At the midway point of the season Renaissance find themselves probably out of the running for the title and on a three game losing streak. There have been positives for Renaissance this season, quite a few to be sure, but I’m going to focus on where things haven’t worked as intended and look at areas for improvement.
Injuries and newcomers
The biggest problem Renaissance has faced actually isn’t of their own doing. To be fair they’ve been bedevilled by injuries and absenteeism throughout this season and haven’t yet fielded their strongest line-up consistently. The Artist, Scholesy, Brunelleschi, Robespierre, Laranz Ibarra, and Rembrandt have all been missing at one point or another, and even the back up player, Darren Smith hasn’t always been available when required. Combined with integrating new players such as Sam Salek and Laranz into the team and all under the stewardship of new manager Coluccio it’s little surprise there have been some difficulties on the pitch.
Coluccio has experimented with two formations – most recently one which employs three defenders. Defensive overkill? Possibly. But it’s intended to be a fluid formation which adapts to whichever team has possession. Counter-intuitively, part of Renaissance’s problems stem from the flexibility afforded by their formation and tactics – especially when defending upfield.
Here’s how: the defenders almost always go man-to-man when the opposition is in possession yet the attackers further afield play a curious hybrid of zonal and man-marking which has left gaps for the opposition to exploit and leaves the defenders exposed and outnumbered. This leads me to believe they’re unsure on how they should set themselves up defensively even though it should be pretty obvious.
Renaissance have shown a vulnerability to teams who transition quickly from defence to attack – especially in the centre of the field with midfielders/attackers too often failing to track the opposition across the field. Again, this comes back to an uncertainty of the team’s defensive setup.
But the defensive problems don’t end there. The defenders are still good in 1v1 situations but none are as quick nor as reactive as they were two years ago let alone five years ago. Brunelleschi’s heyday hallmark was the ability to read the game and intercept a pass before it reached an attacker. Nowadays he appears willing to let attackers receive the ball to feet and sometimes turn on the ball which is a risky game to play.
Rembrandt had an uncharacteristically poor game against Purple Vein – arguably being responsible for two goals and making a few bizzare decisions including a misjudged back heel pass to Verrocchio which was intercepted and forced the keeper into a save. Still, if he can remain injury free his form and fitness will improve. Incidentally, newcomer Laranz has been the most robust and solid of the defenders so far this season. Meanwhile, Verrocchio has been as strong as ever in goal – the error against Stephen Hawkins notwithstanding.
Missing in attack
As an attacking force, Renaissance have had mixed results and after scoring a glut of goals early in the campaign have managed just two goals from three games. In the attacking phase, the team is especially dependent on the ability of its wide players to unbalance the opponent in 1v1 situations, often struggling with a strong defensive opponent or a team forcing it to attack centrally. This is where the loss of Copernicus has been keenly felt – his ability to hold the ball in central areas, commit defenders, and bring others into play has not been replaced.
Goal scoring opportunities tend to be forged by sheer persistence and forcing defensive errors in midfield rather than sweeping passing and quick movements. Though ironically, they lost the game against Stephen Hawkins in which they played their most attractive and effective team football. There remains a lack of clarity about the right mix of players and roles in attack.
In their most recent defeats Renaissance have been without their most potent attackers – The Artist, Robespierre, and Scholesy. Sam has done well, improves by each game, and is the top scorer with six goals. The Artist hasn’t scored as many goals as expected and has retreated to a much deeper role due to tactical instruction and his own inclination. The case for his deep deployment isn’t nearly as strong as the one for playing him in his optimal position and the interests of the team would likely be better served if he’s closer to the opposition’s goal rather than his own.
Elsewhere, Raffaello and Robespierre have been bright sparks – chipping in with goals and looking lively in possession; while interestingly Scholesy has added defensive nous to his game. The Realist displays a good work-rate but it is too often short-lived and he will be disappointed by a lack of end of product in his game so far – especially against Stephen Hawkins.
If players can remain fit, figure out what they should do when they don’t have the ball (and do so consistently), and quickly adapt when the game plan goes wrong then Renaissance will have a stronger second half to the season.