sabato 13 ottobre 2012

How a goalkeeper controversy can be disruptive



Brad Friedel's EPL stretch of consecutive match played showed no sign of interruption. So Frenchman Hugo Lloris had to wait his time. But Tottenham’s keeper controversy wrote another chapter when Friedel’s stretch of 310 consecutive EPL starts abruptly came to an end Sunday when Andre Villas-Boas named Lloris as starter against Aston Villa. The Frenchman played well so the questions is: would it be a permanent move? Should it be? From the moment he went in London this summer, Lloris found himself in a strange situation: he’s the France’s goalkeeper and captain and the starting goalkeeper in waiting for the Spurs, just that no one knew when it would take place. At just 25-years-old, Lloris established himself as one of the best goalkeeper in the world. When Lloris went from Olympique Lyonnais to the Tottenham Hotspur, fans and analysts was thinking he was the automatic choice at keeper for a club ready to establish itself in the EPL elite. Instead, Andre Villas-Boas made an unclassic move, appointing the 41-year-old keeper as starter and confirming it after Friedel’s great performance displayed against Norwich, earlier in this season. At Chelsea, Portuguese manager was accused for changing too much the club’s culture, sending veterans out of the starting line up. Well, it didn’t happen at Tottenham. Friedel is a product of the American goalkeeper farm that produced other good netminders such as Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, or David Yelldell. The surprising thing is that Spurs accepted to pay Lyon €10 million, plus another €5 million, or $6.45 million, as potential bonuns depending on Lloris success in London. Contrary to what readers can think, have a keeper controversy isn’t a good thing. Goalkeeper is a particular position: they have to be always ready, always calm and quite, they are solitary men. They need of  phsycological security. Friedel has the edge in term of experience with more than 400 EPL matches in a résumé that includes stints with Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, and Aston Villa. Goalkeeper controversies can be disruptive. That was the case with Italy, the defending champions in 1986 FIFA World Cup. At that time, former Azzurri’s head coach, Enzo Bearzot, stressed netminders’spirit with a controversy between Giovanni Galli and former As Rome’s goalkeeper, Franco Tancredi. A similar situation happened during 2010 World Cup with the controversy between England’s netminders Joe Hart and Robert Green, and at Aston Villa, where manager Paul Lambert pick Guzan ahead of Shay Given. A goalkeeper’s mistake often means a goal allowed. Lloris is a young men at 25-years old and still has a career in front of him but keeping him on the bench is a tough call. People were surprised Lloris doesn’t get the job yet. Against Fabien Barthez’s thoughts, I don’t think Lloris be faster or jumps higher than Friedel. If AVB will come back to Friedel, maybe a nice move could be to send Lloris on loan in the way to adapt him to the EPL football. In any case, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has to be calm and quick to fix the goalkeeper situation.

giovedì 27 settembre 2012

Partita la Pro League: stavolta senza Diego



E’la prima stagione del dopo-Maradona. Il massimo campionato degli Emirati Arabi Uniti, la Pro League, parte senza più l’effetto Diego. La scorsa stagione è stata quella dell’attenzione massima da parte dei media di tutto il mondo per l’arrivo del Pibe de Oro come tecnico dell’Al Wasl. Per una stagione, il campionato locale è stato al centro dell’attenzione proprio grazie a Maradona. Grazie o a causa, in quanto le vicende tecniche sono passate inosservate proprio per via della presenza dell’ex Re di Napoli. Eppure il campionato dell’EAU, nonostante non sia ricco come quello del Qatar, è uno dei tornei più interessanti dei Paesi Arabi, sia per il talento dei giocatori che per la presenza di ottimi allenatori. Ma, mentre i riflettori erano accesi sul Maradona fuori del campo, quel che è successo in campo è passato in secondo pinao, a partire proprio dai risultati dell’Al Wasl che non sono stati all’altezza delle apsettative, tanto che la dirigenza del team ha deciso, dopo appena un campionato, di porre fine all’esperimento. Ora, giunto alla sua quinta stagione, il prossimo campionato cerca la svolta: aumentare il proprio appeal a livello nazionale anche senza più il Pibe de Oro come promoter. Si parte quindi con la caccia al titolo che dovrebbe coinvolgere cinque- sei squadre. I campioni in carica dell’Al Ain hanno inziato la stagione con una pesante sconfitta casalinga, 3-6,  subita dall’Al Ahli. La squadra di Cosmin Olaroiu, nonostante gli arrivi dei nazionali Mohammed Ahmed e Yaqoub Al Hosani, e la permanenza di Michel Radoi e Asamoah Gyan, sembrano lontani dalla forma esibita la scorsa stagione, anche se il campionato è appena partito. Dopo lesperienza, come detto in apertura, non certo entusiasmante con Diego Maradona al timone, lAl Wasl riparte da Bruno Metsu, ex allenatore del Senegal ai Mondiali di Giappone/Corea 2002, dove portò gli africani ai quarti di finale. La squadra è stata notevolmente rinforzata in estate con gli arrivi di Mahmoud Abdel Razek Shikabala, del difensore australiano Lucas Neill e dell’attaccante uruguayano, ex Lazio, Emiliano Alfaro. Molto ci si aspetta, in particolare, dall’egiziano Shikabala – vero nome Mahmoud Abdel Razek Fadlallah -  acquistato dallo Zamalek del Cairo per più di  US$100,000. Un’esperienza in Europa, con il PAOK Salonicco in Grecia, seguito anche da Anderlecht ed Espanyol, Shikabala ha tutte le qualità per sfondare nella Pro League, sempre se riuscirà a tenere a freno il proprio carattere. Tutta da verificare la tenuta dell’Al Jazira dopo le partenze di Lucas Neill e Bare, compensate dagli arrivi dell’attacante brasiliano Fernandinho e del difensore Shin Hyung-min. La partenza in campionato, sconfitta 1-2 contro l’Al Nasr, non fa ben sperare anche se il club ha trattenuto Ricardo Oliveira, 15 goals nell’ultimo campionato. A proposito di Al Nasr, il team guidato da Walter Zenga ha acquistato Giuseppe Mascara e Bruno Correa , sostituendo il partente Mark Bresciano, che ha scelto i dollari del Qatar firmando per l’Al Gharafa, con l’iracheno Nashat Akram. La squadra ha una precisa identità e sotto la guida di Zenga può sperare di arrivare a quel titolo nazionale che manca dal 1986. Da seguire l’Al Ahli, guidato ancora in panchina dallo spagnolo Quique Sanchez Flores. Alla guida del club dopo quattro giornate della scorsa stagione, Flores è riuscito a trattenere Grafite e Luis Jimenez, vecchia conoscenza del calcio italiano. A questi, il club di Dubai ha aggiunto il camerunense  Achille Emana. In ribasso sembrano le quotazioni dell Al Wahda. Il team guidato da Branko Ivankovic ha perso i vari Haidar Ali, Mutaz Abdulla e Omar Ali e confida nelle capacità di Papa Waigo. L’esordio, socniffta 4-1 contro l’Al Wasl, non è stato promettente. Il campionato si presenta comunque avvicente ed interessante. Fra gli altri giocatori da seguire, il nazionale egiziano Mohamed Zidan, subito infortunatisi all’esordio nella sconfitta 2-0 patita dal suo club, il Bani Yas, ad opera dell’Al Shabab. Ex di Werder Bremen, Mainz, Amburgo e Borussia Dortmund, Zidan dovrà aiutare la squadra del tecnico Jozef Chovanec a raggiungere una buona posizione di classifica.

