Arsenal 5-0 Porto – an open game favours the better side

March 9, 2010
Arsenal 5-0 Porto – an open game favours the better side

It’s difficult to summarise a match tactically when one side wins by five goals. On one hand, assessing every aspect of the game points to Arsenal getting it tactically spot on, on the other you’re left to conclude that a five-goal win comes from a superiority in pure footballing terms, not the nitty-gritty of tactics. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #4: Porto, 2002-04

March 8, 2010
Teams of the Decade #4: Porto, 2002-04

Almost six years on, it’s slightly difficult to describe what an incredible job Jose Mourinho did at Porto. Looking across this side and seeing names such as Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche and Costinha, the first reaction is to think, ‘Ah, it was a team packed full of good players’. Read more »

How the 2000s changed tactics #5: Back to four ‘bands’ in formations

March 8, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #5: Back to four ‘bands’ in formations

Outfield football positions are still generally broken down into three types: defenders, midfielders and forwards. Go to any fantasy football website, or look at a UEFA squad list, and you’ll see players broken down into these three categories. Of course, this ignores the progression of football tactics in recent years, where the pitch is often broken into four ‘bands’.

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Manchester United continue to show tendency to attack down the right

March 7, 2010
Manchester United continue to show tendency to attack down the right

Manchester United have tended in recent weeks to play a slightly lopsided shape, attacking primarily down the right-hand-side. The two wingers most frequently used in Premiership games in recent weeks, Antonio Valencia and Nani, both prefer to play on the right. When fielded together, Valencia tends to remain on the right flank and play a traditional wide role, whilst Nani looks to cut in from the left and drift across the pitch more. Read more »

A bad day for Nicklas Bendtner

March 7, 2010

Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner has been in good form recently, scoring in his previous two Arsenal games, at home to Sunderland and away at Burnley. He also netted in Denmark’s loss to Austria in midweek, taking him onto 11 international goals at the age of just 22. Read more »

Roma 0-0 Milan – a lack of invention, or quality defending?

March 6, 2010
Roma 0-0 Milan – a lack of invention, or quality defending?

A frustrating game, this one. Not merely because it finished 0-0, but because it was a game where a draw was the least exciting outcome as far as the title race is concerned. Second versus third, and the big winners at the the end of the game were the leaders, Inter. Read more »

Theo Walcott provides his eagerly-anticipated ‘end product’ against Burnley

March 6, 2010
Theo Walcott provides his eagerly-anticipated ‘end product’ against Burnley

Theo Walcott has started consecutive home games for Arsenal now, and has looked lively in both. His performance against Sunderland was promising but was typical of his stereotype – he showed great pace but rarely provided a good ball into the box. Read more »

The 1998 World Cup Final – on reflection…

March 6, 2010
The 1998 World Cup Final – on reflection…

Extended highlights of the 1998 World Cup Final is currently on repeat on a particular British television channel showing ‘classic’ sporting encounters. Most famous for Zidane’s two headers and Ronaldo’s pre-match breakdown, it’s not a game that is generally held up as a great tactical victory. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #5: Roma, 2007

March 5, 2010
Teams of the Decade #5: Roma, 2007

Some great inventions were the result of years of design and graft, eventually producing something roughly approximating the design brief. Others, like Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, were an happened upon by complete accident. In that sense, Luciano Spalletti is modern football’s Alexander Fleming, and the 4-6-0 was his great discovery that he never intended on inventing. Read more »

The top ten most strongly-contested World Cup positions

March 5, 2010
The top ten most strongly-contested World Cup positions

Some international selection dilemmas are a case of “Who is the least bad?”. Others are a little more positive, and often result in top-class players being left out of squads. Here is a list of ten positions featuring tremendous competition ahead of the World Cup. (Leighton Baines v Stephen Warnock missed the cut.) Read more »

Analysing Brazil’s fluid system at close quarters

March 3, 2010
Analysing Brazil’s fluid system at close quarters

Dunga’s Brazil side isn’t popular back home. The use of two holding midfielders, the tendency to play on the counter-attack and the overlooking of the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Pato have all seen him accused of playing in an un-Brazilian way, by ditching the classic Brazilian principles of yesteryear for a more patient, less spectacular way of playing. Read more »

Michael Carrick demonstrates why he could be crucial to England’s World Cup hopes

March 3, 2010
Michael Carrick demonstrates why he could be crucial to England’s World Cup hopes

It’s difficult to make the case for Michael Carrick being in the England side without coming across as a pretentious, know-it-all bore. Comments like “He does the quiet things well”, “He keeps things simple”, and “He brings the best out of his team-mates” are all classic ‘underrated player’ arguments. But like it or not, they’re all true in Carrick’s case, so it’s pretentious, know-it all bore time. Read more »

Benfica – the most attractive side in Europe?

