Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

May 13, 2013
Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

Ben Watson headed a stoppage time winner as Wigan lifted the FA Cup for the first time.

Roberto Martinez was able to call upon Antolin Alcaraz in the centre of his three-man defence, and he used James McArthur as a right-wing-back and Jordi Gomez in central midfield.

Roberto Mancini picked Joe Hart despite having used Costel Pantilimon as his FA Cup goalkeeper throughout the competition. James Milner was only on the bench, as Mancini went with two ‘interiors’ and two forwards.

The nature of the result might suggest a ’smash and grab’ – but Martinez’s tactics outfoxed Mancini, and Wigan fully deserved their victory. Read more »

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

May 9, 2013
Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

Tottenham twice came back from behind in an exciting, open game at Stamford Bridge.

Rafael Benitez selected Fernando Torres upfront, and David Luiz as a deep-lying midfielder, so Branislav Ivanovic partnered Gary Cahill in the centre.

Andre Villas-Boas was without Mousa Dembele, so Scott Parker played alongside Tom Huddlestone. Upfront, Emmanuel Adebayor got the nod over Jermain Defoe.

Tottenham dominated possession, but in terms of creativity Chelsea had the upper hand in midfield, and Tottenham needed Villas-Boas’ substitutions to snatch a point. Read more »

Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

May 1, 2013
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

Bayern produced another highly impressive performance to qualify for the Champions League final with ease.

Tito Vilanova decided not to risk the half-fit Lionel Messi, so Cesc Fabregas played as the false nine. David Villa replaced Alexis Sanchez, while Alex Song was in for the injured Sergio Busquets, and Adriano for the suspended Jordi Alba.

Jupp Heynckes brought back Mario Mandzukic for Mario Gomez, and Daniel van Buyten played rather than Dante.

Bayern replicated last week’s second half performance – they pressed before retreating into a solid defensive shape, then counter-attacked expertly.

Read more »

Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

May 1, 2013
Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

Real Madrid created enough chances to get back in the tie, but Dortmund progress to the final.

Jose Mourinho left out Sami Khedira to field a very technical midfield trio, while Angel Di Maria and Michael Essien returned, and Sergio Ramos was back in the centre of defence.

Jurgen Klopp unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, although was forced to replace the injured Mario Gotze with Kevin Grosskreutz early on, with Marco Reus moving to a central role.

Real’s starting shape resulted in an early spell of pressure – and their Plan B caused problems too. Read more »

Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

April 30, 2013
Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

Real Sociedad opened up a five-point gap in the race for fourth place.

Philippe Montanier brought in Alberto de la Bella for the injured Liassine Cadamuro at left-back, Asier Illarramendi returned after suspension, but Antoine Griezmann was banned so Gonzalo Castro played on the left.

From the side that thrashed Malaga 5-1, Ernesto Valverde brought Ricardo Costa back into the centre of his defence, while Sofiane Feghouli started on the right, as Canales was injured again. Jonas switched to the left.

The key feature of this game was not about formations, individual positioning or possession dominance – but instead about Real Sociedad’s brilliant quick counter-attacks that repeatedly carved Valencia open. Read more »

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United: Arsenal start strongly but are unable to maintain early tempo

April 29, 2013
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United: Arsenal start strongly but are unable to maintain early tempo

Despite having little to play for, Manchester United collected a point at the Emirates.

Without Olivier Giroud, Arsene Wenger used Lukas Podolski as his main forward. Jack Wilshere was only on the bench.

Sir Alex Ferguson named a strong starting line-up, with Rio Ferdinand returning to the defence alongside Jonny Evans.

This was all about Arsenal’s strategy – Manchester United weren’t as uninterested as some predicted, but one suspects Ferguson didn’t spend too long working on specific tactics for a relatively meaningless game. Read more »

Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund enforce high-tempo spells at the start of both halves

April 25, 2013
Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund enforce high-tempo spells at the start of both halves

Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals as Dortmund thrashed Real Madrid.

Jurgen Klopp used right-winger Jakub Blaszczykowski rather than left-winger Kevin Grosskreutz, so Marco Reus started from the left.

Jose Mourinho decided to play Luka Modric, with Angel Di Maria on the bench. The birth of Di Maria’s baby girl was supposedly a factor, but considering how Real lost last year’s semi-final to Bayernwhich was part of the reason for recruiting Modric – the selection made sense tactically too. Mesut Ozil moved right.

Dortmund were dominant for the majority of the game, constantly winning the ball quickly and putting pressure upon the Real back four. Read more »

Dortmund v Real Madrid: tactical preview

April 24, 2013
Dortmund v Real Madrid: tactical preview

Dortmund have already defeated Real Madrid in this season’s Champions League – the problem is that Jose Mourinho so often learns lessons from these setbacks, and doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

Most obviously, there was Inter’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in 2010, when Mourinho’s side were thoroughly outplayed but had the last laugh in that season’s semi-final. The previous performance should give Dortmund great confidence, but the history might play into Real’s hands ahead of this clash. Read more »

Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Bayern produce an astonishingly dominant performance

April 24, 2013
Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Bayern produce an astonishingly dominant performance

Bayern Munich didn’t try to outpass Barcelona, and instead ruthlessly exposed their traditional weaknesses.

Jupp Heynckes selected Mario Gomez rather than Claudio Pizarro as Mario Mandzukic’s replacement, and decided Jerome Boateng was a better option than Daniel van Buyten because of his extra speed.

Tito Vilanova’s side was as expected: Lionel Messi was fit, and Alexis Sanchez started as wide forward on the left, with Pedro Rodriguez on the right.

Barcelona enjoyed a decent opening ten minutes, but Bayern were strategically perfect and fully deserved to win by such a convincing scoreline. Read more »

Bayern Munich v Barcelona: tactical preview

April 23, 2013
Bayern Munich v Barcelona: tactical preview

The draw for the Champions League semi-finals produced two fascinating ties.

Germany and Spain are the leading two nations in European football at the moment – Italian football is going through a transition period, while the Premier League has declined suddenly, but not irreversibly, from the latter part of the last decade.

The ties are perfectly set up – one based around transitions, the other based around possession. 2011/12 champions against each other, and 2012/13 champions against each other. Read more »