A hot topic for discussion after our game against Port was our (lack of) defence in transition and the number of goals we let Port get from its back half with relative ease.
We have all likely seen the footage highlighted by Kane Cornes and @westozziebomber where three Essendon players surround Butters in transition, but let him get out the back, leading to an easy goal for Port.
What I did was replay the play a couple times and tried to identify what in particular went wrong to see what we needed to improve. Below is what stood out to me about the mistakes that were made over the entirety of the play. Now i don’t pretend to be an expert on football structures and tactics, so if i’ve missed anything or got anything wrong, please let me know.
1. Set up from the kick in
So the play starts with a Port kick in after we get a rushed behind. Jonas is taking the kick out and kicks it 30m to Houston in the pocket (see below).
What is immediately noticeable is obviously how much space we have given Houston. If Houston wanted to, he could have ran 15m before having to dispose of the ball. You have to immediately look to the forward line and ask why they havent set up properly to cover Port’s defenders in this situation.
If you look slightly further ahead, you see there are even more issues with our structure as there is only one Essendon player (Caldwell), really guarding three Port players in the corridor (you can actually see one of the Port players pointing to this free man).
If we are trying to be a forward half team we should have a web of players guarding this space, but we really have no structure at all. This is disappointing given the talk from the preseason that this was a focus.
2. Defensive structure
Despite Houston having this clear short option, he actually doesn’t use it.
Looking further up the field our structure is as follows.
- Ridley is matched up on Dixon (see the green circle in the picture below)
- Cahill is matched up on Raz (see blue circle)
- Francis has let his man Georgiades go further up the field (see the yellow circles).
Now people might want to say why on earth Francis is giving Georgiades this much space, but behind the goal footage from later in the quarter shows that this was likely an instructional thing, with Franga instructed to keep his depth in defence and allow his man to go further up the ground:
Now this is where you have to give credit to Houston for a great play. Houston quickly identifies that Georgiades is free and Ridley is boundary side of Dixon, and initially shapes to kick down the line but last minute brings the ball to the corridor.
Now this is where things really start to break down for Essendon.
Cahill gets drawn to the ball because it is coming straight to him, while Raz, because he knows Georgiades is free to likely take the mark, does not get sucked into the contest and falls back towards his forward 50.
Unlike Raz, Francis does get sucked into the contest and as a result is no longer the free man in the backline and is actually standing next to Raz now (see green circle). You can see how much further Francis has come up the ground, but he is in no man’s land nowhere near the contest.Now you have to be critical of Francis for making this decision (but i will get back to that later).
A quick side note is how much better the Port mids are set up at the fall of the ball in the instance where the ball hits the deck, with Caldwell and Cox on the outside of their opponents.
3. The players covering Butters
Now i wont go over this for long as it has already been covered. In it’s most simplest terms, these players do the same thing as Francis and get sucked into the contest, but not close enough to impact it, and as a result let Butters get space on the outside.
Here they are these three players (Ham, Redman and McGrath) surrounding Butters when the ball is in Houston’s hands (red circle):
Compared to when the ball is about to be marked by Georgiades:
Not a great bit of footage is it.
Now i can possibly understand why Redman may be moving inwards as he may be trying to cover Raz because Cahill is in the marking contest, but you’d imagine the coaches would be showing this footage to Ham who’s seemingly run past Butters without attempting to man him up at all.
As a result, after Georgiades takes the mark, he looks up and Butters now has 30m on his nearest opponent and hits him up uncontested on the edge of the 50. Raz is also right next to Butters as Francis’ momentum is going the other direction and Franga simply cant keep up with Raz anyway.
Now back to Francis. Interestingly, if Francis hadn’t have gotten drawn to the contest and instead kept his depth as the sweeper, he actually would have been able to prevent the kick to Butters as he starts this play pretty close to where Butters ends up marking the ball.
We also would have been in a pretty good position to hold up Port’s ball movement here, as Port’s two tall targets in Dixon and Georgiades are way up the ground, meaning Port would have no tall targets in the forward 50 to kick to.
So in summary, clearly a lot went wrong here, and boy do Rutten, Carracella and Giansiracusa have a lot of work on their hands. The main focus will be to keep reinforcing to the players that they need to keep to their structures and keep their width rather than being drawn to the ball, which is exposing them on the rebound.
If this post gets traction there is another interesting play from later in the quarter which has similar issues, which i am happy to breakdown if people are interested.