March 2, 2010
Benfica – the most attractive side in Europe?

Is there a side in Europe at the moment that plays more attacking, exciting football than this Benfica side? With two forwards, three attacking midfielders and two extremely offensive full-backs, the side is packed with creativity and energetic runners, making them extremely difficult to defend against. Read more »

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Valencia – Atletico eventually tire nine-man Valencia

March 1, 2010
Atletico Madrid 4-1 Valencia – Atletico eventually tire nine-man Valencia

A strange game. Atletico dominated it from the outset and yet still went behind, to a classic rapid Valencia counter-attack. They equalised through a Forlan penalty, an incident in which Marchena was dismissed, and then Atletico had an hour of football with an extra man, and yet only went ahead within the last 15 minutes. After that, Miguel was also sent-off for Valencia, and Atletico added two more.

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Stoke v Arsenal – a passing comparison

February 28, 2010
Stoke v Arsenal – a passing comparison

Stoke against Arsenal offers the most blatant difference in playing styles you will encounter in any major European league game. Stoke are the scrappy long-ball team who rely on set-pieces, Arsenal play a short, quick, neat passing game. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #6: Bayer Leverkusen 2001-02

February 25, 2010
Teams of the Decade #6: Bayer Leverkusen 2001-02

Ultimately, this Bayer Leverkusen side won nothing; the pressure of challenging on three fronts with a small squad had disastrous results at the end of the season, where they completed the most unwanted ‘treble’ in footballing history – losing the league on the final day of the season, losing in the German Cup final to Schalke, and finally, being defeated by Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Read more »

Champions League pass completion statistics – Barcelona unsurprisingly come out on top

February 25, 2010
Champions League pass completion statistics – Barcelona unsurprisingly come out on top

These are the pass completion statistics from the Champions League second round, first leg, as detailed by UEFA. They show a large variation between the 16 sides, from Barcelona’s 84% completion rate, to Fiorentina’s 57%. Read more »

Inter 2-1 Chelsea – a narrow victory for Mourinho by containing opposition full-backs

February 24, 2010
Inter 2-1 Chelsea – a narrow victory for Mourinho by containing opposition full-backs

It depends how you want to read this one. On one hand, with the advantage in the tie, Inter are content going to Stamford Bridge knowing Chelsea have to beat them to progress. On the other, Chelsea’s away goal could turn out to be vital, and a 1-0 win in the second leg will see them go through. Read more »

Stuttgart 1-1 Barcelona – Stuttgart get things right, but don’t make it count when they were on top

February 23, 2010
Stuttgart 1-1 Barcelona – Stuttgart get things right, but don’t make it count when they were on top

It was an intriguing game tonight, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona’s usual 4-3-3 system taking on Christian Gross’ Stuttgart side playing a 4-4-2 counter-attacking system with split strikers. Although the 4-3-3 was basically intended to work best against a 4-4-2, Stuttgart were on top in the first half here, and probably should have been more than 1-0 up at the interval. Read more »

Chelsea and Drogba: two shots on target, two goals

February 23, 2010
Chelsea and Drogba: two shots on target, two goals

When Didier Drogba is on fire, the rest of the Chelsea side barely have to worry about getting shots in on goal. His two strikes against Wolves took him to 19 goals in 22 games this Premiership season, and 25 goals in 29 games in all competitions. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #7: Spain 2008

February 23, 2010
Teams of the Decade #7: Spain 2008

It’s hard to place this Spain team on a list which attempts to focus upon tactical innovations as much as success and pretty football – on one hand, the side was so wonderfully fluid and dynamic it was difficult to categorise them into a set formation, on the other it became increasingly clear that their first-choice system, with two strikers, wasn’t working for them.

