Errare humanum est.
It’s one of the first sentences I was ever taught in Latin class, a quote by Seneca the Younger. To err is human. Making mistakes is perfectly all right, as long as you learn from your mistakes.
Now we get to the part where it starts to become tricky for many managers. You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you have made it. As soon as you start blaming external factors (like the referee, one of your defenders, a visually impaired linesman, or maybe just the lady Fortune herself) you distance yourself from any possible lesson.
You need to admit to yourself, even if just in the privacy of your mind, that you erred. You and no-one else is responsible for what went wrong. This makes learning possible by moving the focus away from blame assignment and towards understanding. Admit a mistake, analyze and break-down the mistake, and work towards solving it.
Was it really that wing-back's fault, or was he placed in a difficult if not impossible situation because others made more crucial mistakes before him, leading to an almost inevitable chain of events in which he was merely the last link?
When you’re a weaker side, like Fortuna, you have to play to your strengths and you have to try to masque your weaknesses. Our current manager Roger Reijners has had a full year to work with the current squad, so he should be able to break down any mistakes he has made and work towards a decent tactic for us to play in.
As it happens, Roger has proven to be somewhat of a tactical chameleon. Or that’s how he calls it anyway. I prefer the term tactically inconsistent, seeing as he has sent out the squad in about seven different formations this season alone. Please keep in mind that we have only played nine matches so far and by different formation, I don’t mean different players but different formations as in 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1 etc.
After watching yesterdays match, it would appear Roger has finally found a formation and style of play that really suits our current squad. Allow me to elaborate with some visual aids:
Our defence was abysmal last season. We conceded a staggering 69 goals in 38 games. Last night, Roger finally adopted a style of play that suits the players we have. Samir Kozarac and Zarko Grabovac are tall, powerful defenders, strong in the air and in direct, physical duels. They are also slow and immobile, so it would be best not to give away a great deal of space at the back.
Roger seems to have understood, by sending the lads out in a narrow formation. The wing-backs Öcal and Vanek are playing in a narrow formation, backing the two centre-backs. They will challenge opponents when one comes near the box, but otherwise they will just leave them out there, almost forcing them to cross the ball. With all four defenders being over 1.90m tall, that’s a pretty much hopeless endeavour for most strikers.
Fortuna captain Zarko Grabovac beats four opponents in the air to clear a corner.
The narrow formation suits our midfield as well. Heinrichs, Van den Ouweland, and Taktak benefit from it. The opposing side will almost always deploy a more wide formation, to utilise the space on the wings, giving our midfielders more space for penetrating runs.
The midfielders have to run around a lot to cover the opposing midfielders, but they are always supported by one defensive midfielder, whose only function on the pitch is to disrupt the build-up from the other team.
When going forward, the midfielders are supported by the wing-backs making runs forward as well. Upfront meanwhile, the two strikers generally drop wide to collect the ball and wait for midfielders making runs down the middle, exploiting the space that was created by the strikers dropping wide. With forwards like Schreurs and Boymans, this strategy appeared to work, even though we were unlucky with the finishing last night.
For the first time in months, we actually dominated a match and were never really threatened by an opponent. So well done Roger, now keep playing like this and we might actually go somewhere this season. I hope…