Analysis: XEUCF 2021 Open Final (Part 1)

Clapham face CUSB La Fotta (Bologna) in the European final in Bruges after losing their crown to them in 2019. Felix dives into the footage in part 1 of this point-by-point analysis series.


… full transcript …

Hey everybody, welcome to the first part of my analysis of the 2021 European Final of the men’s division between Clapham from London, and La Fotta from Bologna. These two teams met in 2019 with La Fotta causing an upset, winning for the first time by using teamwork on defence to disrupt Clapham’s usual patterns (you can find my analysis of this game elsewhere on youtube), so I was excited to see how both teams had developed since then. Let’s dive straight into it.

0-0: La Fotta arrive with pressure on the dump but sagging off the far handler, and with a hat player in the middle. Clapham are spread across the field. La Fotta stop the preferred first pass, and almost have two bids on the second look to Foord. Foord gets balanced quickly and is immediately ready to throw the length of the field if the option is there. The nearest defender is only 30 yards away, and getting split by Briggs and Cartwright offscreen. After they get beaten they’re outnumbered 3-1 and Ollie Gordon follows up for the goal.

1-0:
Clapham arrive sagging off the handlers, and downfield Andy Lewis and Ben Funk set up a poach bracket which leads to a good switch to nullify both options. Coppi and De Lucca almost run into each other, and Felix Martin and Nathan Wragg switch instead of calling a pick, almost in time for Martin to have a bid on the under. If Martin had pre-empted this switch, he was in perfect position to stop the under.
Coppi hard-commits their focus directly downfield after catching, going against the principle of facing infield, and then pivots hard into the backfield. Clapham punish this predictability with tight reset marking, and Martin repositioning to force the upline or inside throw.
Wragg almost gets the D, there’s a bit of an auto-fake as nobody downfield is open, then a sketchy inside-dump caused by the aggressive around force.
La Fotta cluster momentarily and Clapham switch to cover De Lucca and fix their positioning. This is the second good switch Wragg has been involved in this point, and again he almost gets a block immediately afterwards.
La Fotta crossover again and instead of switching Hillman calls pick, there’s something interesting after with Felix Martin using his positioning to hinder the offence, which I think is good providing he doesn’t initiate contact or call pick. He kind of does initiate contact, but it could be interesting to practice this kind of physical double-teaming within the rules, to gain specific advantages in specific situations, just like JinX do earlier in the same tournament.
Hillman and Lewis switch to cover the predictable moves around the disc – again we momentarily see this classic bracket shape as the players crossover against good awareness from Clapham. Gasperini looks off an open pass and Will Rowledge very nearly punishes him for it.
Funk poaches off and physically gets in the way of the next cutter. In theory he could hang around here and block off the cut, but Angella is already connecting with the thrower in order to punish the poach. It’s worth noting that this technique of physically blocking the next cut feels like some kind of blocking foul, but isn’t – so long as contact isn’t initiated and the disc isn’t in the air, it’s legit to double team downfield players.
La Fotta again crossover downfield, which could legitimately be called a pick, or be used by the defence to switch and cover or bid.

La Fotta then make a crossmove in the backfield, and Clapham almost switch, almost call pick, but end up doing neither. The movement isn’t technically a crossover for the offence, but it encourages the defenders to cross over. If the defenders pre-empt the switch then they gain advantage, but if they expect the pick and it doesn’t happen, they’re left in a very bad position. What contributes in this instance is that both Hillman and Rowledge instinctively react to the movement correctly, and take a step to poach or switch, but then revert to their original marks. This makes the pick more likely to happen, and at the same time a sketchier call because of the defenders momentary deviation from 1-to-1. To switch effectively here both defenders have to expect it, and trust that they can commit to the move without verbal communication.
They are punished harshly for this momentary lapse because Gasperini has pivoted infield immediately after catching, not wasting any time on autofakes, and is well balanced and ready to throw anything. Training to switch and to punish blown switches is a good use of practice time – for switching drills check out the training tier on our patreon.
If the defenders are ready to switch here, then 4 primary short field options are taken out.

They don’t switch and it’s not really a pick, so the defence end up surrounded by the offence, which is the opposite where they want to be. This error leads to the goal, as La Fotta hit a continuation in flow and then punish face-marking with a calm throw into space.
There are ways of training defenders to be ready to switch in these kinds of situations, right now coaches around the world are learning how through the Hive training tier content on patreon.

