Nani continues his good run of form with two assists

March 27, 2010
Nani continues his good run of form with two assists

It’s not yet a case of ‘Cristiano who?’ but Nani has finally started to justify his hefty price tag, in his third season at Manchester United. Today he got two assists, and had a hand in another goal. As the Chalkboard shows, Nani’s crossing from wide positions on the left-hand side is not the best, but he is very effective at beating his full-back, coming inside and providing more accurate passes.

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How the 2000s changed tactics #2: Classic Number 10s struggle

March 26, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #2: Classic Number 10s struggle

The decade started with the most attacking, open tournament in modern football, at Euro 2000. The four semi-finalists all played ‘classic’ Number 10s in the hole between the opposition defence and midfield. France, Italy, Portugal and Holland had Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, Manuel Rui Costa and Dennis Bergkamp respectively – it almost seemed essential to have a player in this mould to be successful – helped by trequartista-less England and Germany’s early exits. Read more »

Is this the best season of football in recent years?

March 26, 2010
Is this the best season of football in recent years?

A brief break from the in-depth tactical analysis here, to round-up the major European leagues, highlight this weekend’s crucial table-topping fixtures, and celebrate how wonderful European football has been this season. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #2: Barcelona, 2008/09

March 24, 2010
Teams of the Decade #2: Barcelona, 2008/09

What more can you say about this Barcelona side? European champions, La Liga champions and Copa Del Rey winners, all in the first season under the charge of Pep Guardiola. And they didn’t do it by merely winning games, they did it by winning in style, making them perhaps the most universally respected side of the decade. Read more »

How the 2000s changed tactics #3: The decline of the three-man defence

March 24, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #3: The decline of the three-man defence

It’s a shame that the three-man defence has become so unfashionable in recent years, because tactically it’s a lot more interesting and varied than a four-man defence. It essentially did the same job – with one fewer player, allowing the side to dominate the midfield with an extra man. Read more »

Defending Steven Gerrard’s Old Trafford display

March 23, 2010

It’s easy to criticize Steven Gerrard at the moment. After all, he’s having the worst season of his career, in an amazingly underwhelming campaign for Liverpool, having come so close to their first Premiership title last time out. Meanwhile, more persistent doubts remain about his true ability as a footballer. The master of modern football tactics, Arrigo Sacchi, once said that Gerrard ‘lacks what I call knowing-how-to-play football’, describing him as ‘a great footballer, but not a great player’. Read more »

A superb debut from Blackburn’s Phil Jones

March 23, 2010
A superb debut from Blackburn’s Phil Jones

If you’re a centre-back making your Premiership debut, the one striker you don’t want to come up against is Didier Drogba. Skilful, strong and a great goalscorer, Drogba is almost unplayable on his day. Read more »

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool: a contest about the small details

March 21, 2010
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool: a contest about the small details

No major tactical surprises here, and no surprise outcome either. Ferguson’s default line-up for these ‘big’ games is a flexible 4-5-1 shape (which means no Dimitar Berbatov) whilst Benitez was always going to go with Lucas ahead of Alberto Aquilani for a more solid midfield away at Old Trafford. Read more »

United’s superior tackling the main difference at Old Trafford?

March 21, 2010
United’s superior tackling the main difference at Old Trafford?

Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool this weekend was hardly a classic – it was a mundane, scrappy game producing few chances. Indeed, it is exactly the sort of victory United always achieve at this time of the season – picking up results without playing well. Read more »

The reason why Arsene Wenger loves Denilson

March 21, 2010
The reason why Arsene Wenger loves Denilson

Denilson is one of the Premiership’s most underrated players. After an impressive 2008/09, his place has recently come under threat thanks to the good form shown by Abou Diaby, especially in games where Arsene Wenger wants a more offensive slant to his midfield. Read more »