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    Man United’s predicted lineup against Crystal Palace- Ole to choose to pass over pace

    Manchester United face Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday in the English Premier League. United can’t afford to drop more points so early in the season after their disappointing draw against Wolves. Although at times, United dominated Wolves and should have won the game with Pogba missing a penalty, there were moments in the game when Wolves were clearly dominating possession and threatening United’s backline. Crystal Palace will certainly adopt a similar approach to Wolves as they will look to sit back and defend in a low block and hope to score on the counter.

    Against sides which defend deep, United’s pace upfront will be negated as their forwards will not find any space to run into. So Solskjaer might opt for some minor changes to the team lineup and also some minor tactical tweaks.

    Manchester United Predicted Starting Lineup against Crystal Palace

    Juan Mata vs Jesse Lingard

    It is clear that Solskjaer prefers to have pacy players who work hard, up front and Lingard suits that role perfectly. But his performances in the first two games have been mediocre and he has drifted in and out of games contributing barely to United’s attacks. Mata on the other hand is a much slower player who will not be expected to contribute much defensively but against a side like Palace, it makes perfect sense to play the Spaniard as United’s number 10. Mata has declined considerably since his days at Chelsea but he still is one of the few players in United’s squad who has the eye for a defence splitting pass.

    Pogba’s Role

    Paul Pogba has played a much deeper role than usual in his first two games for United this season. Although he still tries to do too much at times and gives away possession, his passing range has been effective for United’s counter attacks. Expect him to step forward much more against Palace with McTominay sitting in front of the defence.

    Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s attacking runs

    Wan-Bissaka has had an excellent start to his United career with two reliable performances against Chelsea and Wolves. But one aspect of his game he needs to improve is his supporting runs forward and his delivery into the box. If Daniel James plays ahead of him, opposing teams will sit back to counter James’ pace and Wan-Bissaka will have a of space and time ahead of him. He needs to contribute more to United’s attacks as fullbacks have become one of the most important attacking outlets in the modern game.

    How will Coutinho fit in at Bayern? A look at Niko Kovac’s 4-3-3 formation

    niko kovac formation bayern munich

    Bayern Munich has signed Philippe Coutinho in a loan deal from Barcelona for an €8.5 million fee for the duration of the loan. The deal does include an option to buy, but Barca’s inability to sell the Brazilian midfielder outright clearly shows how far his reputation as a premier player has fallen. Coutinho is one of the many players in the modern game who need specific systems and style of play to thrive, just like Mesut Ozil, Isco and many others. At Liverpool under Klopp, the Brazilian was at the top of his game. His best performances came when he was played on the left as part of the front three. Although, Valverde did try playing him on the left at Barca, Coutinho’s role was not the same.

    Coutinho struggled initially when he was played as part of the midfield three in a 4-3-3 formation and was eventually pushed out of the team by Arthur. Coutinho perhaps could have thrived in a midfield three when Barcelona had heavy midfield domination during the days of Xavi, Iniesta and a younger Busquets. But Barca’s traditional midfield domination had considerably declined under the likes of Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde and Coutinho struggled in the center when he was starved of the ball. He was later tried as left sided attacker as part of the front three, which on paper was Coutinho’s best position. But he struggled to replicate his Liverpool performances as a combination of poor form and the need to shoe-horn Barcelona’s other big signing Ousmane Dembele into the team left him on the bench more often than not. Also the fact that Barcelona had better finishers than him occupying the central areas in Messi and Suarez gave less options for Coutinho to pull of his usual cutting in from the left and going for goal move.

    Niko Kovac’s formation at Bayern Munich

    Playing as a left forward in a traditional 4-3-3 with the right winger providing the width and Lewandowski primarily occupying the center halves will possibly give Coutinho the ideal platform to get back to his best at Bayern Munich. Also, if Kovac wants to play both Coman and Gnabry, he could very well switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Coutinho as the number 10.

    niko kovac formation bayern munich

    Niko Kovac’s possible 4-3-3 formation at Bayern Munich with Coutinho

    Although Dortmund have done some excellent business in the summer and have started the season strongly, Bayern have the resources even without Coutinho to win the Bundesliga. But the Champions League is where Bayern fans will expect to see an improvement and that’s where Kovac has his work cut out. In the knockout stages, against a strong opposition, Coutinho will be a liability. A 4-2-3-1 formation with him as the number 10 might not work as well with number 10s expected to work hard defensively against the opposing deep lying playmakers. A counter-attacking 4-3-3 is best suited for Coutinho, but only time will tell whether Kovac can drill Bayern and Coutinho to be able to sit deep and break with speed.

    Jose Mourinho explains how he beat Pep’s Barcelona 3-1 with Inter [Video]

    Jose Mourinho’s post match tactical analysis of Man United 4:0 Chelsea [Video]

    Manchester City and the art of tactical fouling

    tactical fouling

    Manchester City beat West Ham United 5-0 in their first game of the new season as the champions showed no signs of letting their grip on the Premier League title loose. But a familiar accusation against Guardiola’s side came up once again as West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini accused them of tactical fouling. Pellegrini said,“Every time we tried to arrive in their box they committed fouls. We were innocent in that regard, if you review the game that is why we didn’t create too many chances in the first half. All our offensive moments of attacking ended in a foul. You can look at the statistics. They committed 13 fouls, we committed five. But that wasn’t the reason why we lost.”

    What is tactical fouling?

    Tactical fouling is generally referred to the act of cynically fouling(no attempt to get the ball) an opposition player, generally in the midfield zone in order to prevent counter-attacks. Teams like Manchester City who like to dominate the ball and overload the final third with a lot of players employ tactical fouling in order for their defensive players to get back into shape before the opposition can attack them.

    tactical fouling
    Fouls committed in the West Ham vs Man City Game (Source: whoscored.com)

    It is clear that City’s fouls are more in West Ham’s half where as West Ham’s 5 fouls are all over the place. It’s really hard to point out the teams which consistently use tactical fouling from the data because teams like City tend to dominate possession thereby on average commit less number of fouls than usual.

    How do we stop tactical fouling?

    Because tactical fouling is generally utilized by the stronger team, the laws of the game have to be changed in order to make the game more equal. If a team like City commit more players in their final third, they will have a higher chance to score more goals but at the same time they are negating the risk of leaving themselves exposed to counter-attacks via tactical fouling. Generally, referees do give out yellow cards for cynical fouls where the player committing the foul has absolutely no intention to get the ball. But even yellow cards are not an adequate punishment as the attacking team looses the positional superiority they had gained earlier.

    How will Liverpool lineup in 2019/20 season

    liverpool vs burnley prediction

    Jurgen Klopp will be looking to build on last year’s bitter disappointment and win the Premier League title which his club craves for desperately. Liverpool have not made a significant signing but their manager has made it clear that he expects Lallana and Chamberlain, both of whom suffered severe injuries last year, to  add a spark this year.

    Overview 

    It is fair to say that Liverpool will suffer the most as a result of the international commitment of their stars. Most notably, their fearsome frontline will not be fully sharp by the time the season starts. Brewster and Origi are the only recognized strikers available and the onus will be on them the lead the lines till Mane and co return. The rest of the squad is pretty much the same and any success this year will require their best performers from last year to produce the same level of football which brought them success last year.

    Liverpool expected formation

    Klopp has rotated players during their pre-season tour and they are yet to win a game. Origi has played as the number in most of the matches and that is how they are likely to start their season. Klopp might be forced to rush his stars back but that will have consequences as the season goes on. Trent Alexander seems to have more of a voice on the field and has been the designated set piece taker on their tour. Once he has his full complement of players, Klopp will employ his usual 4-3-3 cum 4-2-3-1 variation with the same intensity and defensive solidity. And of course, Klopp’s preferred front three would be Mane, Firmino and Salah once they return to full fitness. Origi has limited time to make a claim for the striker spot before Firmino returns. Despite his Champions League heroics last season, it’s hard to see becoming a regular starter.

    Players

    Sadio Mane last time out had a very strong season and became an important part of the Liverpool attack. His speed and direct play makes him a nightmare for defenders. Salah and Firminho had a quiet year for their own high standards and will hope to improve once again. Van Dijk’s importance cannot be overemphasized but the problem will be to find a center back partner who can stay fit and consistent through the season. Trent and Robertson provide the basis for Liverpool’s style of play and the club doing well will depend on them. Liverpool’s central midfield did lack creativity and flair at times and Klopp will expect players like The Ox and Naby Keita to step up this season.

    How will Manchester City lineup in the 2019/20 season

    Pep Guardiola will be looking to repeat on last year’s success and win the Premier League title for a third straight year. The Manchester City board fully trust him and have given him the funds to strengthen. So far, Rodri has been the most significant addition to an already strong squad but the manager hopes to add at least one more signing. 

