Wolfsburg 4-1 Bayern: Wolfsburg nullify Alonso and switch play effectively on the break

February 4, 2015
Wolfsburg 4-1 Bayern: Wolfsburg nullify Alonso and switch play effectively on the break

Bayern conceded four goals – as many as they’d let in during the entire first half of the Bundesliga season – and were completely outplayed throughout.

Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking brought Daniel Caliguiri into the side on the right, which meant Vieirinha was pushed back to a relatively unfamiliar full-back role. In the centre, Max Arnold got the nod over Joshua Guilavogui.

Pep Guardiola started with a 4-1-4-1 system. Mario Gotze was only on the bench, while Bayern continue to suffer from injury problems, particularly in midfield positions.

Wolfsburg’s performance here was outstanding, and this was one of the best counter-attacking performances of the season. Read more »

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.

Manchester City selection

Manuel Pellegrini welcomed back Sergio Aguero, who played as the lone striker with David Silva just behind, and captain Vincent Kompany. City still have some key players unavailable: Samir Nasri is injured, while Yaya Toure is at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Arsenal selection

Arsene Wenger decided against using fit-again Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott, although Aaron Ramsey returned to take the place of Tomas Rosicky. There were a couple of inexperienced players in the side: Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin were notable starters. Meanwhile, Nacho Monreal got the nod over Kieran Gibbs, and David Ospina continued in goal with Wojciech Szczesny on the bench.

Match summary

This was a distinctly unArsenal performance – they defended deep and with great compactness, although their attacking in open play was unusually poor, and they should probably have created more genuine goalscoring opportunities on the break.

Nevertheless, it adds to the idea that Arsenal have become a more tactically flexible and reactive side when needed, which could prove crucial in the second half of the campaign as they compete on three fronts.

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)

Read more »

World Cup 2014 best XI

July 24, 2014
World Cup 2014 best XI

Manuel Neuer, Germany

Other goalkeepers have made more spectacular saves, but Neuer’s all-round goalkeeping was by far the best in the tournament.

His performance against Algeria in the second round was remarkably proactive, and the type of display that genuinely might inspire the next generation of goalkeepers to play in a completely different way. He repeatedly swept well outside his penalty area, and on two occasions he wasn’t simply making interceptions or clearances, but instead getting stuck into 50:50 tackles.

When called upon to make saves, he could do that too – a double save from Paulinho against Brazil (albeit when the game was effectively over) was the highlight. Read more »

Germany 1-0 Argentina (AET): Gotze’s extra-time goal wins the World Cup

July 14, 2014
Germany 1-0 Argentina (AET): Gotze’s extra-time goal wins the World Cup

Germany won their fourth World Cup after victory over Argentina in a tense but enjoyable final.

Joachim Low’s team selection was compromised by the late withdrawal of Sami Khedira through injury. Christoph Kramer took his place – although he only lasted 30 minutes himself.

Alejandro Sabella’s side was unchanged from the semi-final against the Netherlands.

Both sides had promising moments in an even match – Argentina had the better chances before Mario Gotze’s late winner. Read more »