Real Madrid 1-1 Valencia: Xabi Alonso dictates the game but Real fail to find the finishes

August 21, 2012
Real Madrid 1-1 Valencia: Xabi Alonso dictates the game but Real fail to find the finishes

Mauricio Pellegrino’s debut as Valencia coach resulted in a draw at the Bernabeu.

Jose Mourinho’s side was very familiar from last season – no new signings played. The main surprise was that Lassana Diarra was fielded alongside Xabi Alonso in midfield.

Valencia continued to play in a 4-2-3-1 system, the formation they’ve pretty much used since Pellegrino’s mentor Rafael Benitez was in charge of the club a decade ago. New signings Joao Pereira, Fernando Gago and Andres Guardado all slotted in where you’d expect.

This was a game that started surprisingly open, before becoming increasingly cagey as the match wore on, as Valencia sensed they could pick up a draw by parking the bus. Read more »

Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham: Pardew switches formation; Ben Arfa excels in both systems

August 20, 2012
Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham: Pardew switches formation; Ben Arfa excels in both systems

Newcastle started their 2012/13 campaign with a hard-fought victory over Tottenham.

Fabricio Coloccini wasn’t fit to start for Newcastle, so Alan Pardew used James Perch at centre-back. New signing Vernon Anita was on the bench.

Andre Villas-Boas left Jan Vertonghen and Rafael van der Vaart on the bench. Jermain Defoe, Tottenham’s only senior striker, played upfront.

This game started slowly but got progressively more interesting. There were three main points of interest – (a) Villas-Boas’ strategy in his first game at Tottenham, (b) the battle down Newcastle’s right in the first half, and (c) Pardew’s half-time change in formation. Read more »

Mancini to use a three-man defence as plan B?

August 14, 2012
Mancini to use a three-man defence as plan B?

Sunday’s Community Shield was an enjoyable, eventful match – but it was difficult to take too many conclusions from it. It wasn’t just that the match is something of an irrelevance (a feeling supported by the fact Branislav Ivanovic escaped a ban for his red card because the match isn’t considered a first-team game – Ivanovic is instead suspended from three reserve matches), but due to the red card itself. It arrived a couple of minutes after Chelsea went 1-0 up, and though Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea have shown their ability to withstand heavy pressure with only ten men previously, this is a large caveat when praising Manchester City’s comeback to win 3-2.

Roberto Mancini had provided great tactical interest, however, by lining up with the 3-4-1-2 formation he’d been experimenting with in other pre-season matches. Read more »

ZM’s team of Euro 2012

July 4, 2012
ZM’s team of Euro 2012

ZM’s team of Euro 2012…

Iker Casillas, Spain

This wasn’t a tournament of particularly fine individual goalkeeping displays, but the best two goalkeepers of the tournament – and of the century – met as captains in the final. Until the, there was nothing to separate Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, but after Casillas made a fine save from Di Natale and prompted Spain’s second goal with a good ball out to Alba, he must get the nod.

Joao Pereira, Portugal

The position of right-back had plenty of good performers, but for the second tournament running, Portugal’s defence was extremely impressive. Pereira was a key part of that – he tackled tenaciously and attacked purposefully down the flank. Portugal conceded four goals in the competition, and none originated from Pereira’s wing. Read more »