San Lorenzo: Team Analysis

Following previous manager Edguardo Bauza, who had enjoyed a barrel-load of success at the club, departing to join São Paulo, many San Lorenzo fans were left disappointed and worried for a downgrade of next manager. El Ciclone fans were not left bewildered though, as on 4 January 2016, ex-Palestino manager Pablo Guede was appointed as the club’s new manager. Guede was earning something of a reputation for his brand of exciting football with the Chilean club, as well as elements of Juego de Posición being apparent in their play. 

Since Guede’s appointment, Azulgrana have enjoyed a good spell with the early signs of Guede’s reign being very promising. The Argentine manager’s Juego de Posción is also no longer apparent, but instead, in full swing…

Squad



Average starting line-up from San Lorenzo

Pablo Guede formation selection has been pretty inconsistent so far this term. The Argentine gaffer seems unable to decide on a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-3-2. Despite this statement, the way the formations work in SanLo’s system are relatively similar.
Goalkeeper Sebastien Torrico has been omnipresent in net for San Lorenzo throughout the season so far, in both the Argentine Primera Division and the Copa Libertadores. The back-four selection has been consistent, need for rotation due to fatigue, being the only real factor in any of the four defenders being left out for a match. Julio Buffarini, one of South America’s best attacking full-backs, plays at right-back. The two central defenders are Marcos Angeleri and Matias Caruzzo. Angeleri may be more well known than most players in South America, as he had a brief (admittedly unsuccessful) stint at Sunderland. Emmanuel Mas plays at left-back.

Another player who European football fans may have came across previously is San Lorenzo’s pivot Franco Mussis. Mussis also a negative experience in Europe, his bouts with Copenhagen and Genoa both being cut short. Mussis has improved though and is a very intelligent 6, also capable of playing 8. When Mussis plays as 8, we often see Juan Mercier play as the 6. Perhaps SanLo’s key player is Nestor Ortigoza. The captain has adapted very well to Guede’s demands and the Paraguayan has established himself as a very good player this season. Playing as Azulgrana’s attacking midfielder is either Fernando Belluschi or Lucas Romangoli. Neither have really been able to nail down the position as their own, with being used on the wings to accommodate the other centrally sometimes.

San Lorenzo’s wingers are quite heavily rotated, though it is clear that Ezequiel Cerutti and Sebastian Blanco are the first choice wide men. Martin Cauteruccio, Hector Villaba and Pablo Barrientos as well as the two 10’s previously mentioned, have also played out wide. On the graphic above, I have named Nicolas Blandi as first choice striker, though this could be debated, Cauteruccio and Mauro Matos have also had opportunities as 9.

Pressing High, Then a Swift Transition Into a Deep Block

One of the most interesting aspects of Pablo Guede’s San Lorenzo team is their defensive approach, particularly when the opposition are in build-up. 

Initially, Guede’s men press in a formation which you would normally associate with a very high-pressing side, maybe even to the extent of a Bielsa team, as all his players position themselves very high up the pitch in a man-orientated system. The centre-backs mark the opposition striker(s), full-backs mark wingers, the central-midfielders push as far forward as necessary to mark the opposition central-midfielders, unless they move into the first line of build-up which would then be the striker’s duty, and the wide-midfielders press very high on the full-backs. In the 4-1-3-2(now a flat 4-4-2), this allows Azulgrana’s two strikers to press the opposition centre-backs very high and intensely. Due to San Lorenzo holding such a high line, marking all opposition players in central positions very tightly, this makes them most strong in the centre of the field when pressing. To make the most of the intensity Los Santos have in their initial press centrally, the strikers attempt to force opposition centre-backs to pass only into the centre of the field, by arcing their runs to block passes to the full-backs. Forcing the centre-backs to play either between themselves, or into the centre-of midfield, allows Los Santos to have the opportunity to press in the area where they are most strong when pressing high, the centre.

Hypothetical situation: San Lorenzo’s formation when pressing high

If the opposition escapes Los Santos’ central pressure by playing to a full-back, this is a trigger for them to retreat into a deeper block. As the ball travels to the full-back, the ball-near wide midfielder will engage him by pressing, this usually forces them to pass backwards, normally to the centre-back. As this happens, one striker will drop alongside the central-midfielders, while the pivot drops back to his usual 6 position. This forms a 4-1-4-1.

