Exploring innovative throw-in routines and principles from Europe’s best - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

Celebrate Advent with excerpts from Scott Martin's top articles on Total Football Analysis. Head to scottmartinmedia.com or Scott's LinkedIn profile each day through December 24th for the next installment. 

Today's featured excerpt comes from a website post on December 11th, 2023. It's called, "Tactical Analysis: Identifying the best moments to engage opponents.”

Thomas Grønnemark entered the spotlight as Liverpool announced they had hired a throw-in coach.

A largely overlooked phase of the game, Grønnemark revolutionized re-entries from throw-ins. His tactics are centred on the three pillars of long, fast and clever.

Throw-ins are still underutilized in the game, but there are several teams that stand out, especially in the EPL. You may have guessed, but most of the featured clubs have either worked with Grønnemark in the past or are currently working with him.

The full article was published yesterday on Total Football Analysis. Today, in celebration of Grønnemark's birthday and legacy within the game, we’ll focus on clever throws.

Clever throw-ins are a means of re-entering play against an organized defense. They’re a necessity when the fast throw-in isn't available and there's no real advantage to set up for a long throw-in, especially if the restart comes outside of the attacking third. In these instances, choreographed movements can be used to manipulate the opponent's shape and create gaps in their press.

A general principle of clever throw-ins is to reduce the area covered by the defending team. To complicate the execution of the clever throw-in, the defending team is organized near the ball and will assume the throw-in cannot get over them. If it can't beat the press, the throw has to go through or into it.

This example from Liverpool vs. Sheffield United is perfect. Notice Liverpool's attacking shape. In addition to the thrower, there are five players setting the perimeter of their rest defense and four showing to the ball. Sheffield United has committed six players to defend the throw. To win this 4v6, Liverpool has some work to do. To start, those four players near the ball are initially very tightly connected, then three run towards the ball and one moves higher up the pitch

Starting further away gives some space to run into where they could reasonably receive the throw and set back to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who could then play the ball out of pressure. Sheffield United had to defend against that possibility. What they didn't account for was the large shaded area that opened up once the last run was completed. As Alexis Mac Allister checked to the thrower, Luis Díaz sprinted into the shaded area and received the throw. He had time to turn and complete the switch of play to Joe Gomez, who effectively took Diaz's spot in the wing.

That's an example of a clever throw to beat the press in the middle third. The remaining examples take place in the final third. The first comes back to Midtjylland. As the set piece dynamos set up for the long throw, Bech and Aral Şimşir looked for an opportunity for a fast, short throw. As Şimşir walked away and Bech took his position for the throw, they broke eye contact, but their eyes were fixed on the same target. Watching the movement of Nordsjælland’s Mario Dorgeles. The moment he turned to look at his side's organization in the box, the short throw was played.

The service didn't connect with a runner, but the execution up to that point was superb. Midtjylland had three players in the box crowding the keeper and four players near the 18. As the throw was played in, the three who stacked the six-yard box dropped with the defensive line and were joined by two players from the top of the box, giving the home side five players attacking the service. It also ensured the runners were moving towards goal, ensuring better momentum and power as they looked to finish.

Brentford gives us another short throw. Initially, recognize the three players at the far post commanding Luton Town’s attention. Then there are two more players at the top of the 18 in the half space drawing more players away from the wing. Ultimately, Luton Town goes man for man in the wing. Brentford sees the 3v2 opportunity and plays short. The ball is set back to the thrower and a simple give-and-go helps them win the encounter and get a service off.

We’ll come back to Brentford for this next example, but in this case, they're on the wrong end of the throw-in. Arsenal didn't bring many numbers forward in this instance, but they did send three near the ball. Two of those players are tightly connected in an attempt to draw the free Brentford defender towards them. And they succeed in doing so. As he steps forward, the throw is played into the low corner of the box. Arsenal does eventually put the ball in the back of the net in this sequence, but further down the line, there is an offsides call that negates the goal.

One important note here is that Oleksandr Zinchenko is in no rush to throw the ball. He holds it for about 10 seconds before throwing it to Martinelli. As he holds the ball, there's a lot of movement from the three Arsenal players near the ball. First, their spacing is evenly distributed across that area, but then the two men overload near Zinchenko gives them the visual cue they're looking for. That's the signal to throw the ball.

Finally, let's head back to Denmark for our last long throw. The brilliance of this sequence is capitalizing on the fear Bech strikes in opponents. With his long throw, the 30-metre square nearest him is largely abandoned. Seeing the space, Joel Andersson makes his move. He leaves the goal-mouth, checking towards Bech and receiving the throw. He sets to Bech, who plays out of a 2v2 to Darío Osorio, who found a pocket of space once his defender left to pressure Bech.

The service missed the far post runners, but this clever creation of a 3v2 did its job. Midtjylland had a clean look at the service into the box with three players in position to meet the cross.

For the full article, which covers long and fast throw-ins, head to Total Football Analysis.

Here's the link to the article.

Read and share with someone who would find this analysis interesting.

Come back tomorrow, either on scottmartinmedia.com or my LinkedIn profile for the next installment of the Advent calendar.

Day 1 - Tactical Theory: The intelligent movements of elite attackers

Day 2 - Tactical Theory: The intelligent movements of elite midfielders

Day 3 - Tactical Theory: The intelligent movements of elite defenders

Day 4 - Tactical Theory: The intelligent movements of elite goalkeeper

Day 5 - Superiorities-based training for possession dominant teams

Day 6 – Cues for progressive actions

Day 7 - Data Analysis: The art of overachieving

Day 8 - Data Analysis: The art of underachieving

Day 9 - The re-emergence of man-marking in a high press

Day 10 - The Regista: How to control a football match

Day 11 - Identifying the best moments to engage opponents

Day 12 - Exploring innovative throw-in routines and principles from Europe’s best