Games of 2010: 30-21

December 29, 2010

Diego Forlan, Fulham's nemesis

Into part two we go…

30. Manchester City 0-1 Tottenham

Effectively a Champions League playoff. Both sides used 4-4-2, but the difference was in the use of wingers. City’s were inverted – coming into the centre of the pitch – and they also tracked back less, leaving their immobile full-backs exposed. Spurs’ wingers stayed stayed wide, stretching the play and providing a constant stream of crosses for Peter Crouch, one of which was converted.

Full report

29. Atletico 2-1 Fulham (AET)

Not a fascinating game tactically, but it did demonstrate the tactical trend of 2009/10 – inverted wingers. Simao Sabrosa, Jose Antonio Reyes, Damien Duff and Simon Davies were all used on their ‘wrong’ sides, all moving into the centre of the pitch which created a narrow game. The deciding factor was fitness – Fulham’s gameplan fell apart when Bobby Zamora had to leave the action, and their wingers were too tired to support his replacement, Clint Dempsey.

Full report

28. Manchester United 7-2 Milan (agg)

Ferguson used Park Ji-Sung in a central position in both games, playing a defensive role high up the pitch on Andrea Pirlo. Pirlo wasn’t given time to create and therefore Milan simply couldn’t get the ball forward. Milan’s midfield three played very deep in the first leg and gave Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes time on the ball to dominate the play, whilst in the second leg, the United full-backs scampered forward untracked to provide width and drag the Milan midfield out of place.

Full first leg reportFull second leg report

27. Tottenham 7-3 Young Boys (agg)

In the end, Spurs were comfortable, but at 3-0 down after half an hour of this tie, they looked like crashing out. Young Boys pressed relentlessly in the first leg and Spurs couldn’t cope. Redknapp introduced Tom Huddlestone as a second holding midfielder to give Spurs control of the centre of the pitch, and they fought back to 3-2. The second leg was a 4-0 formality.

Full first leg report | Full second leg report

26. Italy 1-1 New Zealand

New Zealand’s defensive-minded 3-4-3 formation caused all three of their more established opponents problems, and they amazingly finished the competition as the only unbeaten side. This was their proudest moment, a draw with the then-World Champions. Marcello Lippi got his tactics wrong – his 4-4-2 played perfectly into the hands of Ricki Herbert’s shape – New Zealand had a spare man at the back, matched Italy in midfield, and the wide forwards pinned back Italy’s full-backs.

Full report

25. Roma 3-2 Bayern

Claudio Ranieri found himself 2-0 down at half-time, after his 4-3-1-2 was outplayed by Bayern’s 4-2-3-1. His response was to move to a 4-3-3, which pinned back the Bayern full-backs and gave his side width and variation in their attacking play. Jeremy Menez was the star man in the second half, thriving in his right-sided position having been suffocated in the trequartista role in the opening period, but Francesco Totti managed to find himself as the match-winner with a late penalty.

Full report

24. Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal

Danny Rose’s wondergoal set Tottenham on their way, and from then on they produced one of the finest defensive displays of the year. Their approach was the ’standard’ strategy against Arsenal – sitting deep, playing narrow, two solid banks of four – but the executed it brilliantly and deserved the win despite playing poorly when they had the ball themselves.

Full report

23. Schalke 1-2 Bayern

This was 1st v 2nd going into the game, but 2nd v 1st after it, as Bayern took the initiative in the Bundesliga and never gave up the lead. All the goals came in the first half hour, before Hamit Altintop’s sending-off forced Bayern into a defensive-minded 4-4-1 shape that they played very well. Felix Magath made three attack-minded changes but still couldn’t break down Bayern.

22. Barcelona 3-0 Valencia

Barca were terrible in the first half, completely unable to break Valencia down. With Pep Guardiola serving a touchline ban, assistant Tito Vilanova was the man who changed things around in the dressing room. Barcelona switched from 4-3-3 to 4-2-4, using Thierry Henry as the attacking pivot, with Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Pedro playing off him. Messi got the hattrick and was the name in the headlines, but the brilliance was with the half-time switch which completely turned the game.

Full report

21. Roma 2-1 Inter

This was one game where no change of formation seemed to work for Jose Mourinho. Amazingly, he used four separate shapes – a 4-2-3-1, a 4-4-2 diamond, a 4-2-1-3 and a 4-1-1-4. It was a quick switch from Claudio Ranieri that produced the game’s crucial goal, however – in the five minutes he played with two strikers, Luca Toni poked in the winner.

Full report