Anatomy of a Goal (Citeh Edition)


This is the first of what I hope will be a series over the course of the season that analyzes in detail goals that we both score and concede.  For its debut I will use the goal Citeh scored against us on Wednesday. So, start up the YouTube video and follow along. I’m going to tell you where to pause and what to look at:

0:28 Yaya takes out the ball. We have our two centerbacks (CB’s) behind him and the two fullbacks (FB’s) on each side a little further forward. This is the more traditional definition of a back four. However, this being Barcelona that will quickly change. Citeh is in a 4-5-1.

0:32 This is where the mistakes begin. Let’s take them one at a time.

  • We should always have at least three men back or in position to help in case of a turnover. Our two CB’s are getting in position to flank the lone Citeh striker on both sides. That’s fine. Meanwhile, Yaya is in the process of taking out the ball which means one of the two fullbacks should stay back to cover for his absence until he delivers it and comes back. However, both of them advance, leaving acres of space between Yaya and the two CB’s, sort of like the “Too much separation between the lines diagram” in my last post. How do we know which one of the FB’s made the mistake? We should always have a player on each side of the field playing right against their respective touchlines on the wings to keep the opponent as horizontally spread as possible. Look at the video. You’ll see Jeffren on the right already having that covered on his side whereas Pedro has cut into a more central position which means nobody is stretching the field to the left. Thus, Maxwell is doing the right thing by moving up the left to play as an “extremo” and spread the field to that side. Montoya should be staying back.
  • At the risk of attracting the apocalyptic wrath of the Yaya, I will question his decision making on this one although I think I can understand was his rationale was. Again, look at the video. Citeh is playing their five man midfield line tight and horizontal. Our whole midfield line (minus Yaya) and forwards are behind them. Yaya is thinking that we have a five on four opportunity if he can get a through-ball past the Citeh five man line.  This is ambitious considering that Jeffren and Maxwell were wide open on the wings. However, this is the Yaya we’re talking about so of course he’s going to go all in. So he readies to put a through-ball past the Citeh five man line. The thing he does not consider is that although we have a 5-4 advantage on one end, this means that if we lose the ball then we will have all our forwards and midfielders minus Yaya behind five Citeh midfielders and a striker. It’s a tradeoff but Yaya bets the house.

0:33-0:34 The Yaya tries the risky through-ball. At the last second, the center man on Citeh’s midfield line reads his intentions correctly and runs back to pressure Busi. Hindsight is 20/20 but at this point Yaya is probably regretting not having passed to Guddy, Jeffren or even Maxwell. The Citeh center-mid does not reach Busi in time to steal the ball but is about to reach him in time to pressure him. Also, note Jeffren. When he sees Montoya running up, he cuts in thinking it’s an overlap. I can’t blame him for this because all he probably sees is Montoya who conversely had a much clearer view of the whole field before he advanced.  Meanwhile, Maxwell is probably confused by Montoya’s advance and retreats from his own which is a good safe decision by him even though he should have been the one advancing instead of Montoya.

0:35 Busi receives Yaya’s pass but is immediately pressured from behind and in front. He takes and ambitious/risky decision and tries to play a “wall” or “one-two” move with Bojan but the pressure of Citeh’s center-mid results in his pass going astray right to the feet of a Citeh CB. Maybe he should have taken the safe route and played it out to Jeffren or the out of position Montoya but I put a little more blame on Yaya for putting him in this position. Bojan is facing back to try to receive so he can’t immediately turn around to pressure and thus the Citeh CB has a clear view to pass to the waiting Citeh midfield. The result of Yaya’s gamble? It’s now four against one in the middle. Since that “one” is Yaya, this would usually be considered unfair odds (for Citeh that is). However, since Montoya is out of position on the right, Maxwell has wisely retreated on the left, and the two CB’s are busy in the middle flanking Tévez, there one huge hole on the right.

0:38 Ireland was brilliant here. He comfortably receives since it is four against one and is in the process of playing a one-two with Tévez who has wisely retreated to play as a forward pivot seeing as how he is double teamed. Bojan is furiously trying to catch up with Ireland but is too far behind.  Meanwhile Petrov has hit the jets on our right wing (their left) and is already past the backtracking Montoya. Also, Maxwell has our left wing covered. Now, Ireland has a decision to make before he even receives the ball back from Tévez.

