Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham: Liverpool goals either side of Tottenham dominance

June 3, 2019
Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham: Liverpool goals either side of Tottenham dominance

Liverpool won their sixth European Cup after a disappointing final when neither side played at their best.

Roberto Firmino was declared fit to start, while Jurgen Klopp selected Gini Wijnaldum over James Milner in midfield.

Mauricio Pochettino used a 4-2-3-1 formation and started Harry Kane and Harry Winks, who had both been out for several weeks. Lucas Moura, the hero of the semi-final, was only on the bench.

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Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal: all the action down the same flank

May 31, 2019
Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal: all the action down the same flank

Reminder that my book Zonal Marking is out now!

Chelsea won the Europa League thanks to a 20-minute spell at the start of the second half where they dominated down their left.

Maurizio Sarri was able to call upon N’Golo Kante, who was declared fit to start. Andreas Christensen continued in place of the injured Antonio Rudiger, Mateo Kovacic played instead of Ross Barkley, while Olivier Giroud started upfront.

Unai Emery used Petr Cech against his former club, in his final game before retirement. Otherwise, the side was as expected. Read more »

Zonal Marking book extract: Bergkamp & space

May 30, 2019
Zonal Marking book extract: Bergkamp & space

Here is an extract from Zonal Marking which is out today in hardback, ebook and audiobook and can be bought here

The Netherlands, by its very nature, is based around the concept of space. A country whose name literally means ‘lower countries’ is a remarkable construct, gradually reclaimed from the sea through the revolutionary use of dikes. 17% of the Netherlands’ landmass should be underwater, and only around 50% of the country is more than one metre above sea level.

The Netherlands is also Europe’s most densely-populated major country (excluding smaller countries like Malta, San Marino and Monaco) and worldwide, only South Korea, Bangladesh and Taiwan boast bigger populations and higher population density. The history of the Netherlands, then, is about increasing the perimeters of the nation, and then about desperately trying to find space within those perimeters.

This is, of course, reflected in Dutch football. It’s through the prism of the Netherlands’ geography that David Winner explains Total Football in his seminal book, Brilliant Orange. “Total Football was built on a new theory of flexible space,” he begins. “Just as Cornelis Lely in the nineteenth century conceived and exercised the idea of creating new polders, so Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff exploited the capacities of a new breed of players to change the dimensions of the football pitch.”

It was Michels who introduced the ideas, and Cruyff who both epitomised them and explained them most poetically. He outlined the importance of space in two separate situations: with possession, and without possession. “Michels left an indelible mark on how I understood the game,” Cruyff said. “When you’ve got possession of the ball, you have to ensure that you have as much space as possible, and when you lose the ball you must minimise the space your opponent has. In fact, everything in football is a function of distance.” This became the default Dutch footballing mentality, ensuring everything was considered in terms of positioning and shape. Some nations considered the characteristics of footballers most important (‘strong and fast’), some focused upon specific type of events (‘win fifty-fifty balls’), others only considered what to do with the ball (‘get it forward quickly’). But, from the Total Football era onwards, Dutch football was about space, and gradually other European nations copied the Dutch approach. Read more »