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 »

Gareth Bale’s pace key to Tottenham victory

March 13, 2010

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.

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How the 2000s changed tactics #4: Off-the-ball movement

March 12, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #4: Off-the-ball movement

Movement is not a new thing in football – as outlined by Jonathan Wilson in Inverting The Pyramid, the hallmark of the legendary Hungary side which famously beat England 6-3 in 1953 was their players’ tendency to drift out of their natural position and switch with teammates, thereby confusing the opposition about who they were supposed to be marking. Read more »

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Sporting Lisbon – organised nine-man Sporting deserve their draw

March 11, 2010
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Sporting Lisbon – organised nine-man Sporting deserve their draw

An exciting first half hour was brought to a close with the dismissal of Grimi, who was joined for an early bath by Tonel late on. Sporting got men behind the ball, and Atletico struggled to create chances. Read more »

Manchester United 4-0 Milan – an efficient and comprehensive victory for Ferguson

March 10, 2010
Manchester United 4-0 Milan – an efficient and comprehensive victory for Ferguson

Another game where Sir Alex Ferguson got things spot on. To run out 7-2 winners against any side in the latter stages of the Champions League is impressive, but to do it against Milan is quite remarkable. Read more »

Fiorentina 3-2 Bayern – Viola deal well with the wide threat, but leave themselves exposed in the centre

March 10, 2010
Fiorentina 3-2 Bayern – Viola deal well with the wide threat, but leave themselves exposed in the centre

Fiorentina are out of the competition despite Cesare Prandelli getting his tactics spot on both home and away. Bayern progress thanks to some highly questionable refereeing decisions in the first leg, and two excellent strikes in the second leg – their first defeat in 18 games. Read more »

Arsenal 5-0 Porto – an open game favours the better side

March 9, 2010
Arsenal 5-0 Porto – an open game favours the better side

It’s difficult to summarise a match tactically when one side wins by five goals. On one hand, assessing every aspect of the game points to Arsenal getting it tactically spot on, on the other you’re left to conclude that a five-goal win comes from a superiority in pure footballing terms, not the nitty-gritty of tactics. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #4: Porto, 2002-04

March 8, 2010
Teams of the Decade #4: Porto, 2002-04

Almost six years on, it’s slightly difficult to describe what an incredible job Jose Mourinho did at Porto. Looking across this side and seeing names such as Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche and Costinha, the first reaction is to think, ‘Ah, it was a team packed full of good players’. Read more »

How the 2000s changed tactics #5: Back to four ‘bands’ in formations

March 8, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #5: Back to four ‘bands’ in formations

Outfield football positions are still generally broken down into three types: defenders, midfielders and forwards. Go to any fantasy football website, or look at a UEFA squad list, and you’ll see players broken down into these three categories. Of course, this ignores the progression of football tactics in recent years, where the pitch is often broken into four ‘bands’.

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Manchester United continue to show tendency to attack down the right

March 7, 2010
Manchester United continue to show tendency to attack down the right

Manchester United have tended in recent weeks to play a slightly lopsided shape, attacking primarily down the right-hand-side. The two wingers most frequently used in Premiership games in recent weeks, Antonio Valencia and Nani, both prefer to play on the right. When fielded together, Valencia tends to remain on the right flank and play a traditional wide role, whilst Nani looks to cut in from the left and drift across the pitch more. Read more »