Monday, June 25, 2012

Spain's Double Pivot system

Double Pivot doesn't suit for Xavi
Luiz Fernandez: "ESP debate is not about false nine, but why they play with two holding midfielders"

Many people are saying that this spain squad looks like Barcelona without Messi. Well, I don't know if they don't watch closely Barcelona's games or just doesn't understand that Barcelona never plays with 2 Pivots (defensive midfielders) which Spain does, using Both Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, which automaticly takes away one of their attacking player in the build up.

Spains 4-2-3-1 formation. Del Bosque likes to use 2 Pivots because to neutralize the opponent attacking, which isn't always the case (show you later) and tells that they could both also play as more attacking midfielders, which they are clearly not. That formation also doesn't do any good for Xavi who likes to drop deeper, get the ball, and play passes around, but he often finds himself surrounding with the two Pivots around him and can't dictate the game like he wants to. (show you later as well)

No need for two pivots defensivly

No need there to play 2 Pivots behind Xavi who struggled to find the pass, whereas one of the could be replace for example Pedro, who could stretch the game and give them another dimension. (come to this later)
This is the situation I was speaking earlier that Spain doesn't need always two Pivots to Cover the opponent attackers because they are so often defending so deep that in this case they have 5 players covering the only France attacker. What you could also see that Xavi struggles to find any passes forward because he likes to come deep to collect the ball and he don't have any players forward to play the passes, for example one of the Pivots could be on the right hand side to strech the France defence.

Double Pivot offensivly
The problem is obvious. While the game is strecthes nicely by Alba and Silva, the team don't have any midfielders to make deep runs behind the France defence and midfield. Xavi need more freedom in midfield to run around and play passes around but he is surrounded with 2 holding midfielders in the buildup that doesn't make deep runs. To cover Benzema you don't need 2 Pivots+2 Defenders.

Typical Spain attack and show that 2 Pivots are redundant most part of the game.

Xabi & Busquets always stay close to eachother and behind Xavi. In the attacking part in just takes away one of the attacker and one of them are usually redundant.

As you could see in this sequence that the Double Pivot didn't have much influence in Spains attack and also didn't have to cover anybody most part of the came, the job that one of them could easily handle. Because they play so deep, it just takes one option away from Spain in the build up , while one of them could be replaced with a wider player, like Pedro who caused lot of problem at the end of the game and was very dynamic, which the Spain squad lacks and could beat the players, drag the defenders away and put pressure on defenders when they are building their attack.
  The one and only time that Del Bosque used 1 man Pivot with Busquets against Scotland in the Euro Qualifier and it's been the best game I've seen them under VDB era.


  1. I think the double pivot is only needed when you play two offensive fullbacks. Barca use(d) Alves and Abidal. Abidal is a very defensive and conservative fullback. He rarely ventured forward, which meant Barca only needed one DM. Unfortunately, Arbeloa isn't offensive, and VDB won't replace him. But still, I don't think the double pivot is this huge unnecessary problem that some think it is. Especially against France, where it was important. Busquets ALWAYS had to go to RB to assist Arbeloa in stopping Ribery. Alonso was needed then to be the sole DM. If there wasn't a double pivot, Busquets wouldn't be able to drop to the right as effectively. If he did, it would mean there would be no DMs, and the team would be vulnerable. Still, it would be better to have Iraola (injured) or Juanfran there. If Juanfran started, I would be perfectly fine with the double pivot.

    1. Xavi would play more deeper role then just. Like in Euor08 when he played together with Senna who covered most of the defensive area, but also Xavi played a lot deeper than now and ran over the picth like it suits to him.

  2. Brilliant read as always and very true regarding the double pivot system.

    I put Pedro in my dream team at the start of the tournament because I thought he was exactly the type of player they had been missing in Spain's forward line (especially considering the problems with the CF position) but Del Bosque didn't play him once throughout the group stages and I took him out.

    His impact vs France was, as expected, huge and if Spain are to go onto win it I think he'll need to play a bigger part. It stops Spain being predictable and somewhat weaponless in attack.

  3. I think it's just conservatism from Del Bosque. It may be redundant to play two defensive midfielders but it provides more numerical back up for if/when there is a counterattack. Barca without Messi are unthinkable to be honest, since he scored so many goals for them last year it was fine if they left themselves short in defense since Messi scored so often and reliably.

    I agree Pedro should start, especially instead of Torres

  4. It's the pressure of the Madrid media on Del Bosque. They'd go after him if he'd drop Xabi Alonso.

  5. Well, Johan Cruyff more less sums up the flaws of using two defensive midfielders - “The problem with two holding midfielders is quite simple, but somehow many coaches don’t see it. The build up happens too slow – holding midfielders always need that extra touch, always need to have a look when they have the ball already. That takes time away. The opponent can position themselves to stop the killer pass and the forwards are all marked. Plus, having two holding midfielders means there is one less creative playmaker. It’s a double edged sword…we need one good controller in midfield and two creative players on the wide midfield spots, like Barcelona does…if our build up is slow, the effectiveness of our creative forwards will decrease significantly. Robin van Persie got a lot of criticism last World Cup, and I believe it was because we played to defensively and passively. We became a counter team. Our best players are up front, though. They need the ball, and they need it quick.”
    He was talking about Holland, but I think that's true to Spain's problem as well. Alonso needs to be dropped for Iniesta in the middle, and Pedro needs to be put out on the wing.