Hypothetical situation: Transition into 4-1-4-1

The importance of a quick transition from a high-pressing formation to a deeper block is very high. If the transition is too slow and players don’t move into their positions in the 4-1-4-1, or if the wide-midfielder doesn’t press the full-back quickly enough, this is very likely to allow the opposition to either carry the ball forward with ease, or allow them to penetrate through the gaps in midfield. 

In the Deep Block

As already mentioned, San Lorenzo quickly transition into a 4-1-4-1 formation on the trigger of either being penetrated centrally, or the trigger of a pass into the opposition full-back. This 4-1-4-1 formation is a deep block, where Azulgrana play in two compact blocks of four, with a single player in front of each bank, in order to limit the space the opposition get in front of each block.

10:38 vs. Gremio: Compact 4-1-4-1

 In order to maintain as compact and consistent a shape as possible, Pablo Guede has implemented a zonal marking coverage scheme when his side are defending in their own half. The reference point in the zonal marking system is the ball, where Los Santos will shift in relation to.

The 4-1-4-1 is the natural defensive shape which San Lorenzo transition into almost immediately after losing the ball, when playing a 4-3-3 rather than 4-1-3-2. This means they are usually defending in a deep, at highest- mid, block when playing in the 4-3-3. Due to the standard of the Copa Libertadores being higher than that of the Argentinian Primera Division, we have seen San Lorenzo line-up in a 4-3-3 more often than not in the Copa Libertadores as it allows them to constantly defend in a deep block, more suited to playing against teams of a higher standard. 

When San Lorenzo defend in the 4-1-4-1 it is not too dissimilar to the 4-4-2-0 that is becoming ever so common across Europe’s top divisions, Leicester City and Atletico Madrid being the two well known examples in today’s game who play in a deep, compact 4-4-2 without possession.

San Lorenzo’s 4-1-4-1 is focused around closing passing lanes, particularly through the halfspaces. This is done by maintaining strong horizontal compactness. The wide-midfielders, usually Cerutti and Blanco, play very close to the 8’s in order to maintain horizontal compactness, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to find an open passing lane which would allow them to penetrate and have access to the 10 space. Although San Lorenzo retreat into quite a deep block when the opposition progress from build-up, Los Santos still press with quite a lot of intensity in certain areas of their own half. The halfspaces and in the rare case of the opposition finding access to the 10 space, the opposition’s Zone 14, are two areas where San Lorenzo will always press. Although always pressing Zone 14 can be risky, as when a centre-back moves out of position when pressing, a large hole may form in the back four, SanLo plug this hole very effectively. Mussis is a very intelligent pivot and drops into the backline to cover his centre-backs if they move forward to press an opposition player in the 10 space. As Mussis drops, Ortigoza also drops, into the 6 position, making a very stable shape, as there are no gaps.

Hypothetical situation: Caruzzo presses an opponent in possession in Zone 14, as Mussis isn’t close enough to press. Not a problem.’

Counterpressing

Due to San Lorenzo having very strong positional structures when in possession, largely thanks to the Juego de Posicion Pablo Guede has implemented since his arrival, SanLo are more often that not in positions which allow for a smooth transition into defence. San Lorenzo’s positional play is based on the short passing style they play, meaning players are very close together. This is a factor which makes counterpressing possible, and more importantly, increases the possibility of counterpressing being successful.

Although the main objective of counterpressing is to immediately recover the ball, there are a couple of secondary aims from it. One of San Lorenzo’s specific objectives from counterpressing is to delay an opposition attack by a couple of seconds, giving teammates time to recover into their defensive positions while the ball is in a non-dangerous area. This is done by blocking passes into the centre, usually by pressing the opponent in possession in pairs or trios, from different angles. 

