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Author: Francesco Farioli

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36 goals in Serie A. No one like him in the history of the Italian league. This is Gonzalo Higuaín’s incredible score in the premiership league. A player who, under Sarri’s direction, found his second youth, showing the world how, as an excellent player, with hard work and the support of a great team, you can become a top player. Yes, because Higuaín has scored in every way possible. On penalty shots, from outside the area, with acrobatic moves, inside the penalty area or with a brilliant tap-in.

He is an all-around centre forward, capable of manoeuvring, striking from any distance, inflicting damage in any possible way, but also creating favourable spaces for his teammates to move into. He is that player that we can, and must, define as “unmarkable”.

The more you mark him man-to-man, the easier he finds space. Currently he is the forward who is most capable of getting free of individual marking and winning the duel. He is the player capable of creating positional superiority, even in situations where his team is greatly outnumbered.

Let’s have a look in detail now. Higuaín is a full-blooded forward and you can see that in his crisp and decisive movements, typical of a penalty area “cobra”. The impressive thing about Higuaín is his ability to perceive the space, to create space he (or others) can attack with abrupt manoeuvres that are subdivided into four main areas: linear attack, baiting manoeuvres, manoeuvres off the line, counter-manoeuvres.


LINEAR ATTACKING PATTERNS:

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Higuaín has the amazing ability to choose his timing to attack the space, differentiating his running pace and intensity. As you can see in these three frames, Higuaín knows the qualities and characteristics of his teammates. This knowledge and awareness allows him to christen the space being attacked. The quality of his timing and the various types of running are absolutely textbook.

NUMERICAL INFERIORITY & POSITIONAL SUPERIORITY:

As the previous images illustrated, Higuaín is a classic, all-around forward. He senses the goal, reads the space, knows his teammates and knows which moves to make in order to gain the advantage over his adversaries. You can see from the images how he seeks out the space behind the first defender in order to enter the goal triangle and how he attacks the second defender’s trajectory vertically in order to get the better of him.

BAITING MANOEUVRE:

In football terms, a “baiting manoeuvre” is a move that the forward makes to draw the man marking him off the line in order to create space that he or his teammates can exploit.

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Higuaín, with his movement toward the adversary, draws the Torino back out to break up the defensive line, leaving a space that is attacked by the double manoeuvres of Insigne and Hamsik. In turn, this manoeuvre favours Higuaín in the individual duel because the defender is now out of position and forced to run toward his own goal with Higuaín behind him. When Higuaín stops running to break away and receive the back-pass, the defender will try to follow him.
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For Hamsik, the defender’s decision translates into an easy horizontal pass for the approaching Callejon, who also skilfully attacks the space left open by Higuaín’s manoeuvre and finishing the scoring play from the opposite wing.
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MANOEUVRE OFF THE LINE:

This is one of the main manoeuvres a true forward makes: the forward carries out, directing his movement behind the back, outside of the field of vision and with a run that allows the forward to get the better of his rival from behind, gaining both advantage and depth over the back.
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COUNTER-MANOEUVRE:

As we saw in the last images, Higuaín interrupts his runs with a counter-manoeuvre. He pretends to move toward his adversary and then goes long. The other counter-manoeuvre is the opposite, pretending to go long and then coming back to receive. This is a move that allows the forward to gain playing time over the man marking him directly.
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To teach this speciality to young forwards, every football academy should give their players a USB thumb drive called “How a modern forward moves”, starring Gonzalo Higuaín. Directed by Maurizio Sarri.
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Francesco Farioli
Aspire Academy (Qatar Football Association), Senior Goalkeeper Coach, Video Match & Performance Analysis.
www.francescofarioli.com

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