    Overview 

    City have perhaps the strongest squad in the Premier League. Fernandinho’s age and injuries will have a considerable impact on the number of games he’ll play this year but Rodri should ease into that role with minimum fuss. Perhaps the biggest problem they will have will be at the back. Club legend Vincent Kompany departed at the end of last season. Though he was reduced to a bit part role last year, his influence was the reason why City had such a strong title run in. It will be interesting to see who steps up to fill his void in defense.

    Manchester City Formation

    Manchester City formation

    City will start their title defense without Sergio Aguero. The Argentine’s season ended in July due to the Copa America. It’s the same story for fellow striker Gabriel Jesus who won the tournament with his native Brazil. So far in pre-season, Pep has improvised and now fields Raheem Sterling down the middle in his conventional 4-3-3 formation as a false 9. Sterling has responded well and has thrived in his new role. He drifts in and out of the between the defensive block and the midfield block. His movements allow the two most advanced central midfielders in the system to push up into the pockets of space in between the lines and wreak havoc. Sterling also goes wide and allows his wingers to come infield. 

    This new approach will no doubt be very effective since most defenders prefer a striker the can pin against in a physical battle. A false 9, as Sterling is in this case will give them lots to think about.

    Players

    Last season Bernardo Silva burst into life and made sure the absence of De Bruyne was not felt. The Belgian playmaker has a point to prove after an injury ravaged season. David Silva will also want to leave on a good note so expect a great season from ‘Merlin’. Phil Foden will have more opportunities this year to stake his claim as a first team player in a very competitive squad.

    If John Stones rises to the occasion, the absence of Kompany will not be felt keenly but if there is a weak point other teams can exploit, it would be City’s defenders. City are clear favourites to win the title but they are over reliant on a few key players like Sterling and Fernandinho to stay fit for the majority of the season. 

    Zola To Leave Chelsea This Weekend As Kovacic Returns

    Italian football legend, Gianfranco Zola is set to leave Chelsea this weekend following the expiry of his contract with the blues. Zola served as the assistant manager under Maurizio Sarri, who replaced Massimiliano Allegri in Juventus.

    After turning down an ambassadorial position at Stamford Bridge, Zola will be leaving the blues on Sunday when his contract expires. Zola played for Chelsea from 1996 to 2003 and served under Sarri last season as the team returned to the Champions League. The club finished the season at third-place in the premier league and took the Europa League title.

    With both Sarri and Zola away from the team, Frank Lampard is set to take over the lead with his staff. Lampard has been endorsed by young stars in the team like Tammy Abraham, as well as Chelsea fans who like to wager at Betway Uganda through https://www.betway.ug/. The 41-year-old legend has declared to ensure that young players in the club breakthrough.

    Zola rejected the ambassadorial position at Chelsea to pursue a career in management. According to Fulvio Marrucco, Zola’s lawyer and longtime agent, Gianfranco is ready to take his career to the next level after a season of fantastic results and hard work alongside Sarri.

    The Italian is open to remaining in England, not only because he’s highly accommodative but also his experience. Zola has managed Birmingham and Watford in the Championship and also Premier League club, West Ham. The coach has shown what he can do in both Watford and West Ham, though it didn’t work out at Birmingham. Nonetheless, the 52-year old is keen on developing young English talent, most likely with the assistance of a technical director.

    Zola’s departure comes as Chelsea has completed signing Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic, beating Fifa’s transfer ban by 72 hours. Kovacic has been permanently signed on Stamford Bridge for £40million, after spending last season in the club on loan. As such, Chelsea was allowed to sign the Croatian player despite their transfer ban.

    Chelsea received a two-window transfer ban by FIFA starting this summer following lengthy investigations on how they’ve signed players in their academy in the last few years. The club denied all wrongdoings and has appealed against the move, though the ban is yet to be frozen.

    Earlier in January, Chelsea signed Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic but loaned him to the Bundesliga club. However, the USA midfielder is set to return to Stamford Bridge this summer and Kovacic is ready to play as Chelsea’s second purchase. It’s also likely that Kovacic will Chelsea’s last purchase ahead of the new season as they prepare to sign a new contract with English forward James Hudson-Odoi.

    Last season, Kovacic featured in 51 games for Chelsea, though he didn’t manage to score any goals. He joined the Spanish side (Real Madrid) in 2015 following his two years with Internazionale but failed to secure a regular starting spot at Bernabéu. Nonetheless, he’s expected to prove his worth next season as Eden Hazard leaves the blues to join Real Madrid on an £88.5 million deal that could reach to £130 million.

     

    A look at Gian Piero Gasperini’s tactics at Atalanta

    After almost 3 years with Gian Piero Gasperini at the helm of Atalanta, they finished 3rd in the Serie A this season, securing European football yet again for the third year running but this time in the Champions League, for the first time in Atalanta’s 111 year history. Since Gasperini has taken over the Bergamo side, they have entertained fans playing some of the most entertaining and tactically innovative football in Europe with their swift passing, energetic pressing and a large number of academy players promoted to the first team by Gasperini. This article will touch on Atalanta’s recent transfer business and the current squad as well as highlighting a number of key characteristics of Gasperini’s Atalanta, their strengths and weaknesses and where the club could potentially go moving forward.

    Atalanta spent big by their standards this summer, breaking their record transfer fee for the second year running with the arrival of 27-year-old Duvan Zapata on a two-year loan with an option to buy from Sampdoria for €12.60 million. Now in April and with 26 goals to his name in all competitions, the €12.60 million spent on the Columbian now looks like a bargain and with West Ham being linked to the forward in January to the tune of €40 million, it looks like Atalanta could turn over a tidy profit on him if they wished. Bryan Cristante was brought in for €5 million following a successful loan spell the previous year however Atalanta, thanks to the ingenious Giovanni Sartori, yet again conducted smart business, loaning the midfielder to Roma for an initial €5 million and later selling him permanently making a €21 million profit off of him. Youngsters Davide Bettella, Marco Tumminello and Marco Carraro made up the rest of Atalanta’s significant arrivals in the summer. Departures were pretty quiet for the club selling 2 and loaning one to SPAL however the eventual departures of Bryan Cristante and Frank Kessie will bring in a very handsome €45 million in the summer.

    With all the summer dealings wrapped up, Gasperini had a squad of around 30 men to see him through the 18/19 campaign. The squad does seem slightly unbalanced with only 6 midfielders and 6 attackers and an ageing front line to rebuild in the upcoming transfer window, however, Gasperini had a plethora of defensive options to choose from which suits his 3-4-3 formation that he is wedded to. Gasperini does sometimes use a 3-4-2-1 formation or a 3-4-1-2 formation depending on the circumstances and opposition, however, by in large it would be fair to say he favours a 3-4-3. The front 3 are relied on heavily by Gasperini who’s high press is very physically demanding and there is a lack of quality depth behind that front 3 that perhaps is worrying. Musa Barrow is an extremely exciting prospect however behind Gomez and Pasalic there is only really youngster Piccoli and veteran Ilicic so Atalanta have some rebuilding to do in the summer.

    Chance creation from midfield and combinations

    Atalanta’s diminutive number 10, Alejandro Gomez, is known for his quick feet and ability to find space on the edge of the box and get his shot off. To create high-quality chances, Atalanta often rely on him to drift in centrally and combine with one of the midfielders in an advanced position. Their combinations rely on Atalanta overloading the opposition centrally with their attacking midfielders, striker and advanced midfielder all within very close proximity of each other in and around the box. The combination of dangerous combination play centrally and the threat from wide areas make Atalanta a tough team to defend against since they can hurt you in different ways. They’ve also scored 10 goals from set-pieces this season, which makes up for 15% of their goals, a small decrease from last season where their 14 set piece goals made up 25% of their goals. However, it’s fair to say Gasperini has made them a threat from all angles.

    Similarly, Atalanta create a number of chances from combination play between the front-three and/or an onrushing midfielder making a run from deep into the box. Unlike the previous method of chance creation I explained that relies on 3 central players all being very close to each other and moving in and around the box, this method relies more on the striker holding the ball up and playing a through ball into the path of a player making a run into the box. Players like Alejandro Gomez, Josip Ilicic and Mario Pasalic are key to this method with their creativity and passing quality. Duvan Zapata is often used as a target man up front and tries to link up play with the players around him, often trying to bring Remo Freuler and Marten de Roon into play from their deep midfield runs. Freuler has five to his name this season and his partner in midfield Marten De Roon has three and they play an important role in joining the attack with these types of deep runs. Last season it was Cristante who’s brilliantly timed runs into the box and partnership with Alejandro Gomez caused defences havoc, and despite not scoring as many as the Italian last season, it is Remo Freuler who has taken up that role of supporting the attack with his deep runs from midfield.

