22/02/13 – English clubs discover individual talent is no match for tactical coherence in Europe (Beyond The 90 Minutes)

256776hp2European competition is often used as a measure of a league’s strength. Champions Manchester City’s early exit in the Champions League didn’t bode well for the Premier League’s claim to be the world’s best, and other clubs have done little to dispel this as anything other than a myth. Manchester United defied doubters to avoid defeat away to Real Madrid and Tottenham secured the draw required to seal an aggregate victory against a competitive Lyon side, but Newcastle and Chelsea laboured against moderate opposition. Liverpool fought in vain to overturn a first leg deficit against Zenit St. Petersburg, whilst Arsenal were utterly outclassed by Bayern Munich… (Read more)

22/02/13 – Wenger’s tactical decisions are as responsible for Arsenal’s demise as his transfer policy

Arsene WengerArsenal’s demise from a European force to a club hanging on to European qualification via the Premier League has been well documented. Much of the blame is attributed to the quality of the players and manager Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. Both are entirely reasonable assessments, but they ignore an important feature of the club’s evolution in recent years. Arsenal’s trophy-winning years seemingly dried up after the departures of stars like Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, but Wenger’s tactical changes have been just as damaging… (Read more)

07/02/13 – Sturridge opens up tactical possibilities for Rodgers

Daniel SturridgeThat Liverpool signed Daniel Sturridge in the January transfer window was no great surprise. Following the loaning out of Andy Carroll in August and the failed attempt to sign Clint Dempsey as a replacement, Brendan Rodgers endured the first half-season of his Liverpool reign with only two senior forwards. In theory Sturridge seemed well suited to Rodgers style of playing, being quick, comfortable on the ball and capable of playing wide or through the middle. Yet there were issues with the forward that still made the move a little curious, and questions were raised about how exactly he would fit into the Liverpool side… (Read more)

31/01/13 – Are Manchester City planning on a 4-3-3?

Roberto MancinIn the wake of Mario Balotelli’s departure from Manchester City, it was reported that part of the reason was a plan to move to a 4-3-3 formation next season. Nobody doubts that Balotelli was mainly sold for disciplinary problems, but it still leaves an intriguing concept. Firstly, the move is likely to have been influenced once again by City’s poor European performance. Secondly, manager Roberto Mancini has never favoured wingers or wide forwards, opting for a 4-3-1-2 ‘diamond’ formation at Inter Milan and preferring a narrow 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 system at Manchester City… (Read more)

31/01/13 – Manchester United’s full backs fail to provide attacking width in wingers’ absence

Sir Alex FergusonTop of the table Manchester United laboured to victory over relegation strugglers Southampton last night but an occasional lack of fluency pointed to a relatively new problem for Sir Alex Ferguson.  United’s current squad boasts Ashley Young, Nani and Antonio Valencia as genuine wide options, yet due to either a lack of fitness or a lack of form for the aforementioned, United fielded Shinja Kagawa and Danny Welbeck in wide positions against Southampton. Unfortunately for Ferguson United’s full backs natural movement is actually inside the wide midfielder rather than outside, and therefore neither Patrice Evra or Phil Jones overlapped regularly… (Read more)

30/01/13 – Pulis shows tactical flexibility against Wigan

Tony PulisIn the build-up to last night’s match between Stoke and Wigan at the Britannia, Stoke’s manager Tony Pulis described their opponents as a ‘bogey team’. Nevertheless, Pulis’ decision to play a 3-5-2 system against Wigan still came as a surprise. Stoke’s manager is not known for tactical flexibility and his only notable changes to his team’s shape in recent years has been to gradually withdraw a striker, initially into an advance midfield role and this season into a third central midfielder. The change to a 3-5-2 had two primary aims: to combat Wigan’s wing backs and to have a partner for Peter Crouch up front… (Read more)

27/01/13 – Should Stoke drop Charlie Adam?

Charlie AdamOn the face of it Stoke’s £4m capture of Charlie Adam in the summer of 2012 appeared a good signing. The Scottish playmaker had moved to Liverpool for nearly twice that amount the previous year having starred for Blackpool with his long range passing and set piece delivery. Such was Adam’s potency that Sir Alex Ferguson remarked that his corners and free kicks alone were worth £10m, and thus the prospect of moving to a club noted for its direct passing and focus on set pieces appeared an excellent match. Yet Adam has struggled to adjust to Stoke’s system, and Stoke have struggled to adapt to Adam… (Read more)

19/01/13 – Are Newcastle targeting the wrong player to replace Demba Ba?

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Since the departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea, all the focus at Newcastle has been on which striker Alan Pardew will bring in to replace his top scorer. Yet Ba has been at the centre of a twelve month power struggle in the Newcastle attack that has threatened to imbalance the team’s shape, and his departure could allow Pardew to restructure the system… (Read more)

17/08/12 – Wigan 12/13 Season Preview

WiganWigan will begin their fourth season under celebrated manager Roberto Martinez, but just like the last three years they will continue to be amongst the favourites for relegation. It is this that ultimately lies at the paradox of Martinez’s reputation. For all the nice interviews he gives and the sporadic moments of genuine quality from his team, it seems that Wigan are no better off in 2012 than they were in 2009. With this record it seems bizarre that Martinez could have ended up managing Aston Villa and Liverpool. Like a boxer rallying towards the end of a round to impress the judges, Wigan’s traditional end of season form seems to falsely place Martinez on other clubs’ wish-lists… (Read more)

17/08/12 – West Ham 12/13 Season Preview

West HamSam Allardyce was hired to get West Ham back to the Premier League and, to his credit, he did just that. Club owners David Sullivan and David Gold would have been aware of the reputation of Allardyce’s teams but clearly felt he was the best man to get the team promoted. Now they are back in the top division, Sullivan and Gold will also expect Allardyce to keep them there and re-establish them as a Premier League mainstay… (Read more)