0:39 Bojan is finally catching up to Ireland but it is too late. Montoya has already been burned to a crisp by Petrov at this point his shirt should have read “French Toast”. Ireland then makes a pass which takes some quick thinking and great vision and one touches it to Petrov. If he had taken even one extra touch then Bojan would have either stolen it or committed a tactical foul. Notice Puyol. Our Captain Caveman screws up by keeping Petrov onside. However, notice how he spends one split second staring at Petrov, apparently seeing Montoya’s mistake and vacillating on whether he should stay with Tévez or go after Petrov. That split hesitation meant he did not look at Ireland in time to get back so as to put Petrov offside. Mistake by the Captain although it was a hard decision to make considering the other screw-up’s before he committed his own.

0:42 Great pass by Ireland. Perfectly weighted. Montoya is vanquished and Petrov has a one on one with Pinto. Maybe Pinto should have run at Petrov to make himself bigger but I can’t blame him for losing such a clear cut one on one in so much space.

0:43 Citeh scores. Everybody gets pissed off.

I hope that was at least somewhat insightful. So, what did we learn?

1)      If Yaya is taking out the ball, only one FB should advance. We need at least three men behind when an opponent plays a single striker. Especially a dangerous one like Tévez.

2)      There are two sides to every gamble. Sometimes they result in a goal but at other time we get something like this. Yaya gambled and lost. He got impatient and went for the homerun, advancing too far and putting himself and his defense in a bad spot although his mistake was exacerbated by Montoya’s error. If Montoya had stayed back we very well may not have conceded.

3)      Our attacking style has a price.

4)      Kids make mistakes. If we start playing younglings, it’s almost inevitable to get a few situations like this although hopefully they won’t cost us as much.

If I never post again, it’s because the Yaya unleashed his rage at me and disintegrated me with his mind. Hopefully he’ll be merciful and let me live but we’ll have to wait and see.  😀

PS Part II of the Ball Pressure article is almost done.

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A diehard culé since the Rivaldo/Figo Judas days, I am also a rabid Argentina and Boca Juniors fan despite definitely not being Argentine. Read more articles by me by clicking on the name-link.


  1. Andrew
    August 21, 2009

    Their goal was brilliant in my opinion.
    That pass was QUALITY.

  2. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    It is so unbelievably awesome that Hector just Hectored himself. Words cannot describe. It’s like crossing the streams in “Ghostbusters.” 😀

  3. August 21, 2009

    Agree 100%, Andrew. Zabaleta has a lot of potential. He was an integral part of the Messi led U-20 Argentina team that won in 2005. I am so glad he left Espanyol. If he can learn to be more disciplined, he has the stamina to make a world class attacking FB. Sparky Hughes is playing him as a winger/volante right now but I still think FB is his natural position.

  4. August 21, 2009

    Kevin- I just wanted to see if the world would end. After surviving the Kolo-Yaya clash, I was feeling reckless. We’re still alive, aren’t we. No inter-dimensional portal into chaos has been opened, right? Right!?!?! 😀

  5. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    Also interesting is that Busquets’ man covered him to make the bounce-back pass to The Yaya. Smart defense. And I still think that Valdes would have charged like a crazy man at Petrov. He might have chipped him, but recall the Drenthe stop in the first Clasico.

    Still, a quality counterattack goal. One more question for the class….well, two:

    1. Does The Hector kick ass, or what?
    2. Does the pace of Abidal mean that Petrov gets caught?

  6. Ciaran
    August 21, 2009

    By the by, was it not Stephen Ireland and not Zabaleta making that first time pass?

  7. Ciaran
    August 21, 2009

    Yup, just checked… Ireland.
    Great analysis Kxevin.
    This is why, a) Xavi is so important, b) Abidal understands his role and c) the third midfielder being more tactically aware is vital.
    Guddy goes on a run when he could never have been the recipient of Yaya’s pass

  8. Alex
    August 21, 2009

    Great read Hector, I like the second markers. In my opionion Montoya royally fucked up. He was caught way outta position. Puyol did hesitate, but…… I would blame it all on Montoya. An yes, VV would have charge like a bat outta hell and most likely blocked it, that’s what hes best at anyways.

  9. Alex
    August 21, 2009

    Don’t wanna sound like a whint bitch, but that pic up top needs to go. The dude looks like he’s having twins.

  10. August 21, 2009

    You know what? You are totally right, Ciaran. It was Ireland not Zabaleta on that one. Hard to see and the commentators didn’t mention him at all in my stream or the highlights I saw.

    Its being edited right now.

  11. August 21, 2009

    Fixed. Apologies to Stephen Ireland.

