Plenty of football stadiums have statues standing outside of them. There’s a strange one here and there (Michael Jackson formerly outside Craven Cottage springs to mind, looking like a cheap toy from a Happy Meal) but most are what you would expect: legendary managers, team captains, record goalscorers. One statue that may strike you as unexpected can be found outside the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Croatia, home to Dinamo Zagreb. It depicts neither player nor manager, but rather three soldiers. The inscription reads: “to the fans of the club, who started the war with Serbia at this ground on May 13th, 1990”. It is a reference to the events of a football match in which the game took a back seat and Zvonimir Boban took centre stage – with a kick that started a war.
Whilst the traditional 4-4-2 formation has become less common in recent years, the diamond variation is alive and well. The differences between the two formations may appear to be small, but actually have a number of wide-ranging consequences which mean the two styles of playing are much further apart than would first seem. The diamond formation has a large number of strengths, most of which do not exist in the ‘classic’ formation. That said, in football, there is always a trade-off; no formation is perfect, and the diamond is no exception. In this article, we’ll look at the upsides to playing a diamond as well as the problems which are often encountered by teams who set up in this fashion.
There was a moment after Bayern Munich’s 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga at the Allianz Arena, when Pep Guardiola trudged off with his head down towards the exit and his name was called out. He looked up surprised, and realised the caller was Andre Schubert (Monchengladbach’s manager). Guardiola looked genuinely abashed as he rectified his mistake and exchanged his pleasantries. For a moment he looked utterly human, a man who looked genuinely engrossed in his own thoughts. It reminded me of a moment, 7 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of Iniesta’s stoppage time strike against Chelsea at the Bridge. This goal is often considered to the watershed moment in the European football landscape over the last decade. Right after the goal, everyone on the Barcelona bench sprinted towards the corner flag. The celebrations were frantic for a minute. As the staff and substitutes ran back to the dugout, Sylvinho came charging towards Guardiola. We can only speculate as to the words said, but Guardiola looks utterly bewildered as Sylvinho speaks and just nods, wild-eyed. A moment later, Sylvinho is stripped and ready. These were two moments from Pep Guardiola’s supernatural coaching career which were amusing. But these were also moments, when he looked what the footballing fraternity has increasingly suspected him to be over the past couple of year…not in control of his destiny.
This story is not the same as other stories about the world’s greatest teams. This team was only in existence for a few years. They did not play for, or win, any trophies. Their matches were unofficial, unrecognised by FIFA. You will not find their replica shirts on sale in retro shops, or compilations of their best moments on YouTube. They were a different kind of great team, and this is a different kind of story. The starting point for this story is not football. The starting point is war.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side last year overperformed by just about everybody’s standards. After the team finished 5th in Pochettino’s first season in the 2014-15 campaign, there were not many improvements made to the squad. In 2015-16, however, Tottenham Hotspur shocked just about everyone. How did they do it? With a pressing system unique to Pochettino that simply outworked and outsmarted the rest of the competition.
“He (Rooney) understood the reasons completely,” Sir Alex Ferguson said. “Tactically we got it right. We don’t always, but we did then. He understood the reasons for not playing him and that was completely tactical. And I think I was right. Danny Welbeck is the best player we have in terms of operating in a double role.”
Klopp’s heavy-metal football involves his side energetically closing down the opposition, in a very structured way. Liverpool aim to win possession high up the pitch, and go straight into attack, capitalising as the opposition transitions into defence. The central-midfielders in a 4-3-3 join the attack to make a 5 man press, hurrying the opposition into blind alleys where they can win the ball quickly, and launch an attack. For Liverpool, the press is used to create chances, but is not always a viable option. In 2014/15, Klopp’s Dortmund struggled as teams allowed Dortmund to keep possession and sat deep, taking away their chance to attack during transition, and Liverpool have already struggled this season against Burnley, who used the same method.
It was a glum group of players and supporters who filed out of Matlock Town’s Causeway Lane ground in 1982. Hyde United had lost 5-2 in the FA Trophy and it was going to be a long journey home through the Peak District night.
The damage had been done by the quicksilver Bob Mountain. The former Huddersfield Town striker was lethal that season, claiming 39 goals to finish as the Northern Premier League’s top scorer. He bagged another hatful in the cups — three of which came against Hyde that November afternoon.
After many years of threatening to clamp down on excessive grappling from set-pieces, this season has seen Premier League referees penalise holding and shirt-pulling more than ever before. This has coincided with an increase in the number of set-piece goals (0.65 per game) and led to marking from corners coming under increased scrutiny. Unfortunately, it has also brought out one of the worst traits in British football punditry; the inherent distrust of zonal marking.
One of the main tram routes in Prague is the 22. This goes all the way from Bíla Hora, the site of one of central Europe’s most famous battles, to Hostivař. For a long time, this wasn’t a route I had any great familiarity with but since moving to Vršovice in Prague 10,it’s one that I take daily. Going from my starting point at Krymská and heading just a few stops to Vršovické Námĕstí, when I step off the tram I can see floodlights just down the hill. These lights poking up into an otherwise fairly unremarkable horizon in this part of the city, spring from the ground of Ďolíček – the dimple in English – home of Bohemians Prague 1905.