venerdì 21 settembre 2012

Thoughts on AVB's 4-3-3

Jan Vertonghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey...Totthenam transfers make sense in Andre Villas-Boas' 4-3-3. The appointment of Villas-Boas was a risky step by Daniel Levy, after his first stint in EPL ended prematurely.  To make the new project working, Villas-Boas wanted all the pieces in place to run successfully his play. While at Chelsea team failed to adapt his philosophy, and ownership didn't give him the time to change it, Spurs revamped their squad in the way AVB wanted. From a tactical viewpoint, AVB is strictly anchored to his beloved high tempo 4-3-3 with a high defensive line pressuring on the other half of pitch and with two attacking full backs. According to his principles, AVB 4-2-3-1 is similar to 4-3-3 system he ran at Chelsea. In Hugo Lloris Spurs finally have an established backup and a top tier goalkeeper in place to sub Brad Friedel. Spurs’ personnel is more suited to play a high defensive line than the players who was at Chelsea. At Porto, in Fernando, Joao Moutinho and Fredy Guarin, Villas-Boas had switching midfielders who were able to rotate their position in the way to provide options in the build up. To rebuild those movements, Villas Boas tried to lure his former player Moutinho but it doesn't happen. And Rafael Van der Vaart - no a natural fit for the high-tempo 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 - walked out the door. Despite those issues and with Luka Modric's saga finally over, in Scott Parker and Sigurdsson Villas-Boas had a holding midfielder and an attacking one linked to his high-energy system. But the most interesting part of his scheme is the role of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. AVB's play relies on attack and with his decision to swith from  Harry Redknapp's 4-4-2 to to a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, the problems was on the flanks. Villas-Boas likes to have his wings pressing high and cutting inside towards the net. The success of Hulk and Daniel Sturridge confirms that AVB knows how to made those players producing. Villas-Boas wants those players stay wide open to spread the field then drift in the middle. Both Hulk and Sturridge provided him two wide forwards with an eye for goal. That means because Spurs spent $9.5 million to get Clint Dempsey away from Fulham. The 29-year-old despite Dempsey scored 23 goals last season. He's the highly needed attacking winger to line up opposite to Bale. In fact, Bale - despite his scoring skills - and Lennon are more outside wingers than offensive threats.

giovedì 20 settembre 2012

Kagawa left Galatasaray exposed in the midle

A boring match, but tactically interesting, defined by an early goal set the first match between Galatasaray and Manchester Utd.  Alex Ferguson named veteran Paul Scholes as his playmaker, pairing him alongside Michael Carrick, and started with Shinji Kagawa as attacking midfielder behind Robin van Persie. Fatih Terim opted to stay with his classic 4-4-2 formation featuring Felipe Melo in the middle paired with Inan Selcuk while Hamit Altintop and Nordin Amrabat stayed on the flanks. Match started with Galatasaray pressing high up, in the way to ruin Manchester Utd's build up. The English side played in a kind of 4-2-2-1-1, with Kagawa and van Persie playing as attacking midfielders/forwards, switching their position up front. It was a classic matchup between a five men midfield against a four men midfield. During the first half, Turkish side wasn't particularly good to prevent Kagawa from getting space between the lines, neither to prevent Scholes from play a lot of balls. Manchester's central midfielder was the playmaker, suited to change the front of attacks with long and accurate balls. Galatasaray never pressed him adequately, leaving the 38-years old midfielder free to play unmarked in the build up. Terim's side wasn't able to pick Kagawa with its midfielders neither with the defenders: one of the Turkish forward would have sit deep chasing Scholes while a central midfielder would have closed the zone between the midfield and the centre-backs, covering Japanese attacking forward. The key to Manchester Utd’s first half performance was the freedom that both Scholes and Kagawa had. And the goal came after a perfect 1-2 punch made by Kagawa and van Persie. Things wasn't better with John Elmander inside: the Swedish forward chased Scholes more then Umut Bulut and Burak Yilmaz did but not enough to prevent him from play clean passes. On the flanks, Valencia had the edge on the right but he's not accurate enough to exploit those 1 vs 1 situations against Hakan Balta, with left wing Umrabat that didn't help him. While Galatasaray's full-backs was going up and down the line, Manchester's full-backs rarely went over the middle line, so Alex Ferguson's side looked as a 6-4 team offensively, with a bank of four, two central midfielder and four offensive men up. Defensively, all the flankers and Kagawa helped the defense so Machester Utd built two bank of four very strict and compact. Second half started in a bad shape with so many fouls and referee's whistles that we have no play in the opening 15 minutes. Elmander's work on Scholes raised up in the second 45minutes but, above all, Galatasaray nullified the disadvantage on the middle by keeping the ball although it didin't translate into scoring chances. In fact, with Manchester Utd sitting deep, Turkish had no clear scoring opportunities while the English was much dangerous when they had the ball or during quick fast-breaks. Terim's changes don't affect the game as neither Emre Colak and Aydin Yilmaz found spaces to open the two banks of four Manchester Utd build in their own half of the pitch. The only real chance for Galatasaray came from a counter-attack when Manchester Utd were unbalanced going forward. Had the referee allowed an early penalty kick to Galatasaray, the game could have gone another way. But Galatasaray can build from this game if they can resolve the basic problem of how to play against a three-men midfield and how to create scoring chances against a close defense.

martedì 11 settembre 2012

Scotland - Macedonia preview

The World Cup qualifying week 1 is in the box and Scotland manager Craig Levein is already facing a storm of criticism following his goalless draw with Serbia at Hampden Park. Levein’s detractors pointed their fingers against his 4-1-4-1 formation, it was thinking to has been too much defensive in a to-win game. But Levein's 4-1-4-1 is not necessarily a defensive formation. All depends on the midfielders' skills. All is about supporting the forward. Lining up Steven Naismith, Charlie Adam, James Morrison and Robert Snodgrass, means the possibility to have upcoming midfielders able to provide nice balls and to attack the box. The only real issues Levein deserves to face is the Steven Fletcher issue after forward refused the call for a friendly match and denied his availability. Levein opted to start with Kenny Miller as team's lone forward up top. You could point that Sunderland striker would have been un upgrade and that he had earned the right to play after his latest performances. Although Miller played recently down the expectations, he's still a fans' favourite. So, after Scoltand struggled to score, people started to talk about how much a 4-4-2 with both Fletcher and Miller high up could work better. This point deserves credit but still this isn't the right way to made the question. Everyone knows that managers have an edge if they can line up several players that are among the football's players elite. Miller and Fletcher are two good players but not elite ones. Neither among the elite are Jordan Rhodes, Jamie Mackie or even James Forrest. So when you can't reach the highs with your players you have to put more emphasis on fitness shape and tactics. Is playing with two guys up top the best solution for Scotland? The defence played well against Serbia, exploting the work of the five-men midfield. The Scots began dangerous when Snodgrass was involved. But Serbs looked dangerous on the fast-breaks so how much would Levein's benfit be playing higher and more offensive? Levein can hint at some changes against Macedonia, although he would have to think whether they could be tactically or in line up. The Scottish could play without a key player such as the injuried Adam so Levein could shuffle the midfield. Macedonia left Zagreb without a point despite a good display against Croatia. Under new Chedomir Janevski's regime, Macedonia's players showed some discipline, and tactical intelligence. So Macedonia at Hampden is going to be a much tougher test than Serbia for Levein.





