After the defeat to Manchester City in the Theatre of Dreams, my attention quickly focused on how José Mourinho would turn around the least positive cycle that his team was in in the English Premier League. The emotional control of the players in these types of situations proves crucial for being able to turn around a worst period.

Look at the two images below of the game between Watford and Manchester United that show the moments before the crosses in 2 of the 3 goals conceded by Manchester United.

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In both of the situations it is possible to see that there is a defensive numerical superiority but, in none of them, was the attention focused on the movements that any potential finisher could make in these circumstances.

The players of Manchester United were attracted by what the winger was doing with the ball whilst convinced that only the players that the centre-backs “controlled” represented a real threat whilst forgetting the space at the front in the small area.

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In the pre-match report, kindly given by Wyscout, it is possible to see that Watford had scored in every game.

Despite it being common for this to happen in top-level football, Watford, in 3 of the 4 games prior to facing Manchester United, scored similarly to how they had scored 2 of the 3 goals against Manchester United. What can we see through the images against Southampton, Arsenal and West Ham?

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It is possible to see in the situations presented above that the players of Manchester United, Southampton, Arsenal and West Ham are rarely aware that outside their angle of view (where they are focused on/attracted to) there are opposing players that are unmarked, or in other words, that could easily score without any opposition in a position in front of the goal.

The player focuses his attention on the triggers that the game gives him, whilst conceiving the various moments of the game and simultaneously conceiving himself within these moments.

Therefore the adaptation to the conditions of the context that the player finds himself in, or is going to find himself in (preparation for the next game – opponent), have to be acquired in training. In this logical sequence, in order to control the opponent effectively within and outside the area there shall have to be contact so that the attentional focus doesn’t deviate from that which is a potential threat.

I have come to feel throughout time that top-level football, in various situations that have already been analysed, is very mechanic – when it should be seen as a “living organism”, as it is constantly changing.

Joao Nuno Fonseca
Senior Football Match Analyst

Joao Nuno Fonseca hold an MSc in Sports Training with specialisation in Football under the guidance of the Professor Jose Guilherme. Start his professional career during University in Academica de Coimbra – 1st Division Portugal, as match analyst for the historical club. Won the Portuguese Cup in 2012 against Sporting Lisbon. Currently is Senior Football Match Analyst for ASPIRE Academy in Doha – Qatar and U19 Qatar National Team.