02:47 vs Rosario Central: Three San Lorenzo players pressing two Central players to block them from playing centrally, while their teammates recover into shape


Distribution from the Goalkeeper

One of the key elements of San Lorenzo’s play is their positional play during distribution from their goalkeeper, Sebastien Torrico. As Torrico distributes the ball, the positioning of San Lorenzo players is key, as they must ensure that they aid in smooth progression of the ball as well as being prepared for their next movement which will be their positional play in the next stage of build-up or circulation. One important component in SanLo’s distribution from their goalkeeper is that they always avoid building-up through the full-backs. Due to Santo using Juego de Posicion, a philosophy which is focused around effective spacing, particularly in the centre and halfspaces, San Lorenzo cannot build-through through a full-back on a wing as it will then be difficult to access the opposite side of the field. Below is an excellent quote from the great Johan Cruyff about why you shouldn’t build-up through the full-backs.

“In my view you should never build up play with the full-backs. You should only use your full-back when actually attacking. Because when you play the ball to the right-back, the left part of the pitch no longer participates. Those who can’t be reached, don’t participate. But if you use that same full-back in actual attack, then he can make a dribble around the defence, and then you can get this(a cross). You don’t need the entire pitch now, because the goal is in the centre.”-Johan Cruyff

In order to avoid building through the full-backs, instead ‘saving’ their presence for a more advanced stage of possession, Buffarini and Mas push into more advanced positions than a standard full-back, close to the halfway line. As well as preventing them from receiving the ball in a very unthreatening area, it also opens up the halfspace for the centre-backs to split into. By doing so, Marcos Angeleri and Matias Caruzzo are instantly slowing down and disorientating any opposition press. This is done as simply, it is far more distance for potential opposition pressers to cover. Below is a hypothetical situation showing why it is easier to press centre-backs who are split, rather than two centre-backs with poor spacing.

In the first image, we can see that the centre-backs who have split have a number of passing options as the pressers would have to cover far larger distances to mark players out of being a viable passing option. It is also very difficult for them to press/mark/block passing lane as if they do so, they are almost always opening up another option for the opposition’s build-up. In the second image we can see that the centre-backs can’t pass between each other as it would be easily blocked and most likely intercepted. We can also see that the build-up has no real possibilities of becoming anything as passing lanes are far easier to close off in a small space, as less distance has to be covered.

With two centre-backs splitting so wide, some would claim that this isn’t a stable build-up structure as there is such a large gap in between the two central defenders. This is correct, but San Lorenzo easily combat this with the movements of the positionally dynamic Franco Mussis and Nestor Ortigoza. In order to create a structure which will not leave San Lorenzo vulnerable in the case of losing possession with the centre-back out of position, Mussis and Ortigoza must show good tactical awareness and analyse whether or not the opposition are pressing the backline with two, one or even no one. If the opposition are pressing high with two forwards, this is a trigger for Mussis or Ortigoza, whoever is better positioned, to drop into the centre of the first line. This offers a solid structure and means San Lorenzo have a suitable defensive line in the case of losing the ball. As well as offering stability, a midfielder dropping into the first line to situationally create a back-three is also very good for creating triangles.

Ideally Torrico can pass into the first line. By passing into the first line this either draws the opposition into a high press, which San Lorenzo will usually be capable of beating due to their numerical superiority in their first line compared to the usual opposition press of two. When the opposition press is escaped, San Lorenzo often now find themselves in a good position as they have forced the opposition to press the centre-backs so high that this has a negative impact on their vertical compactness. 


‘Although Caruzzo is a bit lucky with his pass, this shows the space San Lorenzo can have if they escape the opposition press’

The alternative to the opposition pressing high is obviously to remain in their defensive block. This too is positive for SanLo, as it allows their centre-backs to advance forward with the ball, unchallenged. If the backline have been effectively marked by the opposition, the secondary choice for Torrico is to play a high ball towards one of the full-backs, usually Mas, as he is better aerially than Buffarini. 

The above image illustrates the two minds an opposition full-back may get caught in. Should he challenge Mas for the header, but risk losing the aerial duel, which would allow Mas to flick the ball on to Blanco who can now exploit the gap. Or should he remain in position and allow Mas to control the ball and advance unchallenged? This tough dilemma is the exact reason San Lorenzo, more specifically Sebastien Torrico, use this kick as a secondary option.

