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Man City 0-2 Arsenal: impressive defensive performance from Arsenal earns fine victory

January 19, 2015
Man City 0-2 Arsenal: impressive defensive performance from Arsenal earns fine victory

Arsenal produced a tactically mature performance, largely nullifying Manchester City’s attacking threats.

Manuel Pellegrini welcomed back Sergio Aguero, who played as the lone striker with David Silva just behind, and captain Vincent Kompany. Samir Nasri was out, while Yaya Toure is at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Arsene Wenger decided against using fit-again Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott, although Aaron Ramsey returned to take the place of Tomas Rosicky. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin were notable starters, while Nacho Monreal got the nod over Kieran Gibbs, and David Ospina continued in goal.

This was a distinctly unArsenal performance – they defended deep and with great compactness, although their attacking in open play was unusually poor. Read more »

Barcelona 3-1 Atletico: Suarez’s running brings out the best of Messi and Neymar on the flanks

January 14, 2015
Barcelona 3-1 Atletico: Suarez’s running brings out the best of Messi and Neymar on the flanks

Barcelona completely outplayed reigning champions Atletico Madrid, with Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez’s excellent combinations particularly impressive.

Luis Enrique fielded Ivan Rakitic rather than Xavi Hernandez in midfield, and played both his attacking full-backs in tandem.

The most interesting part of Diego Simeone’s team selection was the decision to play Jesus Gamez, usually a right-back, on the left of his defence – regular left-back Guilherme Siqueira was on the bench, and presumably not 100% fit.

Barcelona’s performance in isolation was more interesting than the clash between the systems, and after a week of turmoil this was a desperately needed victory for Luis Enrique. Read more »

Valencia 2-1 Real Madrid: Valencia risk 3 v 3 at the back and push the wing-backs forward

January 7, 2015
Valencia 2-1 Real Madrid: Valencia risk 3 v 3 at the back and push the wing-backs forward

Valencia ended Real Madrid’s incredible 22-match winning run with a brave tactical performance at the Mestalla.

Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo continued with the 3-5-2 system he’d deployed for the first time in the 1-0 win at Eibar just before the winter break. There was a significant change, however, with new signing Enzo Perez coming straight into the side in place of Javi Fuego, while Antonio Barragan replaced Sofiane Feghouli on the right. On the opposite flank, Pablo Piatti didn’t last the first half, and was replaced by Jose Gaya.

Carlo Ancelotti selected the expected side, the starting XI which – aside from the absence of Luka Modric, who is still out injured – is his first-choice this season.

(Watch YouTube highlights here)

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