Why are centers in football relatively smaller?

How bad is Benevento anyway?

0 points. 5 goals. 31 goals conceded. This is Benevento Calcio's record after twelve games. The club from Campania is this year for the first time in the club's history in Serie A. Benevento played in the third division two years ago. Serie C was won with an impressive season ahead of De Zerbis Foggia, in the summer they changed coach and finally finished fifth in Serie B, which entitled to participate in the promotion playoff, which was finally won. But the Serie A is still not quite there. Coach Marco Baroni and sporting director Salvatore Di Somma have already been sacked. In terms of points, things didn't get any better with the new coach Roberto De Zerbi. Therefore, the questions arise as to how bad the team really is and how the rest of the season could go.

It was clear to everyone that Benevento would have a very difficult time staying in Serie A. After all, Benevento was a small third division team until recently and can only have a relatively small budget in Serie A. Salary costs are € 15 million this season, with Crotone spending even less at € 12 million. With the exception of Chievo Verona (€ 18 million), all other Serie A clubs spend at least € 21 million and up to € 164 million (Juventus). After all, Benevento invested € 20 million in new players in the summer without taking in a single cent, according to transfermarkt.de. The transfer expenses were distributed among many players, the most expensive new addition is the young central defender Andrew Gavrillon, who was signed from Inter's youngsters and only played for 64 minutes, with a € 4 million transfer fee.

The result of the transfer period is an interesting squad with some underrated players. With Luca Antei, a very strong center-back was brought in by Sassuolo, and Andrea Costa, who was very good at dribbling, came from a relegated team from Empoli. Center-forward Pietro Iemmello came from Sassuolo, where he played little in his first Serie A season but had an excellent goal rate. With Letizia and Di Chiara, two very strong full-backs were brought out of Serie B. There are a lot of interesting players in the squad, but also problem areas such as the central midfield or the lack of depth in the squad on the offensive wings, which was already noticeable due to injuries.

Unstable defensive forkus under Baroni

With 31 goals conceded, Benevento currently has the worst defense in the league and also with an expected goals value of 23.3 (which led to 26 goals conceded plus three penalties and two own goals), the yellow-red league bottom lights.

Under Baroni they played six times in nine games with a 4-4-2, twice with a 4-1-4-1 formation and once with a 4-3-1-2. Despite the changing formations, the play area and the problems were mostly very similar. Benevento played a midfield pressing and had big problems in triggering the pressing properly.

Usually the team positioned itself rather high, with the striker far in the opposing half. The opponent's defenders were barely disturbed and the strikers concentrated on blocking the six-man area. However, there was a lack of clear pressing triggers, which meant that the team did not get any pressure on the ball carrier, could not advance or maintain their height and were pushed backwards. Pietro Iemmello, who used to work very well against the ball, was too inactive as a striker and only passively held his position in front of the six-box. He moved out only with very little intensity on rubbing central defenders. In the 4-1-4-1, the move out of a figure eight on the central defender was of greater importance. The defensively strong Chibsah did this quite well, but in such situations there was generally a lack of support for the approaching midfielder and the opponent could easily keep the ball in their own ranks. The intensity in the pressing was overall very weak and only partially good in the initial phase, for example in the away game against Hellas Verona.

The basic defensive formation was sufficiently compact vertically and even very compact horizontally in both the 4-4-2 and the 4-1-4-1. Although this horizontal compactness is actually desirable, it also caused major problems for Benevento. Since there was hardly any pressure on the defenders of the opponent and the pressing could not be managed well, the larger spaces next to the midfield, which resulted from the horizontal compactness, were easily playable. As a rule, Benevento was able to close down the center well. The wingers were very careful to keep close distances to the central midfielders and not to open up the half-space. Due to the lack of pressure on the players carrying the ball, the opponent could hardly be directed to one side and shifts could not be prevented. As a result, Benevento was very often the famous step too late and had an intensity that could be greatly improved when shifting to the wings. So it was ultimately easy for the opponents to outplay the midfield on the outside and then get back into the middle. Benevento could not keep the height in the pressing and was pushed back further and further into their own half, which also led to the lowest possession number in the league. In addition, Baroni's team did not manage to adjust the height sufficiently forward when the opponent had possession of the ball: they wandered back and forth, but hardly forward when the opponent gave back passes.

After a long tee, Napoli can hold the ball and sort themselves quickly. Benevento goes into his 4-4-2 basic order without pushing towards the ball in time. Lombardi does not run the ball-bearing Hamsik, but concentrates on taking the engaged Ghoulam in the cover shadow. Venuti is also based on Ghoulam, which means that the pass path on the wing remains free. Hamsik sends Insigne down the line, Venuti takes a long time to intervene.