Progressive Build-Up, Ball Circulation and Juego De Posicion

In order to destabilise and disrupt opposition defensive structures, we see San Lorenzo using concepts and tools associated with the philosophy of Juego de Posicion. With Pablo Guede’s side being just one of a handful around the world who practice true Juego de Posicion, build-up and circulation of the ball are two very key aspects of performance. 
Although there is no physical evidence of San Lorenzo using positional grids in training (footage of Azulgrana training is extremely difficult to find), it is very likely that Pablo Guede uses a similar pitch to the one which Pep Guardiola has installed at Säbener Straße, where his Bayern Munich team practice wonderful positional play.

Guardiola’s pitch at Säbener Straße

One tool which SanLo use in early build-up to destabilise opposition defensive structures is slow, horizontal passes across the backline, with no intention of penetrating or attacking for a few seconds. By doing so, this often puts opponents into a false sense of security and draws them out of position to press the ball, this is extremely useful in opening gaps in a deep block. A second positive of playing horizontal passes in the build-up is that for the few seconds where Los Santos do not attack, we see lots of movements ahead of the ball, into different zones on the pitch. Azulgrana use ball-orientated shifts. For example when the ball is being brought forward in the left halfspace, this will have different zones occupied than when the ball is deep on the wing for example. San Lorenzo’s positional play, like the one Pep Guardiola implements, particularly distinguishable at Barcelona, is not dogmatic and different players may occupy different zones. An example of dogmatic positional play is that of Louis van Gaal’s during his time at Bayern Munich, where certain players were required to occupy exact zones. Guardiola’s Juego de Posicion at Bayern Munich is slightly more strict than that of the one he implanted at Barça, but it is still very free and pragmatic. 

One common pattern we see emerging from San Lorenzo’s Juego de Posicion is again focused around diagonality. The back four often play horizontal passes between themselves in a very flat line, with seemingly no sense of conviction. As the opponent begin to take up more compact positions, to press the ball, SanLo begin to move the ball to one particular side, usually into a centre-back in the halfspace. As the opposition take up horizontally compact positions, this opens up the opposite halfspace and wing. The centre-back in position then looks to switch the ball to the waiting wide in the halfspace. 

Hypothetical situation: Blanco waits in the halfspace rather than the wing, as it means the ball doesn’t have to travel so far, giving the opposition less time to support their full-back in defending Blanco.

Above we can see how Sebastian Blanco will instantly be in a 1v1 with the full-back when he receives the ball. By waiting in the halfspace, the ball doesn’t have to travel that far a distance, meaning no opposition players have time to sift over and support their full-back. This situation has huge potential if Blanco has qualitative superiority over the full-back. We can see how Bayern Munich use a similar tactic with Douglas Costa, http://spielverlagerung.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/08/creating-1v1-with-costa.png?044bfb. Switching the ball from right halfspace to left halfspace is one of San Lorenzo’s best opportunities for some good wing play for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Marcos Angeleri is capable of playing long, flat passes, which are extremely effective for switching the play to an unloaded wing. This is because they are the fastest travelling type of pass, giving the opposition as small a time as possible to recover defensively. As second reason for the strength of this pass from Angeleri to Blanco is the pace of Blanco is extremely effective in exploiting open space. Blanco’s pace too, gives the opposition less time to recover.

Although San Lorenzo’s positional play is generally very good, as well as their effectiveness at opening vertical passing lanes, there are also issues with Los Santo’s build-up at times, particularly in the 4-1-3-2 formation. With the pivot, Franco Mussis, being very focused on opening vertical passing lanes, sometimes the midfielder can find himself too far away from the ball at the wrong times. 

11:57 vs. Velez Sarsfield: Mussis isn’t close enough to provide support for Angeleri, who is in possession. This briefly denies SanLo any access to the midfield

Above we can see that Mussis isn’t in a suitable position to receive the ball. This leaves Angeleri isolated and in a situation where he will be forced to play a useless long ball.

If Mussis isn’t in an intelligent position to receive the ball in the 4-1-3-2, this makes San Lorenzo very easy to defend as the lone central midfielder can be marked. This means SanLo have no possible access to the midfield which denies them valuable control of the most important area of the field.

