One would have to go 15 years back, to put Porto and the term “best defense” go along in the same phrase. It was under Jose Mourinho, the Potuguese club Porto reached their zenith which paved the way for the man to become “The Special One”. It was almost the first time after a decade that a team outside of the big four leagues had won the Champions League. His defensive philosophy paved way for his success as a manager and the pattern for Porto to be successful in Portugal.
Porto became the most dominant football club in Portugal in the first decade of the century by winning 7 league titles in 9 years after Mourinho’s exit. However they have failed to grasp on the title in the last five years. The fans have been a sorrow figure of late having watched their side’s hegemony for most part of the last decade.
Having finished in 3rd, 2nd, 3rd and 2nd places in the last four seasons, Porto and their fans now have reasons to be confident of winning the Primeira Liga after their success back in 2013. Sérgio Conceição, the Portuguese Gaffer is the prime reason behind Porto’s fight to win the title this season as they have been consistent all over in the first half of the season collecting 45 points from a possible 51 points dropping just 6 points in the 17 games at the time of writing.
Winning 14 games and drawing 3 games in the 17 matches so far, Porto have never lost a game this season and remain the only unbeaten team along with Sporting CP. In the month of December, have won 6 games and drawn one as they ended the month as the best in this campaign so far by going undefeated in all competitions and gaining more points than the previous month. The key to the stunning run has been their sturdy defence. There are many other factors that have helped them lead the table during the first half of the campaign.
The Defensive Plan
While the defense is one of the most important factors for Porto’s surge this season, Conceicao has to be praised for such discipline. In the 18 games thus far in the Primeira Liga, they have conceded just 9 goals and its mainly down to the defensive discipline as a collective unit and Conceicao’s tactical set-up. They have allowed just 7.5 shots per game so far and committed almost 19 times in a game in terms of tackles.
Made using TacticalPad
Conceicao usually deploys a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 set up in this side as the front two is usually constructed by Aboubakar and Marega. In many games Conceicao has gone with this set up with two banks of four and uses the mid-block. The mid-block sees the front two players occupy the space between the second-third and final third, while the two banks drop further behind. One thing to note in the defense is that, they try to stay horizontally compact and are also position oriented. They don’t press very high out of their defensive shape unless the opposition players enter their zone.
When pressing this approach had a weakness that can be exploited by the opponents and hence a more solid structure is used in the favor of defense in between the games. The 4-1-4-1/4-5-1 structure is more preferred for defensive solidarity and it would be Danilo or Reyes in the heart of the midfield in most instances.
This is how Porto usually structured themselves this season under Conceicao which proved very successful as they have conceded fewer than any team in this season so far.
The compact nature of Porto’s defense is down to the coach and has been effective in sitting back and countering. That being said, Porto have possession as a tool to ensure that the ball does not stay near their zones to be a danger to them. This has particularly been the case against lower table opposition where they have been able to see out games effectively.
Galore of goals – Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega
Porto has been one of the teams of the season based on their defensive prowess however they have also shined well in their attack. They have scored a massive 76 goals in just 31 games this season in all competitions so far, averaging just below 2.5 goals per game which is quite staggering. They have scored 46 times in the Primeira Liga while also notching up 15 goals in the six games in the Champions League.
The forwards have always been in the score chart and have contributed to most of the goals this season. Both Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar have impressed this season but it is the latter who has caught the eye of the lot as the Premier League clubs have shown interest in signing the Cameroonian. Aboubakar has already amassed 21 goals for Porto in all competitions while collecting five assists. Moussa Marega has also been massive for the side as he has netted one more than the Cameroonian in the Primeira Liga.
Vincent Aboubakar for Porto in 2017/18 = ???
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 17, 2018
Yacine Brahimi has also contributed to the side with five goals and six assists in 18 appearances. He has been one of the key figures of the side as he has always looked in command and controlled that midfield along with scoring goals and racking up assists.
In the month of December, Porto have drawn just one game while winning six other games in a tight month which saw them play in four different competitions. With a lead of one point and a game in hand, we can expect Porto to land the coveted trophy in Portugal after almost half a decade. After very close finishes in the table, the once hailed European elites once again look to revive themselves in Europe as they are the only team from Portugal to qualify for the Champions League round of 16. Sergio Conceicao’s team definitely looks to have set the bar high.