    Use of wing-backs and positional exchanges

    Atalanta are known for their formidable attack, sitting behind only Juventus by one goal in goals scored in Serie A this season with 66 and this is largely due to their excellent use of the wide areas to create chances. Only 24% of their attack occurs in the middle of the pitch, the third lowest in the league which shows Gasperini clearly wants his side to utilise the wings more. Atalanta’s wing-backs are instructed to stay as wide as possible at all times in order to find space behind the oppositions defensive line and deliver low crosses into the box or cut back. To allow the wing-backs as much space as possible out wide when attacking, Atalanta often pass to their number 10 in the half space to draw the opposition’s full-back. This allows Atalanta’s wing-back’s space and time to get in behind the oppositions defence before the number 10 releases the ball out wide. Interestingly, Atalanta almost exclusively cross the ball low or cut inside. High crosses are rarely seen due to the difficulty of finishing them, especially when one of your front 3 is 5’4. Because of Atalanta’s formidable attack, it would make sense for football bettors to place bets on Atalanta’s games being high scoring on betting sites like Betway.

    Atalanta don’t always use this method however, sometimes using positional exchanges to advance the ball and isolate Gomez and Ilicic in the half-space just outside the box where we all know they are most lethal. The positional exchanges usually take up a rhombus shape and begin with one of either the left or right centre-backs carrying the ball forward to the wing-back position before releasing the ball to the wing back who takes up a more advanced position on the wing. The number 10 then drops deep into midfield to cover for the midfielder who would drop back into central defence to cover for the central defender who’s roamed out wide. These rhombus-like positional exchanges prove to be extremely effective in advancing the ball but also allowing Gomez and Ilicic space just outside the box as I mentioned earlier. Ilicic ranks 3rd in Serie A for dribbles completed per 90 and Gomez 6th and can be extremely dangerous from that area of the pitch in 1on1 situations. Gomez, in particular, can shoot and pass with either foot, making him a nightmare for defenders. Another reason the exchanges are so effective is that if the defenders closely mark Gomez and Ilicic, the centre-back and the wing-back can create overloads on the flank. Moreover, the rhomboid positioning of the players maximizes the passing lanes between them. The cleverest thing about these positional exchanges, however, is that they can happen anywhere. Due to the 3-4-3 formation, the players can find rhomboid shapes all over the pitch and any player can initiate the move. A winger can run to the byline while the midfielder can move into the half-space outside the box. Any combination is possible. This freedom in positional interchanges increases the unpredictability of the tactics or in general, the attacking patterns exhibited by Atalanta and is one of their biggest strengths.

    High pressure at a cost

    Atalanta are just as well known for their attack as they are for their aggressive and highly demanding pressing. Gasperini employs a man-orientated zonal defence, trying to enter the offensive phase immediately and create transitions as quickly as possible. In the defensive phase, the wingers press from the outside, using the cover shadows to block off any passing lanes to the flanks, and instead forcing the opposition into trying to play through the middle of the pitch where the Atalanta midfield can condense and create a high-pressure area with little room for the opposition to manoeuvre. This comes at a cost however as due to Atalanta’s extremely man-orientated zonal marking; defensive shape often flies out the window. Closely following men leaves a lot of gaps in their defence and players often get confused when and where they should exchange marking-duties leaving gaps in the defence. Immediate and constant pressure is required for Gasperini’s system to work effectively and when it does work it’s extremely hard to play against, however, for a club like Atalanta with a limited amount of resources and lack of quality depth, it is too difficult to maintain throughout the season. If the players are not in peak physical and mental state, the whole defensive strategy collapses. Player rotation and depth become critical when they participate in multiple competitions and this is something Atalanta struggle with. Atalanta’s defence is intimidating and extremely effective when working well but risky and can come at a cost. Betting on Atalanta will be a torturous affair as predicting how their defence will play is a tough job but for the best odds on Atalanta, check out Betway88 Thai.

    Possession      

    Atalanta like to play out from the back, playing with short, swift passing. Remo Freuler often drops deep into the vacant wing-back position in an attempt to progress the ball from deep and this proves to be very effective. Freuler ranked 5th in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season for deep progressions per 90 and despite dropping off somewhat this season still ranks a respectable 12th, averaging 10.3 deep progressions per 90. Ilicic and Gomez usually stay in each half space and play short passes when receiving the ball always looking to go forward and attack. Gasperini’s possession philosophy appears to be entirely based around getting the ball forward as quickly as possible in a controlled fashion. Atalanta are sometimes forced to play long when under pressure but by in large prefer to play out of the back when possible. They usually have a plan when being forced to play long, and hit a certain area, usually, the right half-space, in which their physically more dominant forward operates so he goes for the challenge to win the ball and the players close to him can concentrate on going for the 2nd ball. Gasperini tends to set up in a 3-4-2-1 shape in possession and therefore always maintain width through their wing-backs as well as having four players at different heights in central midfield. This box midfield creates further problems for the opposition as the midfielders will have two Atalanta players in front of them as well as two behind them.

    What next for Atalanta?

    Gasperini’s target this season was to guide Atalanta to Champions League football for next season and he’s delivered that in brilliant fashion. It was a tricky run-in to finishing 3rd in Serie A this year, with Gasperini’s men remaining fully focused as they played Juventus and Lazio away from home, as well as the Coppa Italia final against Lazio in mid-May. As mentioned earlier, Atalanta do have limited resources to work with and an ageing front line with poor depth behind them to try and rebuild, however with Atalanta securing that 3rd place, there will be significantly more resources available for Gasperini to rebuild his side for next campaign. As well as this, Atalanta’s famed academy will continue to churn out very promising young Italian players that Gasperini can mould into his side and who can keep up with his physically demanding style of play. Next season will be Atalanta’s biggest yet in their 112-year history after booking a place in the Champions League and we can expect great things from Gasperini and his Atalanta side.

     

    Mason Mount: Chelsea’s Golden Boy

    mason mount

    When Frank Lampard was appointed, Derby County fans everywhere collectively held their breath in the hope of whom his widely spoken about “contacts” might bring in, but I’m not sure even they expected someone with the quality that Mason Mount has brought in this season.

    His composure, agility, and passing ability are just three of his great attributes that have brought Derby fans to their feet this season.At the tender age of 20, he has not looked perturbed during any of his 44 appearances, using his ability to bring 11 goals and 4 assists.

    Most of those appearances came from the middle of the park, playing in a 4-3-3 formation usually alongside Tom Huddlestone and one of either Bradley Johnson or Craig Bryson; all 3 of them are used due to their hold up play which has been vital for Mount.

    This hold up play has allowed Mount to shine in attacking phases of the game, as the tactic in midfield has seemingly been to ensure the other two midfielders keep the ball for as long as it takes for Mount to make a run, they then make the pass and wait for something special. Throughout the season, this “something special” has come in the forms of a brilliant through ball, a clever flick past a defender or even something slightly less direct such as encouraging a foul from the opponent which allows either Mount or Harry Wilson to step up to the free kick, and we’ve all seen how that can end.

    However, there are still important questions to consider. Will he return to Derby on loan next season? Will he stay at Chelsea? If he stays at Chelsea, will he play regularly?

    For me, there’s no question that Mount returns to Chelsea for the upcoming season. Not only because of his performances in the Championship, but the impending transfer ban that I expect to cause a mass exodus of Chelsea loan players from their current clubs.

    Will he play for the Blues regularly though? This one is slightly more difficult to answer. I think he can play a similar role within that current Chelsea squad as Ruben Loftus-Cheek currently does, and because of his current injury, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mount displace him as the fringe/bench player that starts some of the less important games or when another midfielder isn’t available.

    Both Derby and Chelsea have played a similar formation this past season, both mostly sticking with a 4-3-3; although their systems have been slightly different. Yet, I feel as though Mount could do well in a Maurizio Sarri system – If he plays in the middle of a 4-3-3, with Jorginho in the holding midfield role rather than Tom Huddlestone and Kante alongside him instead of Craig Bryson or Bradley Johnson, it will allow Mount an increased level of freedom of making penetrating forward runs and playing the killer balls to the front three players that he’s become famed for this past season.

    His statistics compared with other centre midfield players at Derby this season do tell a tale. The player with the most appearances in that position after Mount is Bradley Johnson, with 34, who has also had a great season compared with his previous seasons at Derby. Throughout the season, Mount has had a better pass completion rate (76.6% compared with 75.6%) and more assists (6 compared with 5).

    You could put this down to a different role in the game, as Johnson is definitely more of a defensive player than Mount – But Mount even trumps him in this regard, with more passes blocked per game (0.8 compared with 0.5) and more attempted tackles (2.5 compared with 2.4). Mount has been the workhorse of the Derby midfield this season, and without a doubt was up there with Harry Wilson and Fikayo Tomori as the most important players for them.

    His quality hasn’t gone amiss on some of the big managers either. Gareth Southgate called him up to the senior England squad in October 2018, after witnessing his shining performance against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.