During ball circulation, San Lorenzo use Mussis and Ortiogoza’s resistance to pressure in order to free up the halfspaces for centre-backs to use to allow the build-up to progress. This is similar to PSG’s integration of their centre-backs in circulation, as analysed by @TomPayneftbl. This works particularly well when Nestor Ortigoza makes dropping movements alongside Mussis in a halfspace. The pair are joined by the ball-near centre-back. This creates strong structures and connections in a nice triangle, around the ball in a small space. Usually attracting pressure from the opposition, the trio drag a presser or two towards them before switching the ball to the other centre-back in the opposite, now open halfspace. This tactic works especially well against a lone striker, though if a two man strikeforce can be dragged towards the trio in a halfspace, it can be just as successful. By giving the centre-back the ball in an open halfspace, this allows him to advance into the midfield with ball and hopefully progress to the next stage of possession.

One method we see San Lorenzo using against high-pressing sides in order to progress to the next phase of possession is by a midfielder dropping into the first line to create a back line. 

02:49 vs. Huracan: Mussis has dropped into the backline in line with Angeleri(in possession), while Caruzzo has dropped deeper. This creates a strong triangle, giving SanLo access to either halfspace by simply using Caruzzo as a ‘middle man’ to switch the ball to the opposite halfspace.

This is a very strong possession structure as all zones are occupied well, and the pitch is effectively covered in case of a turnover in possession. Another benefit from the structure is the number of triangles the 3-3-2-2 creates.


Diagonality, Verticality and Overloads, Finding Space Between the Lines

One aspect of San Lorenzo’s play which looks to have been well coached and organised by Pablo Guede is their ability to find space in between the lines. Finding ways to gain access to the 10 space can often be difficult but once methods of gaining access are found, they can be some of the most valuable tactical tools to possess. San Lorenzo’s diagonal orientation as well as their Juego de Posicion which sees overloads created, combined with the verticality of Angeleri and Caruzzo’s passes means SanLo are a team who have plenty of tools in their locker to find, create and exploit space between the lines.

San Lorenzo’s diagonality in the bid to exploit space between the lines is a fundamental aspect of their game. Although their verticality is also important, the diagonality in their passing is most imperative. Although a vertical pass is able to penetrate lines, which is key in advancing forward down the field, it doesn’t alter the opponent’s basic defensive shape as the attack is still from the same angle, meaning the opponent are usually still controlling the area the pass is into. A diagonal pass however, forces the opponent to shift laterally as well as dropping their line, as the pass both changes the angle of of attack as well as increasing the pressure on the opponent’s goal.

One of the key players in San Lorenzo’s diagonality is centre-back Marcos Angeleri. The Argentinian is one of the strongest defenders in the Primera Division but one aspect of his game which stands out is his ability on the ball. The ability of a modern centre-back to be productive in possession in of the ball is becoming ever more important. Although the big centre-half had a pretty dreadful time in England with Sunderland, he has really impressed since his return to Argentina, first returning to Estudiantes, then a few years in Spain with Malaga, now back to Argentina with San Lorenzo. In order to make full use of Angeleri’s qualities in build-up, pivot Franco Mussis makes intelligent movements to manipulate opponent’s which ideally opens diagonal passing lanes.

08:28 vs. LDU Quito: Mussis has moved away from the ball to open a diagonal passing lane to Belluschi, who from there may get access to the 10 space

In the linked video below we see the diagonal passing ability of Angeleri and intelligent movement by Ortigoza and Romangoli to overload the centre then split out into the halfspaces to find space in between the lines. This movement, two central midfielders overloading the centre right beside each other, then splitting into either halfspace is one we see very often. It is very useful against a single pivot as he has to try and guess which one player to mark/block.

https://twitter.com/boxtoboxcb/status/726431196780048385

As we see from every team looks to exploit space in between the lines, San Lorenzo often use vertical passes to penetrate lines. When in the 4-1-3-2 formation, then is when we see SanLo play a high number of vertical passes through opposition lines. One common movement pattern we see in the 4-1-3-2 is as follows; the wide-midfielder’s move close to the touchline, particularly the ball-near wide midfielder who will be right on the touchline. The central of the attacking midfielders moves slightly away from the ball, this should open a passing lane from the player in possession to striker. The striker will drop from the last line in between the lines. The centre-back or pivot should now be able to play a flat pass into the striker’s feet. Below is an example of this in practice.