mercoledì 5 settembre 2012

Del Piero signed



Getting Alessandro del Piero is the highest, biggest and hot move made by an A-League franchise. What his signature could mean for the team? Sydney has a large, Italian community , fans base. A lot of them will pay to see Del Piero on the pitch or via TV. The attention will rise now that they landed one of the 125 greatest players of all-time – according to FIFA. But Sydney’s signature of Del Piero could have also a big impact on football in the Australia, such as David Beckham’s arrival had on USA. Add a player such Del Piero should add more pressure on you to achieve a succesful season:  “I dont worry it will be a pleasure for me and our staff to work with him, in Australia there is always pressure on Sydney FC to be successful,”  Sydney’s manager Ian Cook told us. This impact isn’t about money, but about an increase of football appeal in the country. He will be massive in this country. Everywhere we go people will come just to watch him,“ Cook isad. Sure, money is involved with Del Piero ready to sign the most expensive contract for an A-League players at $2 million for a six months stint. But who cares? Signing a player like that could represent the needed step for A-League to grow up and answer to the criticism. “It means everything, he will have a huge impact on the game in Australia. Already the news of his signing has been regarded as the biggest coup in Australian sports history”, Cook added. About the money issue,  the Sky Blues are rich enough to land Del Piero at his condition, after they proposed a three-year $6.2 million contract to Harry Kewell few months ago. The overall quality of the A-League could rise, convincing the other owners to spend  more to attract other big players. Del Piero’s move to Sydney is a done deal and Australians beat out contenders like as Celtic and Totthenam, that showed interest on signing him. The idea to play in the Champions League once again wasn’t so strong on Del Piero’s mind, such as it was for Raul when he left Real Madrid to sign with Shalke 04. Sydney can offer him the best in term of life quality.  How employ him into the starting line up? I will speak to him and go through our structure and where we both believe will be the best position for him to be able to perform at his best for our club, we have been working hard in pre season on our tactical shape,we have 11 new signings in our squad so we are trying to blend them in to our system. Up to now the players have been excellent,” Cook said. All Asutralia has to be happy for the Italian superstar’s decision.

lunedì 3 settembre 2012

Shakhtar and Dinamo: clash between two styles



This match essentially started around a clash between two different playing styles. Shakhtar started with his classic 4-4-3/4-2-3-1 featuring Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the midfilder to support the offensive trio of  William, Luiz Adriano, and Ilsinho. The technical quality in the first 20 minutes was high: Mircea Lucescu's side controlled the match with their high ball retention a la Barcelona and spread the field thanks to full backs Darijo Srna and Razvan Rat that had decent positions playing wide as wing backs while the forwards were occupying the middle section of the field. But Shakthar pressing when the ball was lost too deserves some credit. While Shaktar pressed heavily, Dinamo Kyev stayed more passive without the ball, with no pressing action. It was a 4-4-1-1 with Niko Kranjcar as attacking midfielder. But they was more worried to close the spaces than to hunt the ball. So, sometimes, we have seen Dinamo Kiev defending with a line of 6 defenders, with the four-men back line very tight and the wingers collapsing behind to cover Srna and Rat. They got into a bank of three defending centrally with the midfield closed to centre-backs that tried to keep the line high. Lucescu's side controlled the game but had some nice through balls too. It was defending with the ball, commanding the game. After Shakhtar scored first, Dinamo went to rise up the defense, trying to press more high. By the way Shakhtar get the ball control and when the ball was lost they were able to press immediately in the zone where it was lost and were quick to come back closing the opposite's counter-attacking chances. Despite this control, Shakhtar had fewer scoring chances than aspected so this was a game that remained open. It was showed at the end of the first half, when Dinamo equalized thaks to a personal play made by Andrey Yarmolenko. The second half started much more open as Dinamo tried to play in attack and not just to defend. That's happened because Shakhtar scored early the 2-1 following a corner kick mistake of Dinamo's defenders- and it was the second time whithin the game. At the end, Lucescu's men was the better side and deserved to win. Once time they impressed with their bunch of Brazilian players up front. But they had few scoring opportunities in relation to the ball possession. Dinamo paid a high price for two defensive mistakes on set pieces. They were too passive on the first half and created nothing in the second too, when had a better control of the ball.
 











mercoledì 29 agosto 2012

3-men back line not a new for English football

Jonathan Wilson made a good point about the three-men back line trends developped in some of Europe's top leagues. A common defense during the '90s in which Carlos Bilardo's Argentina, Franz Beckenbauer's West Germany and Nevio Scala's Parma showed the way to be a winning side, and not just a defending one, utilizing this system with a spare man behind two centre backs, the three at the back sides made a comeback in the EPL. Wigan Athletic, then Manchester City joined the list lining up James Milner and Aleksandar Kolarov as wing backs in a 3-4-1-2 formation, an old pattern still able to produce. So, after years of classic 4-4-2, or 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 appeared again into English football. Is the three men line suited for English football? For Roberto Martinez, the 3-4-3 option was favoured because it become a 5-4-1 in the defensive phase. Martinez's three back line version is a defending, counter-attacking one.
“The difference is the width that we get…before, we had to compromise a little bit, when you want to be very attack-minded, the full-backs have to push on, so you leave two players at the back. Now you’re still pushing the wing-backs on, but you’ve still got three players at the back, plus probably a midfielder." (Roberto Martinez 2012)
Last season, against Wolves, Paul Lambert too started with a 3-5-2 formation featuring Elliott Ward as sweeper alongside Zak Whitbread and Russell Martin with Elliott Bennett and Simon Lappin on the flanks. But play a back three defense with two wing-backs on th eflanks isn't a new for English football. During the 1990 World Cup, Bobby Robson switched England to a 3-5-2 formation, lining up Mark Wright as a sweeper. This experiment was followed by some First Division -Premier League managers. Steve Coppell, the Crystal Palace manager, utilized a 5-3-2 formation during his stint with the club in the '90s. Liverpool too had a run - an unsuccessful one - with a three men back line, under Roy Evans' regime with Rob Jones and Stig-Inge Bjornebye as wing back. Steve McManaman flourished operating on either flank or as attacking midfielder in Roy Evans' system. In the 1995, Ray Harford's Blackburn played some 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 formations with Mike Newell, Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer up front, Henning Berg as centre-backs and Jeff Kenna and Graeme Le Saux as wing backs. Graeme Souness too went with three at the back at Backburn in 2001 but it never worked. Brian Little had success with the 3-5-2 building a defence around Paul McGrath. And England too reinstalled a 3-5-2 formation with wing-backs under Glenn Hoddle, wich still utilized this pattern with Tottenham. So the 3-5-2 isn't a news and isn't dead for English football. The problem of having three central defenders lined up against a single forward is a false one if one of the three defenders is able to move up supporting the midfield in the build up. That's the way some teams play this formation and that's the way Mancini ran this system against Liverpool, utilizing a gifted full-back as Pablo Zabaleta as centre back and ball carrier in the build up from the back.

