Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

November 4, 2013
Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool: Arsenal adapt well to Rodgers’ tactical decisions

Arsenal triumphed in a fast-paced and tactically interesting contest.

With Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini out, Arsene Wenger had no real selection dilemmas.

Brendan Rodgers continued with his 3-5-2 system, although was without both first-choice wing-backs, with Glen Johnson a late withdrawal – Jon Flanagan played instead.

Arsenal were the better side – just about keeping Liverpool’s front two quiet, and dominating both centrally and down the flanks in possession.

Read more »

Porto 3-1 Sporting: Porto more compact without the ball and more efficient with their attacking

October 28, 2013
Porto 3-1 Sporting: Porto more compact without the ball and more efficient with their attacking

This was first against second in Portugal – champions Porto won, extending the gap to five points.

Paulo Fonseca selected Silvestre Varela on the left, with Lica on the bench – otherwise, his side was as expected.

Sporting coach Leonardo Jardim played Ivan Piris in an unfamiliar left-back role, in the absence of Jefferson Nascimento.

Porto were the dominant force for the majority of this match, and deserved the victory. Read more »

Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City: counter-attack versus possession play but both attack in behind

October 28, 2013
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City: counter-attack versus possession play but both attack in behind

Two ex-Atletico strikers – Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero – were the most prominent players in a fast-paced, exciting clash.

Jose Mourinho played Gary Cahill rather than David Luiz, and left out Juan Mata with Andre Schurrle and Eden Hazard on the wings. Torres started after his two goals against Schalke in midweek.

Manuel Pellegrini used Martin Demichelis for the first time, played three central midfielders with Yaya Toure pushed to the top of the triangle, two ball-players on the flanks, and Aguero upfront alone.

Joe Hart’s huge error in the 90th minute decided the game, and overall this was evenly balanced. Read more »

Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: Barca start well, lose control in the second half, then Martino belatedly makes changes to secure the game

October 27, 2013
Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: Barca start well, lose control in the second half, then Martino belatedly makes changes to secure the game

Both managers made surprise selection decisions upfront, but Barcelona’s line-up worked better.

Gerardo Martino left out both Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez, naming Cesc Fabregas as one of his three attackers.

Carlo Ancelotti omitted Karim Benzema and brought Gareth Bale into the side. Daniel Carvajal started at right-back, and three nominal three centre-backs were used: Pepe, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos. Diego Lopez returned in goal.

Martino’s starting selection certainly worked better, but Real had a strong period after Ancelotti turned to his bench earlier. Read more »

Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus: Real take the victory, but fail to impress

October 24, 2013
Real Madrid 2-1 Juventus: Real take the victory, but fail to impress

Despite losing the contest, Antonio Conte can arguably draw more positives from this match after his side performed impressively with ten men.

Carlo Ancelotti selected a 4-3-3 system for the second time this season, with Gareth Bale and Isco both on the bench. Iker Casillas returned in goal.

Conte went for a 4-5-1 system with Claudio Marchisio and Carlos Tevez either side of the midfield, and Fernando Llorente upfront alone. Leonardo Bonucci was left out, and Angelo Ogbonna played at left-back.

The game was fairly evenly balanced in the first half, with Giorgio Chiellini’s unnecessary penalty concession handing Real the advantage. After Chiellini’s dismissal, Real dominated possession but failed to put the game beyond Juve. Read more »

Arsenal 1-2 Dortmund: narrow midfield battle encourages both sets of full-backs forward

October 23, 2013
Arsenal 1-2 Dortmund: narrow midfield battle encourages both sets of full-backs forward

Robert Lewandowski’s late goal gave Dortmund an important victory at the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger was without the concussed Mathieu Flamini, so Aaron Ramsey returned. Santi Cazorla isn’t yet at 100% fitness, so Tomas Rosicky replaced him on the left.

Jurgen Klopp is still without Ilkay Gundogan and Lukasz Piszczek, while on the right, Jakub Blaszczykowski started rather than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

This was a relatively tight, evenly-matched game almost entirely based around the positioning of the full-backs: Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs, and Dortmund’s Kevin Grosskreutz and Marcel Schmelzer. Read more »

Fiorentina 4-2 Juventus: Juve lead 2-0, but Montella changes formation to prompt comeback

October 22, 2013
Fiorentina 4-2 Juventus: Juve lead 2-0, but Montella changes formation to prompt comeback

Champions Juventus suffered their first defeat of the season, despite taking a 2-0 lead by half-time.

Vincenzo Montella is still without Mario Gomez, so fielded Giuseppe Rossi upfront alone, and brought Massimo Ambrosini into the midfield.

Antonio Conte left out Arturo Vidal after he was late back from international duty, but fielded Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente upfront together.

This was one of those crazy, inexplicable football matches where the goals had little relation to the tactical battle unfolding – but it was still a fascinating contest. Read more »

Roma 2-0 Napoli: Pjanic punishes Napoli after two Cannavaro fouls

October 21, 2013
Roma 2-0 Napoli: Pjanic punishes Napoli after two Cannavaro fouls

Roma still have a 100% record in Serie A, and extended their gap over second-placed Napoli to five points.

Rudi Garcia changed both his full-backs – Federico Balzaretti was suspended so Dodo played at left-back, with Maicon back in for Vasilis Torosidis.

Rafael Benitez was unable to use Gonzalo Higuain from the start, so Goran Pandev started upfront. The absence of Juan Zuniga meant Giandomenico Mesto played at left-back.

Roma ran out winners, but this game could have gone either way – Napoli had plenty of chances at 0-0. Read more »

New managers: Martino at Barcelona

October 11, 2013
New managers: Martino at Barcelona

In an ideal world, Gerardo Martino wouldn’t be coaching Barcelona this season. Whereas the majority of Europe’s top clubs were after a new manager this summer because of footballing reasons, Barca were forced to turn to a new coach because of Tito Vilanova’s health problems.

Barcelona background

That makes Martino’s task slightly complicated, because this summer there was a genuine debate about how much Barcelona needed to evolve their style of play. Martino has not been appointed because his predecessor failed, but because he was simply unable to continue.

It’s impossible, however, to ignore Barcelona’s 7-0 aggregate defeat to Bayern in last year’s Champions League semi-final. That was a quite astonishing result, and the way Barca were completely outplayed and outfought throughout both legs was a genuine shock that understandably forced many to question whether the club was too committed to its favoured style of play. Read more »

Inter 0-3 Roma: Totti drags Inter’s back three out of shape to prompt quick attacks

October 8, 2013
Inter 0-3 Roma: Totti drags Inter’s back three out of shape to prompt quick attacks

Roma maintained their 100% record with a win at previously unbeaten Inter.

Walter Mazzarri made two changes from the 1-1 draw at Cagliari, bringing in Saphir Taider and Rodrigo Palacio for Mateo Kovacic and Ishak Belfodil.

Predictably, Rudi Garcia kept exactly the same side which demolished Bologna 5-0.

This was another superb Roma display – and although their 3-0 half-time lead was slightly flattering, they played some sparkling football at times. Read more »