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Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs star duo shine in tactically solid win at the foot of the table – tactical analysis

After 15 and 16 matches respectively, Sundsvall and Helsingborgs find themselves amongst the candidates for a relegation battle in the 2022 edition of the Allsvenskan, along with Degefors IF. This added a whole extra dimension to the tie when they faced off in the most recent round of fixtures. So far this campaign, Helsingborgs’ biggest problem has been their lack of goals, having netted just 12 times in 16 games at the time of writing. Their defensive record, while far from impressive, is not the issue – they have conceded 23 times, while other teams around them have shipped over 30 already. If they are to survive relegation, it will likely be thanks to other defensive resilience.

This fixture saw them claim a 1-0 win, just their second victory all season. This tactical analysis will look at how they approached their recent fixture against Sundsvall both in defensive and attacking capacities that led to them taking the lead, along with a mini analysis of two players who were key in this win – Benjamin Acquah and Taha Ali.

Lineups

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics

Hosts Helsingborgs set themselves up in a 4-2-3-1 shape. Between the sticks was Kalle Joelsson who keeps former Premier League goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard out of the side – you may remember him from his spell at Manchester United between 2011-2015. The back four consisted of Ravy Tsouka, Casper Widell, ex-Celtic man Thomas Rogne who also has EFL experience with Wigan Athletic, and Viljormur Davidsen from right to left. Defensive protection in midfield came from Benjamin Acquah and Alexander Faltsetas, with Armin Gigović operating in front of them with more of an attacking licence. Wide support came in the form of Joseph Amoako on the right flank and Taha Ali on the left. Rasmus Wiedesheim-Paul was the lone striker.

Fellow league struggles GIF Sundsvall deployed a 3-5-2 shape, with Alexander Blomqvist being accompanied at the back by Rasmus Lindkvist (who is a left-back or winger by trade really) and former MLS man Forrest Lasso. The central trio in midfield involved Joe Corona, Pontus Silfwer, and Marcus Burman, with wide support being provided by wing-backs Dennis Olsson and Robert Lundström. Pontus Engblom paired up with Ronaldo Damus up top.

Helsingborgs target the left flank

From the outset of this fixture, it became apparent that both teams were ready to come out and fight for the win. While both sides put on a good display of character, it was Helsingborgs who seemed to have a stronger tactical approach. Interestingly, a lot of their promising play came from the left flank, with left-back Davidsen linking up well with Ali and other midfield players.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
Davidsen gets involved in a dangerous attack down the left flank.

This first analysis shows just that – Davidsen was involved high up the field with a strong presence from his teammates in the attacking third, giving him plenty of support and a chance to continue the attack. After playing a well-weighted pass into Wiedesheim-Paul, the home side snaps into combo mode and punches together the neat combination of passes you can see in the second image above. The move ends with Ali receiving the ball in what is a dangerous area inside the box – his first touch just slightly lets him down. Helsingborgs showed quality and creativity in a similar fashion on more than one occasion during this match.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
Acquah turns out of danger to use the left flank as an outlet.

The next analysis provides some depth into their decision to focus attacks on the left flank. Now, it isn’t to say that they avoided playing down the right flank, but possession there would result in less attacking danger and often result in either stray passes, or simply turning to play a backwards pass in order to recycle the ball.

The left flank was the clear option in the midfield third, but as the analysis above shows, it was also used as an outlet in pressure situations. After some clever movement and footwork from Acquah, he immediately looked for Davidsen on the left (rather than looking to drive into the space in front of him, for example), which acts as further proof that this was part of their game plan. The well-executed pass allowed Davidsen time on the ball with plenty of space to drive into ahead of him, with further support from Ali.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
Another left flank attack from the hosts, with Davidsen making the overlapping run on this occasion.

These tactics continued into the second half of the match, and it became apparent why – right-back Tsouka isn’t as technically equipped as left-back Davidsen, and showed less confidence and attacking aggressiveness in general, but the partnership on the left between Ali and Davidsen is clearly a strong point for Helsingborg. In the analysis above, Ali had drifted inside to receive the ball, allowing Davidsen to make the overlapping run with virtually no opposition pressure. The move flows well and Davidsen was able to drive towards the edge of the box before his attempted cross is well-defended.

Organised off the ball

With both sides coming out with the intention to attack, being well-drilled and prepared out of possession was just as important as causing damage on the ball. While Sundsvall did offer some danger in attack,  Helsingborgs’ clean sheet was justified – the analysis below discusses why.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
A good set-up during good pressing from the hosts.

