Andre Villas Boas – Marseille 2020 Analysis

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Luís André de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas signed on 28 May 2019 a contract with Olympique Marseille and from that moment I stated to analyze his way to guide the team. Starting from game organisation, press conferences, trainings.
His record until now as Marseille coach is:


And overall career is:


This season his team obtained good results managing to beat giants PSG in a very agressive and nervous derby.

System of play

Until now he used 3 systems but mantaining the same game principles, excepting the last game won in Lorient with 1-0 using a 4-3-1-2. The other two used were more based on 1-4-3-3 and 1-4-2-3-1.

The majority of the games he approached them with a 1-4-2-3-1

The main focos for me was this Lille game, from the 4th round, played at home, against one Lille very strong, who this year play Europe League.

The initial shape look like this, with a lot of freedom upfront and good discipline for wingers defensive.

Big Data

Ball possesion – he is not trying to dominate all the time the ball, he loves also to penetrate the space and to invite opponent to risk

Passing accuracy – small problems second half, maybe when his team became tired running for the ball and losing the clarity of pass

Long passing – starting the first half with small percentage, but second half, under pressure, his defenders did not risk anymore and considering also tactical substitution choosed more time to send a long ball on transition or in simple build up

Duels – a very good number with 53% of them won. Especially first half when his team was fresh, they managed to arrive at 57%.

Attacks per minute – as I already spoke about this, he likes to mix the offensive mentality with the ball. Also inviting opponent to play and to force them to make mistakes.

Recoveries per minute – good intensity in defence to recover the ball, main focus in first half, when the score was 0-0. After, Lille took the lead, they go tired and fall down. Good to associate this numbers with long balls, making us understand the team went tired also with and without the ball and lost intensity.

Average formation line – mantaining a good balance inside and outside, being preocupied to be narrow in width and depth. To take profit of dribbling accuracy of wingers and to recover the ball fast using counterpressing. Lille was longer with 9 meters more!

Pressing Intesity – first half was really crazy, 20.3 vs Lille 14.5, a big difference in covering the ball in speed. Second half as they went tired, lost the intensity (look at recoveries) and managed a speed of 9.1. Very big difference between the two halves but mantaining also same strategy and tactics. PROBLEMS after halftime.

The fluidity of the system in and out possesion is clear for me. Defensive is a 1-4-4-1-1, offensive 1-4-2 and chaos organized. The quartet of 4 players upfront is very unpredictable and dynamic, exchanging positions and letting the creativity of each player to go out and surprise. The passing matrix is more left oriented, to Payet side, Thauvin coming more on central positions.

The majority of the balls recovered were in their half, only 5 with high pressing. And from 91 only 18 in opponent half. A plus is for “Negative transition” with 47 balls lost up having 47 chances to recover high and to finish fast.

Possesions were balanced, alternating vertical approach with long possesion. A great number of long ones is 20 considering Lille had only 9. With this kind of possessions they do not receive goal, they can breath and also can fall asleep the rivals or force them to make a positioning error.


As you can see the main ideea was to expect the opponent in the middle of the pitch with defenders very high positioned, with the strikers making the pressing moves with good intensity and covering the ball orienting him to the side. Sanson was marking one Lille midfielder and Benedetto was provoking CB to pass wide. One problem observed some times was the big distance between CB and CM, playing for interceptions between the lines. In own half they were disciplined and narrow, with Benedetto ready in preventinve attack and ready for transition. Both wingers dropped and covered the inside all the time.

A positive aspect was the body positiong of the defenders and the good covering of the spaces completing each other in centre. Sanson very agressive in marking, Rongier intelligent and all defensive line ready to incercept. Also good block distances in and out. Also small mistakes of positioning were resolved by a Rongier who was determinant in their defensive game. Also CB communication and organisation level were high in low block mode.


Villas Boas opted for mixed build up, the long using striker and second ball, the “short” eliberating one fullback from opposite part creating small rondos and atracting in one part to exchange then using a CB. Good dynamic and safety passes. Even Payet went central to help in mantaining possesion and to creating scenarios for releasing Nagatomo.

The obsession of Villas Boas for creating rondos in his tactical game as strategy to destroy opponent lines and efforts is great. The images are very clear and can be also transformed in beautiful exercises for practices. First image shows how even striker and winger help, eliberating Sakai for switch and in the second one in the final 30-35m how Sanson coming inside as Joker to link the game better and wanting to destroy Lille organisation. The main thing was on zones they bring 6 players with/without a joker and from there they make the play using time and space accesing, individual solutions or releasing other players to finish. No fixed positions.

The man who assured balance and being more defensive minded in possesion was Kamara, Caleta-Car and Rongier using Nagatomo as solution wide, Payet moving so central forward creating space, offering as solution short or accesing the deep in speed.

Having excellent wingers and very good in dribbling, he opted to create the game for them, using the amplitude for crossing (Sakai) and for 1×1 (Payet).

First picture shows how Thauvin and Sanson exchanged the positions, so forget about no 10 and no 7. No more roles, we speak about functions, freedom, dynamic, creativity, suprise the opponent.

The striker many times create space for Sanson and Thauvin, Payet offering as short solution. Again, a very worked solution to confuse the opponent.

One of the macro-principle of AVB is to create zonal superiority. Here, with no regret and discipline, Payet chosed to live his position to associate with Sakai, Thauvin and one CM to create a rondo 4×2 wide. Kamara dropped as CB and Nagatomo took a winger position. VERY GOOD GAME INTELLIGENCE!

This “vertical directness” play is another macro-principle, arriving as fast as possible at the goal of opponent, not losing time when they were leaded. The courage of the CB to attack the space, the dynamic of creating space of Sanson, Thauvin dragging a CB back and Benedetto attack BIG SPACE DEEP. A very nice tactical move!


Three big ideas

  • Assimetrical FB (cover-positioning)
  • Counterpressing (recover fast the ball in dangerous positions)
  • Central orientation defence

Both fullbacks were offensive minded but one go and one stay. The CM apply fast pressure or delay the attack, the CB very carefull to have correct positioning as you can se Duje Caleta Car step.

Very fast reactions central-wide with 4 players, good body positioning of all players, maybe two of them on the opposite part remaining without instinct and ball watchers.

Good central orientation with 6 players when they were unbalanced and exposed to fast counters of Lille.


The goal received in minute 47, too fast after the break, when the counterpressing didnt work. They were caught in a central-bad shape, conceding space and marking to large. Not being carefull, Nagatomo was up to assure depth in counterpressing but Lille was smart to exploit the space behind him. In the box, the quality of Lille winger made the difference with a placed shot.

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