domenica 26 agosto 2012

Lokomotive - Dinamo 2-3

The main story of the match was the utilization of a high defensive line for both teams. Both coaches are tacticians with a football attitude based on how to approach the game. Slaven Bilic lined up a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1 with  Roman Pavlyuchenko as attacking midfielder with the goal to chase the opponents playmaker. Dinamo played an attacking match, relying on crosses form the wide side when Lokomotive was deep.

But both teams were dangerous playing counter-attacks: the key man for Lokomotive was Marques Bitencourt , who started off playing on the left side. Despite his defensive lackness, often exploited by Dinamo, Betancourt was an attacking threat as he  enjoyed so much space on the line. On the other side, when Lokomotive was attacking, they did it through the  flanks, often pushing up the line with both the full-backs at the same time. That left gaps open as Dinamo first goal showed. In fact, with Lokomotive building from the back and with the team spread wide, a ball was lost in the middle of the pitch and Dinamo's midfielders soon found Aleksandr Kokorin free to receive the ball higher up the pitch for an easy fast-break. On the modern era, pressing for 90 minutes was difficult to do; so Bilic's side opted for an optional pressing to do in some situations, as when the ball carrier was on the flank or with his back to the opposite's net. By the way, Lokomotive started the match scoring first. It was after a set piece in which Dinamo showed to have need to improve. In that situation, the headers line jumped off in the way to put Lokomotive's attackers in offside. But not all the members of Dinamo's team went off correctly so while some went off, others collapsed down, leaving a high amount of opponents onside.
As the second half started, Bilic changed his team shape by moving to a 4-4-2 bringing on Johnny Thomsen as second forward and taking off Roman Pavlyuchenko. That change and a different attitude made Lokomotive the attacking team of the second part of the game with Dinamo defending deepest. Another ball lost - the second of the match - during the build up, this time coming off a fast-break, produced Balazs Dzsudzsak's score. Dzsudzsak was a key player running up on the right, in a zone where Lokomotive showed some defensive lacks as pointed earlier. The same winning goal came from a play started on the right and ended with a cross from the same side. Although Lokomtive dominated the game trying to tie, its play was not quick enough to go over Dinamo's wall. With Dinamo sitting deep, Bitencourt wasn't a factor anymore and Bilic was forced to replace him with Victor Obinna. Petrescu's side was better defending as Lokomotive created no much clear scoring chances, and Dinamo was also able to take advantage from rivals' mistakes.











giovedì 23 agosto 2012

Petkovic way

Like most managers in a new side, Vladimir Petkovic have not used a specific formation but tried different kind of football in the way to find the right one for his team. In their training camp, Petkovic has used a variety of formations, switching from 4-4-2 to  4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1, and 4-3-3. Always featuring a four men back line with a holding central midfielder, Petkovic was fluid on lining up the other players in the middle and up top. All those formations was marked by the though to bring on an active football. But Lazio went from a reactive football ithey played under former coach Edi Reja latest seasons so this change created new problems for defenders and attackers because Petkovic asked to his centre-backs to play more high and to the forwards to press up top in a way they never done before. Under Reja, Lazio played exclusively on the counter-attack, regardless of what side their were facing. During this summer, it was almost impossible for Lazio to dominate possession, and with the midfielders moving up, the opponents were free to exploit the space left by Lazio in the middle of the pitch.                                                              



The high defensive line was often exposed to rivals' counter-attacks with Lazio's players were not able to read the moment in which collapse down to avoid a ball across the line. The new system worked well on fast-breaks, with Petkovic's side able to provide assistance to the forwards. But with no pressure up top when the possession were lost and with players with a bad attitude on coming back to help the midfield, defending against counter-attacks was still a problem here. The other issue was the distance between defensive and midfield's lines, where there was gaps exploited by the other side.
So Petkovic changed a bit during latest friendly matches, switching to a more compact three men midfield and to a more classic 4-3-3/4-5-1. The pressing line wasn't up top anymore, while the defensive line stayed more deep. So Petkovic changed a bit the route. His initial idea was - and maybe is - to play an offensive football, with five men going forward in the offensive phase. His though is to build as many trinagle as possible on the pitch, in the way to give the ball carrier almost two passing options. His 4-4-2 isn't a classic 4-4-2 with two banks of 4 behind two forwards neither a modern 4-2-4 with two central holding midfielder and two forward wings on the flanks. It's a 4-4-2 featuring two wide midfielders able to attack and two central midfielders; one more able on the defensive phase, with the task to cover the spaces in front of the back four while the second one is more an offensive playmaker, as the old Italian 'regista' was: a technical player with a good shot also able to support the attackers or to find the net. So the 4-4-2 is more a 4-1-3-1 and the 4-3-3 is more similar to a 4-1-4-1. Ball has to be played quickly with also short passes. All those concepts are attractive but not easy to install in a roster that is the same it was under the former coach. And while some players as Antonio Candreva and Ogeny Onazi seems to be energized by the new system, other ones have difficult to play under the new regime. Where line up Hernanes? Petkovic said that "Brazilian can play everywhere", but he has yet to find the right position for the most gifted of his players. During the training camp, Petkovic lined up Hernanes as central midfielder alongside Cristian Ledesma but it dind't work. So Hernanes was given the second forward role, although later operated on the flank, with Cana coming in on the middle paired to Ledesma. Petkovic is a tactician, but will have a headache to find the right positions for both Hernanes and Mauro Zarate. The switch to a 4-3-3 could help with Hernanes lined up as third midfielders while Stefano Mauri and Candreva play on the flanks. The idea to paly an offensive football is nice but how long Petkovic will stay with it if the result don't come? In that case, will Petkovic back to a counter-attacking playing style? So the only other real question here concerns the brend of football Petkovic will run during the Lazio's campaign: it will be active or it will be reactive again?










