The formation that Yokohama operates in is 4-2-1-3, with a diamond-shaped midfield consisting of Takuya Kida (right centre-midfielder), Takahiro Ogihara (left centre-midfielder), and Marcos Junior in the tip of the diamond three. The pacy front three consisting of Edigar Junio, Erik Lima, and Teruhito Nakagawa possess a major threat to the opposition, as Nakagawa and Marcos Junior scored the most goals in J league last season (15 goals for each player).
Yokohama Marinos, who once had the current Real Madrid player, Kubo Takefusa, struggled to find their rhythm and finishing touch in their last game against Urawa Reds which ended in 0-0 draw despite having 68.2% of the possession and 17 shots (with only three shots on target).
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Yokohama Marinos operated in order to obtain the first win of the season by beating Shonan Bellmare 3-2. We will also look at both defensive and offensive organisation for Shonan Bellmare, as they challenged last year’s J league champions.
On paper, Bellmare operated in a 3-5-2. However, on the field, the team operated in a 5-3-2, placing their full-backs in line with the defensive line. In contrast, Yokohama Marinos operated in a 4-2-1-3 on the field, with Edigar, Nakagawa, and Erik leading the line.
Defence: Poor Backline Management
In defence, Yokohama Marinos’s backline struggled with maintaining structure during transition. The analysis below suggests that oftentimes, both full-backs (Ken Matsubara, Ryo Takano) would remain high up the field in order to create numerical advantage during the attack. However, this trend proved to be devastating for Marinos as space opened next to the two centre-backs during transitions.
Yokohama with the blue uniform defends with two centre-backs with vacant space next to them. Shonan looks to attack the vacant spaces by passing the ball into the spaces. Shonan Bellmare did a great job of identifying the trend early in the game.
In addition, Shonan did a great job of quickly attacking the vacant space left by the Yokohama full-backs and shifted the ball from right to left, which caused the Yokohama backline to quickly cover the space. By quickly covering the space, Yokohama Marinos often left one side of the backline open, where Shonan Bellmare capitalised by having one of the centre-midfield to join the front two to make a run in the vacated area in the box as shown above.
Although both Kida and Ogihara are vital for the offensive side of the game, Yokohama Marinos’s centre-midfielders tend to lose their positioning when the ball is quickly switched from side to side as mentioned in the analysis before. In the picture above, both Kida and Ogihara are out of position, and Shonan maintains possession in zone 14, where they had a shot on goal. Although having less possession, Bellmare did a great job with executing their limited chances by committing numbers forward behind the Marinos’s backline.
The image above shows the heat map of Shonan Bellmare attacking towards the right. This analysis clearly indicates the team spent much of possession in zone 14 of Yokohama Marinos’s side of the field.
Midfield: The Power of Interchanging Positions
In midfield, Yokohama Marinos displayed the tactics that Marinos tend to be extremely proficient at – free-roaming, inverted full-backs. During the build-up, as mentioned above, the full-backs become high and inverted, which creates a numerical advantage in the midfield. In addition, the right-back (Matsubara) and centre-midfielder (Kida) occupy different horizontal zones to create passing lanes for each other and quickly move off the ball to receive the ball again. Once bypassing the initial pressure from the midfield, right-winger (Nakagawa) quickly looks to combine with Kida to exploit the half-space.
In the build-up, both centre-midfielders (Kida and Ogihara) are vital in maintaining the balance of numerical superiority on either side of the field and acts as a pivot to swiftly switch the ball if one side is too congested. In addition, attacking centre-midfielder (Junior) acts as a creative link to bring the ball forward and move the midfield up the field as a unit. Junior does a great job with quickly linking plays on either side of the field, and finds the open space to pass the ball for the forwards who are making a run towards the half-space. In the picture below, centre-midfielder (Ogihara) makes a run towards the half-space where attacking centre-midfielder (Junior) quickly finds the runner and plays a through ball.
Shonan had a difficult time trying to eliminate the pockets of space in the midfield. As Shonan displayed a 5-3-2 formation, the three centre-midfielders for Shonan had the responsibility of covering the area in the midfield. In contrast, Marinos did a great job with interchanging positions of centre-midfielders and full-backs to find pockets of space in the opposition side of the field. As a result, Marinos had 74% possession rate and 87% passing accuracy in the midfield, displaying control. In contrast, Bellmare only had 26% possession rate and 54% passing accuracy.
Forward: Introduction of Onaiwu Ado and Jun Amano
Possibly the greatest threat that Yokohama Marinos has is the front three of Nakagawa, Erik, and Edigar Junio. The main goal for the front three was to spread the defensive line as much as possible by locating themselves near the touchline. By stretching the backline, it creates space between the centre-backs and full-backs, where Yokohama Marinos, partly owned by Manchester City from the English Premier League, do an excellent job of combining with midfielders and other forwards to exploit the half-space and ultimately cross the ball into dangerous areas.
However, Shonan Bellmare made it extremely difficult for Yokohama Marinos. As mentioned above, Shonan displayed a 5-3-2 formation, with much of the focus on the backline eliminating the half-space and quickly closing down the attack from the sides. In this tactical analysis below, Shonan displayed five in the defensive-line, Shonan defenders constantly marked left-winger and right-winger who made runs towards the half-space. This certainly frustrated Yokohama Marinos, as they only entered inside the box 16 times, while the season average is 22.
In addition, Shonan did a great job of staying compact in the final third and creating deep blocks to eliminate spaces between the lines.
Consequently, this forced Yokohama to cross from deep and shoot from distance, which lowered the chance of scoring. Against Bellmare, Yokohama Marinos had 23 crosses, while their season average is 26.7. In addition, Marinos only had 13% cross completion rate within the box (21.4% against Urawa Reds in the previous game). However, that changed when Onaiwu Ado and Jun Amano came into play in the second half.
In the 63rd minute, Ado came in for Erik and Amano for Marcos Junior. With the introduction of Onaiwu, Yokohama Marinos now had a main target man who possesses great aerial ability and link-up play that fits the Marinos’s style. Although Marcos Junior was decent in the game, Amano brought individual ability to progress the ball forward with his dribbling ability.
Playing in the striker role, the main task for Onaiwu was to act as a target to let the new attacking centre-midfielder, Amano, to progress forward into dangerous areas. This proved to be a major threat for Shonan, as their midfield line continued to be overrun by the Marinos midfielders and now look to move forward as a unit into the final third.
In the picture above, attacking centre-midfielder (Amano) passes the ball to the striker (Onaiwu) where he attracts two defenders to create space for Amano to exploit. After Amano receives the ball, he uses his individual brilliance to dribble through the defence and scores a goal. Within the span of 27 minutes, Amano had the highest rating on shot on target in the team with two shots on target within the box.
The introduction of Onaiwu proved to be vital in the aerial duel as well. In the first half, Yokohama Marinos lacked presence in the box with many players not contesting to crosses which went over their heads. In the second half, Onaiwu only needed one opportunity to capitalise a header within the box, which turned out to be the game-winner, proving the efficiency of attack that Yokohama Marinos possesses.
Against Shonan Bellmare, Yokohama Marinos struggled to find their rhythm and create opportunities in the half-space like they tended to do last season. Shonan Bellmare certainly did their scouting as they quickly eliminated the Yokohama players from playing their usual attacking style.
However, the last year’s champions quickly showcased their adaptability and trust in the substitutes who ultimately won the game by attacking centrally through the usage of Onaiwu as a target man, as well as the usage of Amano to use his dribbling ability to attack centrally. By the excellence of Ange Postecoglou and the tactical understanding of the players, Yokohama Marinos continued to prevail in their style and continues to dominate Asian football.