  6. I agree with you, Jimmy. (and of course with Allas)

    But to be honest, after Alonso's game vs France, VDB just can't take him out of the squad.

  7. Nice analysis, glad to see you again.

  8. Allas, i completely agree with your take on the double pivot system. Spain is playing static soccer at the moment because they need that extra spark the Pedro could give, or Villa whom is injured. I played pivot for 6 years and I believe there is no need for having two pivots. My coach put it very simple, if there is only one striker up top, leave 2 defenders in the back covering him, one marking and one sweeping. If there are 2 strikers up top, leave 3 defenders, 2 marking and one sweeping and so fourth. With the current squad Spain has I could see this being very successful. In both these cases there would be only one pivot, which will be given even more freedom to move forward and help built the attacks, and it would give Alba the freedom to go forward and Spain will be able to attack with more numbers.

    - Vega10

  9. I reckon this was evident throughout the game: When Busi was playing well, Alonso wasn't really needed and vice versa.

    If DB insists on 4-2-3-1, then Ramos has to go to RB and Javi Martinez alongside Pique in CB, that would provide width to stretch the opposition out. Every time Arbeloa got the ball he would look forward for 5 seconds, then pass the ball back, it was frustrating to watch.

    The reason he doesn't want to play 4-3-3 is that he doesn't want to decide between Sergio and Xabi. Anyway, Pedro and Navas should be starting, maybe Santi ahead of Navas. Silva seemed lost so wide, he can play wide but not as an out and out winger.

  10. Indeed, there is absolutely no need for 2 Pivots. What del bosque could do is using a sweeper,for example now,you could use Busquets, when defending, he becomes a Pivot, when attacking, he returns to his Attacking-midfielder position. So they don't have to struggle so much with Xavi when he wants to pass forward.
    Very nice video allas, keep it up.

  11. I agree with everyone that two pivots is not ideal. Spain does not want to leave the outcome of the game to penalties! At the same time, Spain's forwards (at least as VDB picks them) are not as hardworking and defensive as Barcelona's forwards. Messi does not do a whole lot defensively, but Pedro and Alexis Sanchez, for example, give a massive effort defending and winning back the ball.

    Of course, Pedro SHOULD start and I believe he will against Germany. However, I think the player to come out is David Silva, who is not strong enough like Pedro to have an effect on defense.

    To give a counter argument, the double pivot does shut down the opponent's offense. Even when we have the ball however, it's good to have an extra man back to stop the occasional counterattack and that does allow a player like David Silva to conserve energy for the attack.

    I think if the Spanish roster was a club, so that they could practice more together all year round, the double pivot would allow cunning tactics like the CB making forward runs. This is especially true with CBs like Pique and Ramos who are excellent on the ball.

    Finally, Barca usually must win its games, especially in La Liga where a win is worth 3 draws. However, this tournament is different and losing is just unacceptable. The reason VDB should drop the double pivot is because leaving the game to penalties is just not good enough.

  12. Spain would be more attacking if they played busquets as the only DM player. Alonso can play higher up and support xavi in the attack. Spain needs a better flow to the attack. They only need 1 pivot player

  13. Since 3 years I say "kick that over-rated Alonso away because he's only disturbing Xavi and Andres." Many times we could see how the pseudo-Basque stops Xavi by taking the ball and... giving it back, which wastes time and helps rivals to build their defense. And so many misplaced passes Alonso makes every game, another handicup for rival teams.

  14. Guys, let's be honest, Del Bosque always was a big coward. Do you remember how madrid have looked in 2002? The Champions League game at the Camp Nou and the final against Leverkusen? Simply a coward.

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  16. I was thinking about the first Italy - Spain game that finished 1-1, and how Spain needed some magic to come back in that game. I think the genius of that Italian side was that Balotelli and Cassano cut off space out wide so the center backs couldn't pass to the full backs, and the fullbacks were man marked. Spain used Fabregas as a False 9, and Iniesta and Silva on the sides, and Iniesta and Silva like to drift inside so it became pretty easy for De Rossi, Cheilini, and Bonucci to handle those 3. So with no real pressure on the center backs they would be forced to be the ones to play the ball, and here is where the two holders come in. Normally if you were to do this to Barca, they have Busquets as the only Holder with Xavi and Iniesta dropping and going so it would be much easier for the Center Backs to play the ball, but in this system as you see Xavi can't drop back, and Busquets and Alonso were covered, so Xavi was surrounded by all these bodies clustered in the middle and couldn't drop deeper to help out, and Italy had Di Natale score, who is used to a system of a 3-5-2 and working the channels and cutting out passes, so it worked perfectly, but many things had to go right! here is a picture i made of what happened: