Tactics & Analysis

FA Cup final tactical preview: how will Wenger counteract Conte's plans?

May 26, 2017 07:28 AM PDT

The FC panel have their say on who will win the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal. ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent Mattias Karen feels Wenger will remain with Arsenal despite how they fare in the final. Chelsea have gone through 16 managerial changes in Arsene Wenger's 20-year tenure with Arsenal, here is a look at who came out on top ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent Liam Twomey has his say as to whether or not Chelsea will seal the double against Arsenal. On Saturday afternoon at Wembley, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is aiming to become only the third manager to win the league and cup double in his first full season in English football. One of the previous two, Arsene Wenger, will be in the other dugout. For all the intriguing on-pitch head-to-head battles, and in a game where both sides will use similar systems (and therefore players will match one another across the pitch), it is the clash between Conte and Wenger that is the most intriguing....

Antonio Conte and Chelsea dominated Premier League tactics in 2016-17

May 23, 2017 10:21 AM PDT

Former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley praises the work of Antonio Conte in taking the club to the Premier League title. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says switching his defensive formation was the catalyst for their title triumph. Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal's change to three in defence had nothing to do with Chelsea's success. This season's Premier League was supposed to be the most tactically diverse ever -- in the end, the campaign was based almost entirely around Chelsea's switching system, and everyone else looking to copy them. Chelsea's 3-4-3 and how teams played against them completely dominate our tactical review of the 2017 Premier League campaign... Tactical decision of the season Antonio Conte's decision to switch from a 4-1-4-1 system to a 3-4-3 back in the fall is probably the most decisive tactical...

Contrast between top and bottom clear as Chelsea thrash Sunderland

May 22, 2017 02:53 AM PDT

Watch on as John Terry and Gary Cahill hoist the 2016/17 Premier League trophy. Antonio Conte is full of praise for John Terry after the Chelsea captain's final match at Stamford Bridge. Janusz Michallik and Alexis Nunes take a long look at how the Premier League top 6 shaped out this season. David Moyes came up with an honest attempt to stop Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 system, but Chelsea still trashed his Sunderland team 5-1. In a prelude to the title celebrations at Stamford Bridge, Sunderland lined up in a back three, as many have done against Chelsea this season, but with a twist: they used four central midfielders in order to ensure double cover near key men Eden Hazard and Willian. It seemed a decent idea, particularly when Javier Manquillo put Sunderland ahead inside three minutes....

Son and Alli go unmarked as Tottenham's 3-4-3 outsmarts Leicester

May 19, 2017 02:10 AM PDT

Harry Kane says he's eager to win the Golden Boot after moving to the top of the charts following four goals against Leicester. Harry Kane says he's eager to win the Golden Boot after moving to the top of the charts following four goals against Leicester. Harry Kane says he's eager to win the Golden Boot after moving to the top of the charts following four goals against Leicester. While the big story on Thursday was all about how Harry Kane scored four as Tottenham trashed Leicester 6-1, the tactical talking point centred on how a 3-4-3 once more outsmarted a 4-4-2. The 3-4-3 has become the tactical trend of the season, with Chelsea using it to transform their campaign and Arsenal turning to it in times of need. More than once, teams playing four at the back have struggled so badly to control it that they have resorted to copying it. That happened again here. In the first...

Fluent Tottenham upset Man United's man-marking plan with set-piece goals

May 15, 2017 02:26 AM PDT

Craig Burley credits Spurs for their performance in their White Hart Lane finale, but says Man United look to have given up. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho tried an unconventional man-marking system in a bid to stop Tottenham, but Mauricio Pochettino's side still ran out 2-1 winners in a fitting White Hart Lane farewell. Hampered by heavy rotation ahead of the Europa League final, Manchester United followed a tailor-made defensive plan. Instead of marking zonally, Michael Carrick and Axel Tuanzebe tracked Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen respectively, while Jesse Lingard protected the full-back on whichever side...

How Monaco, Atletico Madrid could pull off Champions League comebacks

May 9, 2017 12:33 AM PDT

Craig Burley explains why a Barcelona-style Champions League comeback won't be in the cards for Monaco or Atletico Madrid. This week's Champions League semifinals will either be among the dullest in recent memory or perhaps will provide two of the most memorable comebacks in Champions League history. In the semifinal first legs, Juventus won 2-0 at Monaco, while Real Madrid won at home 3-0 versus Atletico Madrid. But what can Monaco and Atletico learn from previous Champions League comebacks? Lesson 1: Change their system (Liverpool 3-3 Milan, 2005) The Champions League's most famous comeback took place in the...