1-1: La Fotta seem to completely forget to mark Conrad Wilson as he runs deep down the middle of the field off the pull. With these angles and distances, any throw which quickly makes it to the end zone here would likely end up in Wilson’s hands.
Gordon spots movement from poaches and pulls out of the throw. Yeo is the poached player so receives an uncontested pass in the middle of the field. Clapham begin to cluster in front of the disc and then comes the first turnover of the match.
Wilson pump-fakes the same throw he releases, which often results in a turnover when any player does this. Whether it’s the mechanics being disrupted, or miscommunication with his teammates, Mead can’t reel it in and La Fotta D line gets the disc in their hands for the first time.
There’s a pick between Wilson and Gordon downfield and La Fotta call a timeout.
La Fotta’s D line come out with a classic horizontal set play plan – two in front of the disc go deep and the 3rd comes across. Ollie Gordon gets close with a bid and earns Clapham O line the disc back. Briggs picks it up early and shows La Fotta how to punish the aggressive sideline no-dump force, with a downfield throw’n’go move. I’d love to see the disc go down the sideline but it’s faked and Clapham flow over to the other side.
Although Clapham are clustering, La Fotta are not switching or surrounding to cover all the angles as a team, and 1.5 seconds after catching the disc Foord is able to place a backhand to Wilson in the far corner.
It’s worth noting that Ashley Yeo was in a very strong position to continue flow at this moment, and that Clapham’s clustering had caused another pick.

2-1: Clapham send 3 players to the disc, and there’s a miscommunication with Gasperini as he pulls out of the cut when he sees Alastair McNeill approaching. First time the Clapham D line get the disc in their hands, and they bring out a militant vert stack commanded by Oscar Modiano. After a predictable first couple of cuts, Brooks does some great work at the back with McNeill to initiate and sustain flow, La Fotta’s buzz switch isn’t tight and Brooks gets them double committing on Slaughter. A couple of passes later Brooks again gets the disc moving forward and finds a pin point pass across the front of the end zone.
Modiano does have his foot down just inside the zone, and Slaughter catches the extra pass in the back corner.

3-1: Fantastic pull by McHale, Clapham come down sagging off the handlers again whilst La Fotta spread and crossover. La Fotta throw another sketchy inside-reset off the line, before crossing over again prompting another pick call. Hillman switches to cover the open player, a good move but negated by the pick. Tonelli throws to this cut from De Lucca, which isn’t very open, and De Lucca unfortunately pulls his hamstring on the play, as many players have done this year after coming out of lockdown.

3-2: Foord times his deep cut well and is visibly frustrated when Briggs holsters it. There’s a pick caused by the loose defensive positioning, stopping the play. Yeo faces infield after catching, Foord steps through to go up line and Gordon has been watching the play develop so uses his speed and then his height.

4-2: Clapham sag off the handlers as some disconnected movement starts happening downfield. With adrenaline pumping and no mark for a second after a defensive bid from Charlie Butt, Zanni misthrows a deep shot to a couple of meters separation, which wasn’t helped by a crossover no-switch pick type thing. He had two open options on stall zero, with his defender out of position momentarily allowing him to accelerate downfield. Instead the bid and opportunity to throw deep gets him overexcited, Hayden Slaughter reacts to it before the huck is released, and results in a turnover we can put down to decision making affected by pressure from the defence. Unashamed shout out to Charlie Butt who I’ve been coaching at Sussex Uni and playing with in Brighton since he started playing in 2016. In the same situation I think he would throw’n’go with the free player down the middle of the field.
There aren’t any switches from La Fotta and after a couple of fouls on the mark Clapham work it up, Brooks again being key, receiving this lefty from Thompson and penetrating the defence, and again getting the disc moving forwards to create the scoring sequence – great separation, drawing a poach, and then punishing it with a well weighted lead pass to Thompson. Really smooth balance control for this throw’n’go scoring touch pass.

5-2: McHale with another fantastic pull. I’ve been on the receiving end of them earlier this season and it is not where you want to be. The secondary handler is hit and downfield La Fotta immediately crossover and cause another pick. Clapham are tight 1-to-1 and there’s a moment here where Hillman could potentially switch effectively. This is the 5th crossover error by La Fotta that’s resulted in a pick call.
La Fotta are still at the back of their end zone when there’s another miscommunication on an under cut covered by Andy Lewis. Quick thinking from Lewis and McHale punishes La Fotta immediately.

6-2: McNeill marks Angella’s well timed deep cut and as he pulls out of it we see La Fotta’s third miscommunication turnover of the game. La Fotta’s O line defence is heads-up – there’s a loose bracket and switch in the backfield which causes confusion, then a second switch onto a deep cut which leaves Funk with no real options on stall 9 and he’s forced to put up a speculative shot. There’s a call on the receiving end, Slaughter could be arguing that the defender couldn’t make the play without there also being contact, but after some discussion and consideration retracts the call, which is probably the right outcome.
Laffi throws the around break upline shot, then gets free upline for another killer around break. Clapham defenders scramble to cover the near corner, and Laffi doesn’t hesitate to put out a crossfield shot away from the defence to the far corner of the end zone.

From what I’ve seen so far, La Fotta have been disappointing on both offence and defence – crossing over constantly on O, and not using any teamwork at all on D. Clapham’s defensive teamwork has been much better than last time, with plenty of switching, but the opportunities have been handed to them by La Fotta’s crossovers on offence, meaning Clapham either switch or call pick, again and again. We’ll see whether they make any adjustments as the game goes on. That’s all for now I’ll see you again soon.