    “Mount stepped up and scored a penalty at Old Trafford, he took it like he had been there all his life” – Gareth Southgate

    Representatives of Chelsea will have no doubt also been meticulous in their monitoring of Mount over the previous season, but there is still this overarching feeling of doubt from fans of both them and Derby over whether he will get his chance in the first team when he returns. Chelsea don’t exactly have the best record for developing their youth players into future legends of the club, with many seeing their youth academy as a business in itself – 41 players were out on loan from Chelsea in the 18/19 season.

    There are a few glimmers of hope for his chances, however. The two-window transfer ban limits the Blues’ ability to do what has been typical of them in the Abramovich era and just throwing money at any squad issues in January. Ruben Loftus-Cheek fully rupturing his achilles, leaving him out of contention for a rumoured period of up to a year has given these hopes a boost, and a fellow midfielder in the form of Cesc Fabregas leaving the club can only strengthen Mount’s chances of having a role to play in this squad.

    I’ve personally been extremely impressed with Mason this season, and as a Derby fan myself, the impact he has had and the quality that he’s brought to the squad has certainly not been lost on me. I’d love to keep him for another season, but with plenty of Premier League suitors even if Chelsea didn’t want to keep him tells me that there’s no chance of that happening.

    Summary

    I think he’s a spectacular talent, and for me, there’s no ceiling on where he could go in his career. A definite future England star, and in a few years, he could be good enough to be starting every game at Chelsea. Will he achieve all this though? That, only time will tell.

    Who are the Five Most Tactically Astute Managers in Europe Right Now?

    Millionaire superstar players may have endless social media followers, may score the goals, drive the fancy cars and have their names appear on the backs of tonnes of replica shits, but they pale in comparison to the manager when it comes to their all-round contribution to a team.

    Picking the team and talking in pre and post-match press conferences is part of the job but it’s when it comes to tactics that they really earn their corn. Here are five of the best.

    Jurgen Klopp

    liverpool vs burnley prediction

    We all know about Jurgen Klopp’s love of ‘gegenpressing’ whereby the team who has just lost the ball instantly hounds their opponents like a dog chasing a bone, rather than re-grouping and inviting pressure.

    We also know that your chances of winning football games are greatly increased when you can count on a front-three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. And that having the best pound-for-pound defender in the world in Virgil van Dijk and one of the safest keepers in Alisson Felix also seriously helps matters when it comes to keeping the goals out.

    But what may have escaped some people’s attentions is that despite almost winning the Premier League and being favourites to win the Champions League final, their midfield still lacks the quality of other elite teams. If Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Fabinho, Adam Lallana and Giorgino Wijnaldum were all put on the transfer market tomorrow, there would be a fair few takers for Wijnaldum and to a lesser extent Fabinho (not so much the others) but it wouldn’t be the biggest clubs making the offers in any scenario. That’s because none of them are world class players.

    So it’s testament to Klopp’s tactical skills that he’s realised all that and made his midfield hard-running, workmanlike and mostly defensive-minded.

    Klopp’s great secret is the use of his full-backs to create numerical advantages in attack and constantly provide a wide option. The midfield three cover for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson while these two do what they do best: bomb forward and put in dangerous crosses whenever given the chance.

    Pep Guardiola

    To stay at one club pretty much your whole career and win lots of trophies like Sir Alex Ferguson did is one thing. And to create an almost superhuman team like Zinedine Zidane did for a three-year period at Real Madrid (the first-time round), is another.

    But to manage three teams in three different countries to the league title more than once is for the select few.

    If Klopp is the revolutionary, then Pep Guardiola is the perfectionist. You can imagine him at home using the same recipe for chocolate cake 100 times until he gets it just right.

    Obsessed with maintaining possession at all times, to the extent that Guardiola let then England Number 1 keeper Joe Hart leave the club because he always booted it long rather than playing the ball to a nearby defender, this Man City side is one of the best-oiled machines in football.

    Everyone knows their role, everyone pulls in the same direction, everyone knows exactly where to be and when. Some of the team goals they’ve scored over the years take your breath away.

    In full flow, City are irresistible. Still, Guardiola’s work at City isn’t done until he can deliver them the Champions League.

    By the way, if you’re a big fan of Champions League football, it’s always covered in detail here.

    Diego Simeone

    Of course, not all managers can be Guardiola and deliver a brand of beautiful football made up of slick passing, quick movement and overlapping runs. And if you want to go the other way and adopt a cat-and-mouse style of football with huge emphasis on keeping clean sheets and setting up your team so that they’re incredibly hard to beat…you might just want Diego Simeone in the hotseat.

    The cynical ones will remember that Simeone’s Atletico Madrid lost two Champions League finals to Real Madrid in three years and that they really should have won the first one. They conceded an equaliser in second-half stoppage time and ended up badly beaten in extra-time.

    The members of the Simeone appreciation society will point out that it was a minor miracle that they even got to those two finals.

    Whereas Barca had Messi, Iniesta and Neymar and Real had Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale, the only real superstar Simeone has had at his disposal is Antoine Griezmann (he won’t have him for much longer as he’s leaving this summer). So it’s testament to Simeone’s tactical nous that he played to his team’s strengths. Run harder, overcrowd in midfield, commit petty fouls when you need to, make the most of set pieces and know how to manage your lead when you have it.

    Very often it’s not particularly pretty, much like Simeone’s antics on the touchline aren’t, either. But it’s a good example of the old expression that says there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    Jorge Jesus

    The least high-profile of our quintet but no less efficient when it comes to masterminding tactics to win football matches.

    Preferring a 4-1-3-2 formation and taking a leaf out of Klopp’s book (before Klopp was even doing it) in using his full-backs to give him another option in attack, Jesus sets his team up to play attractive, attacking football with an emphasis on the playmaker having plenty of options to give the ball to in and around the box.

    Not one to have sleepless nights about keeping clean sheets, any Jesus side always has plenty of goals in it, meaning that in addition to delivering titles, fans get to watch an exciting brand of football.

    While at Benfica, he won 10 competitions, a record for any manager in Portuguese football. A somewhat ill-advised move to Sporting Lisbon saw him almost win the Portuguese league at the first time of asking, though many will say Benfica defended their title thanks to the hard work he’d already done there the year before to the extent that the side was almost in automatic pilot.

    A move to Saudi Arabia in late 2018 didn’t really work out either mostly due to cultural differences and sadly we’re unlikely to see him in the Premier League anytime soon: he hasn’t shown much of a desire to learn English.

    Massimiliano Allegri

    There seems to be this idea that all Juventus have to do to win the Serie A is turn up. But that’s only because Allegri has made them such a winning machine that taking the league title with ease is no more than we expect from them these days.

    And yes, Juventus tend to have the best players of any in Serie A but they also let many of their best ones go. Paul Pogba, for example.

    In addition to building a rock-solid defence and installing a sense of clam on his players, Allegri’s greatest talent is his ability to switch formations during matches. He’ll think nothing of starting with a 4-3-1-2, changing to a 4-3-3 and ending up in a 3-2-4-1. And these aren’t knee-jerk reactions to scoring or conceding a goal; they’re changes he feels are necessary to improve his team’s control of the game.

    The interesting part of all this is that his players know how to change position and systems during the game, whereas the opposition players and manager are always playing catch-up.

     

     

    The rise of Luka Jovic

    By now even the most casual of football fans will have heard about him, while Football Manager enthusiasts have known about him for years and are waiting to see whether he turns out to be another Maxim Tsigalko or if he’s actually the real deal. We’re talking about the young Serbian striker sensation Luka Jovic, having a breakout season in the German Bundesliga and being chased by some of Europe’s finest teams.

    Jovic, an ethnic Serb, was born and raised in a remote village right next to the Bosnian city of Bijeljina, close to the Serbian border. When he was 11, he was scouted by former European Champions Red Star Belgrade and was invited for a trial game. Jovic made an immediate impression as the club was eager to add him to their ranks. However, not much later following a misunderstanding his father nearly succumbed to the offers of Red Star’s biggest rivals: Partizan. They offered his son a much better deal and things spiraled out of control quickly. A meeting was set up where former Aston Villa striker Savo Milosevic, a Partizan legend and cousin of the Jovic’s played a key role. With all the pressure mounting on young Luka he told him that he was the most important person here and that the decision was all his. Luka broke out in tears and told Milosevic that he only wanted to play for Red Star, his childhood love, and so it was decided.

    The next five years Jovic was part of the youth academy at Red Star and continued to make an impact to the point where he was considered one of the best youngsters to ever come through the ranks at this historic club. So much so that he made his professional debut for the side at the age of 16 and as an addition to his growing reputation he actually managed to score his first senior goal within two minutes of being brought on. The game against Vojvodina ended 3-3, but Jovic had already entered the history books by breaking Dejan Stankovic’s record of being the youngest goalscorer in a competitive match for the club.

