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Tactics & Analysis

Why the Premier League should be afraid of 'Sarri-ball' once Chelsea master it

Tue, 11 Dec 2018 01:43:00 GMT

The FC crew answer your tweets on N'Golo Kante's positioning under Maurizio Sarri, what Unai Emery will do with Mesut Ozil and much more. Stewart Robson analyses how Maurizio Sarri's tactics mixed with quality individual performances were enough to inflict Manchester City's first loss of the season. The Premier League currently finds itself with the most impressive array of managers in its 27-season history, and the eclectic cast includes three managers who have contributed significantly to the evolution of modern football. The first is Manchester City's Pep Guardiola. His hugely successful Barcelona side repopularised possession football across the continent before he became an increasingly flexible manager during his period in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. The second is Liverpool's Jurgen...

Transfer window can save Premier League's strugglers from relegation

Thu, 6 Dec 2018 02:28:00 GMT

The 2018-19 Premier League season has a markedly different feel from 2017-18. This is a campaign of identities, of philosophies, of ideologues. The change has been evident at the top, where Chelsea's Maurizio Sarri and Arsenal's Unai Emery have stamped their authority upon their sides with remarkable speed. In midtable, Everton finally have a clear playing identity under Marco Silva, and Watford appear more settled under Javi Gracia. But the pattern is also evident among bottom-half sides, which...

Football's dark arts: Your guide to the set-piece trickery, diving and sneaky fouls that make a difference

Thu, 29 Nov 2018 05:00:00 GMT

The FC panel share their thoughts on the impact football's 'dark arts' are having on the game. Football's laws are always evolving. In recent years, there have been changes to the kickoff, alteration to the punishment for "last man" fouls and the long-awaited rollout of VAR. The rules and regulations have not adapted much in terms of clamping down on gamesmanship, and in a way, that is the point: It is not about breaking laws as such but more about pushing their boundaries in search of an advantage. A popular description of these actions is "dark arts," but what are its major forms? Here...

Trent Alexander-Arnold is already a world-class full-back but he might not be there for long

Tue, 27 Nov 2018 04:07:00 GMT

After a limp first-half display, Liverpool burst into life in the second period winning in the end very comfortably 3-0 against Watford Trent Alexander-Arnold praises Liverpool's resilience and breaks down the relief after he scored against Watford. It was a complex offside situation. Sadio Mane had converted the rebound, seemingly giving Liverpool a 1-0 lead at the Emirates, but a linesman's flag had thwarted him. Mane had been offside when the initial pass was played, but wasn't interfering with play. When he was interfering with play, in the second phase, he'd been level with Roberto Firmino as the Brazilian volleyed towards goal. Mane was onside, the goal should have stood. From the freeze-frames on the replay, we were looking at the...

Juan Mata has saved Jose Mourinho's Man United career... for now

Fri, 9 Nov 2018 01:48:00 GMT

The FC team answer your tweets asking them to apologise to Man United after their comeback at Juve, discuss Cristiano Ronaldo's goal celebration and more. After Jose Mourinho's postgame antics, the FC panel question how much credit he really deserves for Man United's late win in Turin. If there's been one constant throughout Jose Mourinho's managerial career in England, it's been his love of bold substitutions. Mourinho, perhaps more than any other manager in the modern game, uses his replacements swiftly, decisively and often unusually. He has made substitutions within the first 25 minutes to completely change formation; he has introduced players primarily tasked with communicating tactical messages to teammates; he's made a half-time treble substitution; he even once made a...

Despite doubts about the future, Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal need each other

Fri, 2 Nov 2018 07:48:00 GMT

FC's Paul Mariner says Arsenal would be foolish to let Aaron Ramsey leave, but says he'd fit in perfectly at Liverpool if he were. If you want a concise summary of Arsenal's ups and downs over the last decade, the best personification is Aaron Ramsey. Signed from under the noses of Manchester United in 2008, after Arsenal had challenged Sir Alex Ferguson's side for the Premier League title, Ramsey's purchase was typical of Arsene Wenger during that period: A young, promising technical midfielder who would make significant improvement. Ramsey's initial performances were composed but a horrific broken leg, suffered in February...

