It was a tough match but PSV managed to defeat Sparta at the Philips Stadium to continue pursuing Ajax in the Eredivisie table.

In this tactical analysis, we’ll see how the away team give a hard time to PSV by closing the defence and adopting almost perfect defensive tactics. We’ll take a look at the movements of PSV to break the opponent’s strength and secure the win at the end.

Lineups and formations

Eredivisie 20/21: PSV vs Sparta - tactical analysis tactics

With the calendar full of matches the manager Roger Schmidt had to mix the start eleven for the match against Sparta. A few improvisations were necessary and Jordan Teze occupied the right-back while Jorrit Hendrix was positioned in the left-back. Richard Ledezma received an opportunity in the middle left while Mauro Junior was allocated as a second forward, pairing with Eran Zahavi on the attack. The same 4-4-2 formation and movements were kept.

As Sparta doesn’t have calendar troubles, the manager Henk Fraser repeated the same squad that won by 6-0 in the last match against ADO. The team was positioned in a 4-4-2 defensive formation very compact.

Sparta’s defensive movements

Defensively Sparta almost hit the success. 69 duels won and 23 clearances in the defence which shows how the team behave on the pitch. The two lines of four to protect the middle was very compact to not give space to PSV penetrates.

The image below shows the teams positions while expecting PSV to take attacking actions. Sven Mijnans and Deroy Duart close the lines in the sides while Bryan Smeets and Lennart Thy give the first combat in the middle.

Eredivisie 20/21: PSV vs Sparta - tactical analysis tactics

Another tactic provided by Sparta to control PSV attack was to pressure on the opponent’s defensive third. Especially when the ball was lost in the attack, the team advanced their defenders and quick pressure to try to retrieve the ball. 

The image below shows six players of Sparta closing the lines and space until the ball was recovered.

Eredivisie 20/21: PSV vs Sparta - tactical analysis tactics

With difficulties to enter the area from the ground, PSV could choose to go through with aerial crosses but that didn’t work either. The few balls put into the area were rejected by Sparta’s defence. Michael Heylen had five clearances in the match with four duels won.

The attacking phase

With Sparta defending most of the time, the attacking duo had to be perfect to try to bring home points against PSV. But the team managed to give only four shots on goal with none of them on target. It was only 32% of ball possession and only 59% of pass accuracy.

The team speculated the counter-attack whether retrieving the ball in their own defensive third or pressuring high to surprise the opponent’s defence. They had a chance in the first quarter of the match but Thy missed the chance.

In the other half of the pitch, PSV was a full attack. It was 721 passes exchanged with 83% of accuracy. They gave 11 shots on goal being five of them on target. But the numbers don’t show how difficult it was to PSV enters the opponent’s penalty area. The image below shows PSV dynamic midfield trying to create spaces between the defence. Teze, the right-back open wide while Zahavi and Mauro Junior were marked in the attack. Ledezma received also surround it by two defenders.

Eredivisie 20/21: PSV vs Sparta - tactical analysis tactics

Circling the ball from one side to another, PSV was predictable and easy to be marked. Not even the former Bundesliga player Mario Götze was able to produce with quality. The ball possession and the high number of passes definitely weren’t definitive to the winning. The goal could only come from an unfortunate movement.

The penalty kick that Donyell Malen converted after the goalkeeper defends his shoot came from a corner originated in a very predictable movement. The frame below before the corner, shows Mauro Junior receiving the ball surrounded by two defenders. The talented Brazilian player found the pass to Teze open wide in the right-wing. Easy and common movement from PSV that Sparta’s defender failed to prevent.

Eredivisie 20/21: PSV vs Sparta - tactical analysis tactics

Adding quality

The turning point of the match was when Noni Madueke, Donyell Malen, Cody Gapko and Ibrahim Sangaré entered the pitch. The four main players of Schmidt’s squad were more intense and added quality to the dynamic midfield of PSV.

With Sangaré protecting the defence, Fein had more liberty to join the attack and use his good vision of the game to produce vertical passes. Malen and Madueke have the characteristics of returning to the middle to participate in the creation of the attack. Mauro Junior playing in his midfield position facing the area can be more useful. The image below shows how the players were more close to each other and none of them was trapped in the middle of the opponent’s defence.

Eredivisie 20/21: PSV vs Sparta - tactical analysis tactics

We can notice in the image how two of Sparta’s midfielders got back allowing the space to PSV players project themselves towards the penalty area. Quick passes and movements also contribute to creating these spaces. 


With many different players in the pitch, PSV’s manager had more issues to keep the quality of the attacking dynamic. The tactics to this match were easy to predict and definitely the team struggle to create chances. The entering of the main players, especially the former Arsenal player Malen, was fundamental to the win.

Sparta came from two consecutive wins in the Eredivisie and almost got one point away. The defensive tactical movement chose by the manager was a factor in the consistency of the team. If had taken the only goal opportunity in the first half the match could have been different. The Rotterdam club is having a good moment in the championship and has room for improvement.