How can we characterise offensive and defensive systems?

This article was written by guest authors Marie and Florian Gailliegue and is an excerpt from their book Ultimate in Motion: Balance and Dynamism, available from their website or currently part of the $25/mo Hive Swarm Tier deal.

Any situation in any spot of the field can be objectively characterised. Many factors combine – spatial (proximity to an endzone), positional (centering on the field), material (distribution of players) and initiative (separation / velocity, or other ability to dictate the tempo). During the game, each team will seek to tilt the advantages in their favour.

Strategy is long-term planning, and tactics are a sequence of calculated actions. Philosophy is from where one or more strategies flow. Structure guides how a strategy can be deployed effectively. Tactics are put at the service of the previous pillars to achieve the overall aim.

A structure is defined by the set of positions occupied by the players of a team. With 7 players, we can imagine a nearly infinite array of possibilities. When a strategy is decided upon, there are several structures that can be chosen to ensure the strategic goals are achieved. No matter the structure, the whole tactical toolbox remains at one’s disposal. The ensemble {Strategy, Structure, Tactics} creates a system. For the team to be as efficient as possible, the chosen system must match the philosophy.

ultimate systems

Read more

4 Offensive Mistakes – Inactivity (3/4)

Noah talks about inactivity on the ultimate frisbee field – why offenses specify active (and therefore inactive) players, and how defence can seek to punish this with systemic poaching off inactive players – creating numerical superiorities in active areas.

Check out the patron-only Director’s Commentary below, where Noah and Felix talk for an hour podcast-style on the topics in the video.

Hexagon Offence Talkthrough

Felix introduces Hex from scratch in this 35min video for $1+ patrons – where hex came from, why teams are playing it, how it differs from stack, where it’s going, and how it fits into the landscape of modern ultimate frisbee strategy. This video serves as an “academic base” to help players learning hex to gain a fuller understanding and get on the same page as each other. Originally recorded in 2019, remastered for 2021.

Read more

Flexagon Defence – Full Series: What is Flex, Switching, Surrounding, Communication

Full compilation of Flex videos, remastered with no breaks or adverts into a 31 minute crash course perfect for sharing with your teammates*.
This video introduces all the concepts of Flex, how they fit into the framework/spectrum of defensive strategy, and illustrates their effectiveness through animations and video examples. Flexagon Defence is a hybrid defence, combining switching marks and surrounding stacks (without poaching), and using teamwork skills, communication, and field awareness. Watch full video.

To train your players to apply switching and surrounding principles, and to be communicative and aware on the field, check out the $8 Training Tier videos for tried-and-tested drills – a new drill video is added every month: https://hiveultimate.com/how-to-play-flexagon-defence/#flex-training-videos

How to Introduce Hex Offence

Travis Myburgh, Felix Shardlow, and Jason Thompson talk about ways of introducing Hex Offence with your team – conveying the basics, running dedicated training session(s), or simply calling it on the line before receiving the pull. This covers whether you want to give it a shot during pickup, introduce it to a team to be added to their offences, or dive straight in and design a full season of hex training. An extended version of this video is available here for patrons.

4 Offensive Mistakes – Clustering – (2/4)

Noah talks about crossovers on the ultimate frisbee field – how to avoid them on offence, and how to exploit them on defence.

Switching video: https://youtu.be/aqzhZlCLzOc
Watch this game to learn more about rotating offenses: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9Nbde5VxSs

Director’s Commentary (1hr chat between Noah and Felix) about this video is available to Patrons here:

Organic Ultimate Strategy

Conventional thought on ultimate strategy views the team as a mechanical system – a machine with the players as the moving parts. Teams strive for a highly disciplined style of play, reducing the number of variables as much as possible and applying the theoretically optimal tactics to achieve a simple, predictable system.

This view, however, is limiting. Treating ultimate as a mechanical system allows for a high degree of control but misses the opportunity to explore naturally occurring, organic, styles of play which may be just as effective, if not more so, than conventional strategies.

Here I will argue in favour of an ecological approach to ultimate strategy, analysing the shortcomings of mechanical systems and the advantages of organic play styles.

4 Offensive Mistakes – Clustering (1/4)

Noah talks about the most prevalent form of offensive mistake in conventional ultimate – clustering. How to avoid it on offence, and how to exploit it on defence.
Surrounding video: https://youtu.be/ZdUbFaUZpsU
Director’s Commentary on this episode: https://www.patreon.com/posts/4-offensive-1-4-49927136
Patreon: https://patreon.com/hiveultimate

4 Offensive Mistakes – Clustering – (1/4) – Director’s Commentary

Hive Ultimate Producer Noah Brinkworth chats to Felix about the episode in his series on Offensive Mistakes. Watch video.
Watch Offensive Mistakes Episode 1 here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/4-offensive-1-4-49347231