The horizontal compactness strongly directed the opponents to the wings. Apart from the access problems caused by the badly triggered pressing and the weak intensity, it is still advantageous to bring the opposing team into this strategically insignificant zone, where the possibilities of continuing the attack are severely limited due to the few connections. This alone resulted in many very good pressing situations, which the opponents were too often able to resolve without any problems. Because even if the shifting movements were correct and many players were brought close to the ball, there was hardly any conquest of the ball. The team had a very defensive focus and was hardly interested in conquering the ball. Rather, great caution was shown in order not to be overplayed with dribbles. There was little support for the approaching player to increase the pressure. It was more likely to be secured to the rear than defended in front, which led to a high level of passivity.

Pressing scene from the home game against Torino, which includes several defensive problems from Benevento: Torino attacks from the left side, the full-back is approached by D’Alessandro and can resolve the situation via the falling winger Falque. D’Alessandro - presumably influenced by the strongly man-oriented style of play at his predecessor club Atalanta - goes with the advancing full-back and prefers to back up, which means that Memushaj has to move on to the ball carrier. Memushaj already recognizes that this will free Ljajic in the center and will also indicate this. But Cataldi is very much based on Torino's star striker Belotti, is too low and can only move out on Ljajic much too late. This then finds Falque again between the lines, with Antei in place of Letizia unsuitable and Torino can unlock his left attacking side.

The orientations of the midfielders in the pressing were also often unsuitable. Basically there was a very strong focus on the teammates and on keeping the 4-4-2 order with appropriate distances. The focus on the opponents in midfield was sometimes too little, which led to a delay in getting out on them. In addition, the midfielders oriented themselves strongly backwards in order to keep the space between the lines narrow and to take the opponent's attackers into the shadows. Overall, however, this succeeded rather poorly, as the opponents in contact with the ball often had too much time to find suitable pass points when someone finally pressed on them. In addition, the midfielders were often so focused on one landmark that they ignored other points. The outer midfielders in particular took great care to take offensive players who had moved into the half-space into the shadows of cover, but forgot about other pass stations and did not manage to have access to several options at the same time.

D’Alessandro tries to block the path to the intervening winger from Inter (Candreva). His eyes go to the Skriniar carrying the ball and to Candreva, although he does not adjust his position inward enough. But his body position is even worse: he stands diagonally inward, has to turn after playing at the full-back and needs a correspondingly long time to approach him.

Situations in which the opponent could use the space between the lines were also poorly defended. The defenders always acted rather hesitantly and reluctantly moved from the defensive line into the space in front of it. The outward movements therefore sometimes did not take place at all in suitable situations with sufficient protection. Often times the timing was just bad and the defenders hesitated too long and came out too late. Again, the defense was very defensive and oriented very towards your own goal. Better to fall back even further than to face the opponent. The opponent's attacks could only be stopped near their own penalty area, when the team could not fall back any further. However, these deep ball captures are problematic for switching to ball possession.

Good build-up of the game, poor continuation of the game

Benevento tried to get scoring chances mainly through a flat combination game. You start with a good build-up of the game in the first third and then continue to build up the closer you got to the opposing goal.

The team tried to play goal kicks briefly whenever possible. The central defenders positioned themselves wide and deep next to the penalty area, two central midfielders in front of it. The ball was played by the goalkeeper, Brignoli or Belec, either briefly to the side or forward, from where he usually got it back immediately. This created a numerical superiority, which made Benevento difficult to press. Brignoli also managed to find very suitable options when started at a fast pace. The opponents' pressing could often be overridden, especially via the full-backs and then central midfielders who moved up (see graphic below). If there were no suitable options, the long ball was used.

Brignoli plays the goal kick briefly on Memushaj, who lets the ball clap back. The right winger from Hellas moves towards the goalie, whereupon he plays a chipball over him on Letizia. He places the ball on Memushaj, who moves up and then finds Chibsah between the lines.

Of course, this strategy entails some risk and yet led to some ball losses in your own half of the game. With good execution, the advantage is an orderly ball presentation from the first third and thus greater control of the game than with long balls. In addition, you can overplay the opponent's pressing early, pick up speed and still have a lot of space behind the opposing defense. Napoli, for example, plays these counter-rapid attacks very well. But this works less well in Benevento. Although you often manage to overcome the first pressing line, some details often do not quite fit in the further presentation of the ball and the opponent gets time to sort himself out again. Again and again there are technical inadequacies that cause the dynamic of the attack to be lost a bit when receiving the ball. Sometimes the ball is played too late, sometimes the movements of the offensive players are simply not well coordinated in such situations.