        



lunedì 20 agosto 2012

Anzhi - Zenit: not much play

Russian Premier League have seen a terrific matchup between Zenith St Peresburg and Anzhi Makhachkala. It was a match between two teams with a counter-attacking approach but utilizing Dutch concepts. Zenit is well know to be a counter-attacking side. They showed it against Guus Hiddink's side. Here, however, they were active with and without the ball. With the ball on their feet Zenith's players tried to play a fluid game, trying to build, as the Dutch school teaches, triangles around the ball in the way to give two options to the ball carrier. Their midfield triangle play a huge part with Igor Denisov, Viktor Faizulin, and Konstantin Zyryanov ready to receive the ball from the defenders in the build up and with the last two having license to break forward. The primary goal both in construction and counter-attack phases were to reach the three men up top, specially the attacking players playing wider on the flanks. While the flankers was cutting inside, the full-backs Aleksandar Lukovic and Domenico Criscito moved up and down the line to give team the width. Despite his strengths rely on counter-attacks, Zent made some good action building up from the back. The first goal happened in that way: after the build up, the ball went on the feet of Luka Đorđević. He is the technical star, a creative, mobile player also able on the counter-attacks. In that play he went from his usual left side to the right flank, being unmarked by the Anzhi midfielders or central defenders. So he was free to play the ball towards Vladimir Bystrov, who assisted the upcoming interior midfielder,  Zyryanov, who scored. While Zenit was building up from the back, Anzhi's approach, on the other side, has been more relied on provide long balls to the lone striker Lacina Traore - Samuel Eto'o wasn't here. But Anzhi's forward had a truly hard game in the first half, with Zenit centre-backs, Tomás Hubocan, and Nicolas Lombaerts, that defended very good. So Traore wasn't a good pivot able to hold the ball for the upcoming midfielders. Zenit wasn't able on the negative transition phase but Anzhi's counter-attacks were often imprecise. In the second half Anzhi started more aggressive, while Zenit stayed on its own half of pitch trying to play counter-attacks. After Hiddink's side reached the tied following a thrown-in play, the game became more balanced. At the end, the game was decided only by a good play made by Zenit and by a thrown-in, which Zenit defended poorly. Both teams showed a good physical shape and succeeded in stopping the opponent's counter-attacks. But while Zenit showed good plays on the ground, Anzhi was far from the best respect to buld nice actions with the ball on the ground and with the rivals sitting deep on their half of pitch.













giovedì 16 agosto 2012

More offensive approach paid off for Scotland

With Craig Levein even under pressure, Scotland put on the pitch a good performance in their 3-1 victory against Australia. Levein was highly criticized for the 4-6-0 formation he lined up against Czech Republic in 2010. For all that criticism, Spain invented the striker-less system and deployed it during last European Championship. But Vicente del Bosque wasn't the first coach to utilize it. Luciano Spalletti with AS Rome and Craig Levein were the first ones to use it. Obviously, Spanish and Spalletti's versions aren’t useless, defensive systems, while Scotland's formation was essentially a defensive one. Scotland started their Euro 2012 qualifiers in Prague and Craig Levein went to his 4-6-0 formation. And he strongly defended it.
"Even Barcelona, with their 4-5-1, use just one striker. In fact, when they lose the ball, they go 4-6-0. They don't even leave a striker up the park." (Craig Levein 2012)
Football's history was written by tactics and players: had Levein here more technical gifted players, the criticisms could have been different. Against the Socceroos, Levein lined up a 4-4-1-1 formation, that became a 4-5-1 on the defensive phase. In that way, Levein was trying to find a balance between defence and fast-breaks, staying away from Scotland's classic 4-4-2 and playing with a packed midfield when the ball was lost. 
"People seem to think that if you play with two up top, you will win a game or score more goals. Well, you might score more goals but the chances are you'll lose more as well. Playing with two strikers? I'm not saying I wouldn't ever do it but right now we don't have a combination of strikers who would be worth us giving up that midfield domination. That is the key for us." (Craig Levein 2012)
Scotland's 4-4-1-1 wasn't attack-minded although they had Jordan Rhodes, James Morrsion, Steven Naismith, Charlie Adam, and Robert Snodgrass on the field at the same time. Glad to absorb pressure, Socceroos played their way through fast-breaks. But Australia's defence looked not secure. With the duty to have the ball controll and to make the game, Scotland showed some lacks. The play was based only on crosses from the flanks. Levein's  thought to play with cutting inside wingers, specially Naismith, left his full-backs with the goal to provide width. Daniel Fox on the left and Snodgrass on the right was able to push up and down the line in the way to send good balls into the box. It was a classic matchup between two old-fashion British style football teams with an offensive team attacking from the outside and the other one playing a more defensive brand of football based on counter-attacks. Levein took Gary Caldwell as a deep-lying midfielder but as a holding one. With his limited offensive skills, Caldwell was good enough as wall in front of the four men back-line but was unable to orchestrate the offensive play so Scotland's superiority 3 vs 2 in the middle of the pitch was nullified. By the way, Levein's decision to take Caldwell down allowed Adam to play higher up supporting the play between defence and midfield paired with Morrison. Scotland, though, had troubles to contain Australia's counter-attacks, showing to have yet to learn how to deal with the negative transition phase. On the right, they suffedered the overlapping work made by Alex Brosque and Brett Holman. In the set pieces too, Scotland needs to improve, as they showed when an uncovered Mark Bresciano scored on a second ball coming from a corner kick. At the end, Scotland secured a needed win and while Craig Levein is under the pressure yet and with a lot of work to do, he had some good news from this match, such as the performances of Fox and Snodgrass and the impressive Rhodes 's debut.






domenica 12 agosto 2012

Ancelotti's 4-3-3/4-4-2

Everyone was asking during this summer how PSG could have played under Carlo Ancelotti and how the Italian manager could have inserted all the offensive talents that Parisians have. All eyes were on Paris for PSG's first game but the start left Ancelotti frustrated, after his team get just a draw against Lorient in the opener. At the half-time PSG was down 0-2. Briefly after the restart Ibrahimovic scored the 1-2 before to equalize with a penalty in the 90th minute. From a tactical viewpoint, the interesting thing was the way Ancelotti utilized his offensive weapons. Ancelotti opted to play a 4-3-3 that became a 4-4-2 on the defensive phase. Without Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta, former Chelsea's coach brought in Marco Verratti to play as deep-lying playmaker, alongside Clémenet Chantome and Mathieu Bodmer. Up top, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the target man, with Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi as flankers. As the modern 4-3-3, the Ancelotti's version too was flexible. Menez is more a winger then Lavezzi so he tried to give width to his team, while the Argentinian played cutting inside to reach Ibrahimovic up top. That left spaces on the left for Maxwell, but Brazilian full-back was unable to exploit them.  But what were the problems? In the first time, Ancelotti's game plan failed. Lorient's shape was great, bringing both strikers back into the midfield zone, with the whole team reamining compact due to a high defensive line able to keep the PSG's forwards away from their weak defence. The hosts were the better side, creating a lot of good fast-breaks but failed to increase or mantain the score. The forwards' work was good to close down Verratti, who played just 56 passes and mostly horizontally. There was pressure on him in the way to nullify PSG's numerical advantage 3 vs 2 in the middle of the pitch. Christian Gourcuff showed how to contain a 4-3-3 with a 4-4-2. PSG's full-backs pushed forward but the whole ball circulation was slow, transforming the offensive phase in an arid ball possession. Menez was good on the right, but he lacks of goal scoring abilities. Above all, he has not defensive skills - 0 tackles, 0 interceptions -  while in this fluid 4-3-3 he had the charge to become the fourth midfielders in the defensive phase, when the team switched to a 4-4-2, leaving Lavezzi high up. The main concern was how to help Ibrahimovic that had few support from the teammates. The bench played his part in the game as things went better when Anceloitti inserted Nene, last season's top scorer, as second forward. But generally the whole team was far from perfect. After this summer's takeover, instant success became the first rule in Paris. Every team needs of time, specially the big ones but Ancelotti had to resolve the biggest problem: how to put on place Menez, Lavezzi, Pastore, Ibrahimovic at the same time or which of them leave on the bench.