Cardiff's direct, no-nonsense style can test Manchester City

Fri, 21 Sep 2018 07:55:00 GMT

Resident fantasy expert Mark Donaldson shares his tips for this weekend's Premier League fixtures. On Saturday, the greatest stylistic mismatch of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign takes place when promoted Cardiff City, managed by Neil Warnock, host Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. The statistics tell the story effectively. Man City's pass completion rate this season is 90 percent, a reflection of their determination to build patiently from the back and move the ball through a technically proficient midfield trio. Cardiff, on the other hand, have a pass completion rate of just 64 percent....

Pochettino vs. Klopp a battle of Premier League's brightest minds

Fri, 14 Sep 2018 08:10:00 GMT

Jurgen Klopp admits how tough it is to leave someone of Fabinho's cost and quality on the bench at Liverpool. From the multitude of talented foreign coaches currently operating in the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp are the ones who have contributed most to the division's current tactical feel. We've long since moved past the defensive era defined by Jose Mourinho, and the possession-based approach epitomised by Pep Guardiola was actually more popular several seasons ago, before he joined Manchester City. This is the Premier League's pressing era, and it's Pochettino and Klopp, more...

Mesut Ozil's impact at Arsenal mixed in five years since transfer

Tue, 4 Sep 2018 11:58:00 GMT

Before Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil five years ago, nobody believed Arsenal were crying out for a signing like Mesut Ozil. After all, Arsenal's attacking quartet in 2012-13 was very balanced, with all four players -- Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla -- reaching double figures in terms of Premier League goals. The consensus was that Arsenal required the types of player Arsenal always seem to require: a solid defensive midfielder, or a commanding centre-back. Maybe a top-class...

Attacking left-backs like Benjamin Mendy, Marcos Alonso revolutionising the Premier League

Fri, 31 Aug 2018 02:11:00 GMT

Three games into the new Premier League campaign is somewhat premature for assessing 2018-19's tactical trends, but it's been easy to identify certain patterns from the 30 matches thus far: lots of goals, lots of heavy pressing and -- in particular -- a seemingly high number of attacking contributions from attack-minded left-backs. Left-back was the weakest position in the Premier League last season. You really had to scramble around to find a player deserving of a place in the "Team of the Year,"...

Why ambitious Premier League managers are less likely to park the bus

Tue, 28 Aug 2018 03:07:00 GMT

The Premier League is currently blessed with an unusual level of tactical variety. In particular, last weekend's action featured two entirely different approaches from small sides hosting title challengers. In Saturday's lunchtime fixture, Wolverhampton Wanderers held Manchester City to a draw with an impressively bold performance. The following day, Newcastle were narrowly defeated by Chelsea, having parked the bus for the duration. Wolves played an open style of football and caused Manchester...

Liverpool must beat 'bottom 10' teams if they're to challenge for title

Fri, 24 Aug 2018 12:13:00 GMT

The FC guys are already seeing improvements in Liverpool's defence and ability to close out games following their victory over Crystal Palace. Footballers are increasingly judged according to their performance in big games, with memorable performances in semifinals and finals seemingly the main criteria for end-of-year awards. But such focus upon football's biggest matches obscures the fact that performance in smaller games has never been so crucial. In an era in which league champions can achieve 100 points, contenders can barely afford more than a single slip-up in a small game all season. Some clubs, strange as it might sound, suffer...

Premier League weekend featured goals of all shapes and sizes

Tue, 21 Aug 2018 07:53:00 GMT

The FC guys are already seeing improvements in Liverpool's defence and ability to close out games following their victory over Crystal Palace. The debate about football's greatest-ever goal has long been contested between an almost undisputed shortlist of three, all scored in international tournaments during the 1970s or 1980s. Notably, they are all completely different, essentially incomparable. Carlos Alberto rounded off a brilliant Brazilian team move against Italy in 1970, Argentina's Diego Maradona produced a mesmeric dribble through the England defence in 1986, and Marco van Basten struck a remarkable dipping volley for Netherlands...

Premier League helped by early deadline but were teams ready to play?

