Tactical Analysis

Premier League: Manchester United and The Rise of the Northwest

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Alex Ferguson’s strongest asset was not his tactical superiority over his peers but it was his winning mentality. Any team fielded by him, went on to the pitch expecting and playing for a win. With the arrival of David Moyes – a manager generally content with a 6th place finish – they lost that winning mentality and the theatre of dreams was no longer the fortress it used to be and instead became a place where premier league teams’ dreams come true. Read the rest of this entry »

Portugal’s crown rests on four pillars

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It is already being billed as the battle between the two most expensive footballers on the planet. The Ronaldo vs Bale story has been overshadowing a showdown that promises to be a very exciting fixture between a pre-tournament favourite that has not yet clicked into gear and the dark horse of the competition that seems to have found his stride. In the run-up to this match it is worth considering four factors that could lead to Portugal being crowned the next champions of Europe.

Ramsey, Ramsey, Ramsey!

Ramsey’s suspension from the biggest game in Welsh history is by far the biggest blow any team has suffered in Euro 2016. While Gareth Bale has been taking all the plaudits for his free kick scoring exploits, Ramsey has been comfortably the team’s best player and the one that makes the team tick. He was everywhere against Belgium and allows Joe Allen the freedom and space to showcase some of his passing abilities; abilities that won him his “Welsh Pirlo” nickname.

The Talismanic Striker

Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact has almost single handedly carried the Portuguese team through qualifier after qualifier and he even led them to the semi-final of the 2012 European Championship where they narrowly lost on penalties to eventual champions Spain. With the exception of his debut tournament with the Figo generation Ronaldo has not been blessed with a sufficient supporting cast since losing the 2004 final.

This time around latest crop of Portuguese stars though have something else to say and in this year’s edition of the competition they have carried the misfiring Ronaldo to a semi-final match-up against a Welsh side led by Gareth Bale. For Portugal to reach the final and have a chance of lifting the trophy their talisman needs to find his shooting boots and rediscover the form that made him arguably the best finisher that has ever graced a football pitch.

The Midfield Battle

Beyond Aaron Ramsey’s absence and the huge blow it represents Welsh hopes, his likely replacement is Jonny Williams. Here is a player that does not possess the same tactical and positional awareness that the Arsenal man excelled at throughout this tournament, presenting a glaring weakness in midfield.

Joe Allen resembles a 37 year old Scholes after coming back from retirement to signal an end to Paul Pogba’s career at Manchester United in that he is able to showcase his class and passing range when given space and time by the opposition midfield but is seriously exposed when put under pressure.

Renato Sanchez and Danilo Pereira should be given direct orders to put the Welsh midfield under constant pressure and deprive them of any space in the midfield and exploit the counter attacks resulting from the loose balls and misplaced passes by the Welsh midfield duo.

Neil Taylor is missing his protector

Taylor has struggled defensively in four out of the five games of Wales’ successful campaign with the exception being the game against an out of sorts Belgium. Against England, Taylor’s defensive struggles made Kyle Walker look a world beater – a form that he was unable to replicate when it mattered the most against Iceland. Taylor’s missteps are always saved by his team’s togetherness and work rate and by having the underrated Ben Davis covering him in a three man Welsh defence. Davis is another absentee from the semi-final showdown and his likely replacement, James Collins, is not naturally acquainted with covering as a left back the way the Spurs man is.

Against Wales, Fernando Santos should stretch the game and put pressure on the Welsh wing-backs with an emphasis on the now exposed Taylor. By switching to a 4-3-3 formation with Quaresma and Nani flanking Ronaldo the Wales team will be put under the cosh just like they were in their only loss against their fiercest rivals.

Everything above is pointing to a comfortable progression for Ronaldo and Co. but will the Welsh togetherness and team spirit continue to defy the odds in what has been already the season of the underdogs?

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The Modern 3-4-3: a la Conte

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As the first 24 team European Championship goes underway, regular tournament favourites are entering this year’s edition in an unfamiliar position. For the first time in their history, Italy enters an international tournament as underdogs and have on paper one of their weakest squads ever. Midfield generals who played instrumental roles in their successful qualifying campaign are also unavailable this summer. Read the rest of this entry »

Zidane has the Perfect Ingredients to Guardiola’s Recipe

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real atletico

Over the past 3 years, Diego Simeone’s version of Ateltico Madrid has proven harder and harder to break down. The loss of some of their best players to the allure of more established European powerhouses did not impact the progress and identity of Atletico Madrid under the Argentine’s leadership. On their way to their second Champions League final in 3 years, Los Rojiblancos claimed the scalps of the two overwhelming favourites for this year’s title – Barcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively.  Read the rest of this entry »

The resurrection of a fallen football giant

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Two months ago even the most optimistic Liverpool fan could not imagine his team being led by Jurgen Klopp for 78% of the season. Yet the fact of the matter is that after sacking of Brendan Rodgers earlier this month the Board moved swiftly and lured Jurgen Klopp away from his one year sabbatical. Klopp arrives at Anfield carrying on his shoulders the weight of resurrecting another fallen giant after his exploits with Borussia Dortmund. He inherited a very expensively assembled under-performing squad from his Northern Irish predecessor which he will attempt to mould into a well drilled footballing machine.

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Why AS Roma have an opportunity for the Scudetto

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The appointment of Rudi Garcia as manager for AS Roma signaled a change in fortune for the Italian capital club. Garcia joined Roma from Lille after his 2011 exploits won them their first Ligue 1 title since 1954. They were by far the most exciting team to watch in France with an abundance of attacking talent in a fast paced and zippy 4-3-3 formation. With Hazard and Gervinho flanking Moussa Sow, they resembled a French version of the mighty Barcelona. Read the rest of this entry »

On LVG’s tactical mishaps that could potentially cost Manchester United

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On the face of it Manchester United have improved significantly in this season’s Premier League. They are sitting second in the table and are three points behind their rival neighbours; this season’s pacesetters Manchester City. Sir Alex Ferguson eluded in a recent interview to the progress made by LVG and pointed out the Dutchman’s pedigree from his spells at Barcelona, Ajax and Bayern Munich. Read the rest of this entry »

Chelsea’s struggles are tactical not a “third season” symptom

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The lack of success in Jose Mourinho’s third seasons has always been a source of criticism. In his fifteen years of management he has never stayed at the same team after the third season. His return to Chelsea was to create a dynasty and become Chelsea’s equivalent of Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson or a successful version of Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger. But what can be said of the fact that the start of the “Mourinho third year” in his latest reign as Chelsea manager corresponds to Chelsea’s worse start of a league campaign in the Premier League era? Read the rest of this entry »