Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle (1996)

March 28, 2017
Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle (1996)

This is to celebrate the upcoming release of my book, The Mixer.
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Start a debate about the Premier League’s greatest-ever player, greatest-ever side or greatest-ever season and you’d receive several different answers, but the subject of the Premier League’s greatest-ever game is very different, and has almost developed an ‘official’ answer. Liverpool’s 4-3 victory over Newcastle towards the end of 1995/96 is widely considered superior to anything the Premier League has seen before or since, and two decades on it remains an enthralling, relentless, fast-paced contest between two crazily attacking sides.

Matches like this are often described as ‘having everything’, but this game didn’t have everything. There were no red cards, no penalties, no controversies, no flashpoints, and essentially nothing other than both sides continually attacking for 90 minutes. It was just about goals: the scoring started in the 2nd minute and didn’t end until the 92nd minute, and each of the seven goals changed the ‘game state’ to put one side into the lead, or equalise.

In a sense, the game was so entertaining precisely because of the lack of tactics, and yet analysing the game reveals some interesting patterns.
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Dortmund 1-0 Bayern: Tuchel surprises Bayern with a 3-3-2-2 shape

November 23, 2016
Dortmund 1-0 Bayern: Tuchel surprises Bayern with a 3-3-2-2 shape

Dortmund triumphed in the Bundesliga’s showpiece game, courtesy of a first-half goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Thomas Tuchel is no stranger to a three-man defence, having played that system the previous weekend against Hamburg in a 5-2 victory. But this was a different shape in midfield, and featured very different personnel too. Julian Weigl, Marcel Schmelzer, Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle and Adrian Ramos all came into the side having been omitted last weekend, which presumably surprised Bayern.

Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, played a system that looked like a cross between a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3, a compromise he often used at Real Madrid. Here, Thomas Muller was half-forward and half-winger, Frank Ribery was half-winger and half-wide midfielder, and Joshua Kimmich tucked inside as half-central midfielder, half-wide midfielder. It was slightly confused, but it did cause Dortmund problems. Read more »

Portugal 1-0 France: Eder’s introduction proves decisive

July 12, 2016
Portugal 1-0 France: Eder’s introduction proves decisive

Portugal won their first-ever major tournament courtesy of Eder’s stunning long-range strike in extra-time, after a defensive-minded first 90 minutes.

Fernando Santos brought back Pepe after injury, and William Carvalho after suspension, so Bruno Alves and Danilo dropped to the bench. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t make it to half-time until being replaced by Ricardo Quaresma.

Didier Deschamps named an unchanged XI, meaning no return for N’Golo Kante.

Overall this was a disappointing match, shaped heavily by the early departure of its best player, Ronaldo. The graphic below illustrates the line-ups after his departure. France had the better of the opening 90 minutes, but Portugal pushed forward impressively in extra-time. Read more »

France 2-0 Germany: formation decisions enable Germany to dominate

July 8, 2016
France 2-0 Germany: formation decisions enable Germany to dominate

Germany completely dominated the first half – but two individual mistakes means France progress to Sunday’s semi-final.

Didier Deschamps continued with the team which had defeated Iceland 5-2. That meant Samuel Umtiti kept his place at the back, and Moussa Sissoko remained on the right despite N’Golo Kante’s availability – therefore, France started in their 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-2 shape, rather than the 4-3-3.

Joachim Low was without the suspended Mats Hummels and the injured Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez. He surprisingly selected Emre Can for the first time in the competition, with Julian Draxler back in the side, in a 4-3-3 formation.

In the first half, Germany played arguably the best spell of football Euro 2016 has witnessed – but they couldn’t find the breakthrough. Read more »