    That’s a great point on the pressure on Busi, Kevin. Also, Valdés totally would have made a difference although it was by no means certain that he could have won the one on one. He would have made Petrov had to work a hell of a lot harder for it though. I am not sure how much impact Abidal would have had from the other wing though. Alves would probably not have committed the mistake in the first place but he would have had a much better chance of catching up or would have at least taken a yellow by bringing Petrov down before he became the last man.

    I know its hard to admit but even the Yaya isn’t always perfect. He had a great game but that little gamble he took was part of the problem as well.

    Alex- The pic stays 🙂 . Pedro!’s disgusted look says it all.

  12. Steven
    August 21, 2009

    Great work Hector the Inspector (that nickname is warranted; you caught some stuff I never would’ve seen, like Maxwell tracking back.) I like the anatomy of a goal idea, and though it be a tad depressing, I think more posts about goals scored on us would really help our understanding of Barca’s tactics. In some of the comments, the goal was attributed to a “busted play,” but I think you did a nice job clarifying it as Montoya’s/a lil Yaya’s/a lil Puyol’s mistake. But hey, he’s just a kid and I’m sure he has already been lit into by Guardiola/the vets.

  13. Alex
    August 21, 2009

    Hector, I like your pic that you put on this post. I’m referring to the main Pic for this blog.

  14. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    I like “the tongue” in the picture, too. P! has the look.

    Good points, Alex. But I think that goals are usually a team effort, good and bad. There are rare exceptions, such as the Zambrotta giveaway to Scholes in the CL semis. Led to the direct shot.

    But usually, it’s a complete breakdown. If Puyol has played Petrov off, as the only dangler on the back line, it’s offside and they don’t score a goal. But The Yaya, Busquets, Montoya, Puyol, Krkic, Pinto….it takes a village, right?

  15. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    A-ha! We’re working on a Yaya banner, Alex. Fear not.

    And I’m with Steven. I called it a “busted play,” kicked off by Busquets getting sloppy with his pass. But I learned something from this post.

  16. BL
    August 21, 2009

    hector! that is bartra i think, not pedro in the pic! :O

  17. JeffP
    August 21, 2009

    Hector, you’re changing my life. As a relative newbie to footy (4 years) I have yet to grasp the technical aspects of the game. Your posts are really opening my eyes to team tactics and helping me appreciate Barca’s system. Keep up the good work!

  18. August 21, 2009

    Thanks guys!

    Sorry about that, Alex. On second thought, the dude does look like he’s having twins.

    BL- I honestly don’t even know what Batra’s face looks like 😀 although it may well be him. On closer inspection, his hair looks curlier than Pedro’s. Still, its an appropriate face, no?

    I plan to do some of these for Barca goals as well. It will be me arbitrarily picking which ones I find interesting to do it on but hopefully I’ll be able to pump out a healthy diet of these, work permitting.

    Oh yeah. Hopefully they will mostly be Barca goals too. We’ll see.

  19. Jnice
    August 21, 2009

    I thought it was Montoya in that pic, especially if you consider that Petrov celebrated on the left side of the field and Montoya was the right back, but what does that matter lol.

  20. Jnice
    August 21, 2009

    Oh and great article Hector, just lock your doors at night. I can feel The Yaya’s anger reaching a boiling point.

  21. OhYes
    August 21, 2009

    Wow Puyi does hesitate when he sees Montaya getting burned alive. Amazing and eye-opening. Great post Hector. Can’t wait for more!

  22. Flippy
    August 21, 2009

    Hector, that was brilliant. How old are you? If you are old enough, you should be a coach. You certainly have the skill required to.
    Are you going to do this for every goal of every game or just one or two goals of every game?

  23. August 21, 2009

    Oh, hell no. That would take way too much time, especially with those 5-0 goal fests we hope we see (with us on the winning side of course) and I do have a day job. No, I will seemingly arbitrarily pick out goals that I think highlight an interesting tactic or decision to do this on every now and then. I’ll do my best to pump them out regularly but we’ll see what happens. I don’t want to promise this for every game.

  24. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    Hector is ageless, like Yoda. His brain is suffused with The Knowledge.

    –Hey, Wenger had a hissy at Spanish clubs, blaming them for tapping up players, citing the EMD report about Fabregas as proof of his pudding.

    “The day I agree to sell a player one year in advance, I will not be in this job any more,” Wenger fumed as he stomped his foot in apoplexy.

    “Mon dieu, snagging youngsters from Barcelona’s farm is one thing, but this is something else altogether! Hmph!”

    Might I suggest that it’s the crazed Spanish media, rather than the clubs. And you wonder what the source of his ire is. Is Fabregas clamoring to come to Barcelona?