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Teams of the Decade #8: Czech Republic, 2004

February 22, 2010
Teams of the Decade #8: Czech Republic, 2004

It may have been brief, but it was beautiful. The Czech Republic side of Euro 2004 was brilliant, because they had everything in an attacking sense. They had an aerial threat from 6′7 Jan Koller. They had pace upfront from Milan Baros. They had the finest footballer in Europe at the time in Pavel Nedved, and Poborsky and Rosicky who could play either centrally or wide. They had a deep playmaker in Tomas Galasek, and two rampaging full-backs who got up and down the line all day. Read more »

How the 2000s changed tactics #6: The death of the ‘poacher’

February 21, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #6: The death of the ‘poacher’

If you could travel back to the mid 90s and ask 100 football fans who the best finisher in the Premiership was, you’d find a majority telling you the answer was Robbie Fowler. He wasn’t tall, he wasn’t fast, he wasn’t strong and he wasn’t mobile, but if you gave him the ball, he would put it into the net with alarming regularity. Read more »

The most boring Premiership game of the season detailed

February 21, 2010

Many football supporters were complaining this weekend when the Manchester City v Liverpool game was on neither Sky Sports nor ESPN, despite being a fairly crucial 4th v 5th clash, and the season’s opening meeting between the two serving up an exciting 2-2 draw. Read more »

Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland – an ambitious approach from Steve Bruce that almost came off

February 21, 2010
Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland – an ambitious approach from Steve Bruce that almost came off

An interesting match-up today at the Emirates. Arsenal continue to deploy Cesc Fabregas in a very advanced role behind the frontman, with the wingers slightly deeper than they played in the clear 4-3-3 shape at the start of the campaign. Sunderland came with an extremely adventurous 4-3-3 shape, with three genuine strikers, and with a centre-half, Anton Ferdinand, in front of the back four. Read more »

AC Milan 2-3 Manchester United – Ferguson wins the battle of the midfields

February 19, 2010
AC Milan 2-3 Manchester United – Ferguson wins the battle of the midfields

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Teams of the Decade #9: Arsenal 2001-04

February 12, 2010
Teams of the Decade #9: Arsenal 2001-04

Amongst the universal praise for Arsenal’s incredible unbeaten 2003/04 season, their achievements of two seasons before are often overlooked. In that season they became the first team in modern times to go the whole season unbeaten away from home (equalled, obviously, by themselves two years later), and they also became the only side in history to score in every league game that season. In addition, they won the FA Cup to achieve the double. Read more »

Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool – Wenger’s slight midfield shift wins him the game

February 10, 2010
Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool – Wenger’s slight midfield shift wins him the game

The problem in the first half here was to do with mentality. Both sides were happy with keeping it tight, and in their respective situations it’s not hard to see why. Arsenal, having been thrashed by both Chelsea and Manchester United in their past two games, were content to prevent a whitewash. Liverpool, on their first decent unbeaten run of the season, were content to keep it going. Read more »

Chelsea’s wayward shooting costs them against Everton

February 10, 2010

21 attempts on goal for Chelsea against Everton, but just three actually found the target.

Didier Drogba was particularly responsible – he had six shots, but didn’t force Tim Howard into a save once.

Neither of Chelsea’s forwards had a shot on target. Read more »

Liverpool’s “two banks of four” works well against ten men

February 10, 2010
Liverpool’s “two banks of four” works well against ten men

A couple of weeks ago we detailed how Jose Mourinho’s Inter side played brilliantly after going down to ten men against Milan’s 4-3-3 system, keeping two players upfront but asking them to work the channels, thereby occupying the whole of a four-man defence, matching a three-man midfield, and having a spare man at the back. That would have only worked against a three-man midfield, however. Had Mourinho tried it against a four-man midfield, his three central midfielders would have been passed around fairly easily. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #10: Roma 2000-01

February 9, 2010
Teams of the Decade #10: Roma 2000-01

Into the top ten we go! And to start the top ten, it’s the oldest side on this list, the superb Scudetto-winning Roma side of nine years ago. Roma played wonderful football, had a XI packed with really likeable, talented players, and a manager (Fabio Capello) who consistently got his tactics spot on. And it was the best side in the final season Channel 4 showed live games on Football Italia. Read more »