    The following season saw Jovic getting more and more playing time and in the end he was able to take part in 22 league games in which he added another six goals to his tally. The young striker sadly got injured towards the end of the season and missed out on the U20 World Cup in New Zealand where Serbia somewhat surprisingly managed to win the title against Brazil in nail biting final. As the 2015/16 season rolled on this was supposed to be Jovic’s definite breakout season at Red Star and he started out brightly as he scored three goals in his first five games. Halfway through the season he had five in 19 games and that’s when Red Star were forced to let him go due to some shady transfer deals with the super agent Pini Zahavi.

    The Cyprus based club Apollon Limassol, with the super-agent Pini Zahavi controlling operations in the background, had bought 70% of the rights to Luka Jovic a year earlier. And when Benfica came in to make a move Red Star were ultimately helpless. The Serbian side managed to get a measly €2 million in total out of the deal, which however was much needed as the club was in dire financial straits at that time. Jovic joined Benfica in February of 2016 and so the first foreign chapter of his footballing career began.

    To say the move was not a success would be an understatement as Jovic only went on to make three senior appearances for the Portuguese giants in the following two seasons. Many started to doubt Jovic’s level of talent and his mentality and even in Serbia there were people who considered Jovic to be lethargic and lazy. That was the moment when Fredi Bobic finally saw his chance to capitalise. The former German international of Slovenian descent, a striker himself back in the day and now technical director at Eintracht Frankfurt, had been following Jovic for years. He even tried to convince him to join VfB Stuttgart at the time when Jovic was still only a youth player at Red Star. This time however he was more successful as he got the robust Serbian striker to join on a two year loan with a buyout fee of just €7 million.

    At the start of the 2017/18 season Jovic was greeted by a small Balkan colony at Frankfurt: Niko Kovac was their manager and compatriot Mijat Gacinovic and the Croatian Ante Rebic were also part of the squad. Kovac, a former Croatian international who is born and raised in Berlin is known for his discipline, immediately seemed to hit the right chords with Jovic. The young Serbian went from bench player to an impact sub within a couple of months as his reputation once again grew. Towards the end of the season he was playing regularly and ended up with eight league goals in 22 games with the best goals to minutes ratio in the entire league. Jovic’s season didn’t go unnoticed in Serbia as he managed to sneak into their final squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and even got to play a couple of minutes in Serbia’s final group stage game against Brazil.

    The following season Kovac packed up his bags and joined German giants Bayern Munich and Adi Hütter, coming off a title winning year with Young Boys in Switzerland, was signed as his replacement. The Austrian manager was immediately impressed by Jovic and he has been a mainstay in his side alongside Sebastian Haller and Ante Rebic in what has so far been one of Eintracht’s most successful seasons in their entire history. With just three games to go Frankfurt are in sitting in fourth place with a three point lead over Borussia Mönchengladbach which would give them a shot at Champions League qualification. But things haven’t just been going well domestically for the German side. In Europe they’ve recently knocked out Jovic’s former club Benfica with Jovic scoring one of the goals and set up a Europa League semi-final against Chelsea. Jovic has been one of the key factors in Frankfurt’s success as he’s contributed heavily with no less than 25 goals in 43 games in all competitions at the young age of 21. In particular, the record breaking five goal performance against Fortuna Düsseldorf went viral world wide and really put Jovic on the map.

    Growing up Jovic’s idol was Colombian striker Radamel Falcao and funnily enough Jovic’s nickname, given to him by Red Star’s controversial club director Zvezdan Terzic, is ‘the Serbian Falcao’ . And to be fair, there are a lot of similarities between the two players. Jovic coming in at 1.81 is four centimetres taller than Falcao, but surprisingly also quite a bit faster and surely at least as strong as the Colombian was at his age. The raw power of Jovic combined with his skill set is what sets him apart in today’s football. For Jovic has no weak foot, can head the ball as well as he can shoot it and is known for his excellent movement and terrific hold up play. On top of that while he can definitely still improve his passing he is fairly solid in that department and has seven assists this season to prove he’s not just a goalscorer.

    The main criticism on the pitch if there is any is that Jovic can sometimes seem absent during games. In that sense he reminds of Das Phantom, Roy Makaay, who people only tended to notice whenever he popped up to score a goal. As said earlier Jovic also has a tendency to come off as lethargic. Even his goal celebrations are usually those of a player who is as cool as a cucumber. Furthermore Jovic’s off the pitch mentality has been questioned more than once. His work ethic has never been considered his strong suit and although Niko Kovac seems to have had a positive impact on that aspect of his game Jovic will need to stay focused in order to keep his current form going. The fact that he’s recently become a father could provide another positive impulse on his mentality.

    Tactically Jovic has been part of a striker duo for the past two seasons, mainly playing alongside target man Sebastian Haller, with the creative and hard working Ante Rebic playing just behind them. While the coaching personnel has changed at Eintracht, the main formation has remained similar. Albeit with the side note that Hütter’s Frankfurt have played a more offensive variation of the 3-4-1-2, which has only been further confirmed by the club’s goal tally. Last year they’d scored 45 goals after all 34 league games, meanwhile this season they have 58 in just 31 games with 10 goals less conceded to add to it. The attractive playing style of the German club has seen them get the plaudits all over Europe and it won’t come as a surprise that their key players are being linked to some of Europe’s top teams. The front three in particular have been impressive with a total of 79 goal contributions between them.

    Real Madrid and Barcelona are reportedly the two sides that have been pursuing Jovic most out of all teams interested, but the big English sides and local giants Bayern Munich have been keeping tabs on the young Serbian as well. At Barcelona Jovic would become a back up for the ageing Luis Suarez, while at Real Madrid he’d be signed as understudy or even possible partner to Karim Benzema. Either way these teams would consider Jovic a long term investment with the ability to make an immediate impact off the bench. The transfer fee that’s being mentioned is around €60 million, which would mean a huge amount of profit for Eintracht Frankfurt who obviously did not hesitate to pay Jovic’s buyout fee of just €7 million, with an added percentage of a future sale and tied him down until 2023.

    Jovic’s father has come out and stated that despite the inquiries of Europe’s top teams his son is only focused on qualifying for the Champions League with Eintracht and would prefer to stay in Frankfurt for now. Looking at it from his perspective that would surely be the best option as he’d continue to get regular playing time on the highest level, which is crucial at his age. Fredi Bobic has confirmed that the club would love to keep Jovic on their roster, but that they are ultimately powerless when a side like Real Madrid shows up on their doorstep. In an interview with German TV channel ZDF he even added that he expects Jovic to join Los Merengues and that Jovic himself didn’t think he’d be getting enough playing time at Barcelona and therefore rejected their offer.

    Internationally Serbian national team fans rejoice at the thought of pairing up Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic with Luka Jovic as striking duo for the next decade. The country has had a long drought when it comes to offensive options as the last solid pairing they had was that of giant Nikola Zigic and his partner in crime Marko Pantelic. National team coach Mladen Krstajic has however gone with a 4-2-3-1 formation in most of his games so far and has not yet paired up the two much to the frustration of the team’s fans. Jovic did however get his first chance to start for the national team in a recent friendly against Germany. The game ended 1-1, and not surprisingly, Jovic was the goalscorer for the Serbian side.

    The next couple of weeks will be very interesting as the young striker’s confidence seems to have taken a hit by the increased attention as he’s failed to capitalise on some great chances in Frankfurt’s last three games. The team failed to win all three after an impressive six game winning streak and is now involved in a ferocious battle for that fourth spot. The following weeks will provide some insight into how Luka Jovic is able to handle pressure. Cause no matter if he stays at Eintracht or moves to a club like Real Madrid, all eyes will be pointed towards him as he transitions from a talented young player into a continental star.

    Zidane speaks directly to Man United star, wage demands yet to be met

    According to the English outlet, The Sun, Zinedine Zidane has reportedly spoken to Paul Pogba and his agent Mino Raiola about a move to Real Madrid this summer. Pogba’s wage demands are still an issue to be sorted, but the talks are reportedly in an advanced stage. Although Manchester United are yet to agree on a transfer fee, if Pogba intends to move, it is likely that the Manchester club will be ready to cash in on him. Finally it looks like this summer see a squad turnover at United and although Pogba is one of the few genuine stars they have, United might lose him too.

    There has been clear shift in the narrative surrounding Manchester United’s decline as the spotlight has finally fallen on the players and the board. If all the press reports are to be believed then this summer, Solskjaer will be given a free reign to sell whomever he wishes too. Along with the squad overhaul, United need to desperately fix their wage structure. The only way they can do that is to get rid of Alexis Sanchez and it would take a miracle for that too happen. Unless there is a widespread change across all levels at Manchester United, replacing managers or players alone will not help.

    Real Madrid on the other hand will also look to make some big signings this summer to start competing with Barcelona again for the league. The Catalan side in-spite of making some transfer blunders in recent years is still much ahead of their domestic rivals thanks to the brilliance of Lionel Messi.

