This week’s episode of Game of Thrones featured the longest battle scene in television or movie history. The Battle of Winterfell featured some of the best fighters in Westeros. While some of the X’s and O’s decisions were questionable (why not build a bigger ring of fire?), the overall strategy provides some insight for the PLL’s players as they prepare to battle for the PLL crown.
Offenses need multiple playmakers
The North proved that you can never have too many playmakers on your offense. You need to be able to score in different ways. The Night King sent early double-teams, triple-teams and 100-teams to Jon Snow. The rest of the North stepped up. They leaned heavily on two-man games with Arya Stark down the stretch -- first with Beric Dondarrion, then with the Hound -- to create offense. The wights didn’t talk through picks, allowing Arya to get free for a game-winning goal.
Even Lyanna Mormont won her one-on-one matchup with an undead giant, and in the process gave her team hope of pulling out a win. Teams need to attack from different areas of the field with different players to create quality shots, and sometimes the role players make all the difference.
Hustle plays win games
Sometimes you need to give up your body to make a play. The wights put on a “man-ball” clinic when they face-planted on the flaming moat so that their teammates could cross. All eyes were on the dragons and the blue-eyed White Walkers, but the wights grinded it out in the trenches to allow the Night King to get as close to the cage as he did. While they’re often overlooked, short-stick defensive midfielders and face-off athletes can win possessions between the lines and tilt the momentum of a game with these types of plays.
Plan A doesn’t always work out. On paper, the North should have dominated the middle of the field. Dothraki warriors with flaming arakhs should have been able to generate transition. Instead, they were wiped out almost immediately.
Time for Plan B. Instead of trying to outrun the dead, the North turned to a six-on-six game, using Winterfell’s walls to slow down the pace of play. They were able to create more one-on-one matchups for their fighters. Sometimes offensive midfielders need to get back in the hole before substituting off to prevent transition. That’s exactly what the Unsullied allowed the North to do; they played defense while their teammates retreated to give their team a better chance at success.
Ball-watching is a back-breaking habit. Even worse: obsessing over your individual matchup when your teammates need support. The Night King was overly focused on locking down Bran. His teammates could not contain Arya, though — and instead of being ready to slide, he let her slip free for a fake-high, shoot-low dragonglass dagger.
You can point fingers at the rest of the army of the dead’s defense for letting Arya dodge to the crease. They played poor on-ball defense all battle long. You’d like to see them get on hands and hips earlier. But at the end of the day, the Night King should have had his head on a swivel and a foot in the paint. Teams play defense; individuals don’t.