martedì 7 agosto 2012

Australian way

During the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Socceroos coach Holger Osieck has gone with different formations. Osieck utilized a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Marco Bresciano (Al Nasr) as attacking midfielders behind the forwards Harry Kewell (Melbourne Victory) and Alex Brosque (Shimizu S-Pulse). 
Then he switched to a 4-4-1/4-5-1 with Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus) as the lone striker, and an attacking midfielder behind him. Another formation he employed was the 4-4-2 with Kennedy and Tim Cahill (Everton) as forwards, and two holding midfielders as Carl Valeri (Sassuolo) and Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace). These changes of pattern were the signs of Osieck’s approach, i.e. of a new coach in a new brend of football. As Osieck is becoming more familiar with Australians' skills, he will have time to fix a base formation. Osieck's approach is that if you’re in form you have the chance of play for the Socceroos. So some writers want to see new players, as Massimo Luongo, Richard Porta, Luke deVere, Chris Herd, Mate Dugandzic,  Matthew Ryan, employed next games. But a tactical question remains: what is best fit for the Australians? The 4-4-2 diamond allowed the Australian team to have a technical midfield in the middle of the pitch, with overlapping full-backs, as Jade North (Consadole Sapporo), ready to give team the width. Osieck played a 4-4-2 diamond against Saudi Arabia, after a poor defensive match played against Thailand. The constants of all Osieck’s fomamtions were the utilization of a 4-men back line and two holding  midfielders. The question is how to put on the field the best players according with those concepts. As for the holding pair, names as Jason Culina (Newcastle Jets), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough), Chris Herd (Aston Villa), Royston Griffiths (Guangzhou), and Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow) could emerge for the starting jobs. In a 4-4-2, Bresciano could be lined up as central midfielders, winger or as attacking midfielder behind a lone forward.  Using a two strikers system can allow Australia to line up some of its most gifted players at the same time.  By the way, playing in a 4-4-2 formation could create troubles for the Socceroos in the middle against other international teams that usually employ three central midfielders formations such as 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1. To nullify the central inferiority 3 vs 2, is pivotal the work of Australia’s forwards which have to drop back into midfield to close the central lines of pass. Are the Australian forwards able to do it? Up top, Osieck utilized Josh Kennedy, Alex Brosque, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, and Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory) - that also played as left midfielder. Kennedy is a central striker but not a defensive hard worker. Kewell is too old to ask him a defensive work. There are Brosque and Cahill but is hard to image the national team without both Kennedy and Kewell out from the starting line up although Brosque made a good defensive work against Japan. The Socceroos are not a force into international football, so Osieck has to put emphasis on the collective. But also he can't leave out the most gifted players.




sabato 4 agosto 2012

SPL 2012-2013 preview

The demise of Glasgow Rangers leaves the path for Celtic to dominate Scottish football for the seasons to come. The repercussion for the SPL will be great. The fans are in a state of confusion also because, after telling everyone that a 10-team SPL was the only viable format, chief executive Neil Doncaster plans to reform Scottish football top tier for a 14-team SPL with the chance to take it up to 16 teams. On the pitch, the question is: who can challenge Celtic for the crown? Celtic are superior to the remainder of the league and, without Rangers, they are the heavy favorites to repeat. With the domestic league so weak, interesting will be to see if Celtic can make the Champions League group phase. As to if another team can challenge Celtic, it remains a question. Aberdeen came with a good summer by signing Jonny Hayes from Inverness and North Ireland midfielder Niall McGinn on a free transfer from Celtic Glasgow. Manager Craig Brown's goal is to take the team back into the top six. Motherwell earned a place in the Champions League qualifying stage after 2011-12 campaign but they haven't resources to improve the team. So they signed English defender Simon Ramsden on a free transfer from Bradford but lost Steve Jennings. Hibernians lost Garry O'Connor, 16 goals in the 2011-12 campaign. Manager Pat Fenlon needs of time after the huge turnover he did. Jon Daly, Gary Mackay-Steven and Johnny Russell are still there so Dunde United's Peter Houston has the skills on his team to try to challenge Celtic. For the boss Steve Lomas it has been a summer of coming and going: St. Johnstone signed English forward Rowan Vine on a free transfer from Queens Park Rangers; Irish midfielder Patrick Cregg; defender Gary Miller; French forward Gregory Tade; North Ireland goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey; Dutch forward Nigel Hasselbaink; defender Tam Scobbie. Could be hard to replace Jody Morris and Francisco Sandaza but the team has the talent to go over the mid-table. Kilmarnock and St. Mirren are two teams to take a look to. English forward Rory Boulding is a good addiction for a Kilmarnock scoring line that needs of a healthy Paul Heffernan. They had good youngsters in Matthew Kennedy and Rory McKenzie. About St. Mirren, the Saints hope of improve last season’s 8th place. They signed goalkeeper Grant Adam on a free transfer from Glasgow Rangers; midfielder Jon Robertson; English forward Lewis Guy from MK Dons. All are nice additions to claim a top six place. In the rest of the bunch we have Dundee,  Ross County and Inverness. Dundee suffered a lot of losses on free transfer this summer although they can count on Ryan Conroy. By the way manager Barry Smith will have a ton of work to do. The Staggies have good depth and a scoring threat in Colin McMenamin. At Inverness, Terry Butcher raised doubts about his ability to recruit in the country. They will miss Jonny Hayes and there is much to improve upon. Paulo Sérgio is gone and new Hearts' boss John McGlynn will try to introduce an offensive 4-3-3 formation. Hearts have some good veteran players but the losses of Ian Black, Rudi Skacel, and Craig Beattie could hurt.

