner Ajax in its sights, PSV has a meritorious first season half behind it. Yet it was not without a blow for the team of trainer Roger Schmidt, who alternated very good moments with very mediocre ones. It raises the question: is PSV really ready for the championship? Three cases Schmidt still has to deal with.
By Evert van Zoelen
Drukzettenschmidt is known as a pressingcoach. He falls into the category of trainers who consider putting pressure on the opponent‘s build-up and switching immediately after ball loss as the main starting points in his playing mode. This can also be seen on PSV. The Eindhovenaren put high pressure on the opponent’s build-up from a 4-4-2 formation and immediately switch over in case of ball loss.
In such a play, an important role is played by the attackers. When they stand perfectly defensively, with three to four players, the entire structure of the opposing party can be disrupted. It also ensures that the players behind the attackers do not have to cover, thus putting pressure with relatively little risk.
Although the high pressure of PSV is getting better, the Eindhoven ears are still able to catch some mistakes after fourteen rounds. The front four players (the two spires and the offensive midfielders) are sometimes so focused on their direct opponent that they do not realize that they leave a pass line open. Or they don‘t get in on time, allowing an opponent to get free.
Donyell Malen is too focused on the central defender, leaving the pass line through the center open. Source: ESPN. Mohamed Ihattaren comes in too late, releasing Rodney Kongolo into the midfield. Source: ESPN.
The problem that this creates is that the rear players have to move on to the opponents that are released. This results in the duo being pulled out of position centrally on the midfield – usually Ibrahim Sangare and Pablo Rosario -. As a result, the space central to the defense becomes open. Opponents like Heerenveen and Twente tried to make use of this by waiting for the moment when PSV starts to press, and then using a long ball to search for a player in the space between the lines.
PSV does not close the pass lines in the front, which means Rosario and Sangare have to go through. Source: ESPN.
Then, with a long ball, Twente can find a player in the space between the defense and the midfield of PSV. Source: ESPN.
The same applies to pressing immediately after ball loss. Often this goes well, especially at the beginning of matches, but because the players are not yet fully skilled in it, every game goes wrong a few times. As a result, the opponent can regularly set up a dangerous counter. Heerenveen was completely overclassed by the Eindhovenaren in the first half, but the Frisians came to two life-size opportunities.
Scoring Power Although PSV usually has more ball ownership than the opponent and often comes close to the sixtemeter, the team does not always manage to turn that force majeure into goals. Against teams like Heerenveen and Twente, the Eindhovenaren are after a very strong first half with only 1-0, so the opponent can still come back in the match if PSV starts to accelerate less. Remarkable, because PSV has enough players with players like Malen, Noni Madueke, Mario Götze, Cody Gakpo, Ihatarren and Eran Zahavi.
This can partly be traced back to the playing mode of PSV under Schmidt. The German trainer puts the center full by letting the outer midfielders play on the inside. In response to this, the opponent brings in additional players. The center will be robbed, while the space will be placed on the side of the field. At moments like this, the players of PSV who need to shape the build-up – central defenders and central midfielders – have difficulty playing players in the busy center. As a result, PSV often does not pass through the centre and plays mainly over the wings.
Ideally, Götze gets the ball between the lines, but PSV builders don’t often choose these options. Source: ESPN.
Playing over the side is not an immediate problem. PSV has two backs with Denzel Dumfries and Philipp Max that have a great front. It is also striking that PSV mainly chooses low runs, an option that is statistically more profitable than high ones.
In situations like this, PSV often gives low presses. Source: ESPN.
The problem that arises for PSV is that the team now has little variation in the attack game. Opportunities that arise from the center are scarce, making the attacks over the wings quite predictable. Especially at the moments when the pace is not high enough, the opponent can therefore quite easily move towards the ball, allowingthe front move can be defended relatively easily. In the games that PSV continues in the score, it is noticeable that there is a lot more variation in the attack game. A good example is the 4-0 victory at ADO Den Haag.
The ball is played between the lines and immediately leads to a penalty kick and the 1-0. Source: ESPN.
Schmidt‘s much-discussed exchange policy can also be a reason for the viscous attack game. When players play a lot with each other, they become responsive to each other. In professional terms, this is called non-verbal communication. A guy you’ve been playing with since the F‘s is gonna feel a lot better than someone you’re playing with for the first time.
With PSV, the composition of the front often changes due to corona, fatigue and injuries, so it is not surprising that the mutual chemistry between the attackers is not yet fully present. Regular shows that a player makes a running action to receive the ball, while the player thinks the run is made to create room for the shot.
An example of a lack of (non-) verbal communication. Zahavi makes a switch but Madueke does not expect this. Source: ESPN.
Persistence of the playmanyThe biggest problem PSV is currently experiencing is the free fall after rest. The players can perform Schmidt‘s way of playing well in the first half, but in the second half the concentration falls away, the fatigue strikes and the team drops through the lower limit with great regularity.
Coordination in the pressures falls away, making the opponent increasingly easy to get under the pressure of PSV. In possession, this is no different. Where chance after chance is created in the first half, the urge to attack in the second half often falls away. PSV only comes to one shot on target after rest in multiple matches, where this is about ten for rest.
It is inherent in Schmidt’s demanding and intense playing mode that PSV players are struggling to hold the level ninety minutes at this stage. Add corona and the bulging race schedule and the weak second halves this season can be explained.
However, this problem is largely in line with the two previous problems. When PSV starts to put pressure better, the team has to travel less meters, leaving more air for the second half. And after rest PSV can also sit back and let the opponent come when more goals fall in the first half.