    A look at Dusan Tadic’s False 9 role for Ajax under Erik ten Hag

    Ajax had two excellent strikers in Kasper Dolberg and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a perfect combination of youth and experience. But, Erik ten Hag in the Champions League group stage game against Bayern Munich decided to pick Dusan Tadic as a False 9. Ajax went onto draw the game 3-3 with some stunning attacking football which convinced ten Hag that playing Tadic as the false 9 was the way forward, especially in the Champions League where defences seem to have forgotten how to deal with a False 9 ever since Messi stopped playing as one.

    Ajax’s 4-3-3 formation under Erik ten Hag

    Watching the Bayern Munich game, it was clear straightway the advantages Tadic gave Ajax in the final third as a false 9. Tadic mostly moved to his right hand side, combining with de Beek and Ziyech, drawing out the Bayern defenders along with him. This left Neres in multiple 1v1 situations, often with good support from Tagliafico. This movement to create overloads is really effective when the opposition defence plays a high line and is proactive in winning the ball. This explains Ajax’s success in the Champions League, especially when playing away from home. For all his recent failures, Jose Mourinho demonstrated the best way to beat a side like Ajax in the Europa League Final 2017 with Manchester United. United defended deep with a 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1 formation and let Ajax have all of the ball. Ajax barely threatened as United stuck to their positioning refusing to come out and completely bypassed the press through long balls.

    “This is like a ‘fake striker, I move everywhere, with a little bit of a free role, and I am very happy. But most important is the team, to try to help, and this team can do everything.”

    -Dusan Tadic

    Although Tadic played similar roles in both the away victories against Juventus and Real Madrid, there was a slight difference in how others around him adapted to his movement. Against Real Madrid when Tadic probably played the match of his life, it was Van De Beek who pushed forward into a traditional center forward’s role which allowed Tadic to play a completely free role.

    van de Beek touches against Real Madrid
    Tadic Heatmap againt Real Madrid : Spent more time on both the flanks allowing Beek to move forward

    Against Juventus, Ajax were most effective when they created overloads on the right allowing Neres and the overlapping fullback to attack on 1v1 situations, just like they did against Bayern. These subtle variations to Ajax’s attacking structure and strategy is proving to be highly effective in this year’s Champions League.

    Tadic heatmap against Juventus : Spent more time on the right flank and right of center midfield

    Tadic is surely going to reprise his false 9 role against Spurs too, it certainly would be interesting to see how differently ten Hag deploys him. Pochettino again is a manager who will seek to attack Ajax rather than try to negate their threats. So, there is plenty of potential for goals and excitement for the spectators.

    The era of the Pragmatist manager seems to be over with Jose Mourinho’s decline. The last decade was dominated by the defensive interpretations of the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3 formations. Even managers like Sir Alex were pushed to change after Mourinho’s arrival to the Premier League. Ferguson started several big away games with additional defensive reinforcements, which United fans seem to have forgotten. But ever since Guardiola’s Barcelona thrilled their way to multiple Champions League wins, the game began to get away from the likes of Mourinho. Even though he was still successful in this decade, it looks like he desperately needs to reinvent himself if he ever wants to come back to the top.

    4 players who should be sold by Man United this summer

    After a disastrous performance against Everton, it is clear that the problem at Manchester United was not Jose Mourinho, it was something bigger. The board and the CEO, Ed Woodward have made some terrible football decisions ever since Sir Alex left this club. The transfer especially has been disastrous and the impact of these ill thought decisions will be felt for years to come. Solskjaer has made it clear that there needs to be an squad overhaul this summer but it remains to be seen whether United will manage to sell their highly paid players who won’t offered the wages they are currently earning anywhere else.

    4 players who should be sold by Man United this summer

    Juan Mata

    It is hard to imagine that Juan Mata was once back to back player of the year winner at Chelsea during which time he used to rack up goals and assists at ease. He never hit those heights and although he is only 30, physically he has declined a lot and struggles to play when the tempo and pace is high in a game. Both for the player and the club it would make sense to part ways this summer.

    Matteo Darmian

    Another underwhelming signing who has hardly played for United. It is really surprising that Darmian has hardly got a chance to play when his biggest competitor for his favorite position is Ashley Young. It is clear that he has no future at Old Trafford.

    Nemanja Matic

    One of the few transfer which actually made sense when United bought initially but slowly it became clear why Chelsea let him Matic go to United. Matic gave a single good season to United but now his is simply too slow for the Premier League. With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking to implement a high pressing system, players like Matic have to be sacrificed.

    Andreas Pereira

    It is clear that Pereira doesn’t have the quality to become a first team player for Manchester United. And at this time in his career, he should be looking to play as much first team football as possible.

    Hungary – The Golden Team that never quite made it.

    When you look back at the history of past World Cup winners and European Championship winners the usual names by in large stand out. Brazil, Germany, France; you know the drill. But perhaps you don’t know about one of the greatest sides Europe’s ever seen that now ranks 52nd in the World, below the likes of Iceland, Peru and Costa Rica, and over a 6-year spell from 1950-1956 only lost one competitive match of football.

    That one match was the World Cup Final in 1954. “The Miracle of Bern”. West Germany vs Hungary. Hungary were the tournament favourites and swept aside a reserve West Germany side 8-3 with striker Sándor Kocsis scoring 4 in their last group match and progressed to the Quarter Finals against Brazil in an infamous clash which is now known as “The Battle of Berne” due to the English referee Arthur Ellis having to send off 3 players due to violent conduct. The match was played in awful conditions which made the ball hard to control and tackles much riskier. Hungary won the match 4-2 with Kocsis bagging another 2 and they progressed to the semi-finals where they would face Uruguay. This match also ended 4-2 in favour of the Hungarians after extra time thanks to another two goals from Kocsis and Hungary were on track to pick up the trophy, meeting all the pre-tournament expectations and feeling very confident facing West Germany, the side they had beat 8-3 in the group stages.

    Legendary striker Ferenc Puskás returned from a two-game injury suffered when Hungary had played West Germany earlier and his impact was felt as the striker found the back of the net after just 6 minutes on the clock. Zoltán Czibor doubled the Hungarians lead just 2 minutes later and Hungary looked on course to replicate their 8-3 thrashing of the Germans in the Group Stages to land them the trophy. West Germany however, had other plans. Maximilian Morlock pulled one back for the Germans in the 10th minute and just 8 minutes later, Helmut Rahn drew the scores level. Hungary took control of the game after that and peppered the German goal and came within inches of scoring on multiple occasions and came out in the second half exactly as they started. They had complete control of the game and Germany had their first chance of the second half in the 72nd minute. Hungary still looked in charge but in the 84th minute, Rahn scored his second of the game from inside the box and West Germany took the lead. Hungary went into overload at that point and threw everything they had at the Germans. Puskás scored however the goal was ruled offside and in the dying minutes, Hungary had another golden chance denied from short range. The whistle soon thereafter ended not only the match, but also the Golden Team’s unbeaten run. What made Hungary’s Golden Team just so good? Hopefully this article will be able to answer that question for you.

    So, we’ve already established this was a formidable Hungary side to say the least but how were they made up? Well the manager was Gusztáv Sebes, a former player himself who had been working as a trade union organizer in Budapest after the war. Sebes built the side around 6 key personnel. Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Nándor Hidegkuti, Zoltán Czibor, József Bozsik and Gyula Grosics. These 6 players were constants in Sebes tactic and pivotal to Hungary’s success. Sebes used a 2-3-3-2 formation however it could also be described as a 3-3-4.

    Gusztáv Sebes formation tactics
    Gusztáv Sebes formation

    He implemented a number of revolutionary changes to Hungary’s international set-up including fitness regimes for each individual player and a more ‘club like’ policy to create a tight knit social group. Tactically, Sebes was also revolutionary. He strayed from the standard ‘WM’ formation made famous by Herbert Chapman where the centre forward spearheaded an attack line of 3 forwards and 2 wingers, and instead introduced the concept of a deep-lying centre forward to the international scene. Sebes’s tactic was to withdraw the centre forward back to the midfield, as well as dropping the wingers back to the midfield when necessary. This effectively created an extremely flexible 2–3–3–2 formation, allowing the team to quickly switch between attack and defense. The tactic also drew defenders out of position, as centre halves used to man-marking a centre forward would follow the deep-lying centre forward back to the midfield.

    What many people don’t realise is that the Hungarian’s and Gusztáv Sebes’ ‘Golden Team’, were responsible for the creation of Totaalvoetbal that is now synonymous with the great Ajax sides of the 1970’s and Hollands 1974 team. Sebes wanted his players to be able to play in any position at any time, just like Rinus Michels and Pep Guardiola, and this was an early form of Total Football. Ferenc Puskas commented on it saying, “When we attacked, everyone attacked, and in defence it was the same. We were the prototype for Total Football.” Players were constantly moving and changing position according to a pre-arranged plan and this meant that the Hungarians could play fluid football, with some fantastic passing and movement and the opponents could never scout them properly, because their movement was arranged pre-game.

