Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: Arsenal win the game early by attacking down the right flank

October 1, 2013
Arsenal 2-0 Napoli: Arsenal win the game early by attacking down the right flank

Arsene Wenger fielded five natural central midfielders, but Napoli were opened up repeatedly in their left-back zone.

Wenger was without a variety of players comfortable in wide roles – Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – while Jack Wilshere was rested, with Mikel Arteta coming into the side and Arsenal’s three attacking midfielders playing fluid roles.

Rafael Benitez was still without Christian Maggio, and also lost Gonzalo Higuain through injury.

Arsenal were dominant from the first whistle, and Napoli rarely offered a goal threat. Read more »

Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea: Spurs play neat passing combinations but fail to adjust defensive line

September 30, 2013
Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea: Spurs play neat passing combinations but fail to adjust defensive line

A fair result at White Hart Lane as Andre Villas-Boas’ starting strategy proved successful, but Jose Mourinho’s in-game changes worked better.

Villas-Boas named roughly Spurs’ expected side – Kyle Naughton continued at left-back, while Andros Townsend continues to keep out Erik Lamela.

Mourinho named Ramires on the right of, the first time he’s played that way. John Obi Mikel started in midfield and Fernando Torres got the nod upfront.

This was a game of two halves – Spurs dominated the first, Chelsea the second. Read more »

Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Diego Costa leads the line superbly in excellent Atleti display

September 30, 2013
Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid: Diego Costa leads the line superbly in excellent Atleti display

Atletico Madrid went ahead early at the Bernabeu, and then created much better chances.

Carlo Ancelotti felt Gareth Bale wasn’t ready to make his first home start, instead using Angel Di Maria on the right. Asier Illaramendi partnered Sami Khedira in the centre.

Diego Simeone has rotated his midfield well this season – here Raul Garcia and Mario Suarez missed out.

Real dominated possession but Atletico always seemed comfortable, protecting their back four excellently and creating a succession of fine chances at the other end. Read more »

PSG 1-1 Monaco: PSG create better chances

September 26, 2013
PSG 1-1 Monaco: PSG create better chances

Ligue 1’s new ‘big two’ played out a reasonably entertaining 1-1 draw.

Laurent Blanc made three changes – Marquinhos made his first league starts in place of Alex, while in the wide positions Hervin Ongenda and Lucas Moura made way for the returning ex-Napoli duo of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani.

Claudio Ranieri named an unchanged side – Jeremy Toulalan was still out injured, while James Rodriguez continued on the bench.

The start of this contest was cautious, but as the tempo dropped PSG’s creative players saw more of the ball. Read more »

Man City 4-1 Man United: Nasri’s narrowness and Kolarov’s overlapping put City in charge

September 22, 2013
Man City 4-1 Man United: Nasri’s narrowness and Kolarov’s overlapping put City in charge

Manchester City dominated from the opening moments, and completely outplayed Manchester United..

Manuel Pellegrini named Alvaro Negredo rather than Edin Dzeko upfront, the first time the Spaniard has started alongside Sergio Aguero. Down the left, Gael Clichy and David Silva were out, so Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri played.

David Moyes was without Robin van Persie, who was out injured with a thigh strain – so Danny Welbeck partnered Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young played on the left.

City played better in almost every respect, but it was down the left where they really excelled and took command of the game. Read more »

Napoli 2-1 Dortmund: Higuain & Insigne exploit Dortmund’s failure to heed their warnings

September 18, 2013
Napoli 2-1 Dortmund: Higuain & Insigne exploit Dortmund’s failure to heed their warnings

Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne scored the goals from set-piece situations – but they had been the most threatening players in open play, too.

Rafael Benitez’s line-up was as expected, with Insigne’s role on the left probably the biggest news on the teamsheet.

Jurgen Klopp is without long-term absentee Lukasz Piszczek at right-back, and the excellent central midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. Kevin Grosskreutz and Nuri Sahin played in those roles, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was only on the bench.

The teams were evenly matched for long spells of the first half, but Napoli increasingly threatened in two particular ways – and they proved the game-changing situations. Read more »

Real Sociedad 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk: Sociedad start excellently but Shakhtar more ruthless

September 17, 2013
Real Sociedad 0-2 Shakhtar Donetsk: Sociedad start excellently but Shakhtar more ruthless

Alex Teixeira was barely noticeable for long periods – but struck twice to give Shakhtar three crucial points in a tough group.

Jagoba Arrasate named Haris Seferovic upfront having used Carlos Vela there at the weekend. The Mexican returned to the right flank, while Imanol Agirretxe – first-choice centre-forward last season – wasn’t yet fit enough to start, but was on the bench. Ruben Pardo and Marek Bergara returned having been rested at the weekend.

Shakhtar are wobbling in the league – three games without a win, having won their opening six. Mircea Lucescu rested his full-backs at the weekend, but named his expected XI here – Tomas Hubschman returned to the side having suffered from сonjunctivitis in recent weeks.

Real Sociedad dominated early on thanks to their energetic pressing, but failed to take advantage of their dominance. Read more »

New managers: Mourinho at Chelsea

September 17, 2013
New managers: Mourinho at Chelsea

Jose Mourinho isn’t so much a ‘new’ manager as a returning manager, following nearly six years away from Chelsea.

The obvious advantage Mourinho has over David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini, the other two newcomers amongst top Premier League clubs, is that he has experience of competing (and triumphing) in a Premier League title fight. The downside, however, is that opposition coaches are now fully aware of his tricks, both in terms of psychology and tactics. Whether that means they’ll be able to counteract them with an intelligent strategy of their own, however, is a different matter. Chelsea odds to win the league at freebets.org Read more »

Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham: Cazorla provides the overloads in midfield, and the through-balls for Giroud and Walcott

September 1, 2013
Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham: Cazorla provides the overloads in midfield, and the through-balls for Giroud and Walcott

(First things first: all the other big games (Bayern v Chelsea, Man Utd v Chelsea, Man Utd v Liverpool, Barca v Valencia, Barca v Atletico etc) will be included in the ‘new managers’ series which will start this next week. And will hopefully be worth the wait. If that excludes some teams in those match-ups, apologies – but that just means they have been covered last season under their current manager…)

Arsenal recorded a narrow victory in the north London derby.

Arsene Wenger was still without Mikel Arteta, Lukas Podolski is a new injury blow, while Bacary Sagna was unwell so Carl Jenkinson played at right-back.

Andre Villas-Boas was without Gareth Bale ahead of his departure to Real Madrid, while Erik Lamela was only just signed in time and was on the bench, while Christian Eriksen wasn’t yet under consideration.

In terms of tactical analysis, this was a remarkably simple game based entire around two concepts (and how those two concepts worked together). Read more »

Shortly: ‘new managers’ series

August 19, 2013

This summer has seen an unprecedented wave of new managerial appointments across Europe – as things stand, the seven favourites for the European Cup have all appointed a new manager.

Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, PSG are the seven.

Porto, Napoli, Everton, Valencia, Real Sociedad, Inter, Roma and PSV have also undergone a chance of coach.

Therefore, rather than the usual analysis of individual matches, the next few weeks will be spent assessing these coaches and their new sides. Obviously, drawing grand conclusions from one or two games would be a little foolish – especially with the likes of Levante and Hull not putting up a great challenge – so things might be slow over the next couple of weeks, perhaps until after the international break. By that time, we’ll have been able to work out patterns and approaches – and the transfer window will have closed.

Normal (ish) service will be resumed shortly…

ZM