11:42 vs. Velez Sarsfield: Movement by the three midfielders ahead of Mussis has opened up a passing lane from him to a dropping strike

Although playing a vertical pass to a dropping striker means San Lorenzo are often in possession of the ball in Zone 14, having no angle on the pass (i.e-not a horizontal or diagonal pass) means it will be very difficult for the recipient to take the ball on the half-turn, meaning he usually has to make a full turn and can’t make instant use of the space in between the lines, giving the opposition a second or so to react.

A third tool San Lorenzo use to get their players in the ball in Zone 14 is by overloading the space. When San Lorenzo begin to advance forward in a comfortable build-up, Ezequiel Cerutti, capable of playing the role of an inverted winger, often moves into the right halfspace alongside Fernando Belluschi, the 10. 

This forces not just one but two defenders to leave their position, this is a decision most defenders will hesitate to make, giving the recipient a second to take the ball in between lines. Having two of SanLo’s most creative players, Cerutti and Belluschi in such a small space, creates a very good opportunity for quick combinations between the two.

The Underrated Method of Dribble Penetration

Due to the number of strong dribblers San Lorenzo possess within their ranks it is natural that teammates make movements to open space for the strong dribblers to exploit. 

Due to the 4-1-3-2 making control of the centre spaces difficult at times, ball-carrying from deep can be very effective compared to passes into areas which don’t have much support, in a bid to advance forward. Nestor Ortigoza is one player who teammates often open space for as the Paraguayan midfielder is a strong ball-carrier. Franco Mussis, San Lorenzo’s intelligent pivot often moves into either halfspace during circulation to open a space for Ortigoza to receive the ball in, to then carry forward.

As well as ball-carrying from deep, we also see nice dribbling in the final third by Santo players. Lucas Romangoli and Fernando Belluschi both have good skillsets for dribble penetration in the final third. The two attacking midfielders have good Physcial attributes but are also excellent technically, making them good dribblers. One movement we commonly see from SanLo attackers is the two central forwards splitting wider, usually into either halfspace. This often opens a gap centrally, even for just a couple of seconds, which SanLo’s 10 will often drive into and exploit. This can be very effective in penetrating a now disjointed back four.


Set Pieces

Although SanLo aren’t a team with the most aerial ability, the strategies they use to defend and attack set pieces are designed to make up for their lack of height. 

Firstly we will look at Los Santos attacking set piece routines. One routine is shown below.

In this routine, we see Marcos Angeleri attacking the front post area, where the corner take will whip the ball in with pace. This gives Angeleri an opportunity to flick the ball on to a runner behind him. Angeleri attacks the front post as he is seen as SanLo’s best aerial player, directly behind him, where he will look to flick the ball onto, is Caruzzo, SanLo’s second best aerial player. The reason for a powerful, whipped corner rather than a floated cross is that a powerful cross means Angeleri doesn’t have to do too much to flick the ball behind him. Below are the four ideal stages the routine would take.

A second routine we see from San Lorenzo when attacking on corners is very similar to the first. Again, there are four runners running away from a strong aerial player, except this time the strong header of the ball is attacking the back post rather than the front.

Ideally, this routine will isolate Blandi near the back post, where he will hopefully get a free header.

Defending set pieces is a potential weakness with San Lorenzo’s lack of height but they haven’t been exposed in this department too much this season. The only match where SanLo looked really troubled on set pieces was against title rivals Godoy Cruz, who use an unorthodox yet very effective corner tactic.

06:49 vs. Godoy Cruz: Godoy pile all players attacking the corner on the line. The taker then whips the ball into the crowded area and hopes for some luck. This caused SanLo some problems.
This obviously isn’t how Los Santos defend every set piece though. Los Santos defend in a man-marking style with one player, usually Angeleri, around the first post around, with one on the edge of the box directly in front of the corner take, probably just to distract him a little.


One-Two’s, Lay-Offs and Third Man Runners

Important components in San Lorenzo’s quick attacking play in the final third are one-two’s and lay-offs and also the generation of a free man in combinations. By playing quick combinations in pairs in a small space with press resistant players, this draws pressure towards the ball, dragging opposition players out of position. This can be very effective in generating a free third man running off the ball as the opposition are unaware of the run. The third man’s run will often be on the blind side of an opponent as this makes it very difficult to turn and react quickly enough to defend the ball when it reaches it’s intended target.