    The reason why the Hungary side of the early 1950’s is coined the ‘Golden Team’ is to do with the sheer abundance of quality the side had in it’s ranks. Gyula Grosics was one of the best goalkeepers in Europe at the time and Lantos, Lorant and Buzansky made up the rest of the backline. These players had played together for years and with Sebes’ club like atmosphere, became a very tight night and impenetrable defensive line. In midfield Jozsef Bozsik and Zakarias screened the defence, rarely roaming forward and instead supplying balls over the top of opposition defences for the attackers. Sometimes they even formed part of a back 5 when Nandor Hidegkuti, who played as a trequartista, dropped into midfield.

    The role Hidegkuti played as a trequartista was yet again a revolutionary innovation as most international sides, including Hungary before 1949, played with a traditional number 9 who would simply outmuscle and bombard opposition defences with their power. Hidegkuti was tasked with dropping deep at times to pick up the ball before distributing it the flanks or to the front 4. Those front 4 were formidable and one was arguably one of the greatest players of all time. Lazslo Budai and Zoltan Czibor were on the flanks, not so much wingers as wide strikers, while Sandor Kocsis partnered Ferenc Puskas centrally. Puskas was of course the focal point of this front 4 however the other 3 forwards were just as capable and in fact, Sandor has a better goal to games ratio for the Mighty Magyars than Puskas himself. Kocsis scored 75 in 68 while Puskas scored 84 in 85.

    This ‘Golden Team’ was a product of an unbelievable collection of generational talents that came together at the right time, mixed with revolutionary coaching and tactics that were 2 decades before it’s time. When the World Cup in 1954 took place, these players had played together and with each other for four years. They had perfected their connections and formed bonds on and off the pitch. Chemistry mixed with ludicrous individual talent was in the end what had taken Hungary to the final of the World Cup. The long-lasting impact this team and its successes for four years had on the Hungary as a nation and the footballing landscape must not be belittled. And although they lost the final in 1954, this iconic Hungary side must therefore be seen as a clear example of where football is more than titles. There is often an argument as to whether it’s better to play well but lose or win but play poorly and I believe this Hungary side answers the question. Would we be talking about it as one of the best teams of all time if they had won playing a dirty and unattractive style of football? Would they have brought the same joy to a nation? Would Totaalvoetbal be around at all if they had played a strict positional style of football? Beautiful football regardless of the trophies won, inspires us, gives us hope and happiness. The Hungarian team of the 1950s did that with grace, style and precision and it is for this reason I would label them as one of the best teams ever to grace the beautiful game

    Liverpool’s Tactical Evolution under Klopp This Season

    liverpool vs burnley prediction

    It has been a big season for tactical evolution of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. With just six games remaining his side sit only one point behind defending champions Manchester City.

    They have come a long way since the domestic inconsistencies of last season, where they finished fourth and twenty-five points of top spot. A glance at the table with just six games remaining shows how they have improved their constituency levels only losing the one game and conceding just 19 goals.

    Last season was a different story. The team were dynamic and powerful going forward and breath-taking at times when playing in Europe, however, in the league they were defensively vulnerable and regularly dropping points thanks to careless and unforgivable defensive frailties.

    In the summer, the board and Jurgen Klopp acted to try to solve the problems and working tirelessly to make sure his side iron out careless mistakes, and the results are there for all to see.

    But where have the improvements come From?

    One of Liverpool’s most significant problems in the Premier League last season was against big strong teams who would bypass his sides high-intensity pressing by playing direct through a target man.

    His side was tactical, inflexible and teams domestically quickly realised you could get at Liverpool in this way.  Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United brutally exposed this when they played Liverpool in March 2018. Mourinho set his side out to hit Lukaku, and time and time again Manchester United played direct long balls to their big number 9.  This game ended 2-1 Manchester United and underlined if needed that Liverpool could be got at aerially.

    Fast forward to this season and Liverpool were a different beast when they played United in December.  Klopp’s set his Liverpool side out with a much more solid base in midfield and a plan to counter the long ball.  Tall and robust defensive midfielder Fabinho, with the occasional help of utility man Keita, gave additional aerial support to the central defenders. This allowed Liverpool to neutralise the aerial long ball and forced Man Utd to try pass through Liverpool, which played to Liverpool’s strength enabling them to use their offensive press. The game ended 3-1 and showed Liverpool fans, if they were in any doubt, that their side has a chance of winning the Premier League this season.

    Could Summer Recruitment be Part of their Success?

    A big part of Liverpool’s success this campaign has been the summer recruitment, which has allowed Liverpool to change their shape, all be it subtly.

    When Liverpool splashed the cash in the summer on Alisson, paying over £65million for a goalkeeper from Roma, many scoffed.  However, his addition has been crucial to the improvements we have seen in the Liverpool defence this season.  Allison has brought a level of confidence to the defence and added a presence behind the defenders.  The central pairing and both wing backs now know they have a man between the sticks who can be relied on but can also take the ball under pressure if needed.

    His addition has also seen the two big men at the back Virgil Van Dijk and Lovren look rejuvenated. The Dutchman, in particular, has flourished this season and is looking like one of the best defenders, not just in the Premier League, but on the planet.

    Another two key additions were that of Keita and Fabinho in the summer.  These two men have offered Klopp flexibility in his formation.  Fabinho anchors the midfield and does the no-nonsense work, allowing the more attacking players to do their job.  Keita has added energy, and with his box to box ability, he has become a vital element of the Liverpool high tempo press.

    This flexibility means that the Liverpool formation is no longer rigid but instead is fluid during games.  The team will set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation; however, this can quickly alternate to become 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 or even a 4-5-1, when there are having to drop back and be a little more defensive.

    Liverpool personnel last season did not allow for that level of flexibility, and when teams would adapt during games, it would often catch Liverpool cold.  This is not the case this season, and the new fluid system has brought out the best in many of the players.

    The set-up this season has also made it easier to accommodate more attacking threats on the pitch at any one time.  It is not unusual for Liverpool to have Firmino, Salah, Mane and Shaqiri all starting.

    The increase attacking threat is just one element of the new system, the most significant benefit of this the protection it now gives to his often exposed defence of last season.

    New Roles for Players

    We have also seen new roles for some of the key men of last season.  Brazilian flair player Firmino’s role within the side has been slightly altered this season.  The Liverpool Number 9 was at times unplayable in 2017/18 season, but in other games, he would fail to make a big enough impact.  This season Klopp has moved him back slightly into the Number 10 position and has used Salah more as a main forward, but with the option to alternate and change as required during a game.  Again, another subtle change but one that is merits seem to be shown in the results thus far this season.

    All these tactical changes have made Liverpool more than a one-man team.  Last season they relied too heavily on Mo Salah and when he departed in the Champions League final the game was lost for them.

    This season they now have options and the ability to adapt to injuries and circumstances.  This means they are one of the favourites on Stakers who have odds at 2.75 on them to win the Premier League and 5.00 to win the Champions League as well.

    Will they do it?

    Only time will tell, but one thing for sure is that the Jurgen Klopp has worked wonders at Liverpool football club and this season is their best chance since that fateful 2013/14 season to win the trophy the Liverpool faithful so desperate covet.

     

    Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid: Team News & Predictions

    Barcelona host Atletico Madrid on Saturday at the Camp Nou in a game which could effectively decide the La Liga championship for this season. Barcelona lead Atletico by 8 points at the moment and with only 7 games left, this would be Atletico’s last chance to keep the title race alive. But Atletico’s patchy form and their poor record at the Camp Nou makes the task even more difficult than usual.

    Team News

    Ousmane Dembele is still out with injury but is expected back for the Champions League game against Manchester United. Arturo Vidal who has been decent in his bit part role for Barcelona is suspended for this fixture. Valverde would have certainly wanted his presence on the bench especially against a physical side like Atletico.

    Alvaro Morata picked up a knock and is mostly set to miss the game against Barcelona. With Thomas Lemar and Diego Costa ruled out already, Simeone can only choose between Antoine Griezmann and Niko Kalinic for the attacking positions. This would make Atletico’s chances of beating Barcelona and keeping the title race alive slimmer than usual. If you are a betting person and think that Atletico could pull off an upset, then do check out online betting and place your bets.

    Prediction

    Although Barcelona are not a team who would sit back at home, Valverde might be content with a draw as it would effectively hand them the La Liga title and they could rest vital players for their bigger challenges ahead in the Champions League. So we are going for a low scoring draw.

    Barcelona 1:1 Atletico Madrid

     

    Barcelona 5:1 Lyon : Tactical Analysis

    Three weeks after a goalless first leg in France, Barcelona stormed to a 5–1 victory against a Lyon side that left it too late to truly contest the course of the game.

