2018/19 Eredivisie: PSV Eindhoven vs Fortuna Sittard
Reigning Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven have continued their domination and don’t look like stopping. Newly-promoted Fortuna Sittard had hopes of taking a point from their visit to Philips Stadion on Sunday – as did Ajax supporters – but it wasn’t to be. After an early Gaston Pereiro goal, Fortuna defender Clint Essers was shown a second yellow card. The visitors held on until the 54th minute, but the onslaught against 10 men was inevitable. PSV ran out 5-0 winners and remain atop the Eredivisie by five points.
No Hirving Lozano, no problem for Mark van Bommel’s PSV. The recent appointee was still able to draw up a very strong starting XI to hammer Fortuna in Eindhoven, with Luuk de Jong compensating for the lack of Hirving Lozano by scoring a hat trick. Gaston Pereiro operated in a free number 10 role, preferring to roam on the right half of the pitch, while Steven Bergwijn and Donyell Malen occupied the visiting defense out wide.
PSV’s lineup is dangerous and defensively sound at the same time. Full-backs Angeliño and Denzel Dumfries like to get forward and provide crosses, but the double-pivot of Pablo Rosario and Jorrit Hendrix ensures defensive coverage. PSV exploited the flanks on Sunday due to Fortuna’s defensive shape, with Angeliño providing countless crosses into dangerous positions.
Fortuna Sittard’s René Eijer knew his side was going to struggle against the league’s most consistent club. However, the visitors performed well and the tactics weren’t suicidal (until Essers was sent off in the 32nd minute). Fortuna formed a narrow 4-3-1-2 in defense, with Ahmed El Messaoudi anchoring the midfield four. Mark Diemers looked to find space in his ten role, but was limited to shots from outside the box.
Fortuna Sittard’s narrow shape
PSV are known, even without Lozano, for their danger men out wide. Isolating defenders against the likes of Bergwijn and Pereiro is not ideal, especially with players of the stature of Fortuna. Eijer seemed to ignore this straight-forward concept and instead blocked off PSV’s access to the midfield. However, if his side hadn’t been reduced to 10 men for a majority of the 90 minutes, it may just have worked.
Hendrix and Rosario have become ex-Barcelona player Van Bommel’s go-to midfield duo. They each demonstrate a sense of stability and passing range that many in the Eredivisie only aspire to achieve. However, Fortuna’s tactical plan to shut the midfield off worked in limiting their involvement. The two combined only attempted 100 passes, a far cry from their average of 124.
PSV’s central route to goal was shut off for much of the first half, but the flanks were cut open. With Fortuna Sittard so narrow, PSV’s wide players had loads of space in which to run and dribble forward. This led to a lot of link-up play out wide and, after the red card, a lot of goals starting in wide positions.
PSV usually attempt 21.5 crosses per game, but this week were able to send in an astonishing 36. An increase in possession is not to thank for this stat, as PSV retained slightly less of the ball (56.4%) than they usually do (57%).
In the second half, Fortuna Sittard formed more of a back five in an attempt to stop dangerous balls from reaching the box. Their shape was changed as PSV shifted the ball to one flank or another, which ended up overextending their midfield. The wings were more congested, but quick balls behind the lines or cross-field passes opened up the visiting defence like a hot knife through warm butter.
PSV exploit weaknesses
Fortuna Sittard’s narrow defending may have blocked off one lane of access, but PSV were determined to get as many chances on goal as possible. With an expected goals total of 2.06 according to Wyscout – compared to Fortuna’s lowly xG of 0.08 – it’s safe to say Van Bommel’s side succeeded. Pereiro’s goal to open up the game was from a mistake at the edge of the box, but the four other goals fit the mould of a side attempting to exploit a certain defensive weakness.
Luuk de Jong scored a header from a Cody Gakpo cross after the latter took over left-wing duties from Malen at halftime. Gakpo scored one himself only two minutes later. A counter-attack saw Fortuna players scrambling to close down Bergwijn on the right flank, but the Dutch international was calm enough to loft a cross over to Gakpo, who was isolated in space. It may have shown poor marking awareness, but PSV knew how to draw out a 10-man side with an all-too-narrow approach to defending wingers like Bergwijn.
The occasional high press was attempted by the home side on Sunday, but PSV were comfortable just sitting back in a 4-1-4-1 for most of the match. Statistically, this claim is aided by the fact that PSV had a 6.04 PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action). This means that Fortuna Sittard were not hassled much on the ball, whereas a side like Ajax kept that number closer to four against VVV on Saturday.
The mid-block 4-1-4-1 featured a versatile Jorrit Hendrix in the defensive midfield role. While PSV’s central defensive pairing was adequately covered, criticism could be levied at the home side for the appearance of some passing lanes to Fortuna attackers.
However,this would be more nit-picking than anything of substance. PSV remained solid and prevented any major chances, and no consistently high press meant no gambles on Fortuna counter-attacks.
Despite Hirving Lozano’s injury denying PSV of their best player, Mark van Bommel was able to put together a coherent game plan to dismantle a tricky Fortuna Sittard side. 5-0 could be seen as flattering, even with the red card, but the league leaders knew just how to attack a side so set on preventing access through the centre of the pitch.
Fortuna may feel a bit hard done by with the result, considering they held PSV to a much closer 2-1 score in Sittard earlier in the season. However, a loss probably would have been coming even without Essers’ dismissal. PSV were too adept at attacking down the flanks with speed and too smart to get caught out in defence. For the Eredivisie champions, it was just another day at the office in their campaign to fend off Ajax and win their fourth title in five years.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the January issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.