Tactics & Analysis

With Rooney gone, time for England to focus on collective group, not one star

Fri, 9 Jun 2017 09:18:00 PDT

The FC guys break down what to expect when Scotland and England's historic rivalry is renewed in their World Cup Qualifier. England striker Harry Kane believes the rivalry between England and Scotland is still alive and has drawn comparisons with playing in a London derby. Former England defender Sol Campbell is keen to see an evolution of England's players with Gareth Southgate in charge. England's Marcus Rashford insists he is always learning from Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United. Here are two quick questions. First, who was Spain's key player for their World Cup success in 2010? Second, who was Germany's key player for their World Cup success in 2014? There is, of course, no right answer to either question. For Spain you could name Xavi Hernandez for orchestrating the midfield play, Andres Iniesta for his mesmeric attacking midfield play or David Villa for his goal return. Similarly, for Germany you could pinpoint Manuel Neuer's sweeper-keeping, Philipp Lahm's...

To rebuild Man Utd's attack, Mourinho must focus on ability, not position

Tue, 6 Jun 2017 03:21:00 PDT

With Sir Alex Ferguson's comments on entertaining football, the FC crew analyse if it's a not so subtle dig at Jose Mourinho. The FC crew debate whether the time is right for Antoine Griezmann to leave Atletico Madrid for Manchester United. The guys answer your tweets on Marquinhos moving on, Prem clubs struggling in the UCL, and who Man United needs to buy. It's funny how quickly things change in football. One moment Antoine Griezmann was specifically rating his chances of joining Manchester United, the next the transfer seemed off entirely, thanks to the upholding of a transfer ban that means Atletico Madrid wouldn't be able to sign a replacement for their best player. United quickly reacted by briefing that they were instead looking for a No. 9, rather than a deeper or wider forward like Griezmann. Beyond that sounding suspiciously like sour grapes...

Real Madrid press Juventus in second half to seal Champions League title

Mon, 5 Jun 2017 02:58:00 PDT

Juventus defender Dani Alves believes his side gave the ball away too much in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. Real Madrid ripped Juventus to shreds with a scintillating second-half display to win their 12th European Cup in Cardiff on Saturday night. The Italians had largely managed to repel the Spanish champions in the first period, thanks to Massimiliano Allegri's 4-4-2 shape. Their only weak spot seemed to be right-back Andrea Barzagli, who got targeted by Karim Benzema and Isco. That did not prevent Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring the opener, but Juve responded by equalising with an attack down the left,...

UCL final key battles include Ronaldo vs. Barzagli, Marcelo vs. Dani Alves

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 01:05:00 PDT

Gab Marcotti and Stewart Robson run through their individual battles to watch when Juventus and Real Madrid clash. Saturday night's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus has the makings of a true classic: two league champions, two excellent sides playing a very different brand of football and plenty of fascinating individual battles. Here are four that may have a significant bearing upon the destination of the European Cup. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL: REAL MADRID 4-1 JUVENTUS - Report | Ronaldo hits 600th career goal | Bale's joy - Marcotti: Real show their greatness | History made in Cardiff - WATCH: Ronaldo's brace (U.S.) | UCL sights & sounds (U.S.) - Play of the Day: Mandzukic's golazo | WATCH: Ronaldo heroic - Ogden: Ronaldo comes full circle | Jones: Buffon's woe - WATCH: Ramos' son fits in the cup | Real lift the trophy - Buffon: It all went wrong | Ratings: Real Madrid Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Andrea Barzagli Even by his standards, Cristiano Ronaldo's form throughout this season's Champions League knockout stages has been incredible....

How Ruud Gullit's 'libero' role at Chelsea rocked the Premier League

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 08:51:00 PDT

Ruud Gullit, right, changed the way English football looked at defenders and their skill sets. In his new book, "The Mixer," Michael Cox looks at the tactical evolution of the Premier League and how the game has developed over the last quarter century. Here, he details Ruud Gullit's sensational arrival in English football. English football was changed significantly in the mid-1990s, courtesy of the arrival of top-class foreign players who demonstrated the value of different roles, positions and styles, and encouraged managers to think outside the box -- and outside boxy 4-4-2 formations. A...

Can Mandzukic become the latest out-of-position Champions League winner?

Tue, 30 May 2017 01:48:00 PDT

Max Allegri says Juventus will save their energy in training and channel it for the Champions League final. Leonardo Bonucci believes Juventus will use their defeat to Barcelona in the 2015 UEFA Champions League final as motivation to be Real Madrid. The FC crew evaluate where both Juventus and Real Madrid stand entering the UEFA Champions League final. One of Juventus' key performers en route to this weekend's Champions League final against Real Madrid has been Mario Mandzukic, who has performed a magnificent job in a hugely unfamiliar left-wing role, having been accustomed to playing as a centre-forward over the course of his career. But a player being deployed out of position for a European Cup-winning side is nothing new. Here are five examples of players, who sacrificed their game for the good of the team on the biggest stage. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL: REAL MADRID 4-1 JUVENTUS - Report | Ronaldo hits 600th career goal | Bale's joy - Marcotti: Real show their greatness | History made in Cardiff - WATCH: Ronaldo's brace (U.S.) | UCL sights & sounds (U.S.) - Play of the Day: Mandzukic's golazo | WATCH: Ronaldo heroic - Ogden: Ronaldo comes full circle | Jones: Buffon's woe - WATCH: Ramos' son fits in the cup | Real lift the trophy - Buffon: It all went wrong | Ratings: Real Madrid David Beckham:...

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

Fri, 26 May 2017 07:28:00 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 of 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

Tue, 23 May 2017 10:21:00 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

Mon, 22 May 2017 02:53:00 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

Fri, 19 May 2017 02:10:00 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

Mon, 15 May 2017 02:26:00 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

Tue, 9 May 2017 12:33:00 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

Mon, 8 May 2017 02:33:00 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

Tue, 2 May 2017 02:06:00 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

Mon, 1 May 2017 02:24:00 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

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 02:05:00 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?

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 12:00:00 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

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 02:40:00 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

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 01:02:00 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

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 03:57:00 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...

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