    Barcelona looked to instil their usual dominance of possession in the Camp Nou from the outset.

    Piqué, Lenglet & Busquets were left against the trio of Fakir, Dembélé and Depay on a man for man basis, while the rest of the side pressured the ball high up the pitch in a bid to win back possession.

    Despite this, the defensive trio of Barcelona dropped very deep, presumably to combat the threat of Dembélé and Depay’s pace. This left a huge chasm in midfield not exploited by Lyon, who didn’t show enough intent to play through the space.

    Barca’s confidence to get high and tight on wingbacks Dubois and Mendy closed off the most familiar and safest passing lane for the Lyon centre backs. In combination with the aggressive pressing, Lyon’s backline was forced consistently to make longer passes with a lower probability of success.

    Lyon found it very difficult to mount meaningful attacks in the first half, with their best chance in the period coming on the counter. Mendy drove into space down the left and pulled it back for Dembélé, who blasted his shot over the bar.

    Barcelona maintained comfortable possession of the ball and were able to move it into Lyon’s final third without great resistance. Coutinho and Messi lingered threateningly in the half space between centre-back and wing-back, pinning Lyon into a back five and ensuring a numerical superiority in the middle of the pitch.

    Despite their lack of pressing, Lyon’s defensive line didn’t retreat too far deep. Given the combination of space in behind, and time afforded to the Barcelona midfield on the ball, the opportunity was there for multiple attempts to clip the ball over the top for either Suarez or Coutinho to run on to.

    No pressure on Busquets, and space in behind

    As usual, the focus of Barcelona’s attacks came down the left hand side of the pitch. With Coutinho pinning Dubois back to the deepest defensive line, Alba had bundles of time and space and was a constant outlet for advancement of the ball. Messi and Suarez took it in turns to drift over to create an overload.

    Barcelona led 2–0 at the break after a fantastic Messi panenka penalty kick, preceding some moments of brilliance from Arthur and Suarez which gave Coutinho a tap-in.

    With Lyon needing at least two goals to rescue the tie, drastic changes were needed at the break to try to change the course of the game.

    From the outset of the second half, it was obvious that Lyon’s wingbacks had been instructed to move much higher up the pitch.

    This allowed Lyon to involve another man in the middle of the park, which let them compete for possession of the ball a lot better than before. This worked tremendously based on the numbers. Lyon went from 37% possession in the first half, to 53% in the second. Although Barcelona may have been looking to be a little more pragmatic as the game went on, majority possession for an opponent in the Camp Nou is impressive in any context.

    However, the price they paid for seeing more of the ball was less security against the Barca front three. Quite commonly the centre-backs were left with no man spare against Messi, Suarez and Coutinho. A dangerous scenario for any defence in world football.

    Adding to this, Lyon’s defensive line was shifted 10 to 15 yards higher up the pitch, in conjunction with more aggressive pressing. They started to press even Piqué & Lenglet, which was a massive shift considering Busquets, Arthur & Rakitić, all in more advanced roles, weren’t feeling the press too much in the first period.

    Man for man defending against Messi, Suarez & Coutinho was precarious enough, but pay special attention to the distance between Mendy & Rakitic on the Barcelona right flank

    Lyon pulled a goal back from a set piece, with Tousart finishing smartly, and generally looked brighter for playing with more conviction. For the first time in the game, Barcelona weren’t looking fully in charge of proceedings.

    With around twenty minutes left, both Valverde and Genesio made their remaining substitutions as Lyon chased the equaliser, and Barcelona looked to put the tie to bed.

    Mendy was withdrawn for Cornet, and the quiet Depay made way for Traoré in a plan to provide more width.

    Ousmane Dembélé was introduced at the expense of Coutinho, who gave them a more direct threat on the counter attack. Vidal replaced Arthur and Semedo came on for Sergi Roberto.

    The tie was effectively ended just moments later, with Lyon inexplicably overcommitting men forward in a gung-ho fashion. With just Denayer and Marcelo covering, Lyon lost possession in the middle of the park and Messi’s trickery and calm finish put the tie to bed.

    With the tie out of reach, Lyon subsequently collapsed allowing Piqué and Dembélé to extend Barcelona’s lead to 5–1 over the next ten minutes.

    Lyon had a very promising period after the break where they dominated possession and pulled a goal back, but the spells either side of that were not managed optimally. They handed Barcelona too much respect and time to play in the first half, and were too aggressive too quickly in pursuit of the equaliser.

    Barcelona advance to the Quarter Finals, and will be looking to make amends for their nightmare from last year at this stage of the competition, when they were dumped out by Roma in the Stadio Olimpico. This year, they must be considered frontrunners alongside Juventus, Man City & Liverpool.

    Pep Guardiola’s use of the Libero in the 4-3-3 formation

    Pep Guardiola is amongst the most thought provoking tactical intellectual’s of football history, and is the pioneer for tactical evolution in the modern age. He is known for his willingness to implement new tactical systems that other, more conservative managers would shy away from.
    His new tactical venture seems to moving towards the use of a Libero in a 4-3-3
    system. This was seen against Arsenal a few weeks ago in City’s 3-1 win, where
    Fernandinho was used as a centre back when out of possession before moving into
    midfield alongside Gundogan, to play as a deep double pivot when City had controlled possession.
    City lined up in a conventional 4-3-3 seemingly, with Fernandinho filling in as a
    make shift centre back. When the opposition, in this case Arsenal, had the ball,
    Fernandinho would sit alongside Otamendi at centre back, with Walker and Laporte
    as full backs. Gundogan sat as the deep lying midfielder, the role Fernandinho usual
    plays for Guardiola. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne sat as the two advanced
    playmaker ahead of him, Bernardo Silva and Sterling were on the wings with
    Aguero up front.

    During Arsenal’s build up Aguero would lead the press, with David Silva and Kevin
    De Bruyne pressing aggressively when the ball was shifted wide of Aguero.
    Fernandinho would sometimes start higher up in midfield if City were looking press
    aggressively, moving alongside Gundogan so De Bruyne could move further forward
    to create a three man front press alongside Silva and Augero. This aggressive pressing style against Arsenal’s 4-4-2, with Torreira and Guendouzi in midfield made it easy for City to close down Arsenal’s options and force them into a long ball.

    If Arsenal were able to play through the press, Fernandinho would then drop into the centre back position, the wide centre backs Laporte and Walker would shift wider to become full backs and City would drop into a more conventional 4-5-1 defensive shape.
    It is clear why Guardiola has begun to adapt his side to use this system. When in
    possession, City shift from a 4-3-3 to a 3-2-4-1, with Fernandinho and Gundogan as
    the deep double pivot, Bernardo Silva and Sterling maintaining the width in the system, allowing De Bruyne and Silva to float around in behind the opposition centre midfielders to find the half space where the can be found.

    Usually, in a 4-3-3 this sort of in possession system is achieved by advancing the full
    backs so they are almost playing as wingers, dropping a midfielder into the back
    line to split the centre backs, creating a three man back line, and moving the
    wingers into narrow advanced midfield positions. The only probably with this
    system is that your full backs have to not only have the defensive ability to play
    against the best wingers in the league, but also have the same offensive output as a
    conventional winger, which is incredibly rare to find both in a full back, hence why
    the likes of Mendy and Alex Sandro are valued so highly.

    At the moment with Zinchenko and Delph as left backs without Mendy, the City left
    doesn’t have the offensive output it used to, which is why Guardiola has sought to
    solve this problem by putting national wide players in this position, Bernardo Silva
    and Sterling, without the defensive responsibility that an attacking full back would
    have.
    In the case of a counter, City have three natural defenders playing as a three at the
    back, rather than a midfielder in between two centre backs, making them more
    defensively solid. The libber, the centre back who moves into midfield, in this case is
    Fernandinho. To play this role the midfielder must have great awareness of when to
    drop back. He plays in a double pivot almost as a shuttler ready to close down the
    space out wide to stop counter attacks. Fernandinho’s positional awareness,
    athleticism and overall defensive ability makes him perfect for this role.

    Other players who could possibly play this role include David Luiz, Victor Lindelof,
    Allan and Marquinhos, due to their long range passing and composure which would
    make them able to play in midfield, Allan is obviously a centre midfielder who would
    be able to fulfill the same duties as Fernandinho due to his athleticism, positional
    awareness and tackling ability, whilst the others are centre backs who are athletic
    and technically good enough to step into midfield and give their side an extra made,
    especially if a side doesn’t have full backs who have exceptional attacking output.
    Guardiola has yet to use this system regularly, but like his use of inverted wing
    backs, this could become his next tactical revolution, particularly with the lack of
    excellent attacking full backs on the market.
    Visit the Atlantis Football Youtube channel for further in depth analysis on this
    subject.

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