Alexis Sanchez drops deep to punish defensive Manchester United

May 8, 2017 02:33 AM PDT

Joao Castelo-Branco and Mark Ogden react to Arsenal's win over Man United, and the state of each club late in the season. Aaron Ramsey says a change in tactics paid dividends in Arsenal's 2-0 win over Manchester United. Jose Mourinho devised yet another cautious gameplan that led Manchester United to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, in what was their fifth game without a goal at a top-six rival this season. In prioritising Thursday's upcoming Europa League semifinal second leg with Celta Vigo, the Portuguese changed eight players and used a 4-5-1 designed to counter-attack and defend deep. Sporadic attacks set up early chances for Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, but the chief aim...

Champions League tactical battles: What each team needs to advance

May 2, 2017 02:06 AM PDT

The FC crew debate whether or not Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid's UCL semifinal tie will be high-scoring or a chess match. The Champions League semifinals are perhaps the most tactically fascinating matches in football -- the best club sides in the world competing over two legs. With no Barcelona and no Bayern Munich, this season's final four offer more tactical diversity than usual, and these could be two thrilling contests. Here's how each side might play to secure their place in Cardiff next month. REAL MADRID vs. ATLETICO MADRID Real Madrid: Use aerial threats The absence of the injured Gareth Bale from Real...

Tottenham punish Arsenal mistakes as 3-4-3 hampers Gunners' attack

May 1, 2017 02:24 AM PDT

ESPN FC's Stewart Robson critiques Arsene Wenger's tactics in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham. ESPN FC's Stewart Robson critiques Arsene Wenger's tactics in Arsenal's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham. Arsenal produced another meek display on the road to help Tottenham seal a 2-0 win that kept the gap to Premier League leaders Chelsea at four points. In the last North London derby to be held at White Hart Lane, before Spurs move to their new stadium, Arsene Wenger continued with his 3-4-3 system and actually managed to frustrate the home side for longer spells in the first half. Spurs were unable to find space between the lines against a compact team structure, and their two big chances came only...

Jose Mourinho parks the bus at Man City as United grind out derby draw

Apr 28, 2017 02:05 AM PDT

Manchester United kept Manchester City at bay in the Manchester derby. Jose Mourinho played for a 0-0 draw and got it as Manchester United repelled an uninspired Manchester City side at the Etihad on Thursday night. The visitors threatened on the break in the first half through Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, though their most impressive features centred on their defending. Set out in a 4-3-3, their midfield trio screened the backline well and blunted City's passing game. It helped United that the only danger between the lines was Kevin De Bruyne, with David Silva...

Is Arsenal's three-man back line proof Wenger can embrace modern tactics?

Apr 25, 2017 12:00 PM PDT

There are various ways of summarising Arsene Wenger's astonishing longevity at Arsenal, but here's a particularly prescient one. There have been two entirely different eras when using a three-man defence has been in fashion: the first in the mid-1990s, the second in the mid-2010s. They came 20 years apart, meaning that no player has genuinely played a significant part in both eras. But Wenger has been around so long he has witnessed a tactical development that's effectively come full circle. This...

Lionel Messi torments Madrid as Barcelona breathe life in La Liga race

Apr 24, 2017 02:40 AM PDT

Lionel Messi settled El Clasico in incredible style with a late, late winner against Real Madrid. Lionel Messi settled El Clasico in incredible style with a late, late winner against Real Madrid. Lionel Messi delivered a sensational display to hand Barcelona a 3-2 win against Real Madrid on Sunday, in one of the most entertaining Clasicos in years. Real Madrid were three points ahead of their rivals atop La Liga with one game in hand, but Zinedine Zidane still wheeled out his big guns in an attacking 4-3-3, and was rewarded when Casemiro hit the opener. But Barca had Messi who, in Neymar's absence, was handed a free role behind the strikers in a 4-3-1-2. The Argentine terrorised Madrid,...

Champions League tactical battles: What each team needs to advance

Apr 17, 2017 01:02 PM PDT

Michael Cox looks at the key tactical questions facing the Champions League quarterfinalists ahead of the second legs. Barcelona vs. Juventus: Which system does Luis Enrique use? Barcelona's formation has been a constant source of debate in recent weeks. With no specialist right-back to call upon -- their former regular Dani Alves now plays for the opposition here -- Luis Enrique has been forced to devise complex systems to get around the problem. This has often involved Barcelona playing...