mercoledì 1 agosto 2012

How Maturana changed football

A country with a small population that had never previously produced anything but  a victory in 1946 Central American Cup and in 1970 and a qualification to the 1962 World Cup. It was Colombia. Things changed in the latest '80s, when Colombian Federation brought on the most important component of its road to the glory days. Francisco Maturana was a former player that had a good success as football player for Atletico Medellin, Deportes Tolima and Atlético Bucaramanga. The first experience as head coach for "Paco", who had retired as a player in 1983 and was exercising his profession as a dentist in Medellin, was with Once Caldas. Linked to what was always his philosophy and way of watching football Maturana, in just six months, gave the team his football idendity. The touch of the ball and the respect for it was the priority such as a 4-men defensive line and zonal marking. Then, he lead Atletico Nacional to win a Copa Libertadores, the first one for a Colombian club. Important to note that the roster of Atletico Medellin was a kind of youth team of the future National Team, having Carlos Valderrama, Freddy Rincon, Faustino Asprilla and Mauricio Serna among others. They played a brend of football based on defensive strength and great technique in midfield and attack. The 'Alviverde' squad commanded by Francisco Maturana gave football names like Rene Higuita, Andres Escobar, Luis Herrera, Luis Carlos Perea, Leonel Alvarez, Victor Marulanda, Albeiro Usuriaga, John Trellez and Victor Hugo Aristizábal. Then, Maturana will head Colombia National Team from 1987 to 1994, and later between 2001 and 2003. In 1990 Colombia get its  bert for their first World Cup since Chile 1962 after winning in Barranquilla 1–0, and tying in Israel 0–0. Maturana marked that experience and his career with a futuristic 4-2-2-2 pattern that drawn the attention of a lot of coaches around the world. It was a flexible system that made Colombia able to switch from a 4-4-2 in defence to a 4-2-4 in attack, with the wide midfield payers in a more advanced role to run a true 4-2-2-1-1, attacking with four lines of depth. The system relied on a lot of possession although it sometimes resulted in a slow build up with too much backward passes. Maturana was the best example of the zonal marking tactical revolution in South America, bringing on concepts such as line, lateral pressure, defensive diagonal...Andres Escobar, Gilardo Gomez, Luis Herrera, and Luis Perea formed a strong defensive four back line. The line tried to play high, near to the midfield, counting on the eccentric René Higuita as goalkeeper sweeper, a role rarely seen on the big stage at that moment. It was the most strange decision made by Maturana: take seriously Higuita. Maturana was not a conformist: he had and rejected the possibility to play with naturalized keepers in the National Team. When people proposed the nationalization of Julio Cesar Falcioni and Carlos Navarro Montoya, he simply said 'no'. "That's a given football is not our football," he said. Simply, he stayed with his goalkeeper, also after Higuita, playing as entertaining sweeper, had the ball stolen by Roger Milla in one of his adventurous tricks during the 1990 World Cup campaign.

All those defensive movements exhibited by Colombia, and Athletico Nacional revolutioned  the enthusiasm for football in the Colombian nation. To prevent a quick change of the attacking side, Colombia worked to put pressure on the flanks, in the way to close interior lines of passes, moving the holding midfielder and the full-back near to to the ball carrier. The work rate of both central midfielders Leonel Alvarez and Gabriel Gomez was very high. The goal of Maturana was to close the spaces centrally, leaving the opponents moving the ball on the flaks, i.e. where the pressure started. Then there was Carlos Valderrama. The 'Blond Gullit' was the attacking midfielder but also the playmaker of this team. The Colombian No.10 collapsed behind in the way to receive the ball from the defensive front 6 acting as deep-lying playmaker - one of the best in the game. The offensive action passed often though Valderrama and was developed by a web of passes the made them a kind of ultra-passing squad: as almost every South American team, they had an old Brazilian mark – slow passes, slow build up, ball on the ground, quick blitz forward  –  that make them like a downsized version of the Spanish Tiki-Taka side. Although the team played the fast-break, the long balls was low on the ground. Despite the infamous elimination in the sweet sixsteen, a game in which Colombians faced Cameroon in the wrong way and where Rene Higuita were more a showman then a goalkeeper, Colombia left the 1990 World Cup impressioning folks. The shocking murder of defender Andres Escobar after 1994 World Cup, dashed the idea of Colombia as a airy team, bringing back the World's eyes to the real problems and tragedies of a nation. Still, the South American qualifying zone for the 1994 FIFA World Cup relaunched Colombia's aims, specially when they achieved one of the more shocking result of the last decades. It was the l5 September 1993 when Colombians beat Argentine 5-0 in a game played in Buenos Aires as qualifying match for the World CupThat team had world-class players such asValderrama, Freddy Rincon, Faustino Asprilla.
"That result was excellent because we showed the world that Colombia can rise to the big occasion. Not for nothing did we reach three World Cups in a row. Some say that win went to our heads but that's football. It's a vehicle for dreams and disappointments and winning never does you any harm. That result has nothing to do with what happened later on." Francisco ‘Pacho' Maturana in 1993.
After the 1994 World Cup, Maturana had the opportunity to dispaly his soccer idea in Europe. It become one in a list of 43 coaches who went through the Atletico Madrid in two decades ruled by Jesus Gil y Gil. History tell us that Maturana already had a inglorious stint in Spain, after having been at Real Valladolid between 1990 and 1991, before to come back in South American to take charge of the America de Cali in 1992. This second stint too was far from the glory:  he made his debut with Atletico on 4 September 1994 suffering a defeat against Valencia, 4-2 at the Vicente Calderon. It was the first of six defeats in nine matches. He will be back yet in the international stage in 2001, leading Colombia to six wins out of six game and to its first Copa America win. Playing at home, the Cafeteros was lined up by Francisco "Pacho" Maturana with his classic 4-2-2-2 formation, making Arrigo Sacchi falling in love with this. Then Ecuador and the struggle to reach the World Cup, a sad step with the Millionarios, a job in Peru, coach of the tricolor failing to reach 2002 Korea and Japan World Cup when he was given a ranked team, the troubles in the third adventure with Colombia and with Trinidad and Tobago. So at the end a question remains: Maturana has been a great coach or just lucky, one that had the opportunity to train the Golden Generation Colombian football? The former dentist was certainly a great coach, capable of creating a revolution in modern football,  just one less known. No one was emplying a 4-2-2-2 formation at that level. As rarely was the tactic to defend against set piece organizing a line of players ready to go forward before the ball was played, in the way to put on the offside all the opponents. He was the architect of happy memories for Colombian football, that he lead to two consecutive World Cup appareances. Maturana was a demanding coach. He was a student of the game and didn't not wast a chance to accumulate experience and knowledge. He had not victories like Rinus Michels, Arrigo Sacchi or Johan Cruyff but still deserves to be considered as one of the best coaching mind in the latest 30 years of football.