  25. Soto
    August 21, 2009

    Wow, Hector. I knew you would top the ball pressure post, but I didn’t know you would do it with such style. I really like breaking down the play by the seconds with the video. I have been re-running it over and over, with a different player in focus each time. It’s a great way to learn the nuances of the beautiful game. I hope you have the stamina to keep up this level of analysis.

    There were a collection of errors that led to this goal, but I think that Montoya’s positional awareness error is the one that warrants the most scrutiny because it’s the error that when fixed has the most payoff.

  26. jnelson
    August 21, 2009

    Hector getting Hectored…now ive seen it all. GREAT post Hector! make that great postS. so many people think futbol is just kicking a ball around…not to hate on anyone…but it is so much more than that and your posts make that obvious, as well as enlighten us about the specific tactics that we use. EXCELLENT

  27. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    Still want to know if you’re a Monk fan, Thelonious. I would assume yes from your handle? And if so, I will refrain from getting all geeky about the Master.

  28. Mat
    August 21, 2009

    First post here… great work guys..
    If you look at 0.35 ( when we lost the ball), Montoya is in a similar position to Petrov…being a defender, he should have realized with how attack-heavy we were at that point, going back…rather sprinting back is the only option and he did not 😐

  29. Colby
    August 21, 2009

    Not that the Yaya needs any defending, but I will say that if Xavi is in place of Busquets in this situation the goal probably doesn’t happen. Yes, Yaya put him in a tough spot, but Xavi would have either controlled the ball and done one of his patented turns to get him out of trouble or looked for Jeffren(?) on the wing.

  30. Kxevin
    August 21, 2009

    Or even Monument, who tends to act with a bit more circumspection that Busquets. The good thing is, meaningless goal in a meaningless match. Now they’re for real, beginning Sunday.

  31. August 22, 2009

    Very good break down Hector.

    Just one tactical note. Its not a must to have 3 CBs all the time. Actually one of the reasons that the 3CB-based tactics declined is the fact that when you use 3 CBs against one striker, you waste resources. Which will leave an impact on your midfield and offense. Thats why Pep encouraged Abidal to move forward in some games where the 2 CBs were doing the job well.

    Its more importat to cover that space between defense line and midfield. Even if they will be 3 CB or four, they will still be hit on counters when they approach the midfield line crating an Offside trap. They will not be able to make a diagonal cover in this situation, so numbers will not give an advantage.

    The solution is terminating the opponent second pass that I mentioned before its the most dangerous one. For example, when Puyol, abidal and Pique play together, its more usefull if pique move forward to act as a deep holding mid, than it is to stay inline with Abidal and Puyol.

  32. Flippy
    August 22, 2009

    One thing though, isn’t it usually Xavi in Yaya’s position in the video, because during the gamper we played Yaya as the playmaker? Or was Yaya playing DM at the moment? I was sort of confused as to why Busquets was up there and not nearby to the Yaya. I’ve always noticed during matches that Xavi would drop back and receive the ball and Yaya would be to the right of Xavi, but a little bit higher up and then Xavi would either pass or dribble up and Yaya would move back to where Xavi was.

  33. Helge
    August 22, 2009

    Wow, another brilliant piece of art from Hector!

    I’ve never looked so closely on a goal before, but with the video and your explanations, this was a real experience I don’t want to miss. Already looking forward to your next goal analysis.

    So, it seems that Maxwell did everything fine on his side whereas Montoya is the one to blame the most for this goal. But let’s imagine, as you propose, Montoya would have stayed behind and therefore Maxwell would have pressured down the line. Doesn’t it lead to a smiliar situation, mirrored on the imaginary vertical middle line of the pitch? So that Ireland could have passed the ball to the right if some other midfielder had started a run there?

    And about Puyol: I don’t think it’s him that keeps Petrov onside. Even if Puyol stood further front in the moment of the pass, it looks to me as if Maxwell is on the same line / height as Petrov and thus it still wouldn’t be offside.

  34. August 22, 2009

    Helge, thats why the goal was scored actually during the offense set up (watch 0:34 to 0:40). Everything afterward was history. you can see the space between defense and midfied there. With two fullbacks who are not capable of playing as CBs, and with only one holding mid, this senario will be uncontainable.

    I am an old supporter to having three players at the back to do the defensive rolw while seting offense. If you play against 2 forwards, then you need them all at the back, the opponent will be fragile offensively in the midfield so one holding mid there will be enough. Yet, if the opponent play with one forward, pushing one of your CBs to do the holding mid role is a must, because thats where the danger starts.