Jose Mourinho masterclass haunts Chelsea as Herrera stifles Hazard

Apr 17, 2017 03:57 AM PDT

Jose Mourinho produced a vintage defensive masterclass to guide Manchester United to a 2-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. Shelving his new-found stylistic principles, Mourinho returned to his pragmatic old self against his former club, devising a reactive gameplan designed to nullify Chelsea's 3-4-3, and above all key player Eden Hazard. The result was a 4-4-2 in which diligent wingers tracked Chelsea's wing-backs, while Ander Herrera man-marked Hazard. Up front, Marcus Rashford worked...

Jose Mourinho must stop Eden Hazard if he is to get his revenge vs. Chelsea

Apr 14, 2017 12:15 AM PDT

Jose Mourinho's career is defined by him seeking revenge over adversaries and settling old scores. And while Mourinho surely looks back upon his two periods at Chelsea with some degree of fondness, he'll recall his bitter departure much more strongly. This weekend, he has his third chance to inflict defeat upon his former players -- broadly the same group who won him a third Premier League title, but also those who downed tools last season. His previous two reunions with Chelsea have ended in defeats...

Liverpool's new formation fails vs. Stoke before half-time tweaks

Apr 10, 2017 05:36 AM PDT

Liverpool recovered from a stagnant first half to win 2-1 at Stoke on Saturday, in a display affected by numerous absentees and a formation they had reportedly not even used in training. Beset by injuries, Jurgen Klopp wheeled out a 3-5-1-1 system featuring two teenagers and players fielded out of position. With Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino benched, the visitors lacked flair and cohesion, and created next to nothing before half-time. The same was not true of Stoke, who opened the scoring...

Stoke lose their identity to become the Premier League's most boring team

Apr 7, 2017 04:13 AM PDT

For Liverpool, dropping points against unfashionable bottom-half sides has become a familiar problem. Wednesday's 2-2 home draw with Bournemouth wasn't met with howls of astonishment from the Kop, but instead by moans of frustration. Liverpool have a clear problem: they consistently perform excellently against good sides, then awfully against the rest. The statistics provide unquestionable evidence -- Liverpool have won 2.2 points per game against fellow top seven sides, but just 1.7 points per...

Hazard exploits Manchester City's weakness as Chelsea edge to title

Apr 6, 2017 02:17 AM PDT

The ESPN FC crew discuss Chelsea, Manchester City and Wednesday's big result at Stamford Bridge. A few days after Arsenal and Manchester City showed their flaws as title challengers, Antonio Conte demonstrated the kind of shrewd game management that will surely help make Chelsea champions by late May. The Blues wobbled in the first half at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as David Silva pulled the strings, but, having gone 2-1 up, Conte safeguarded the points by shutting down the second half, repelling City with a solidity and efficiency unrivalled in this league. That strategy had been made possible...

Guardiola's struggles this season only serve to enhance Conte's success

Apr 4, 2017 11:31 AM PDT

Stewart Robson compares and contrasts the varying degrees of success between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola this season. Even great foreign players take time to settle in the Premier League, but they're certainly capable of making an instant impact. If Antonio Conte lifts the title as expected this season, he will be only the ninth foreign boss to win the Premier League -- and five of them will have triumphed in their first full campaign in England. None of Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti or Manuel Pellegrini had ever worked in England before, yet each man immediately took the league by storm. You...

Arsenal and Man City show just why they can't win the Premier League title

Apr 3, 2017 03:01 AM PDT

Steve Nicol and Alejandro Moreno don't mince their words when discussing Arsenal's performance against Manchester City. The FC panel lament Manchester City's inability to translate Pep Guardiola's tactics into a quality product on the pitch. If anyone wanted evidence of why Arsenal and Manchester City are unlikely to win the title this year, there was plenty on display in an error-strewn 2-2 draw at the Emirates on Sunday. Calamitous defending has undermined both sides this season. City scored from a goal kick and a Mesut Ozil pass, while Arsenal struck twice from corners. For City, not even their passing met usual standards at first, and only the half-time introduction of Yaya Toure brought their rhythm back. Meanwhile, Arsenal attacked...

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