One common pattern we see from San Lorenzo which revolves around lay-offs and generating a third man running off the ball is as follows; a centre-back will dwell on the ball for a few seconds to attract pressure, as the opposition striker presses the San Lorenzo midfield will move towards the ball to invite the opposition midfield forward a few yards, as this happens the centre-back will play a long ball towards the striker and two midfielders will rush forward. The striker will then ideally lay the ball of to a central midfielder rushing forward who can then play pass out wide to another midfield runner. See below.

A second pattern we often see from San Lorenzo’s collective play is agains focused around quick accelerations which manipulate opponent’s thinking a millisecond. This millisecond where the opponent is moving/thinking in the wrong direction is a millisecond which can open the space you need. 

When SanLo’s wide midfielder/winger and full-back are on the wing together against two opposition defenders, the wide midfielder will make a movement inside which his marker will follow, seemingly creating a 1v1 on the touchline with full-back against full-back. As the Santo midfielder moves inside he will accelerate back onto the wing, creating a 2v1 in their favour for a valuable second or two. This creates an opportunity for a quick one-two which makes the full-backs job very difficult.


Attacking Patterns and Chance Creation 

In the attacking phase we see far less collective actions by San Lorenzo, with more of a reliance on individuality creating chances. Blanco, Cerutti and the two attack minded full-backs have the ability to create chances for whoever plays up front, though all three options are primarily penalty box players, meaning good service is essential for them.

We see a high number of needle passes through the opposition defence to a runner through the last line, usually a winger. Key component in good synergy in SanLo’s attacking patterns are as follows; a straight pass must never be played for a straight run, as it is very easy to defend. A straight pass must be played for a diagonal run infield by a winger. Or a diagonal pass must be made to a straight run. Another important aspect is the striker’s movement. In order to open a lane which allows a penetrative pass through the last line, the striker must make a movement away from the ball. This allows a 1v1 on the wing, which has potential to provide excellent service to the striker.

Another common attacking pattern we see emerging from San Lorenzo in the last phase is a diagonal pass from winger to opposite full-back. Similarly to the one Barcelona use, players make diagonal movements to open up the wing for a diagonal pass to be played to a straight runner (ie-the full-back).

Seconds prior to Barca’s first goal vs. Juventus in the 2015 Champions League Final. Neymar’s inverted movement has opened up space for Messi’s trademark diagonal pass to Alba.

This method has proved to be particularly useful for Santo, especially with the advanced positioning of the attack-minded Julio Buffarini and Emmanuel Mas who are more than capable when in the final third. As the full-back controls the ball, the now ball-near winger makes a slight movement towards the ball, this ideally opens up some space for a cutback to the striker who remains in the centre, lurking around the penalty spot.


Conclusion 

To date this season, San Lorenzo have fulfilled and perhaps exceeded expectations for this point in the campaign. Although Los Santos have been knocked out of the Copa Libertadores earlier than they’d have liked, it was always going to be tough ask to qualify with two heavyweights, Gremio and LDU Quito both in their group. Azulgrana have arguably made up for this with their strong league form though. Click the link below to check the current league table. 

http://uk.soccerway.com/national/argentina/primera-division/2016/regular-season/group-a/g9393/

The style in which Pablo Guede’s men have played is truly intriguing, particularly the full-blown practice of Juego de Posición which is rare and so difficult to master. The squad the Argentine manager has at his disposal seems to be very nicely balanced, with all of his average starting 11 being capable of implementing good positional play. The squad has good potential as well as a good amount of experience, with the likes of Hector Villaba, Luis Avila and Paolo Diaz being guided by the experience of Angerleri, Ortigoza etc. This proves that Pablo Guede’s side aren’t just well equipped short term but long term too. 

The work of Pablo Guede has been admired all across South America for a couple of years, with it beginning to peak around now. This suggests that interest from Europe may not be too far away, and perhaps, another apprentice of Juego de Posición may be on his way too Europe…

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