domenica 22 luglio 2012

Playing GK in EPL

Playing in UK isn't easy for American prospects. Despite the fact that MLS play style is similar to UK's play style, almost in low tiers, the transition between America's top league and British soccer wasn't easy. That is not true when you come to talk about keepers. The style of coaching and the emphasis put on the role  has create many quality goalkeepers and led them to such top levels of success. The upcoming season too could be hard for some of Americans but the USA have a tradition about sending good keeper to the EPL. While the Aston Villa's new manager, Paul Lambert, praised Brad Guzman, another US keeper could made a step back. The 41-years old goalkeeper Bob Friedel, after an eight-season streak of EPL starts, is in a dangerous position, with the Spurs on the road looking for another keeper. The third keeper on this list, Tim Howard, has been one of the hottest and most consistent keepers in the EPL latest seasons. There are some other American keepers ready to make the jump? A shot-stopping for FC Dallas, Kevin Hartman is a the top of the list. His leadership and pure ability made him one of the best MLS keeper and one that deserves a chance abroad. Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy has been selected to the 2012 MLS All-Star Team after emerged in 2011 as one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Nick Rimando’s efforts this season was great. Red Bulls' Ryan Meara is a rookie but showed his skills during this first part of his rookie season. He deserves to take a look to.

martedì 17 luglio 2012

Capello and Russia

Fabio Capello is the new Russia boss. Will he be able to get the best out of this players generation? Former Real Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan and Roma manager had various winning stints on his résumé and with different tactics employed. But last big game coached by Capello was the embarrassing exit from the 2010 World Cup. Two of his last three title winning sides, Juventus and Real Madrid, have been based on a 4-4-2 formation with two holding midfielders. The other, AS Rome, was a 3-4-1-2 in 2000/01. With the Italian side, Capello had two wing-backs moving up and down the line in Cafu and Vincent Candela, and a forward as Marco Delvecchio, which had the duty to drop back in the defensive phase, making the system switching to a compact 4-4-2 defensively. Playing with two holding midfielders give your side the benefit to become hard to break down. A good example of this kind of tactics were the utilization of Patrick Vieira alongside Emerson in Capello’s 2005/06 season at Juventus. Having a wide player was a key in Capello's formations. He employed creative players in those positions, as he did at AC Milan with Dejan Savicevic or at Real Madrid with Raul, or offensive wingers able to support the midfield and also to break and play behind the forwards and in front of the opposition’s back four, such he did at Juventus with Pavel Nedved. With England too, he often had Teho Walcott running up and down the wing. With the British, Capello went with a rigid 4-4-2 throughout 2010 World Cup qualifications but used different systems –  4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 / 4-4-2, and 4-2-3-1  –  after this experience. Under Capello, England had not a clear identity. On defense, they sometimes dropped off and parked the bus, sometimes tried to press high. Latest England version under the Italian manager have seen the utilization of three central midfielders, with the British that had more options in possession. What about Russia? A key theme of Russia under Dick Advocaat was the use of  the Zenit play style, with their midfield triangle rotating and with the play counting on fast-breaks. The fixed system was a 4-3-3, the same Advocaat played at Zenit, with two interior midfielders  – Konstantin Zyryanov and Roman Shirokov –  ready to attack the box and with Igor Denisov being a very disciplined deep-lying playmaker.  On defense, CSKA gave the base of the squad with the goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and the centre-back pairing of Aleksei Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich, that played together at the Moscow's club. Up top, Alan Dzagoev is the wing man Capello likes. A question up top will be if  Capello will go with a target man as Pavel Pogrebnyak or Roman Pavlyuchenko or with a mobile one, such as Russia did during Euro 2012. In this second case, Aleksandr Kerzhakov could start upfront, playing the same way Wayne Rooney ran under Capello. But the main question here is: how to insert Andrei Arshavin? Capello could line up former Arsenal's player as a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 or keep him as inside forward opposite to Dzagoev adding an extra defensive man in midfield. Capello played this way after the 2010 World Cup campaign. Against Switzerland, he employed a 4-2-3-1 but utilized a more defensive left-winger in James Milner, and two holding midfielders as Steven Gerrard and Gareth Barry, which played in the centre of the pitch. Russian's classic starting midfield is much offensive oriented, although without the ball Shirokov and  Zyryanov worked well, pressing heavily. But the whole team, despite its great fast-break play, is much possession oriented while Capello's sides often don't retain the ball and rely more on the counter-attacking play. So we will see if Capello will adapt his mind to the players' skills or if he will try to adjust them to his football idea. In Yury Zhirkov, Capello will have a  left-back who goes forward, up and down the line, while he will have to find a more defensive right-back to line up alongside the two slow centre-backs, or the risk will be to have both full-backs moving up leaving Russia vulnerable to fast-breaks. About the rising stars, Capello could try to add new faces other then CSKA and Zenit players, as the attacking midfielder Alan Kasayev of Rubin or Spartak’s left-sided wing-back Dmitry Kombarov. At the end, no-one is calling for Capello to abandon his philosophy and became like Pep Guardiola but defensive quality has to be mixed with passing and penetration due to their great quality in build-up. Capello could start with a 4-2-3-1 and if it don’t work well here, he could revert to a more classic approach.

domenica 15 luglio 2012

A look inside

While South Korea's Olympic football team is on the road to London Olympics, Korean soccer had some turmoil. According to Ilgan Sports and to English newspapers, Kim Bo-Kyung is on the verge of a transfer to Cardiff City for approximately €3 million in transfer fees. Celtic's manager Neil Lennon admitted that Kim Bo-Kyung  is on his radar too. QPR is near to buy Celtic's South Korea international Ki Sung-Yueng: rumors from Seoul claim about a fee of £7m agreed between QPR and Celtic. But the big news is the QPR's £2m capture of Park Ji-sung. The QPR board of directors continue to rebuild the team in the way to establish it as a regular Premier League side. They added defender Fabio da Silva on loan, England keeper Robert Green, forward Andy Johnson and New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen, as well Malian international Samba Diakite after a loan spell at the club last season. The arrival of Park Ji-Sung could help too. Coming to QPR, Hughes understood that his team needed to attack from the flanks. So he went to a 4-2-3-1 as favorite formation this past season for the Rangers. Hughes prefers to play two strikers as he did at Blackburn. In general, he likes to have two banks of four behind the ball, such as Roy Hodgson likes. The approach at QPR was different and Hughes enjoyed to have Bobby Zamora as lone forward, for a lot of reasons. If he will stay on this formation he brought on a player able to fill many voids. Park can play as right-winger, left-winger or attacking midfielder but he can also play as central midfielder in a more offensive approach. Park showed his best last season at Manchester United playing as left-winger. What can we expect? It's hard to say with such a small dataset available from last season. In the last EPL campaign, Park made just 10 appearances, 7 as starter, but he scored 2 goal and made 1 assist, showing to be cynical near the net. He showed his technical skills maintaining a good 89.5% of pass success rate. Park Ji-Sung is a player Mark Hughes wanted. Probably Hughes will ask him to be involved in build up play in the final third. With Adel Taarab on the left, QPR's manager could line up Park as right-winger going inside or attacking midfielder just behind Zamora, with the duty to collapse back and help the midfielder on the defensive phase. In that way, Hughes could mantain Taarab on the starting line up, despite his defensive lacks, maintaining the shape and balance of the side.