Both sides were keen to win the ball back in quick fashion, with very little sustained low block defending taking place. This isn’t to say that Helsingborgs went all over with ridiculous intensity in the press – no, they showed good tactical understanding and timing to trigger the press in the right moments. Analysed above, they set up very well in this instance particularly. Wiedesheim-Paul was on standby ready to close the left centre-back down if the ball was played to him. Acquah used his power to put pressure on the Sundvall left wingback, forcing him into acting quickly, while the other highlighted players were well-positioned and provided good protection for Acquah.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
Helsingborgs operate with a little more caution off the ball after taking the lead.

This next example of a press came shortly after the hosts took the lead, and the difference in shape and intensity was noticeable as they looked to ensure they took the 1-0 score line into halftime. While there was a press in the form of one player acting with intensity, followed by a striker on standby and midfield protection behind the presser, they were more cautious with their timing and knew when to hold back when needed. The defensive and midfield units had dropped slightly deeper to provide a phase of defensive solidity which reduced the opportunity to apply a highly aggressive press for the time being. This was a well-executed approach with Sundsvall struggling to get past it.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
The hosts take up a good shape to combat Sundsvall’s wide attack.

Sundsvall’s 3-5-2 shape came with a wide approach, with only central presence in midfield coming from the defensive midfield unit. Often, when in possession, Sundsvall would have a set-up that mirrored the analysis above – a presence in/around the box, presence in the wide area they were attacking in, but no bodies centrally in the midfield zone in an attempt to disorganise the Helsingborgs shape. While they did find minor success with this approach, it was never quite enough, with the eventual victors setting up in a strong shape – the lack of opposition presence in central midfield areas gave them slightly more positional freedom rather than having to be tight and compact. This allowed them to balance the load of assisting the back four, providing support to the press, and leaving players in good positions in anticipation of attacking transitions.

Remember the names – Acquah and Ali

If you watched this game without knowing the context of it i.e., you were unaware that both sides were fighting for points to go towards their respective survival funds, you would be forgiven for thinking Helsingborgs are a mid-table side. While a lot of this is thanks to good tactics and team chemistry, the performances of two individuals provided creative sparks for their side. Taha Ali and Benjamin Acquah played with confidence and raw ability, and while there are still areas to improve their games, they were the two players in this tie that made you sit forward and expect to be dazzled. Below is an example of what each player brought to the table in this tie.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
Ali receives the ball in space before driving towards the box.

Ali’s position was the left winger, but due to a combination of factors, he often drifted inside to cause damage from a central area. Being right-footed playing on the left flank, it is only natural to cut/drift inside onto your stronger right foot. This also gives space out wide for Davidsen to run into as previously discussed. In the analysis above, Ali drifted into a good area unmarked to receive the ball from Davidsen, whose wide run after the pass made the opponent follow him, giving Ali a helping hand.

From the first touch, Ali’s intentions were obvious – he had no interest in playing a sideways pass or slowing the attack down in any way: especially with the inviting space left in some central areas by Sundsvall. Ali burst forward through the midfield unit (or where they should’ve been at least) before opening his body up to attempt a shot from range.

The shot, and the decision itself to take the shot, left a lot to be desired, but the run itself was impressive, especially considering that it wasn’t a fluke – it was just a part of his game. Ali showed tricky feet with good ball control and creativity: if he can sand certain edges of his game such as decision making, he will become even more important for his club.

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics

Allsvenskan 2022: Helsingborgs IF vs GIF Sundsvall – tactical analysis tactics
Acquah showing off good footwork and passing.

We all like a skilful, classy midfielder pulling the strings in the engine room, and Acquah is just that. At just 21 years old, he showed exceptional confidence balanced with impressive technique in several areas, match with a strong work ethic. On the ball, his biggest contribution in this match was his ability to perform under pressure and get out of tricky situations and challenges. The analysis above has elements of this – while carrying the ball facing the left flank he is being screened by an opponent, but a sharp 180-degree turn on the ball wasn’t expected by that same opponent, leaving Acquah with some space and time. His next move epitomised what was so impressive about his entire performance – he looked up, saw the run of right-backTsouka and calmly lofted the ball over the Sundsvall left wing-back, spraying the ball perfectly into the path of Tsouka. He displayed this level of vision and passing quality on several occasions, and his confidence and creativity were essential in Helsingborgs getting a strong hold on the game.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that Helsingborgs are not out of the woods yet as far as relegation and survival are concerned, but this is a huge win for them and could be a springboard for a run of form that defines their season. In this game, they showed good tactical understanding of a clear game plan with solid execution – both on and off the ball. Their approach of attacking the left flank highlights some strengths of theirs while exposing some opposition weaknesses and was the origin area of most of their impressive attacking work. Acquah and Ali played exceptional games and were fun to watch – both young players with tremendous potential to become star Allsvenskan players in the future.