  35. August 22, 2009

    Ramzi- That’s an excellent point and one I should have clarified. Note that what I said is that “one of the FB’s should have covered for his absence” although I should have said something more like “to occupy the space Yaya vacated an be in position to provide diagonal cover”. Its a very important point that should have been covered better,

    Flippy- Exactly. The idea behind Total Football is to switch positions, not leave them vacant. We switch positions all the time and sometimes it can get a little confusing, for us and the opponent 😀 . In large part it depends on what formation the opponent is defending in. If both Xavi and the Yaya advance they you’ll probably see Abidal taking Pique’s place at CB and Pique advancing to take Yaya’s defensive-midfielder/libero role. Space in that area should not be left empty. When Pique advances from the CB positions you might see Xavi staying back until Pique delivers and retreats. In this case, Yaya advanced way too far and nobody occupied the space he left vacant so as to be in a position, as Ramzi rightly said, to provide diagonal cover.

    Helge- That’s a great point. I think Ramzi answered it very well and at the same time provided a very interesting question as to whether it will ever be truly safe to play both Alves and Maxwell at the same time since none of them have played CB or D-Mid. In my ideal world, Montoya would have stayed back in line with Tévez and closer (like, yes, another CB) allowing one of Fontás or Puyol to occupy Yaya’s vacated space and be in a position to occupy diagonal cover as Ramzi said. If we had a player that was where Yaya was supposed to be when the ball was lost, Ireland would not have been able to do the one-two with Tévez. It would not have been guaranteed to have not been a goal but the odds would go back in our favor. Regarding my admonishing Montoya and not Maxwell, I don’t think an overlapping run (what Montoya apparently wanted) should take place until the offense is set. Also, it makes no sense to me to overload an offense to one side and not stretch the field horizontally from the other. We had no one on the left which means it is logical for our FB to have advanced to provide width. Remember my first post? Compress the field vertically but stretch it horizontally. However, the world is hardly ever ideal.

    Ramzi’s argument about this situation being untenable with this personnel set kinda blew my mind a bit because it may well be valid so excuse me if I ramble a bit. Yaya should have known the space he was leaving behind and the gamble he was taking. A pass to Jeffren or Maxwell and all is well. Yaya can retreat to his position. Maybe Busi or Guddy should have gone back to receive so that the Yaya didn’t have to get that far out of position. They set the offense without having the ball. Maybe one of them could have gone back to give Yaya a hand. Who knows? The bottomline is that there was one huge open space that is usually occupied by one Yaya Toure, it was vacated and not re-occupied until it was too late. The result? “Too Much Space Between the Lines”. Enough space to carry out a devastating counter.

    Hopefully that didn’t sound like total ranting because I am a bit prone to it. 😀

    PS Helge- You are right about Maxwell also playing Petrov onside. Great pickup 😀 . Consider Max also admonished 🙂 .

  36. Helge
    August 22, 2009

    I don’t have anything more to contribute, but just wanne let you know, Hector and Ramzi, that I’ve read your comments and enjoyed it.

    “Too much space between the lines” and “Compress the field vertically but stretch it horizontally” seem to be the most deciding points for loss or victory. I’m excited how many other tactical guidelines I’ll get to know during the next weeks.

    Once again, great insight from you and thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us.

  37. Alexinho
    August 22, 2009

    I don’t think I’m smart enough to read this. Great work, ProfHector! And I thought Spain was technical, not tactical. Can’t wait to see more of these. But what’re you going to do when, I don’t know, we beat RM in the Bernabeu 2-6?

    Also, who is that guy in the homepage banner? I don’t think he’s a player. If he is feel free to laugh at me though.

  38. Dave
    August 22, 2009

    Brilliant idea, and a brilliant article.

    I will definitely be looking forward to more of these goal breakdowns.

  39. Ali
    August 23, 2009

    Brilliant post hector, loved the way you dissected the goal.

    My one addition would be to notice how Montaya almost caught up with Petrov at 0:38 (before he gets burnt) but thinks he should be on the inside (towards the goal) rather than outside (away from the goal) in order to stop Petrov and cut of a potential pass. That is one of the big reasons I thought Petrov lost his man, because Montaya was trying to go inside.

    You will see that move at 0:39 & at 0:40 notice that he lost valuable space to Petrov by making that decision.

    I think its not a big deal, its good that there are mistakes made in friendlies and early on in the campaign since you are able to correct those mistakes and make your team stronger, even if as in this case it was a young player who made that mistake.

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