Arsenal 2-0 West Ham: Zola brave for going with a 4-4-2, but foolish for sticking to it

March 20, 2010
Arsenal 2-0 West Ham: Zola brave for going with a 4-4-2, but foolish for sticking to it

You have to admire Gianfranco Zola for going to the Emirates and playing a 4-4-2. Without his two best players, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole, it would have been tempting to do what most sides do when they play Arsenal away – go 4-5-1 and try and hit Arsenal on the counter. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #3: Manchester United 2006-09

March 20, 2010
Teams of the Decade #3: Manchester United 2006-09

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.

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Is Barcelona’s alternative shape really a 4-2-4?

March 19, 2010
Is Barcelona’s alternative shape really a 4-2-4?

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 Barcelona aren’t able to do that this season, because Eto’o has left the club, and been replaced by Zlatan Ibrahimovic – a magnificent player, but one who would be uncomfortable being deployed in a role away from the centre of the pitch.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 »

Champions League ties – home or away first?

March 19, 2010
Champions League ties – home or away first?

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 »

Champions League pass completion statistics – Barca and Real dominate again

March 18, 2010
Champions League pass completion statistics – Barca and Real dominate again

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

March 17, 2010
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 »

Chelsea 0-1 Inter – a classic Mourinho victory, but no blame attached to Ancelotti

March 16, 2010
Chelsea 0-1 Inter – a classic Mourinho victory, but no blame attached to Ancelotti

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 »

Barcelona 3-0 Valencia – a Messi masterclass, but credit to Guardiola and Henry

March 14, 2010
Barcelona 3-0 Valencia – a Messi masterclass, but credit to Guardiola and Henry

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.

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Arsenal’s victory over Hull – Chalkboard analysis

March 14, 2010
Arsenal’s victory over Hull – Chalkboard analysis

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 »

Bolton 4-0 Wigan – when a thrashing isn’t really a thrashing

March 14, 2010

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 »