When trying to attack out of the game, Benevento kept a very broad structure in the 4-4-2 or 4-1-4-1. In the 4-4-2, the full-backs positioned themselves slightly higher than the central-backs. With the outer midfielders, there was always a double wing line-up. The storm duo was formed with Iemmello and Coda from a center forward and a hanging tip. The defense was very strong. Antei is particularly noticeable: he repeatedly plays excellent flat vertical passes and also hits high diagonal balls very well. The two left defenders Letizia and Di Chiara, who stand out with their intelligent passing game and their resistance to pressing, are also very strong.

However, it was not easy for the defenders to build up the game because the roles in midfield were not entirely appropriate. Above all, there was a lack of a playmaker. As this Cataldi was used. This does not distribute the balls badly, but it takes a long time and feels uncomfortable between the lines. Often he was outside of the opposing defensive formation, although this was probably not intended and was not properly integrated, so there was a lack of a face-off in the structure of the game at the front. The defensively strong Chibsah and the ball-safe Memushaj probably lack the class in general to be a regular in Serie A. The good approaches of the strong defense therefore often ended in midfield, and the potential of the defenders could not be used sufficiently due to the lack of suitable pass stations.

Cataldi faces the defensive formation of the opponent. Memushaj tipped out to the side. What Chibsah does is more tragic than funny: Djimsiti dribbles on, Chibsah comes towards him from half-right, until the two are finally only half a meter apart. Passing forward is not possible and Chibsah put even more pressure on the central defender. After all, the ball could be secured over Memushaj and a shift.

There is very high quality in the storm and on the offensive wings. Coda fulfilled his role as the hanging top very well. He moved quite widely, was able to provide a connection to midfield and attract many balls, occasionally also from defense. Iemmello is above all a penalty area striker who stands out outside the box with very good shelves. On the right wing, 23-year-old Ciciretti is one of Benevento's most noticeable players to date. He's a strong dribbler with an excellent left foot. On the other hand, there is also an interesting type of player with the fast D’Alessandro. However, Ciciretti, D’Alessandro and Iemmello have already missed a few games due to injuries and the substitutes fell very heavily against them. Against Hellas Verona, for example, Benevento was able to clear the left side with strong moves a few times, whereby the attacks always ended miserably with Parigini. In the first third, the vote between the players didn't seem to fit in general. The routes did not fit and the players often had very different ideas for creating opportunities.

Changes and slight changes under De Zerbi

Benevento has played three games so far with Roberto De Zerbi as the new coach. The first game of it, an unfortunate 2-1 defeat in Cagliari, was played just one day after De Zerbi took office and therefore has very little informative value. Difficult games against Lazio and Juventus followed, which already showed slight improvements.

Against Lazio, De Zerbi let his team come up against the ball in a 5-4-1 / 5-2-2-1. In the higher pressing, the two tens were very close and positioned significantly higher than the central midfielders. Benevento had a very suitable set-up against the 3-5-1-1 from Lazio. The three front players were able to start the three-man buildup of Lazio well, Lucas Leivas - Lazios six - was surrounded by five players. But the problem of pressing on the wing was also present in this player. Due to the tight tens in the higher pressing, the wing defenders were asked to move on to the wing defenders of the opponent, which often did not fit. In addition, Lazios offensive was quite variable and Luis Alberto and Milinkovic-Savic looked for their positions very freely and widely. One of the two was happy to tip over onto the left wing and get the ball there while Benevento's wing defender was tied by his opponent.

When pressing in deeper zones, the 5-2-2-1 became a 5-4-1. The intensity seemed a bit improved, but was still rather weak. After all, getting out of the defense worked better - Di Chiara in particular was very strong here - which was also less risky due to the additional defender. De Zerbi could not (yet) fix the defensive problems in this short time, but the 5-4-1 structure was more suitable for the known weaknesses than the 4-4-2 or 4-1-4-1 of Baroni.Due to the five-man defense, at least the protection in the last line was higher and the wider line made it possible to press better on the wing and react better to shifts. The overly defensive focus and passivity persisted - it will certainly take time to change this - but the 5-4-1 always weakens this a bit, even if it does not eliminate the cause of the problems.

In possession of the ball, the basic formation was a 3-4-2-1 with a lot of focus on attacks across the half-spaces. Left-back Di Chiara (who two years ago was still in the third division with De Zerbi and was even the significantly worse of the two full-backs) was set up as half-back and was one of the key players in this game. He was the team's primary (low-socks) playmaker. Di Chiara rarely played the simple pass to the left winger and instead tried to get the ball into more central areas. He very often found one of the two sixes or the left ten with strong diagonal passes.

