Games of 2010: 40-31

December 28, 2010

Dani Alves, key in Barcelona's victory over his former club Sevilla

Here’s the first in a four-part series reviewing the matches of the year.

As ever, the focus is upon tactics rather than entertainment or importance, though naturally the ‘bigger’ games are featured prominently. It’s also limited to games that were covered on ZM, though that includes most of the contenders for the game of the year.

40. Chile 1-0 Honduras

A game of little relevance in the grand scheme of things, but a good encounter nevertheless. After a slow, defensive start to the tournament, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were the only ones looking to do something different in their opening match. They pressed high up the pitch, sent an incredible number of players forward into attack, and should have scored far more than one goal. Bielsa also maintained a strict policy of having a spare man at the back, resulting in three separate formations, always after Honduras had just changed their shape.

Full report

39. Barcelona 5-0 Sevilla

The interesting point here was how high up the pitch Daniel Alves played. Usually, he is an attack-minded right-back, but in this game he practically played as a right-winger, forcing back Diego Capel into his own third, and pushing Sevilla so far towards their own goal that they were unable to play out from the back. The usual heavy pressing (and a Sevilla red card) helped, but what was essentially a routine hinted at another subtle change of system for Barca.

Full report

38. Brazil 2-1 North Korea

There was a tremendous amount of excitement about seeing North Korea in this tournament. Their overwhelmingly defensive system (which was broadly a 5-3-2 but more specifically a 3-3-2-1-1) was nothing if not original, and shut out a clearly superior Brazil side for the opening half. The Korean side’s weakness was that it wasn’t able to track the Brazilian full-backs well, and Maicon surged forward to open the scoring with a superb swerving strike.

Full report

37. Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland

Chelsea haven’t won since this game, which either indicates that it wasn’t as much of a shock result as we initially thought, or that it was such a big blow that they’ve been unable to recover. Steve Bruce ordered his midfielders to close down relentlessly, whilst using Kieran Richardson on the right flank to man Ashley Cole. Two strikers were used to put pressure upon Chelsea’s makeshift backline, and Sunderland ran riot.

Full report

36. Cesena 2-0 Milan

Cesena have now faded and find themselves in the relegation zone, but the newly-promoted club’s first two games this season were remarkable. First they claimed a 0-0 away at Roma, then took on Milan and deservedly triumphed 2-0. Massimo Ficcadenti knew how to get at Milan in their 4-3-3 shape – Milan’s wingers didn’t track full-backs, and the defence was vulnerable to counter-attacks. The two goals summed this up perfectly in one of the finest tactical victories of the year, and showed that Milan had to move away from 4-3-3 to compete in Serie A this season.

Full report

35. Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham

Arsenal were 2-0 up at the break, before an astonishing comeback. Harry Redknapp switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 at half-time, introducing Jermain Defoe to provide pace upfront and ‘narrowing it up’, to use his words. Arsenal’s charitable defending played a part and there were inevitable questions about whether Arsenal switched off at 2-0 up, but Redknapp deserves credit for being brave enough to change things.

Full report

34. Germany 4-0 Australia

Germany hit four goals three times in the tournament. This was the least memorable of the three, but it was a superb opening to their tournament. Pim Verbeek got his tactics completely wrong – he fielded two midfielders upfront in a 4-4-2 / 4-6-0 formation and ordered his side to press all over the pitch. Unfortunately, Germany had a numerical advantage in midfield and therefore Mesut Ozil was free to wander between the lines and cause mayhem.

Full report

33. Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea

The scoreline doesn’t reflect the overall dominance Spurs had here, and how well they played their 4-4-2 against Chelsea’s 4-3-3. Redknapp wanted to play direct, to get the ball out to the wingers as quickly as possible. Chelsea’s full-backs’ response was to stick tight to them, but they ended up playing too far up the pitch, leaving John Terry and Alex exposed to the pace of Jermain Defoe. Add in another great Gareth Bale performance, and Spurs were fantastic.

Full report

32. Barcelona 0-2 Hercules

The shock of the year. Hercules came and sat back very, very deep, making it impossible for Barcelona to play through balls, and made it difficult for Barcelona forwards to create space by dropping deep. The diamond midfield closed down in the centre whilst shuttling from side to side to close down the full-backs, whilst Nelson Valdez played just off David Trezeguet and grabbed both goals.

Full report

31. Tottenham 3-1 Inter

It’s not like Inter didn’t have warning about Gareth Bale – he’d scored a second half hat-trick in the first game between the sides. Therefore, Rafael Benitez’s failure to prepare here was somewhat surprising, and Bale took full advantage – giving Maicon the most torrid game of his career to claim two assists. It was a superb all-round performance from Spurs, though, with Luka Modric the other standout player.

Full report

Games of 2010: 40-31

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