Unlike most sides on this list, Manchester United have not used a specific formation in their amazingly successful last three seasons. Sir Alex Ferguson has used a variety of formations – 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1 – and probably a few others.
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side have generally played with a 4-3-3 since he took over nearly two years ago. His natural ‘plan B’ last season was to switch his striker, Samuel Eto’o, with his outside-right, Lionel Messi. Barcelona aren’t able to do that this season, because Eto’o has left the club, and been replaced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic – a magnificent player, but one who would be uncomfortable being deployed in a role away from the centre of the pitch. Read more »
There is a feeling amongst football fans that when it comes to Champions League knockout fixtures, your side is better off playing the first leg away from home, with the comfort of the second leg back at your own ground. Arsenal’s task against Barcelona is trickier, apparently, because they’ll have to go to the Nou Camp in the second leg and get a result. Read more »
As in the first leg, the pass completion percentages favours the big two Spanish clubs – Barcelona in first place, Real Madrid in second place. On the other end of the scale, the bottom two – Fiorentina and Lyon – are also the same as in the first leg. But again, the most noticeable thing here is how the sides with the lowest pass completion rates all got good results. Fiorentina won (but went out), Lyon drew (which was effectively a win), Manchester United won, Inter won and CSKA won – and yet they are the sides with the lowest pass completion ratios. Read more »
Barcelona 4-0 Stuttgart: Guardiola’s alternative shape proves successful for the second time in four days
Fascinating that Pep Guardiola continued to use Barcelona’s ‘alternative’ system – the 4-2-4ish formation they played in the second half against Valencia at the weekend – to great effect. Zlatan Ibramimovic (banned for the weekend game) was available again, but Guardiola opted for Thierry Henry instead. Read more »
This is what Jose Mourinho does. Not the prettiest victory you’ll see in this season’s Champions League, but incredibly effective. Inter reduced the game to a scrappy, stop-start battle, defended brilliantly from the front, and then pounced when Chelsea started to push forward. Read more »
A fascinating game in terms of tactics here, because Barcelona were awful in the first half. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended and Thierry Henry on the bench, the Messi-Bojan-Pedro trio looked too lightweight and one-dimensional to cause Valencia’s backline significant problems. It took a dramatic half-time change from Guardiola to turn things around.
Two successive late victories away from home against Arsenal, both against scrappy Northern sides – Stoke and Hull – who had been reduced to ten men. They haven’t showed their best football, but the old adage that “A good side is one that wins without playing well” appears to – for once – be applicable to Arsene Wenger’s side. Read more »
To look at the result of yesterday’s game at the Reebok Stadium – Bolton 4-0 Wigan – you’d assume that it was a thrashing. And in terms of the scoreline, it certainly was. But it doesn’t reflect the balance of play. Wigan had more attempts than Bolton during the game – and the same number on target. The main difference was that whilst Jussi Jaaskelainen saved five out of five shots, Chris Kirkland let in four out of five, underlining the importance of a top-class goalkeeper for bottom-half clubs. Read more »
The key feature of Tottenham’s 3-1 win over Blackburn today was the number of times they looked to quickly switch the ball to Gareth Bale, who had the beating of Michael Salgado every time he got the ball. Bale claimed an assist, should have had two penalties, and was Spurs’ main attacking outlet throughout the game.