Passmaps & xGplot for Benevento against Lazio. # passmap # xGplot # autotweetpic.twitter.com / AhcnJijcJI

- 11tegen11 (@ 11tegen11) October 29, 2017

Pass map from the game against Lazio. Note the arrows of Di Chiara.

The structure was slightly improved in the midfield, but the overall situation remained problematic. Chibsah and Viola made the double six. They kept a good distance from one another and Chibsah stayed more in his position and offered himself in a smaller area. Viola, on the other hand, is a creative, driving player who likes to get the balls far back and then move forward. This was not yet well integrated and is probably not planned for De Zerbi's positional play. Nevertheless, Viola could still turn out to be the best six in the team under his new coach. The previous playmaker Cataldi was set up together with Memushaj as a ten. This role was again unsuitable for Cataldi, he found it difficult to find good positions, tried to support Iemmello and overall found it difficult to deal with Lazios man orientations.

Against Juventus, Cataldi stayed in double ten, but formed it with Ciciretti instead of Memushaj, which was also the much better choice. The alignment basically remained the same as against Lazio, only that the opponent pressed significantly higher and more forcefully in this game. Lazio usually only started pressing in the center circle, which allowed Benevento to show his strong defense. Juventus pressed extremely high and overwhelmed the team of De Zerbi, which found hardly any playful solutions and could not escape the pressure even through the use of goalkeeper Brignoli. A free kick from Ciciretti allowed Benevento to take the lead, but there were hardly any chances and the ball could rarely be kept in their own ranks for longer.

After the outsider's goal, a defensive battle developed. Although Benevento played in possession of the ball in 3-4-2-1, they defended in 4-4-2. The right wing defender went into defense and the right ten took the position on the right in midfield. The left ten, Danilo Cataldi, pushed forward and pressed as the second striker, which was finally suitable for his characteristics. Benevento defended a little more aggressively and oriented themselves more forward - an increase and especially remarkable for an away game at the Juventus Stadium. But the old lady was just too strong and was able to create a number of good chances in the first half. Benevento finally lost 2-1 and could not score again.

Outlook and conclusion

Roberto De Zerbi is known for his strong possession game. The question is, on the one hand, how he can get the defensive problems under control and, on the other hand, how he can best use the existing player material. From De Zerbis Foggia one could conclude that he is actually quite suitable for the defensive problems. Foggia were not particularly well organized when they had possession of the ball. However, they pressed very aggressively and with an unusually high intensity for Italian standards. The ball should be captured as quickly as possible to bring the positional play to advantage. It would be important for Benevento to get exactly this more offensive focus with opposing ball possession. The organization is basically not that bad, the team moves quite neatly and is horizontally and vertically compact. But overall the pressing is too restrained and oriented too much backwards. Why this happens is difficult to interpret from the outside. However, it seems as if the team has little confidence in their own defensive abilities, as if they are acting too cautiously and fearfully. In view of the results so far, this would be understandable. In any case, it does not improve the situation, as the team's strengths are more in possession of the ball and the opponents always get so much possession of the ball near the penalty area that of course there will be opportunities at some point. De Zerbi should change the focus here in the medium term. In the short term, the 5-4-1 could serve as a secure basis to orientate oneself more and more forward from a strengthened defensive line and to be more focused on conquering the ball.

Possibly the strongest line-up of Benevento at the moment.

In possession of the ball, De Zerbi has apparently committed itself to a 3-4-2-1. In the past he used a 4-3-3 in addition to this basic formation. Both variants are possible, although there are problems in midfield. In defense there is an extremely cool, buildable player material with Di Chiara, Costa, Antei and Letizia. Letizia would also be a good option as a right wing defender. Reinforcements will be needed in midfield in winter, a Mirko Valdifiori, for example, would be an extremely interesting option for the vacant sixth position. Of the existing players, Viola fills this potential best - he could develop very well under De Zerbi's training. With Armato Ciciretti there is a good ten in the team, although this has fallen out of favor with the coach due to his lifestyle and his overweight. D’Alessandro is probably not in the best of hands as a half-ten because he is a more linear winger who wants to play his speed in dribbling on the outside. He could work well as a width giver in a 4-3-3 with Di Chiara moving in.

With 0 points after 12 games, Benevento is currently doing a little worse than it actually is. The team has great weaknesses on the defensive, but also good approaches in the ball possession game. The individual quality is generally rather low, but the squad is probably not too weak for Serie A. Only the weak points in midfield should be fixed in the winter transfer window. Until then, you should keep up with the competition in the relegation battle, which has even been halfway successful so far. Only eight points are missing from the first non-relegation place. With Sassuolo, Genoa, Udinese and SPAL, some competitors are also waiting for Benevento soon. So nothing is lost yet.