Football: Analysis: Is Lugano really a defensive team?

The Swiss Cup final against St. Gallen on Sunday looks set to usher in an opposition in style. But the people of Ticino suffer from a certain stereotype.

Prejudice is never completely gratuitous and innocent. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. But he can stay with you even if the facts have caught up with him. In the lexicon of Swiss football, it is not uncommon to associate Lugano with a “solid team”, “difficult to handle”, not to use the term “defensive”. A link perhaps with the proximity to Italy and all the clichés that are specific to its football. Among other things.

Mattia Croci-Torti has changed Lugano's identity somewhat since his appointment as coach last September.

Mattia Croci-Torti has changed Lugano’s identity somewhat since his appointment as coach last September.

fresh focus

So there might be something going on with the style opposition for the Swiss Cup final next Sunday. TRUE. Peter Zeidler’s St. Gallen, very “Red Bull” type, obsessed with intensity with and without the ball, with very direct football, doesn’t have much in common with Mattia Croci-Torti’s Lugano. But are the approaches fundamentally antagonistic? Are the people of Ticino really the embodiment of their stereotypes? Is Lugano really defensive? Response attempts.

“Defensive”, definition

What is a Defensive Squad? The crux of the debate lies in this question. Several possible answers must be followed: the system used, the profile of the lined up players, the game plan with and without the ball. special. And again, the shade can fit anywhere. Even if, in the collective consciousness, the fact of representing a low block, even very low, and very little projection in reclaiming the ball matches the definition well. The denial of possession can also be an element. Something to fix a frame.

Let’s start with property. Lugano is in the soft underbelly. With an average of 49.3% of the time, he has the sixth Super League score. Better than Servette, Zurich, Lausanne and Sion. There is worse. But it is more in the offensive production that the indicators are a little less favorable. Thus, with 11.13 shots per 90-minute period, the Ticino are below the championship average (12.33) and seventh in this standings (ranking, Lausanne and Sion are underperforming). Concerning the Expected GoalsGC even passes them slightly ahead of them.

Conversely, Lugano gives very little to their opponents. That reinforces the identity that has been assigned to him: with 46.09 xG awarded he is the second best Swiss formation, with only Young Boys being less permeable. The brand should be noted as teams like Servette and Saint-Gall had more shots. But Lugano seems particularly efficient when it comes to assigning only ‘bad’ batting positions. Indeed, a shot from Lugano has only a 10.9% chance of ending up as a goal. Only Zurich destroys its opponents anymore.

The composite sketch drawn is indeed that of a more defensive team. So it is not a matter of completely denying it. Although there is a better one. Indeed, the comparison to the Jaccobacci era is rather flattering to Croci-Torti. In fact, Lugano is doing better everywhere this season. The progression seems clear: the Bianconeri create more chances, have more ball possession, win the ball higher and are even somewhat frivolous defensively. So there has been some identity change since “MCT” was mentioned in September.

A certain ambition

The evolution is significant. Especially with the ball. In placed action, Lugano is willing to take certain risks that are not those of a team without ambitions. It is clear that the Ticino people are fans of short ball trips, with different exit doors. For example, in their 3-1 win against YB on Saturday, they turned to the sides to take out the Bernese pressure. This allowed them, for example, to move forward more than once on the width. At other times, Lugano found solutions through movements within, even under great pressure.

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An example of ball exit: Saipi plays with Rüegg, aligned right.  The latter seeks support from Lovric.

An example of bullet exit: Saipi plays with Rüegg, right aligned. The latter seeks support from Lovric.

Under pressure, Lovric checks out, but manages to find Lavanchy behind YB's pressure.

Under pressure, Lovric checks out, but manages to find Lavanchy behind YB’s pressure.

Lavanchy can then switch the game to the opposite.  YB pressing is skipped.

Lavanchy can then switch the game to the opposite. YB pressing is skipped.

Lugano has also made progress with a lot of ball possession. For example, this season his players hit three more balls in the opponent’s area than the previous one. Sign of a certain patience and the ability to settle in the opponent’s camp. The replacement of Sandi Lovric as remote playmaker is also part of this idea, given the technical qualities and control of Udinese’s future player.