Tue, 14 Aug 2018 12:13:00 GMT

Former Premier League referee Peter Walton and Stewart Robson discuss the key decisions from the weekend. Former Premier League referee Peter Walton and Stewart Robson discuss the key decisions from the weekend. The 2018-19 Premier League season is well and truly underway and for once, that phrase feels appropriate. The English top-flight always commences in mid-August but, after a significant change to the structure of the transfer window, the new campaign will not feature the disastrous three-week period, in which clubs and media were focused more upon moves than matches. Now deadline day has already passed, the games themselves dominate. In years gone by, the first month has been compromised by numerous...

World Cup's best age-adjusted young stars: Mbappe, Jesus and more

Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:45:00 GMT

The Three Lions test their knowledge of Tunisia, fans share their predictions and mosquitoes take over Volgograd in episode seven of Project Russia. Ronaldo joins episode five of Project Russia to discuss Brazil's World Cup hopes and his ambitions for Neymar. Join ESPN in Russia, as we go on the lookout for one of the World Cup's biggest stars, Cristiano Ronaldo. For countries around the world, getting to the World Cup is half the battle. The same is true for their players. Even before ever suiting up for a match, being named to a 23-man World Cup roster is a remarkable accomplishment and a sign that you've arrived. For young players, it's also a great indicator of stardom to come. Take Ronaldo, for example. While Brazil was winning the World Cup in America during the summer of 1994, a 17-year-old Ronaldo was sitting on scorching-hot benches around the...

World Cup entertainment value could suffer from lack of pressing, diminished field

Tue, 29 May 2018 09:45:00 GMT

Twenty-five years ago, when quizzed about the differences between club football and international football, legendary Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi had one simple conclusion. "Football should always be played at the highest possible level," he declared, "and no club will ever reach the level as an international side." That was conventional wisdom back then: International tournaments were considered the pinnacle of football, with clubs playing something of a feeder role. In recent years, however,...

Liverpool fast start, Madrid late pressure can decide UCL final

Fri, 25 May 2018 01:00:00 GMT

As Real Madrid prepare for Kiev we go behind the scenes at the Bernabeu as Ronaldo grabs a lift to training, Zidane speaks about Liverpool and Kroos talks Klopp. As Liverpool head to Kiev, a look behind the scenes at Anfield as Salah meets Lampard, van Djik nutmegs Lovren and ESPN meets Wijnaldum. Saturday's Champions League final offers one of the most fascinating tactical clashes in recent memory: Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, with their astute, intensive, counter-pressing approach, meet the more laissez-faire style of Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid, who concentrate upon possession play. It has all the makings of a superb match. Here are four key questions waiting to be answered. 1. What formation will Zidane use? The most remarkable thing about Real Madrid's Champions League record under Zidane...

Carrick is one of Man United, England's most underrated players ever

Fri, 11 May 2018 07:52:00 GMT

Michael Carrick reflects on the evolution of Manchester United's rivalries with Manchester City and Liverpool during his time at Old Trafford. It's the summer of 2006, and Manchester United are in a crisis. This is not the usual football "crisis" -- which increasingly means little more than "they've lost their last two matches" -- but a genuine, wide-ranging, major question about how Manchester United are attempting to achieve success. Chelsea have won the last two Premier League titles. Arsenal have reached the Champions League final and are moving to a new home, while Liverpool have followed European Cup success with FA Cup success...

Man City's Premier League win: six keys to their stunning success

Thu, 10 May 2018 01:15:00 GMT

Manchester City's Premier League title success has been so inevitable, and has been achieved so comfortably, that their revolutionary style has almost been overlooked. Pep Guardiola's approach has been overwhelmingly technical, unashamedly possession-based and has featured positional nuances barely witnessed before in English football -- all of it combined with some "throwback" tactical principles borrowed from yesteryear. Here are six key features of City's recipe for success: 1. Possession...

Arsenal's opponents Atletico Madrid provide possible direction for Wenger-less future

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:57:00 GMT

It would be overly dramatic to suggest that 22 years and over 1,000 matches comes down to a two-legged Europa League tie, but Arsenal's performance over the next week against Atletico Madrid will play a significant role in shaping the mood at the Emirates upon Arsene Wenger's departure. Win, and Arsenal will start the Europa League final as favourites, with an opportunity to claim Wenger's first-ever European trophy and reclaim their position in the Champions League for next season. Lose, and...

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