Tactical Errors Cost DDFC Dear: Delhi Dynamos FC 0 – 2 NorthEast United FC Review

Delhi Dynamos Shoot Themselves Dynamically

I’ll admit it: I wasn’t too keen to watch this game but I had set aside the day for it so I had to do it. The reason was that I don’t like this “new-fangled” NorthEast United and Delhi Dynamos were so utterly destroyed by Bengaluru FC that I had no hopes from them. I felt this would be a game full of drudgery and dullness. Delhi, of course, didn’t disappoint my assessment with their strange tactical decisions.

While I was not that into this game, I was interested in a few things from a purely analytical viewpoint. I wanted a closer look at Vinit Rai and after seeing the team sheets I developed an interest in Holicharan Narzary and Rowllin Borges. Seeing those three would’ve made this game worthwhile for me but I saw some other things too. I’ll share them with you here but first the tactical errors.

The Startees and the Dropees (Don’t judge. I like to be cute sometimes)

So, Delhi Dynamos decided to start the game with some strange personnel changes. I don’t understand why Miguel Angel Portugal decided to drop Sena Ralte. Was he dropped for poor form? I don’t think so. Is his fitness a concern? Maybe. In any case, this wasn’t as big an issue as the other personnel decision. Sena Ralte will never win you the game.

Do you know who will? Matias Mirabaje. Dropping Mirabaje for Jeroen Lumu was the biggest mistake made by Delhi. Of course, it could just be that Mirabaje was injured or unfit; something that I wouldn’t know. A slightly less severe pre-game tactical error was dropping Lallianzuala Chhangte.

To be fair, I understand this decision to a certain extent. Chhangte didn’t really have the best game last time out. On top of this, he isn’t the biggest lad in the world and NEUFC boys are all giants in front of him. Portugal was probably worried that Chhangte wouldn’t be able to cope. You never know, though. Size doesn’t matter in football so much as desire does. Remember, a small player called Messi? While Chhangte is no Messi, he should’ve been given the opportunity.

For NEUFC, the most notable change was the inclusion of Rowllin Borges and Holicharan Narzary in the starting line-up. This got me interested. I wanted to see how Borges had developed after a very good 2016 season. The fleet footed Narzary was also on my radar. Good players both. There were other changes from NorthEast but I won’t delve into them too much.

NEUTD Deployed a Recessed Pressing Technique

NEUTD got their tactics spot on in this game. They didn’t try to press Delhi players high up the pitch. Instead, they sat back and waiting for the ball into midfield. This is where all the Delhi problems began. This is where NEUTD beat them – the ball into midfield.

Delhi had a strategy to send ball into its midfielders – Lumu and Dias or even its wingers – Guyon Fernandes and Seityasen Singh. NEUTD simply countered this little strategy by being tight on said midfielders.

Every time Delhi would send the ball forward into midfield, it would either have to be sent back into defence or the midfielder would get dispossessed. Soon enough, defenders started trying to lob the ball forward into the forward line but NEUTD have some of the tallest players in the league.

They could handle that style of attack very conveniently. This put Delhi on the back foot for most of the first half. It only stopped when NEUTD stepped back a bit in the second half into the traditional deep defensive posture.

NEUTD won because they countered Delhi Dynamos’ style of football by this tactic. They forced Delhi Dynamos to play their way. This also took away the home advantage because the visitors won virtually all the aerial duels. I can’t believe Portugal didn’t see it and put a stop to it.

Maybe he didn’t have the personnel for it. For example, having Mirabaje available (he wasn’t even on the bench) may have made it easier for Delhi and Portugal.

Portugal Needs To Run More Passing & Tactical Training Sessions

The reason why NEUTD’s strategy worked is that Delhi Dynamos players are skilful enough to pass out from the back. This is something that was evident against Bengaluru FC too. Bengaluru, if you remember, had closed down Delhi Dynamos deep in their penalty box.

Joao de Deus probably saw how Bengaluru dismantled Delhi’s passing game and then decided he would do the same. The only reason he didn’t go for deep pressing like Bengaluru FC is that his team has had lesser time to work together and probably lags behind Bengaluru in fitness too.

The point is that since the precedent is set, everyone will do this to Delhi Dynamos. What Portugal now needs to do is spend the next few days running passing practice regimes with his team. That is the only way his team is going to beat any future scenarios resembling this one.

Additionally, Portugal needs a tactical man in the middle. While Vinit Rai has tremendous talent (we’ll get to him later), he doesn’t have the experience for this kind of work. I’m not saying they should drop Rai. On the contrary, I’m saying they need Mirabaje as a foil to Vinit’s metronomic nature. Rai was, after all, the best player for Delhi in this game and one of their best in the last 3 games.

Portugal needs a tactical man in the middle to recognise tactical errors and offer corrective solutions. For instance, in this game, Delhi Dynamos kept trying to go over the top. While it worked once or twice down the flanks, this strategy was largely a failure for me. NEUTD have some really tall and physically intimidating players. You’re not going to beat such players in the air. You need guile to beat them and that means passing circles around them.

Instead, Delhi Dynamos were trying lofted balls over the top, whipped in crosses, and long shots. None of those are high percentage moves and it showed because Delhi Dynamos couldn’t even claw a goal back.

Holicharan Narzary Shined In This Game

Holicharan Narzary ended up being the man of the match and it was a fair reward for his work in this game. His running with the ball as well as final pass was at a level far higher than all other players on the pitch throughout the 89 minutes that he played.

He was also credited with an assist for the first goal. He took the ball up in the inside left channel and ran at two defenders, before beating them and hanging the ball up at the far post. Marcinho had made good time to reach that point in the box and he lashed the ball into the net from the outside of his left foot on the volley.

While Marcinho is the one who put the ball in the net with a good finish, all the credit for that goal should go to Narzary for creating the opportunity. Narzary was a constant problem for Delhi Dynamos on the left side. Narzary played well and made Pritam Kotal look like a chump throughout the game.

It wasn’t just with his skill with the ball but also closing down that Narzary made Kotal’s life miserable. A good proof of this is that Narzary gave the ball away three times in dangerous situations within the first 8 minutes.

Delhi should’ve taken a Point

Even though NEUTD were good value for their win, Delhi Dynamos should’ve probably had a goal, at least. They effort merited a goal but more than anything they deserved a goal because they should’ve won a penalty.

The incident came just before half time I think. It was a set piece and the ball was sent to the far post. Rehenesh managed to save the shot from Kalu Uche but it shouldn’t have mattered because it was a penalty. Uche’s shirt was being pulled aggressively enough for him to go to ground. Had that been given, as it should have been, Delhi may have rescued a point from this game.

Not only did NEUTD avoid giving away a goal because of the referee but the visitors had another ally not wearing black. It was Albino Gomes who has been tremendous this season. Unfortunately, he made a very silly error trying to clear the ball with his weaker foot. He fluffed the plot with a wild swing only to see Cezario close him down and roll the ball into the net.

Vinit Rai Is a Tremendous Talent

I like this guy. The best adjective for him is metronomic. His passing is excellent and very consistent. He also plays the key role of attack launcher for Delhi. He is a defensive midfielder who drops back into the back line when Delhi has the ball. This allows him to receive the ball and set off attacks with pinpoint passes.

He’s not only good at building play from the back but also breaking things down when his team is without the ball. He seems like a tireless defensive midfielder too. His stamina looked very good to me. The most interesting bit is that he’s only 19. Can you imagine what he’ll be like when he grows up with some decent match experience and expert guidance? For example, I can see that he needs to add the long ball to his arsenal. I just hope we don’t waste his potential the way we did with Romeo Fernandes.