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Lugano played against Young Boys in a 4-3-3 formation.  This configuration allowed him to have a coherent structure, with players across the width and at different heights.

Lugano played in against Young Boys 4-3-3† This configuration allowed him to have a coherent structure, with players across the width and at different heights.

And with a player like Mattia Bottani, Lugano can create differences in Zone 3. He goes in and opens the other side to right winger Amoura.  The center will provide a location in Lugano.

And with a player like Mattia Bottani, Lugano can create differences in Zone 3. He goes in and opens the other side to right winger Amoura. The center will provide a location in Lugano.

And then, both against YB and in previous appearances, Croci-Torti has always looked for players (Sabbatini, Bottani, Custodio or even Lavanchy) who can place themselves between the opponent’s lines. This helps to maintain some structure and find through-lines in the block opposite.

A reassuring pragmatism

Ambition is not limited to streaking with the ball. Also in the defensive phase, Lugano allows himself moments with more daring. By sometimes even pressing intensely. In addition, there too, the special indicator (the PPDA, for “passes granted to the opponent in his half of the field by defensive action performed”) shows remarkable progress. It is not uncommon to see Lugano activate his moments of pressure as soon as the opponent raises.

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Lugano can be intense in the squeeze.  Towards the final standings last week we saw him position himself high at the exits of the Zurich balls.

Lugano can be intense pushing† Towards the final standings last week we saw him position himself high at the exits of the Zurich balls.

An example here: The most advanced players frame the two power plants.  Opposing midfielders are individually marked (here Lovric on Herc).

An example here: The most advanced players target the two power plants. Opposing midfielders are individually marked (here Lovric on Herc).

Sabbatini is on Loosli (central defender who fits in the middle for GC's ball game).  He turns on the press.

Sabbatini is on Loosli (central defender who fits in the middle for GC’s ball game). He turns on the press.

Even if the bianconeri staff offers less guarantees to defend large spaces. So Captain Mijat Maric turns 38 and often has to stay relatively low to maintain some comfort. Jonathan Sabbatini and his 34 years can’t spend the game attacking him either. It is clear that it is difficult for Mattia Croci-Torti to ask his players to repeat the races for 90 minutes. His diagrams therefore adapt to the context. But he allows himself certain ideas.

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Facing YB, without the ball, Lugano accepted the Berner's desire to have the ball in their court.  But his 4-3-3 was intended to block key areas.

Facing YB, without the ball, Lugano accepted the Berner’s desire to have the ball in their court. But his 4-3-3 was meant to… to block key areas

Thus, the use of Lavanchy as a midfielder was intended to close the passing line from the left central defender to the left winger in the half.  He goes out on the exchange, making sure the player behind him is unreachable.

Thus, the use of Lavanchy as a midfielder was intended to close the passing line from the left central defender to the left winger in the half. He goes out on the exchange, making sure the player behind him is unreachable.

Here's a similar scheme.  On the left, Sabbatini has the same role.

Here’s a similar scheme. On the left, Sabbatini has the same role.

For example, against Young Boys on Saturday, the idea of ​​aligning Numa Lavanchy in midfield was convincing to get the Bernese into trouble. Indeed, the Vaudois was used to block the half spaces in which YB wingers usually like to position themselves. Those who have therefore had little impact in their preferred area.

At the end of the match, Lugano accepted a low block and resisted.  In the 4-5-1, the eccentric midfielders are tasked with following the opposing fullbacks, as here with Haile-Selassie going to Blum.

At the end of the match, Lugano accepted to undergo and resist a low block† In the 4-5-1, the eccentric midfielders are tasked with following the opposing fullbacks, as here with Haile-Selassie going to Blum.

Because Lugano remains Lugano, it retains a certain pragmatism. The one that allows him to vary systems and approaches between meetings and even during the same match. So, against YB, “Luga” ended the encounter very well with a very low block, aiming for the wingers to follow closely the opponents. Even if that means proposing a line of six for its own area. The path to follow to achieve these three points. Which approach Mattia Croci-Torti will choose on Sunday has yet to be determined.

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